Origin/Historical Background of Wakayama Ramen
Wakayama Ramen is one of traditional ramen in Japan that is served at specialty stores and popular cafeterias, mainly in the northern part of Wakayama prefecture. Wakayama Prefecture has a warm climate facing the Pacific Ocean and the Kii Channel. Wakayama ramen is usually called, “Chinese Noodles” (中華そば) or just “Chinese” (中華) for short. The history of this one dates back in particular in the central of Wakayama City. It has been told that from the early Showa period and before the war, ramen had already been eaten in different shops and there also has been a great number of ramen stalls in the said city.
Because Wakayama prefecture is close to soy sauce-producing areas such as Yuasa and there are many neighboring prefectures close to it which have the ingredients for the soup, the Wakayama ramen is made from pork bones and chicken bones from the neighboring prefectures and seasoned with soy sauce from Yuasa. This made the citizens familiar with the taste of the soy sauce. However, although Chinese noodles in Wakayama were occasionally transmitted to the media in Osaka, they did not spread all over the country and remained in the local area. Furthermore, this “Chinese soba culture” was not recognized as unique to Wakayama, much less the name Wakayama ramen was used.
The name “Wakayama ramen” began to be used in the latter half of the 1990s, it was the first time that the name Wakayama ramen was used in a restaurant that opened in Tokyo. By then, Hideyuki Ishigami who is a Japanese businessman, ramen critic, and culinary critic, recommended Wakayama City in the TV Champion “Japan’s Best Ramen Finals” aired on New Year’s Day 1998 and won the championship over the powerful stores nationwide.
Also, it opened a temporary store at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum and became popular mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area. As a result, Wakayama’s Chinese noodle shops have been actively covered on TV and magazines, and the name “Wakayama ramen” has come to be recognized due to the release of cup ramen by major instant noodle makers.
The development of Wakayama ramen had sparked a new nationwide local ramen boom such as Tokushima ramen and Asahikawa ramen and on October 27, 2006, the Wakayama Prefectural Noodle Cooperative acquired a trademark right in which they will be given a designated product or designated service that was called “Chinese noodles with soup from Wakayama Prefecture” using the regional collective trademark system.
HOW IS WAKAYAMA RAMEN MADE?
The Wakayama Ramen has been characterized by its noodles. Generally, its noodles are thin, non-curly (straight) noodles. The color is yellow. There are some handmade shops, but machine-made noodles are common. The degree of boiling of noodles varies from store to store, and the hardness can be changed according to individual taste, so the theory has not been established.
The soup of Wakayama ramen can be characterized by two types, namely with soy sauce-based tonkatsu soy sauce flavor and pork bone-based tonkatsu soy sauce flavor. The former manufacturing method is to cook the pork bones in a pot of soy sauce and take out the pork bones when the taste is fully absorbed. And this pork bone is cooked to make soup. At this time, some shops combine dried bonito flakes, flavored vegetables, and chicken bonito. There is also a shop where char siu is stewed in soy sauce and this stew is combined with the soup.
On the other hand, the method used with the latter soup type (pork-bone based soy sauce flavor) is to stew pork bones until the gelatinous substance dissolves, and add soy sauce to the muddy soup to adjust the taste. The taste is richer than the former, but it is never greasy and the taste of pork bones matches soy sauce. This method was created by chance when pork bones were overcooked when making soy sauce-based Chinese noodles and are a derivative of it. This style is the manufacturing method of “Ide Shoten”, and this style became a national district by winning the TV Champion’s ramen championship special program and opening a store at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum.
When it comes to the ingredients and condiments of Wakayama ramen, it is with chopped green onions, menma or noodle hemp, and char siu (thigh meat). The condiment used is only pepper, and garlic and lard are rarely placed. And some stores are sprinkled in advance before they are put on the table.
What is so unique about it?
Even now, the pork bone soy sauce soup is characterized by soft noodles, and the ingredients are char siu, kamaboko, and menma topped with chopped green onions. The amount of ramen at the restaurant is small, and it is common to eat mackerel sushi called haya sushi or boiled eggs together. The taste is refreshing to the eye, and the richness and aroma of soy sauce stand out. The ingredients include Kamaboko (fish paste that includes raw fish products) as a characteristic ingredient or “Chiyomaki” with a naruto pattern in a kamaboko shape. This is due to the advertising activities of the local Kamaboko company.
Wakayama’s “Chinese noodles” culture is very unique. The amount of Chinese noodles served at stores is set to a small amount by default, although large orders are possible at most stores. This is because it is assumed that customers will eat “Haya-sushi” at the same time as Chinese noodles. Haya-sushi is mackerel sushi that is not sufficiently fermented from Kishu’s famous rotten sushi “Nare- sushi”. Haya sushi is usually placed on the table. Most Chinese noodle shops have boiled eggs like Haya-sushi. The origin is unknown, but it goes well with soy sauce, which has a relatively strong taste. There is no custom, and there are various things such as eating before meals, putting on ramen without crushing, crushing and blending with ramen in soup, dissolving in the soup to drink after eating noodles, eating at the end of meals.
When it comes to side menus such as fried rice, dumplings, and fried chicken, which are almost always placed in ramen shops in other regions, were rarely placed except for some tourist shops. This is because some parts of Wakayama’s Chinese noodles are not regarded as Chinese food and because the habit of eating sushi has taken root. There are a few shops that offer rice (white rice). However, this does not apply to the popular dining room, as it is premised on rice, rice bowls, and set meals. On the contrary, it is rare for such stores to have sushi.
RECOMMENDED WAKAYAMA RAMEN RESTAURANTS
In Japan, there are a great number of restaurants and shops that cater to Wakayama Ramen. It is great to eat it with some friends and relatives. Here are some recommended restaurants that will surely capture the taste of the hybrid of Japan and China.
This one is a flagship store of Wakayama ramen, the one who made Wakayama ramen is known worldwide and the one who made the name “Wakayama ramen”. They appear on a TV showdown program and have won in a row. Customers come from all over the country, and on weekends there is a long line. It has opened a store branch in Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. The thick soup has a deep and mellow richness, and once you eat it, you will be addicted to it. The soup is soaked in the thin noodles, and the charcoal stewed to melt is also delicious. A perfect balance of tonkatsu soy sauce soup with thin noodles.
Maruki Chinese Soba
It has been over 70 years since we started offering Chinese food at food stalls. It is the third generation master who continues to preserve the taste at the time of its founding. The soup was produced by careful preparation and has a refreshing and smooth taste. Understandably, many fans are still attached to the simple royal road of Chinese food.
Kotaro’s special Wakayama ramen (Chinese noodles) is a rich but mellow tonkatsu soy sauce soup. You can choose from “rich” to “light” according to your preference. The secret homemade char siu and chewy thin noodles are entwined with the soup, and once you eat it, it’s delicious. The ramen was produced by the master who was a chef.
Similar to “Ide Shoten,” which is a relative, this store has been offering the royal road “Wakayama Ramen” for a long time. The feature of the restaurant was that it serves ramen with raw eggs, which is not often seen in other Wakayama stores. First of all, if you raise the noodles from the soup and put them in your mouth without breaking the egg, you will feel at ease with the familiar and stable taste. Next, let the noodles pass through the yolk part of the raw egg and take a bite, you can taste the mild and gentle freshness of the whole menu.
Honke Arochi Marutaka Chinese Soba
This restaurant was characterized by the deep richness of its soy sauce base. Arochi is one of the best night downtown areas in Wakayama. The shop faces the main street and due to this one, many people go here after drinking alcohol, and it has been loved as “Chinese soba of the day”. The soup was taken after boiling in soy sauce was said to have a deep richness in its refreshing taste. The carefully simmered char siu is also popular. The thin noodles are chewy and have excellent entanglement with the soup.