Niigata Ramen – here are three piping hot, delicious ramen styles from the region. Niigata is one of the snowiest prefectures in Japan. It’s no wonder they have incredible ramen!
1. Ginger-Infused Ramen – Nagaoka Style
Nagaoka is Niigata’s third largest city. Their ramen style is all about ginger. Since 1963, ramen shop Aoshima Shokudo (青島食堂) has been synonymous with this tasty style.
A soy sauce seasoning holds up a pork and chicken bone soup. But there’s also a smooth richness from pork back fat (seabura). But of all the ingredients, the ginger takes center stage.
There are wonderful jolts of sharp ginger with every sip of soup. Be careful – they serve this revitalizing ramen scalding hot. With Nagaoka’s frigid winter temperatures, this heat is welcome though.
2. Thick Soup, Thick Noodles – Tsubame-Sanjo Style
The neighboring Niigata cities of Tsubame and Sanjo are relatively unknown…unless we’re talking about ramen. The style here is quite unique. Koshu Hanten (杭州飯店) is the legendary ramen shop where it started in 1933.
An unpasteurized soy sauce (nama shoyu) lights up a soup that’s pork bones and dried fish (niboshi). While light by itself, a lot of pork back fat makes the soup dense. Furthermore, it adds a smooth sweetness and traps the heat.
This temperature controlling of the soup comes in handy in the Winter! Among toppings, bits of crunchy raw onions are a nice contrast. The super thick noodles are just as much a joy to slurp.
3. Niigata Ramen with Food Stall Roots – Niigata City Style
Like the other 2 entries, this style of Niigata ramen has a history. Ramen shop Sankichiya (三吉屋) is the flag bearer of it. They first opened in 1957 as a food stall. It also features a soy sauce seasoning.
But it’s much less tangy and is almost like a salt seasoning. The soup itself is pork bones, trotters, meat, onions, and dried fish. These ingredients are all boiled on low heat. It’s light and refreshing overall.
They use super thin, wavy noodles (as a food stall, thinner noodles took less time to boil). The bowl’s simple toppings scream “classic” – bamboo shoots, chashu pork, fish cake (naruto), and white spring onions (negi).
All told, Niigata ramen is outstanding Winter soul food. Each of these 3 styles are deliciously different – give them a try if you’re in Niigata!