Christmas and New Year are over, it’s time to go back to work, and you feel like you never want to see another plate of turkey or a mince pie again. Or at least not until next year. So what you gonna eat? Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen, that’s what.
Ramen are noodles. Not thick white noodles – that’s udon – or thin brown noodles made from buckwheat – that’s soba – but chinese-style wheat noodles. Tonkotsu ramen come in a thick, cloudy white broth made from boiled pork bone (which is what tonkotsu means), plus other ingredients which are a closely guarded secret of the restaurant concerned. It’s a speciality of Kyushu, the most westerly of the five main islands that make up Japan and the place where many immigrants from China first found a home.
If you’ve ever been to Kyushu on the bullet train you’ll know Hakata Station in Fukuoka. If you’ve changed trains there you might even have gone to Hakata Ramen Street on the first floor where speciality ramen restaurants are jammed together cheek by jowl. I was there a year ago, passing though Hakata with some friends. We stopped off at Ikkousha.
Ikkousha are tonkotsu ramen perfectionists. They use three different kinds of local soy sauce, twenty seasonings and five types of seafood in their broth. They make their own noodles and they slice the chashu extra thin. (Chashu is sliced pork fillet which is an essential addition to tonkotsu ramen). In other words, they make great ramen.
But I can tell you’re getting restless. You don’t want to hear about the great ramen I ate in Hakata. You want to know where you can eat great Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen here in London. Lower Regent Street is the answer. There’s a new ramen place opened up called Shoryu. It specialises in Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen and its chef comes from Hakata so he knows his stuff. It’s very good.
I tried it a few weeks before Christmas and the first piece of advice I can give you is not to go at peak times (like lunchtime) unless you’re prepared to queue as it’s very popular and you can’t book.
Their basic Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen is excellent but they also do other kinds of tonkotsu ramen, like piri piri tonkotsu and wasabi tonkotsu for those who like their noodles spicy, or Yuzu tonkotsu which is flavoured with citrus. Whatever takes your fancy.
There were plenty of Japanese (and non-Japanese) customers the day I went.
It’s Japanese-run and, in a nice touch, the waiting staff all speak basic Japanese. They bang the drum on the counter when you arrive – a jolly theatrical effect.
It’s actually an offshoot of the Japan Centre, which has now relocated to Shaftesbury Avenue. So, Shoryu is the place if you’re in the mood for top class Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen. Which, at this time of year, you probably are.