HAKATA RAMEN, IEKEI RAMEN, AND JIRO-KEI RAMEN: HOW TO ORDER THESE UNIQUE RAMEN LIKE A PRO!
Published: Apr 28, 2023/ Last Updated:May 1, 2023
- 9 min read
Hello ramen fans all over the U.S.! Are you enjoying your wonderful ramen life? Today, we prepared a topic that’ll take your ramen experience to the next level. The theme of this issue is “unique ways to order ramen at a restaurant.” When you order ramen, you probably have a go-to menu item, and depending on your mood, you may mix it up with some of your favorite toppings. This is the so-called standard way to order ramen. Did you know that in Japan, a more detailed ordering systems are available to accommodate personal preferences, depending on the type of ramen? It may seem daunting to those unfamiliar with the intricate ordering process, but don’t worry – you’ll be a pro after reading this article. We have also included restaurants in the U.S. that serve the types of ramen mentioned in this article; however, please note that the ordering process at said restaurants may differ from their Japanese counterparts. Let’s begin!
The first ramen with a unique ordering system we’d like to introduce is Hakata Ramen. Some of you may be unfamiliar with the name, but you may have already tried it without knowing. Ippudo, a famous tonkotsu ramen restaurant, has had great success in the U.S. for serving Hakata style ramen. The same is true of Ichiran, Hakata Ikkousha and Shin-Sen-Gumi. If you’ve enjoyed a bowl of ramen at any of the restaurants mentioned, you’ve likely tasted Hakata ramen.
Perhaps the most characteristic way to order Hakata ramen is Kae-Dama (替え玉). With most ramen, there’s a generous amount of noodles included in a large order. But in the case of Hakata Ramen, smaller portions are served in each order to guarantee quality. This is because the thin noodles in Hakata Ramen absorb the broth quicker and possibly turn soggy. To prevent so, the noodles are served in smaller portions with additional servings offered, if desired. This is the so-called Kae-Dama ordering method, which is said to have originated at Ganso Nagahamaya (元祖長浜屋), founded in 1952.
Another feature of the ordering process is the specification of the boiling time in relation to the texture of the noodles. Each boil time has a distinctive name used by Japanese ramen fans to order the noodle firmness that they prefer. Here are their distinctive names with their corresponding boiling times.
- Kona Otoshi/粉落とし (Extra-extra hard): 3~7 seconds
- Harigane/ハリガネ (Extra hard): 7~15 seconds
- Bari Kata/バリカタ (Very hard): 15~20 seconds
- Kata/カタ (Hard): 20~45 sec.
- Futsu/普通 (Nomal): 45~70 seconds
- Yawa/ヤワ (Soft): 70~100 seconds
- Bari Yawa/バリヤワ (Extra soft): 100~150 seconds
Keep in mind that the boiling method described above is not necessarily universal, so check the ordering method used at your nearest Hakata Ramen restaurant in advance. Incidentally, in the U.S., you’ll often find that ramen restaurants offer Bari Kata, Kata, Futsu, Yawa, and Bari Yawa, and customers choose their preference by marking it on the order form themselves (names may vary).
Restaurants to eat Hakata Ramen in the U.S.
Iekei Ramen is a local dish from Yokohama, characterized by its rich flavor blend of soy sauce and tonkotsu and its thick, straight noodles. Yoshimura-ya (吉村家), a restaurant established in 1974, is considered to be the origin of the dish. Since its beginning, this style of ramen has been adapted by countless restaurants, and its rise in popularity has influenced many more. Today, it’s considered one of the most popular genres of ramen in Japan. Unfortunately, Iekei Ramen has not yet gained the prolific popularity that tonkotsu enjoys in the U.S., but we hope to see more of it on this side of the Pacific in the future.
Iekei Ramen utilizes a customizable ordering method that allows the customer to choose their noodle firmness preference (“hard,” “normal,” or “soft”), soup flavor intensity (“thick,” “normal,” or “thin”), and fat content (“more,” “normal,” or “less or no fat”) to cater to the individual’s taste. The fat mentioned here refers to Chiyu (chicken fat), introduced in the previous article (INTRODUCING KOMIABURA – THE DEFINING FLAVOR IN RAMEN.). Since Iekei Ramen has multiple variables, the standard taste of the dish may differ from store to store. For that reason, when dining at a new Iekei Ramen restaurant, we recommend ordering everything as “normal” so that you can adjust the order to suit your taste the next time you visit.
An essential element to enjoying Iekei Ramen is an order of rice on the side. The dish’s rich broth and its characteristic ingredients, such as nori and spinach, pair perfectly with rice. Many fans of Iekei Ramen are as excited about the rice as they are with ramen. Some restaurants offer rice free of charge while others have a fee, so be sure to check which category your local restaurant falls under. Below is a video of how to eat Iekei Ramen and rice, so check it out!
Restaurants to eat Iekei Ramen in the U.S.
Some of you may have seen a ramen dish on social media that’s making a big impact with its mountain of vegetables (bean sprouts and cabbage) and thick slices of chashu pork piled on top. This is Jiro-Kei Ramen, the last dish we would like to introduce in this article. This exciting style of ramen recently gained enthusiastic support among ramen fans. The dish’s namesake, Ramen Jiro, is a particularly famous restaurant, not only for its impactful flavor and volume of ingredients, but also for its unique ordering process. Even Japanese people are often intimidated by the ordering method, but it would be a shame to miss out on the delicious flavors of this ramen that gained its own fan base! We have compiled a list of ordering methods so that even beginners will feel confident. Please refer to this article when visiting Ramen Jiro during your next trip to Japan. Incidentally, there are several restaurants in the U.S. that serve ramen inspired by the Ramen Jiro style, but these restaurants don’t seem to utilize the complicated ordering method used at the Japanese Ramen Jiro. So, rest assured that your ordering experience won’t be as complicated.
First, let us introduce the basic ordering process at Ramen Jiro.
- Buy a meal ticket
- Choose amount of noodles and noodle texture
- Add toppings (free)
Ordering at Ramen Jiro begins with the purchase of a meal ticket. The types of tickets vary from restaurant to restaurant, but the basic menu consists of the following (some restaurants offer tsukemen and soupless ramen):
- Ramen: small and large
- Ramen with buta (meaning pork chashu): small or large
Initially, you’ll choose from this list to suit your preferences, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, Ramen Jiro is characterized by the fact that all its menu items are relatively larger in size than those of a typical ramen restaurant. Even a small bowl of Ramen Jiro’s ramen (about 300 grams) is more than a large bowl of ramen at other restaurants. Secondly, even if you order just a ramen without “buta” listed in the name on the menu, the dish includes two pieces of thick pork chashu. Unless you’re confident with your appetite, we recommend ordering a small ramen first.
Next, the waiter will ask to see your purchased meal ticket. Then the waiter will ask you to confirm the amount of noodles you want to order. As mentioned earlier, the amount of noodles at Ramen Jiro is quite large, even in the small portion, so if you are worried about finishing, you can request “less noodles” or “half the amount of noodles.” If you’re satisfied with a normal amount of noodles when ordering at a regular ramen restaurant, we suggest “half the amount of noodles” at Ramen Jiro. Some restaurants don’t offer options for noodle firmness, and in that case, the waiter won’t ask.
And now it’s time for the most distinctive part of the ordering process at Ramen Jiro: choosing free toppings. When the waiter asks you, Ninniku iremasuka? (meaning, “Would you like garlic?”), here’s a list of free toppings to choose from:
To briefly explain each of these, let’s start with ninniku, which is finely chopped fresh garlic. It’s important to note that garlic is an add on. Jiro-style ramen and garlic go very well together, so we highly recommend it as a topping.
Yasai refers to boiled bean sprouts and cabbage. The standard dish already contains a large amount of these vegetables, so check with the restaurant before considering whether or not to add more. Another useful tip is that you can request less vegetables.
Abura is pork back fat. The dish comes with a good amount of fat in the soup, but if you’re interested in rich flavor, you can order extra as a topping.
Karame is the soy sauce-based tare in the soup and is a great addition if you prefer a thicker soup. Jiro-style ramen is often robust in flavor, so check the taste of the soup first and then adjust it to your liking.
These are the free toppings that can be adjusted, but the method of ordering these to the waiter is very unique. The following is an example of this ordering method, also known as Jumon “呪文” (meaning, “magic spell”) among some Jiro fans.
- Ninniku to Yasai Mashi (Add garlic and more veggies)
- Abura Karame Oome (Add fat and tare to make the soup taste stronger)
- Ninniku Yasai Mashi Mashi (Add extra garlic and veggies)
If you have no prior knowledge of this ordering system before visiting the restaurant, you’ll have no idea what we are talking about, but this spell actually contains a detailed request regarding the amount of free toppings. Let’s break down this spell in detail for analysis.
First, as for ninniku (garlic), the amount can be adjusted to one of the following:
- nothing to order (no garlic will be added)
- Ninniku Sukoshi (tiny bit of garlic is added)
- Ninniku Sukuname (a little garlic is added)
- Ninniku (normal amount of garlic is added)
- Ninniku Mashi (a large amount of garlic is added)
- Ninniku Mashi Mashi (an extra-large amount of garlic is added)
As for yasai (vegetables), the amount can be adjusted to one of the following:
- Yasai Hanbun (half vegetables)
- Yasai Sukuname (less vegetables)
- nothing to order (default amount goes in)
- Yasai (more than usual)
- Yasai Mashi (more than usual)
- Yasai Mashi Mashi (extra-large)
As for the abura (back fat of pork), the amount can be adjusted to one of the following:
- nothing to order (no abura will be added)
- Abura (additional abura will be topped)
- Abura Mashi (large serving will be added to the top)
- Abura Mashi Mashi (extra-large serving will be added to the top)
Finally, the amount of karame (soy sauce-based tare) can be adjusted to one of the following:
- say nothing (no karame will be added)
- Karame (makes the soup taste stronger)
- Karame Oome (makes the soup taste even stronger)
* Some Ramen Jiro franchises don’t accept topping orders for larger servings, so we recommend that you check in advance before coming to the store.
You can now see that the magic spell consists of a combination of requests regarding each free topping. However, we understand that some people may not have the confidence to smoothly convey their order to the waiter, even though they understand it. There is an ultimate ordering method for such occasions! That is, when the waiter asks you, “Ninniku iremasuka?” to which you reply, “Sonomama.” This translates to, “As is.” This way, you can enjoy the default flavor that the restaurant offers, and then add toppings of your choice on your second and subsequent visits.
Restaurants to eat Jiro-Kei Ramen in the U.S.
In this issue, we introduced some styles of ramen that offer a unique ordering method to meet the personal preferences of customers. These are mainly only offered at ramen restaurants in Japan, so even those accustomed to ramen restaurants in the U.S. may be surprised when they first encounter these methods when visiting Japan. If this is the case, please remember this article and use it as a reference when ordering.
That concludes today’s topic. Please look forward to another great topic for all the ramen lovers out there!
Mastering the Art of Ordering Ramen in Japan: Insider Phrases and Tips from Locals | LIVE JAPAN travel guide
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Types of Ramen and How to Order Them Like a Pro
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