I don’t know how many of you heard of Kitakata Ramen（喜多方拉面）in Singapore? As a matter of fact, Kitakata Ramen is widely regarded as one of the 3 main ramen in Japan along with the usual suspect, Hokkaido & Hakata ramen. Kitakata is a small city in Fukushima. During my East Japan trip, I ever thought of visiting Kitakata as well as Inawashiro-ko, but eventually, went to Naruko Onsen instead. That was before the 3.11 tsunami. Anyway, Kitakata is situated somewhere between the Joetsu Shinkansen and Tohoku Shinkansen routes in the middle of mountainous region, whichever route you take, you need to transfer local train for another hour or two, it’s quite out of the way and travelers don’t usually go there.
So, when I came across Daniel Food Diary’s review on this new outlet, I was keen to give it a try since there’s no negative feedback. The name’s Kitakata Rahmen Yamakichi, kind of weird, because Japanese don’t usually insert a ‘h’ in ramen. I arrived there around 6.30pm on a weekday evening, and realised they don’t start business before 7pm. It’s a small outlet hidden at the end of Koek Road, facing Cuppage Plaza.
Usually, for my first visit, I would have ordered their basic ramen, but my friend ordered it, so I settled for Shio Jito Rahmen ($14) instead. That was the first time I came across the term ‘Jito’, the waitress told me Jito means oil. I was curious, what oil? Nevermind, let’s try that!
When it was served, I saw flakes of white topping on the soup. When I tried, ah, Lard. OK, that’s something new, but I won’t say that improved the taste of the noodle as a whole. Mine was a shio-based ramen, with light tonkotsu broth, adequately sweet and not too salty. The noodle was curly, thick and flat type, looked just like instant noodle, only more springy, which is typical of Kitakata ramen. It is believe that such noodle can retain the broth more easily, so the broth’s taste will accompany every bite of the noodle. If I had any complain on the noodle, it got to be that it bloated too soon. I was at least pleased that it didn’t come with the alkaline taste so apparent in many of our local noodle vendors. The two pieces of charshu were rather fat, making it soft but otherwise tender. Other ingredients included spring onion, bamboo shoot, and a slice of Japanese fish cake, very standard if I disregard the absence of an egg. Overall, my opinion was fairly normal, nothing worth bragging about. It is worth noting that one reason why Kitakata ramen doesn’t expand much in contrast to their Sapporo and Hakata counterparts because, typical Kitakata ramen emphasise much on the broth, or rather the water that makes the broth. The water source in Kitakata is soft and mildly sweet, which really brings out the deliciousness in the noodle. So unless vendors think of a way to import water from Kitakata, otherwise we won’t taste genuine Kitakata ramen outside Fukushima. Nevertheless, I suppose Kitakata Rahmen Yamakichi still appeals to those who want an unsophisticated ramen, nevermind if I feel for such standard, $12 (for their basic ramen) may be a little pricey. But hey! Not to forget this is Orchard Road.
I managed to steal a gulp of the broth from my friend, and found that the Shoyu based broth was a bit salty, I thought that was the thickest shoyu broth I ever tried. Other than the lard flakes, the ingredients were very much the same.
Now this was something.. I have not tried the real stuff from Utsunomiya before, but I found these juicy and nice, the skin was slightly softer than typical Chinese version. Granted, these gyozas were probably brought into Japan from China, but in Japan, the best gyoza are from Utsunomiya, Tochigi, a neighbouring prefecture of Fukushima.
Kitakata Rahmen Yamakichi
150 Orchard Road #01-18
Opening Hours: 7pm-2am
Closed on Sunday & Public Holiday
Kitakata Rahmen Yamakichi has since ceased operation.