Tonkotsu ramen is thick, rich and creamy pork ramen originating from Fukuoka. Fukuoka is the biggest city in Kyushu, which is a region in Southern Japan. Tonkotsu literally means 'pork bone.' And while I cannot say my taste in ramen is objective, I've found that tonkotsu ramen trumps any other ramen that I've ever tried. Yes, it's that good.
First, I'd like to talk about Ippudo. This is where I was first introduced to tonkotsu ramen.
After I took the first sip of the broth at Ippudo, my life was changed. I took the photo above right before the fact, and I still remember the feelings I had to this day. Ippudo has a very simple menu. You essentially have the choice between three bowls of ramen. One is Shiranomasen, which is served in a white bowl. This is the original tonkotsu ramen. I took the one pictured above, the Akamaru ramen, served with flavored oil and spicy chili paste. I highly recommend tasting the broth without the extras first, and then mixing them all together to create a beautiful blend of flavors. The last ramen, Ippudo Karaka, is topped with meat and miso.
Ippudo's ramen is rich, flavorful and unforgettable. After having this ramen experience, I found myself wanting to try more, and thus I landed on the doorstep of Ichiran in Dotonbori.
The main difference between my experience at Ippudo and Ichiran is the length of the line. Granted, I went to Ippudo in Tennoji, which is more of a local's hangout anyway, but the line at Ichiran was startling. In any case, I lined up, waited about ten minutes and bought my ticket for a customizable ramen at a vending machine. As shown above, you essentially customize your ramen using a piece of paper. You can choose the softness or firmness of your noodles, the spice level, toppings and side dishes. After filling in your piece of paper, you slip it to a waitress on the other side of the curtain, and she closes your curtain, ensuring you have the privacy to enjoy your noodles to the fullest extent.
After finishing my bowl, I actually took another half portion of noodles in the remainder of my soup because, and you guessed it, I was obsessed with this broth. Ichiran, like Ippudo, had blown me away with its broth and its perfectly cooked noodles.
My choice between the two is extremely difficult because when it comes down to it, they are completely different.
However, if I had to, I'd pick Ichiran.
Ichiran provides the customer with an experience in addition to a delicious bowl of ramen. The customization is also an integral part of your dining experience; you feel as if you have a personal chef on the other side making you a bowl of ramen fitted to your taste, and that is unique.
The only downside to Ichiran is that it is generally always packed with tourists. Ippudo is likely to be more accessible in Japan, as I have never seen any tourists slurping on noodles in Tennoji.
In any case, if I'm craving tonkotsu ramen, I don't mind stopping by either of these chains.
1 Chome-5-10 Abenosuji, Abeno-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 545-0052.
You can find Ippudo right next to Q's Mall and the Apollo Building.
Open everyday, from 11 AM to 1 AM.
Soemoncho, 7−18 Chuo Ward, Osaka Prefecture, Osaka 542-0084.
Open 24 hours.