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Yamagata Ramen – 5 Tasty Styles

Yamagata Ramen! In Japan, the Yamagata region has more ramen shops per capita than ANYWHERE else. Here are 5 tasty Yamagata ramen styles you absolutely have to try.

Yonezawa Style Ramen at Hirama

1. Dumpling Ramen (Wantanmen) in Sakata City

Delicious dumplings take center stage in this Sakata City ramen style. Ramen shops there often use both pork and shrimp dumplings for toppings. We’re thankful this is the case.

Yamagata Ramen - Sakata
Ramen Shop Mangetsu

Juicy on the inside and with silky-smooth wrappers on the outside, it’s easy to only focus on the dumplings. But this style’s soup is no slouch. Most shops in the city feature a light, fish-leaning soup with a tangy soy sauce base.

Medium-thick noodles are most common. However, some shops will make the noodles wavy and others, straight.

Where to Enjoy This Ramen Style:

2. Chicken Giblet Ramen (Tori Motsu) in Shinjo City

Yes, that’s chicken giblets (organs)! If you’re not crazy about giblets, it is possible to order this ramen style without them. The clear and brightly flavored soup is still a chicken based one.

Yamagata Ramen - Shinjo
Ramen Shop Issaan

But if you can stomach chicken giblets, order them! As toppings, chicken heart, liver, and other offal provide a funky, bitter-flavored contrast to the soup.

Medium-thick noodles are popular. Be warned – the ramen portions in Shinjo City, Yamagata are massive!

Where to Enjoy This Ramen Style:

3. Ice Cold Ramen (Hiyashi) in Yamagata City

Those are ice cubes on top! This cold ramen is served year round, not just the summertime. While the idea of ice cubes in a ramen soup may sound gimmicky, they’re particularly refreshing during the hotter months.

Ramen Shop Sakaeya

Furthermore, the ice cubes help mitigate what is a saltlier, soy sauce-seasoned soup. The soup is made up of fish, salad oil, and sesame oil. Pork or chicken bones simply wouldn’t work, as all the fat would congeal at the top.

So its preparation does require creativity. The thick noodles are extra firm because they’re cold.

Where to Enjoy This Ramen Style:

Sakaeya (where it was invented)

4. Spicy Miso Ramen (Akayu) in Nanyo City

This local miso ramen is the heaviest of the 5. If the previous style is perfect for summer, this one is perfect for winter. It’s served scaling hot, with spiciness coming from the big red ball in the middle.

Yamagata Ramen - Akayu
Ramen Shop Ryu Shanghai

This ball slowly supercharges the chicken, pork, and fish based-soup. Despite being heavy and quite lardy, there’s a lot of depth in this soup. Bits of aonori seaweed contribute to this.

Lastly, it’s impossible to forget the supremely thick and chewy noodles.

Where to Enjoy This Ramen Style:

Ryu Shanghai (where it was invented)

5. Hand-Pressed Noodles (Chuukasoba) in Yonezawa City

This is my personal favorite among the 5 Yamagata ramen styles. The soup is relatively light. But it’s anything but boring. Shops in Yonezawa City will often use chicken, pork, and fish as soup ingredients.

Yamagata Ramen - Yonezawa
Ramen Shop Kumabun

But the noodles are the clear star. Many local shops will carefully hand-press the noodles, giving them a wonderful frizzy texture. Frizzy, high in water content, and on the thinner side, they’re the ultimate soup companion.

This is a style I could eat every day.

Where to Enjoy This Ramen Style

In summary, Yamagata prefecture is one of the most important ramen prefectures in Japan! Some of the 47 prefectures don’t have a single ramen style. But Yamagata has 5!

In a video series, I sample and showcase each of the styles. Below is Yonezawa!


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