Friday, 24th October 2014
In Events In Japan,
This week, the streets around the central plaza of the Komazawa Olympic Park in Setagaya-ku Tokyo, will be filled with the smell of cooked noodles, tasty soup and other delicious ingredients, as the Japanese capital welcomes its annual Ramen Show.
Internationally renowned as one of the largest events of its kind in the entire world, the extravaganza will see hundreds of stalls set up, with chefs offered the opportunity to showcase their pioneering techniques to anyone who fancies a taste.
Representatives from across the country will converge here to show off their particular stylings and choices of ingredient - an important factor since ramen differs dramatically depending on which part of Japan you eat it in.
While it always consists of a tasty soup with plenty of noodles - which might be soft or hard depending on your preference - the toppings and other inclusions vary wildly. It is for this reason that the Tokyo ramen show is so fascinating.
However, while there will be plenty of tasty samples available for attendees, the festival also focuses on what ramen does for the tourism industry. There are lessons in food preparation lined up as well, for those who want to cook ramen as well as the pros.
The origins of ramen have been lost to history, with some arguing the concept was originally founded in China before becoming an integral part of Japanese cuisine. Chinese ramen is distinctly different, however, with the noodles cooked in the soup rather than separately.
With so many different types on offer, it can be difficult to know which ones to sample first. It very much depends on taste. If you prefer a pork-based broth, you can't leave without trying a dish cooked to a Hakata recipe, with Fukuoka regarded as one of the best places in Japan to try tonkotsu, as it is locally known. Adventurous eaters are advised to try the 'anything goes' style that dominates Osaka-based cooking. And traditionalists should stick to the miso-based meals that they produce in Sapporo, to the north.
All of these will be available to try at the Tokyo Ramen Show, which will run from tomorrow (October 24th) until November 3rd. If you can't master chopsticks by then, stallholders will also have spoons on offer and in some cases knives and forks. You can reach the plaza by train - it is just a 15 minute walk from Komazawa-daigaku Station, which is on the Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line. Look for the Komazawa-koen exit when getting off.
If you're going to miss the festival on this occasion, you can sample Japan's ramen culture in the many restaurants that you will find simply by walking around. The entertainment districts such as Shinjuku, Shibuya and Roppongi are particularly famous for having entire streets dedicated to lines of eateries serving up the tasty noodle soup. Delicious.
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