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Tonkotsu Ramen とんこつラーメン

Updated: Mar 2, 2022


Instant ramen noodles can be found in the soup aisle of a grocery store, and it’s been available for quite some time in the United States. It’s cheap, requires only water and a small saucepan, takes 3 minutes to cook, and satisfies your hunger, but it’s never been a delicacy. In the last few years, however, gourmet ramen has gained traction, and specialty noodle restaurants started popping up here and there. Initially, I thought that it was going to be a short-lived pop culture fad, but the trend has had staying power much to my surprise. A pork broth noodle called Tonkotsu ramen is quite popular, and people even wait in long lines to experience this overly priced ethnic food. In Fukuoka, a large city in the southern island of Kyushu where Tonkotsu ramen originated, a bowl of Tonkotsu ramen (without extra toppings) costs about $5 and even the worst noodle shop tastes better than the imitations in the US. I grew up in Fukuoka, so not willing to pay over $20 for a bowl of ramen that smells and tastes only slightly resembles the original.

In Fukuoka, Tonkotsu ramen restaurants are hole-in-the-wall eateries without any décor and often have only counter seats. In the Nagahama district, there are many stools along the street serving local delicacies including ramen. Each temporary tent has about 10 shoulder-to-shoulder seats, and that is where you can have the best Tonkotsu ramen. Tonkotsu literary means pig’s bone. Simmering pork and a variety of vegetables for long hours creates the thick and heavy Tonkotsu soup. Typical toppings are slices of pork belly, a boiled egg, and thinly sliced seasoned konbu (seaweed). Roasted sesame seeds and red ginger are available for free on the counter. Service is practically nonexistent, but there is no tipping culture in Japan anyway. You sit, eat, pay, and leave, but taste and satisfaction are guaranteed.

Ramen was said to be imported from China upon Japan’s reopening in the mid 19th century after 200 years of isolation. Now, it has become one of the most popular comfort foods adored by all generations. Each region in Japan has developed their own unique flavor. Some notables other than Tonkotsu are Miso (soy-bean paste) and Shio (salt) ramens both originated in Hokkaido, Shoyu (soy & chicken broth) ramen in Tokyo, and if you go to Chinatown in Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagasaki, you can find authentic Chinese style noodles as well.

Tonkotsu, ramen, hakata, Japanese, japan, noodle
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen

日本語会話 初級 中級

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店員(てんいん): いらっしゃいませ!

客(きゃく): 一人(ひとり)なんですが…

店員: ハイ〜! カウンターにどうぞ。 何(なん)になさいますか

客: チャーシューラーメン(をお願(ねが)いします)。

店員: チャーシュー 一丁! カウンターのお客様(おきゃくさま)。


客: すみません。替え玉(かえだま) お願いします。

店員: ハイ〜! 替え玉 一丁(いっちょう)! カウンターのお客様。


客: すみません。 お勘定(かんじょう)(をお願いいます)。

店員: はい! チャーシューと替え玉ひとつで、合計800円です。

客: はい、じゃ、800円。 

店員: ハイ! 丁度(ちょうど)、いただきました。毎度(まいど)、ありがとうございました。


Tonkotsu ramen / 豚骨(とんこつ)ラーメン. pork broth ramen noodle

が... but... "is there a seat for me?" or "can you take one person?" is omitted. Often used in speaking Japanese, also with ん to add a tone of consultation.

カウンター a counter seat

なさいますか respect form of する。Even at a hole-in-the-wall eatery, a server will likely use the respect tone to a customer.

チャーシュー sliced pork belly (on tonkotsu ramen)

一丁(いっちょう) a counter for tofu, not for an order such as a bowl of ramen; however, often used in ramen shops or izakaya for each order so a waiter can shout the order to the kitchen to create lively and energetic atmosphere.

替え玉(かえだま) : a ball of noodles. one serving of ramen noodles is stored in a ball shape. In Japan, you can order additional ball of noodles before you finish soup.

お勘定(かんじょう) the bill. At most restaurants in Japan, a waiter will bring you a bill, and you pay exact amount (without tip) at the casher.

合計(ごうけい): total

丁度(ちょうど): exact

毎度(まいど): every time. Often used with ありがとうございます even if you are not a regular.

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