April 30, 2014

The Ramen Shaman: Nagahama Ramen Miyoshi (Kyoto)

by Will VanderWyden

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It’s no secret that I have a massive man-crush on Ramenate, a ramen blog written by a guy named Nate. For the longest time I didn’t know his name and thought the blog was pronounced ramen nah-tay, like French. He’s one of the rare bloggers whose writing holds my interest regardless of the subject matter — his sense of time and place always feels more central than the ramen itself. And as far as ramen goes he is the most comprehensive blogger I’ve ever read, leveraging his formidable Japanese skills to research the history of every shop, to conversations with cooks for an insider’s perspective.

Sadly, Nate stopped blogging when he moved back to the U.S. in 2011, but I still reference the site (which I read in its entirety two years ago) regularly. It was the single biggest inspiration for The Ramen Shaman’s existence. And Nagahama Ramen Miyoshi in Kyoto was the single biggest inspiration for Ramenate. Earlier this month, in the midst of cherry blossom season, it all came full circle.

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Everything looked like this in Kyoto. It was magic. And I swear the girls there are prettier than Tokyo (don’t hate me). Tourists were out in full force yet I often found myself all alone at remote mountain temples and forest shrines far away from the throng with nothing but the wind and my memories of The Legend of Zelda. I somehow managed the impossible as the entire trip was free, both accommodation (couchsurfing) and travel (hitch hiking). Yes, I hitch hiked for the first time in my life, and it was only mildly embarrassing. My first ride was with a biker (his car, not his bike) who may have been part of the yakuza.

And then I found Miyoshi.

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While out one night with my couchsurfing host, and after a few drinks and attempts at talking to some girls (unsuccessful!) we stumbled down one of the main drinking thoroughfares and found this curious shop. What was left of my neurons fired away and distant memories of ramen photography bubbled to the surface. I knew Nate’s favorite old-school inspiration was in Kyoto but I had no idea where or if it was even still around, so it was just a faint memory at first. But this place looked eerily familiar. It smelled incredible. It was open to the street and the unmistakable scent of tonkotsu was in the air.

So naturally we were eating this ramen no matter what.

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On the surface it’s a simple as ramen gets — pork bone broth, negi, and chashu. Noodles thin and super firm. The kimchi was a special touch. The broth was sweet and creamy, reminding me of the yatai ramen I had next to the river in Hakata two years ago, but also of some of the more elevated, higher-end broths I’ve come to love in Tokyo. Miyoshi strikes a nice balance, but you never forget that the street and its drunken revelers are just a few steps away. In other words, the atmosphere is perfect.

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Then I saw it. The conclusive proof that this was the exact same shop Nate knew and loved. Rice krispies.

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Actually I think they are pieces of fried tempura batter, but they sure look (and taste) a lot like the cereal! As soon as I saw them the memory popped right in my head. Yes, Nate definitely mentioned these krispies. This was the only shop he’d ever seen them at (me too). I have no idea why. It’s genius.

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Not only do they mix up the texture by starting out crispy, but after a couple minutes they soak up enough broth to both thicken the soup and concentrate it at the same time. There’s nothing like dredging up a spoonful of those krispies all bloated like deer ticks and biting into a pig broth explosion (that’s what she said).

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It didn’t take long to clean my bowl, and unsurprisingly I was back again the next day for a late lunch. Nate’s original review is here. Please read it.

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Nights like these are priceless, and it seems like I have three of them a week in Japan.

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How to get to NAGAHAMA RAMEN MIYOSHI:
From the corner of Sanjo and Kiyamachi, walk south (toward Shijo) for about 20 meters.

One Comment

  • Anders
    Posted May 2, 2014 at 2:59 am

    Holy shizzle, those pink sakura make my nose bleed.

    I can’t believe I’ve never been to Kyoto despite so many trips to Japan. Those naturific pics make me wanna go so bad.
    (Even though couch surfing or hitchhiking is something I would NEVER participate in… except maybe in Japan which is prob why you do it as well – in the US that would be pure cray cray).

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