Cultural, lively and full of delicacies, the Sanjo area of Kyoto is truly a wonderful tourist trap (in the best way possible). As independent travelers, we are always looking for the unconventional, cheap and delicious to sink our teeth into.
Located on Kiyamachi street, south of the intersection with Sanjo Street, Nagahama Ramen Miyoshi is just that.
How do you know this joint is any good, aside from Kyoto foodies singing praises of this place? The many locals making a bee-line for this shop.
To spot Nagahama Ramen, all you have to do is spot the most rustic (read: shabbiest) establishment on Kiyamachi Street. Obviously, very little money has gone into the décor (if any), but with Ramen that tastes like that, who needs décor? Though more often than not, you will likely smell Nagahama Ramen before you see it.
Unfortunately, Nagahama Ramen shop does not quite smell as good as it tastes, to be frank it smells strongly of soured pork bone soup, but do not let this discourage you. Their Ramen is quite literally, to die for.
According to a reliable source (a Kyoto local bringing two of his subordinates for supper at the shop), Nagahama Ramen is not Kyoto Ramen, but Kyushu Ramen. Regardless of origin, it is Japanese and it is delicious.
If the mention of pork bone just not did you not clue you in, Nagahama Ramen uses Tonkotsu (pork bone) soup base. But unlike most Tonkotsu Ramen, their Ramen, while full of depth and mellow flavor does not get more sickening with each bite. In fact, the more you eat, the hungrier you will get (true story, after a day of donuts and cream-puffs too). Another thing to note about their Ramen is their noodles. Nagahama Ramen’s noodles are specially-made ‘thin-noodles’ that somehow soaks up the soup that much better and has a more refreshing taste and bite to it.
Their menu only comes in Japanese , but thankfully it is limited, the only variations on the menu are the toppings you get with your Ramen (seaweed, bamboo shoots, extra pork etc.). If you are at a loss, just order “Ramen”. Prices range from ¥650-¥800 and you can get an extra serving of noodles for just ¥200, which is a steal given how good the Ramen is.
The big bowl of Ramen served is rather basic. To truly eat like a local, grab the many condiments that sits on the table before you and mix the Ramen up your own way. Recommended toppings are the sesame seeds, fried fats (ladies, trust me on this one), Togarashi (Japanese spice mix), chilli-flakes and pickled ginger. If you want to go even spicier, they have Korean chilli paste and La-yu (chilli oil), which really helps work up a sweat on a cold day. If you are truly at a loss as to what condiments to add, just ask the friendly local sitting across from you.
So, no, this no-frills Ramen may not look like much visually, but your tongue will be thanking you before long. Not all Ramen shops will make you think “This is the best decision I have made all day”, but Nagahama Ramen definitely will.
It is not just Ramen, it is soul food.