By Selena Hoy
I love ramen. I love it so much I once entered a ramen-eating contest. So imagine my delight in finally getting around to visiting and eating my way through a ramen museum.
Do you love ramen, too? Get your fix at the Shin Yokohama Ramen museum. That's right—a museum dedicated to noodles. Well, truthfully, it's less a museum and more a glorified ramen-only food court.
After arriving in Shin-Yokahama, we know we’re on the right street because looking up we can see the ramen bowl-shaped streetlights! Entry is only 300 yen (and a 50-yen discount voucher can be printed from their website), but unfortunately, that fee does not include all-you-can eat ramen. Food is purchased separately. The bowl-shaped doorways are super kitsch but ever so cool. Welcome to ramen heaven.
The “museum” component consists of a one-wall panel showcasing the timeline and history of the evolution of delicious noodles. Unfortunately, it’s only written in Japanese. In the adjoining shop you can obtain all manner of ramen-related merchandise from bowls to spoons, and packets upon packets of omiyage (souvenir) ramen. You can even combine and create your own kit by selecting your choice of noodle and broth base.
We’re not here to shop though, so on to the business of eating.
We head on down the stairs to the basement of the building, which has been transformed into what looks like an old-style period Japanese movie set. It's essentially a food court housing little ramen shops typical of any found in the backstreets of Tokyo.
There are 8 varieties of ramen on offer from different regions throughout Japan. My plan to try and get through all eight bowls quickly dissipates as I realize the magnitude of the challenge.
The first one we try is a Kyushu specialty, famous for its tonkotsu (pork bone) broth which is a whiter, milkier-looking liquid. We purchase tickets from the vending machine and are seated inside the little shop after waiting for 20 minutes to get in. We order the mini-sized bowl, but even so the portion is hearty. The world is better with ramen in our bellies. We are very pleased with our first choice, and as it turns out, it ends up being our favourite ramen of the day.
What determines our next choice is the spot with the shortest line. Most waiting times are in excess of 45 minutes. This is ramen Disneyland. Expect queues.
A 20-30 minute wait seems acceptable and allows our first bowl of ramen to digest before digging into the next one: a Saitama tsukemen—a type of ramen where the noodles and broth are served separately. It is a little salty and fishy for my liking. Again we go with the mini-half serving, and there is room for one more bowl.
Another 30-minute wait in a queue. We decide to end the day with a Sapporo miso ramen, which promises so much but leaves my taste-buds wanting more. More oil than miso, in my opinion. And I should know. I used to live in Sapporo. The noodles here are my favourite - yellow egg noodles, curly and just the right amount of chewiness. Sadly, Sapporo miso ramen is not done justice here.
There are five other ramen joints that we sadly have to save for another day. Eight different specialty dishes are available at any given time, but the varieties and regions on offer change regularly. They range from about 500 to 1000 yen. Beer, gyoza and rice are also available should you find that you haven't quite exceeded your carb quota for the day.
For hardcore ramen buffs, 800 yen will buy you a ramen museum passport entitling holders to unlimited entry for a year.
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