Momochihama Seaside Park
Famed as the ramen capital of Japan – how can you miss out on the different styles of food that Fukuoka has to offer! Contrary to popular belief, Tokyo is not where everything started. Remember ICHIRAN – the mother of all ramen? I first had a taste of it in Osaka’s Dotonbori, and then went on to try them at Tokyo’s Shinjuku, Roppongi Hills, of which all had (extremely) long queues. Finally, when I chanced upon the Ichiran flagship store in Fukuoka… I was shocked that 1. there weren’t any queues 2. there’s a sitting down area instead of the usual cubicle styles!
Therefore when you’re in Fukuoka, please generously indulge in Hakata ramen. Hakata is a ward of the Fukuoka City (of the Fukuoka Prefecture), where you’ll find major retail, commercial and entertainment establishments. To put it simply, Hakata is the Shibuya of Fukuoka. However, the crowd in Hakata is definitely manageable and you can even say, comfortable. So back to the main topic of Hakata ramen – you probably won’t realise that major ramen franchises around the world were actually selling “Hakata ramen”. Case in point: Ippudo Ramen. You probably have seen it everywhere and known it as just Ippudo. But did you realise the full name is actually Hakata Ippudo? Betcha didn’t!
So there you have it, Ichiran and Ippudo are actually both from Hakata, Fukuoka!
Here, I’ll take you through all the food places you have to tick off while you make your trip down Fukuoka (in no particular order). Your stomach will thank me after:
RAMEN FIX AT THE RAMEN STADIUM (CANAL CITY)
So yes, first of all we have to feature the best and affordable Hakata ramen, besides Ichiran and Ippudo. Since you’re already in Fukuoka, try some Hakata Ramen that’s actually NOT ubiquitous but still so good. For a good late dinner fix, Ramen Stadium at Canal City is the best place to visit. There you’ll find 8 different restaurants each selling their own specialty, thus offering a wide selection of ramen dishes. Most of them have a vending machine outside their store where you’ll have to purchase the items first before you enter the restaurant. English menus are mostly available so no worries on that.
We had a hard time deciding but settled for this restaurant because there was a set menu available for 2 for only 2000 yen (SGD 25/ USD 18)!
It’s so good and so worth it. I’ve never paid this amount for such portions before anywhere, even in Japan. So THIS IS PERFECT for people who have big appetites for Japanese food (like myself). I’m not sure if this is an always-on promotion, but definitely visit this place because the ramen is heavenly.
Address: 5F Canal City Hakata, 1-2 Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Opening hours: 11:00~23:00 (order stop 22:30) every day
SLURP UP THE HAKATA RAMEN, YATAI STYLE
Now that you’ve tasted the greatness of the authentic Hakata ramen in Hakata, you gotta go for the authentic experience. Yatai (屋台) refers to open air food stands, where you crowd around a small stall and slurp up your bowl of goodness. In Fukuoka, you can search for “Yatai Place” and there’s exactly where the yatai stalls are. Most of them specialise in Hakata Ramen, while some other serves skewers and Nagasaki/Hiroshima style ramen.
If you were to go over the weekends, it’s usually crowded with both international and domestic travellers. Definitely expect queues but they usually move quite fast. I suppose because most patrons would be Japanese themselves and they always slurp up their ramen in no time! We chose the store that obviously states Hakata Ramen and ordered ourselves a plate of expensive beef as well. The food was great, but this combination costs double the price we had at Ramen Stadium (partly due to the beef). However, I would say it’s worth to pay for the experience since you probably won’t experience it elsewhere.
Again, this place only opens at night and will run all the way till about 5am the next morning before sunrise.
Address: it’s said to be located all around Fukuoka City, but most are found at Tenjin and Nakasu.
UDON AT KARA-NO-URON
Ok ramen aside, here’s something else you may not know: the birthplace of udon is in Hakata too. It was first introduced in 1242 by Shoichi Kokushi, who brought the art of milling flour using a water wheel. I mean, whaaaaat?! So what’s so unique about udon in Hakata? Apparently, the people of Hakata were thought to be really impatient so they boil their udon way in advance, this results in their udon being unusually soft compared to the “chewy” udon we’re used to.
With this, I introduce you to Karo-no-udon in Fukuoka. This is a long established udon restaurant since 1882 that serves traditional Hakata noodles with a soup stock using rausu konbu kelp and seasoned with light soy sauce. Also it’s said that “uron” is a colloquial form for udon here, thus the name. Pictures weren’t allowed in the restaurant so I guess the shop front will have to do! (Well, you can actually google – way too many people didn’t follow the rules!) There’s also a short clip of shop here.
Address: Japan, 〒812-0026 Fukuoka Prefecture, Fukuoka 博多区上川端町２−１
When I say anything, it’s anything. I love mentaiko – or spicy cod roe – and only realised Fukuoka’s THE place to eat them all! It’s usually found in fillings of japanese rice balls (onigiri) or pastas, but in Fukuoka, the options are endless. Apparently, the place of origin is ALSO Fukuoka (but by the way of Korea)! Say whaaaaat?! So over here, you may find them as toppings on hotdogs (as pictured), flavoured biscuits, or you can find them in their raw or slightly seared form in yatai stalls and izakaya restaurants.
For one, coffee culture is growing everywhere. For two, we always need a little break from the crazy walking in Japan (did you realise Japanese walk a lot and very fast?), so a coffee stop would be necessary to fuel up. For people like myself, I love a good quaint coffee shop since 1. it’s picturesque so it gets me excited 2. it’s another great photo opportunity (I know, I know, but I speak most of your hearts, no?)
So I went searching for a coffee place that the locals would usually go to (again, authentic experience!), and I found Manu Coffee. It’s a coffee chain with 5 stores found around Fukuoka City, and apparently popular among the locals. The one I went is on Watanabe Street (春吉店 ). They have pretty interesting flavours since they pride themselves as serving specialty coffee.
YANAGIBASHI BURGER (YANAGIBASHI MARKET)
At the most popular fish market in all of Fukuoka prefecture, you’ll find the most popular fishcake burger! It’s isn’t a very big market, and we happened to see a lot of mentaiko, among the usual fresh produce. However, the main thing for a traveller here is probably only the ready made food, which is the Yanagibashi burger!
It’s a tiny burger that’s the size of a usual Mos Burger, and with nothing fanciful. However, the bun has been deep fried to this crispiness that I haven’t had anywhere else. Annnd the fried fishcake was delicious. But sadly, there wasn’t much to do other than eating this at the market. So make sure you plan to only drop by here when it’s on the way to somewhere else!
Address: Yanagibashi Market 1-5-1 Haruyoshi, Chuo-ku. 092-761-5717