Exploring Düsseldorf’s Little Tokyo:
A quick guide to ramen


Exploring Düsseldorf’s Little Tokyo:
A quick guide to ramen

The ultimate broth

If you were looking for a dish to represent love, then ramen would certainly be one of the top choices. A freshly cooked, steaming hot broth that contains a delightful fusion of the flavours of soy, vegetables and meat or fish, and which the whole of Japan – along with large parts of the rest of the world – is absolutely crazy about. And with good reason! Naturally that means ramen is also available in many eateries throughout Düsseldorf’s Little Tokyo. If you want to make absolutely sure you don’t miss out on one of the multitude of variations, you’d better cancel your appointments for the foreseeable future. In this part of Düsseldorf, the streets are literally lined with ramen restaurants, offering seemingly endless opportunities to sample some. So grab your spoon, or even your chopsticks, and let’s go!

Everyone’s favourite broth

At this point we would like to elaborate briefly on the origins of this classic example of Japanese cuisine. Let’s start by pointing out that it isn’t actually Japanese at all. It originally came from China, but was adapted by the Japanese in the 19th century. With a few tweaks along the way, ramen eventually became the dish we all know and love today.  

Put simply, this extremely affordable delicacy is a type of soup, based on a chicken or vegetable broth. People all over the world love this dish, which contains noodles (of various kinds) as well as a range of ingredients, but mainly vegetables, meat or fish. Similar to the way in which Germany has many distinct sorts of bread, Japanese chefs prepare their ramen differently depending on where they come from. The dish is so popular that there are over 5,000 ramen restaurants in Tokyo alone. They are known as ‘ramen-ya’, and there are said to be more than 200,000 of them in Japan as a whole!

Slurping positively encouraged!

For some foreigners it can pose a bit of a challenge that Japanese soup is not eaten with a spoon but with chopsticks. These are used to extract meat, fish, egg and other ingredients, while the soup itself is drunk straight from the bowl. You may already be aware that slurping is permitted, if not to say positively encouraged! The noise indicates that you are enjoying the food, and that you might even end up asking for seconds. In Japan, the love of ramen – which contains loads of vitamins, minerals and collagen by the way – goes so far that the city of Yokohama has two museums dedicated to the dish, the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum and the Cupnoodles Museum.

It’s all in the noodles  

Depending on your taste preferences (and possibly your food intolerances), when it comes to Japanese noodles, you normally have a choice between three types, made from flour, salt, water and, in the case of ramen, alkaline mineral water or egg. The menus of most ramen restaurants will also feature soba, made with buckwheat, or udon, made from wheat flour. Chefs normally prepare their noodles fresh every day. Some eateries also sell them separately, in which case you can find them for a few euros in the fridge of the restaurant or supermarket. While fresh ramen is called namamen, the dried version is known as kansomen. But don’t get it mixed up with insutanto ramen, that is to say instant ramen. You may remember it from when it used to be available at virtually every corner shop for a while – you just had to add hot water. That particular variant was invented in Japan by Momofuku Ando in the 1950s, and it is highly likely that it made him a millionaire.

Spoilt for choice 

Japan’s favourite broth is the sort of dish that offers something for absolutely everyone. With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to decide which one to go for. Below we’ve listed a small selection of possible ingredients.

- Vegetarian/vegan

Do you prefer to avoid meat and fish entirely? Then you can augment your ramen taste experience with a range of vegetables as well as mushrooms. These include nameko, shiitake or kikurage mushrooms, fermented bamboo shoots (shinachiku), spring onions (negi), and also spinach, white cabbage, corn or beans. To make things a bit more exotic, try Japanese mustard (takana) or salted ume plums (umeboshi). Vegetarians might enjoy a popular variant that includes a boiled egg (tsukimi). Ramen with deep-fried tofu pieces is known as kitsune.

- Fish/seafood/edible seaweed

Tempura prawn slices are a very popular choice and also a mainstay of many menus in Düsseldorf’s ramen restaurants. Maguro, i.e. tuna, and kamaboko, which are slices of pureed fish shaped into rolls, are also a hit with gourmets of all ages. Equally tasty are nori, that is toasted and seasoned seaweed, and a type of kelp known as wakame in Japanese.

- Meat

If you’re in the mood for a really hearty soup, then you should definitely try some kakuni, or braised pork belly, yakibuta (braised pork) or chashu – Cantonese-style grilled or braised pork – to go with your ramen. If you opt for the chashu, you’ll also be exploring the history of ramen, which originated in China, as previously mentioned.

Restaurants in Little Tokyo

As fans of this district will be well aware, Immermannstrasse is a must for any visitor to Düsseldorf’s Little Tokyo quarter. So it’s hardly surprising that some of the city’s ramen hotspots are also located there. But you should be prepared to be a little patient before you can indulge. The days when there isn’t a queue outside Tokyo Ramen Takeichi (Immermannstrasse 18), Takumi (Immermannstrasse 28) or Takezo (Immermannstrasse 48) are few and far between. People simply can’t get enough of ramen!

This article is supported by REACT-EU.

Title image: Düsseldorf Tourism

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