Ramen has long been one of Japan’s staple foods. From early mornings to late nights, it’s a favored comfort food for all kinds of people, in all types of conditions. Its preparation and flavors also vary uniquely from region to region, which locals often take pride in. Toyama prefecture is no different. Though some locals turn their heads the other way just thinking about the saltiness of their ramen, the packed ramen restaurants from block to block reflect their pride and enjoyment in the Toyama Black Ramen. The ramen’s broth – with its dark and thin consistency – is created with black soy sauce which helped earn its name to fame.
My First Black Ramen Experience
My host family took me to one of the oldest ramen spots in town called Taiki, while warning me every minute of our drive about how salty it is. I was prepared and excited. After all, I do love particularly salty foods. Arriving towards the end of the lunch peak on the Monday of Golden Week, the countertop tables were packed with salary men, families with small children, and teenagers. We waited a few minutes for one of their two tatami room family style tables to be cleared. As we waited, we asked to see the menu only to be returned with the working man pointing at a plaque on the wall. The menu was simple: regular size black ramen or big size black ramen, a side of rice and a few drink options. That was it. The restaurant’s straightforward simplicity keeps the authenticity of the black ramen alive.
Sampling the Soft Noodles, Soft Pork and Soy Sauce
When I finally got to taste the ramen, I was surprised by how light the taste actually was despite its commercialized soy sauce flavor. The broth’s blend of fish stock, chicken stock, and black soy sauce creates a rather simple yet filling taste. More than the salt, the use of black pepper creates a kick to the flavor and kept me slurping on the soft noodles. The detail to excellence though, was the cha-shu pork in the ramen. I’ve had my fair share of ramen in Japan from region to region but I think this place has the winning slices of pork thus far. It was so soft that bits would fall off while trying to pick it up with chopsticks! The meat, in harmony with the black broth, melted right onto my tongue. I could have eaten a few more slices than what was in my bowl!
So, Does Black Ramen Live Up to the Hype?
This restaurant isn’t a fancy one, and you won’t be able to expect much service from the workers, but the pride of the region’s ramen speaks for itself. So if you’re ever in Toyama prefecture, be sure to try the black ramen. And if you are lucky enough to find yourself at Taiki, you’ll even be able to purchase their dried version of the ramen to take home as an edible souvenir.