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Ramen Expert's Top Picks: Black Ramen and More

By Rika Hoffman
June 19, 2019
Updated: March 31, 2021
We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan’s food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.

Previously, byFood challenged Sonny from the Best Ever Food Review Show to eat Japan's notorious fugu pufferfish, and this time he's discovering the city's most bold and unique ramen flavors, like black ramen, on the ultimate Tokyo ramen tour! His tour guide is Frank, a ramen expert born and raised in Japan, who has visited over five hundred ramen shops in Tokyo and boasts some mad noodle-slurping skills.

Ramen Expert's Top Picks: Black Ramen and More!

So, what are the qualities of the best ramen? According to Frank, “It starts with the broth... That addictive soup that you have makes you want to go back to the ramen shop. The noodles should be firm, and toppings should be good, so everything has to come together harmoniously. Those three things.”That soup base, which marries the noodles and toppings together, is likely the most crucial indicator of the best ramen. For that ideal first sip, Frank slips his spoon past the top layer of soup and oil, down into the bowl to bring up the super potent and creamy broth beneath. 

While ramen is a playground for wacky flavorings and unique combinations, balance is also crucial. Within that balance, each person also has their own preferences and many ramen shops allow customization--not only of toppings such as garlic, pork, or veggies--but also of the richness of the broth, amount of oil, and even texture of the noodles.

On this Tokyo ramen tour, Sonny and Frank try six unique types of ramen: tsukemen (ramen noodles and a separate extra-thick soup as a dipping sauce), black squid ink ramen, spicy chili oil ramen, tori paitan (thick and creamy chicken-based ramen), hot and sour ramen, and mapo tofu ramen. Ramen is an amazing medium for creative flavors and textures, so it's no wonder Tokyo alone is home to an estimated four thousand ramen shops. Recently, for Valentine's Day, ramen chain Kourakuen even came out with chocolate ramen made with a soy-sauce based soup and cocoa oil, with a melty square of chocolate placed dramatically in the center as a garnish. The possibilities really are endless!

Watch as Shizuka goes bar hopping in Harmonica Yokocho or eats her way through Ameya Yokocho's street food offerings!

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Rika Hoffman
Rika is a sourdough enthusiast, amateur film photographer, and pun-lover, born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. A carb-based lifeform, she is always on the lookout for tasty bakeries in Tokyo.
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