[food]* Rich, intense and just over 70 years old now, miso ramen is the signature dish of Sapporo, capital of the northern region.
Miso ramen is a variation of traditional Japanese ramen served in an intense, miso-based soup. It is especially common in Sapporo and the terms "Sapporo ramen" and "miso ramen" have become largely synonymous in Japan. As with other ramen standard toppings include bamboo shoots, spring onion and Japanese char siu (braised pork) slices, although toppings such as scallops and butter corn have also become common recently, as restaurants in the region seek to capitalise on the region's popular local produce.
It is starting to become common to offer miso ramen in varying "intensities", with "red" miso ramen being regular, "black" being intense and "white" being light miso ramen having just a touch of miso flavour.
Prices will average around ¥800 (£5.90 / $9.20) for a basic bowl.
Miso ramen was invented in the 1930's by a restaurant owner in Sapporo, in a typically understated fashion - finding that most of his clientèle were married men stationed (by work) away from their families and ate ramen because no one else was there to cook for them, he decided that he could make a more complete meal of it by adding ramen instead to tonjiru, or pork miso soup.
After further consideration this was improved by adding oil to the base to make it more filling, and to improve the taste. This variant proved exceedingly popular, spreading quickly, and this modern version of miso ramen as we know it is now found in ramen shops across the country. It does, however, predominantly remain a "speciality dish" of Sapporo and the Hokkaido region.
Many ramen shops all over the country will offer miso ramen, but Sapporo is widely regarded as being home to the most authentic versions. Aji no Tokeidai is a chain originally based in Sapporo which has now branched out across the country (while still offering decent ramen) - they may be worth a try.
Aji no Tokeidai (Sapporo Station branch)
UFJ Bank B1/F
3-1 Kitaichijo West
Getting there: 5 min. walk from JR Sapporo station
As the "youngest" of all the major ramen bases (shoyu, salt, pork and miso) I suppose it can be easy to dismiss this one out of hand. But it is still a solid dish, and if you ask anyone in Japan what food they might associate with Sapporo, the first thing they are likely (automatically) to reply with is "miso ramen". I would think it's well worth seeing what dish might have achieved that status in a humble 70 years... wouldn't you? ♥♥♥
What do you think of miso ramen? How does it compare to other types - or can you tell the difference at all? Where would recommend for ramen in Sapporo, or elsewhere? Send in an e-mail or comment below!