June 16, 2014

The Ramen Shaman: Gundam (Kyoto)

by Will VanderWyden


My trip to Kyoto was awesome for many reasons. Temples, new friends, raw nature, or scenes like this one, just three boys feeding hawks like a flock of seagulls.

Despite its rural look this is in the heart of Kyoto.

And there was this:


My couchsurfing host just happened to live within walking distance of the main ramen street in Kyoto — honestly, I’m not smart enough to make this stuff up. When I told him I kinda, sorta like ramen, our dinner plans were made.

He took me to his favorite Kyoto-style ramen-ya, Gundam, one of the funnest names to say when drunk (GUNDAM IT!). Really I had no idea what traditional ‘Kyoto style’ ramen was all about, so I was surprised to find that, perhaps as a response to the quiet pace of life in the old capital, Kyoto’s ramen goes balls out like a frat kid with authoritarian parents. It’s so kotteri (fatty) it’s practically a non-Newtonian fluid. It’s like eating tsukemen straight up, but they tone down the flavor intensity to a lighter, almost milky taste. And then proceed to throw half a pig on top.

And a load of negi to boot. Here’s a nice shot of the broth with the noodles in stasis.


The noodles are almost less viscous than the soup! It’s just a big bowl of gravy. The chashu was rough and gnarly in perfect contrast and the negi gave it a nice bite. But this ramen isn’t designed for fine dining or detailed notes. Last time I checked there’s no dissertations on nachos. This is just a big bad bowl of sustenance that tastes really, really good and leaves you really, really full.

And if you hit it hard enough it shatters.


Or maybe it’s like the Dead Sea? I’m sure I could float in this thing without trying.


I never would have guessed Kyoto’s ramen would be the swamp monster of Japanese cuisine, but even the most visible Kyoto-style ramen chain, Tenka Ippin, is thick as mashed brains. I’ve never been one to shy away from extreme cuisine (well ok I passed on the grilled spiders in Cambodia) so naturally I liked this ramen. Not loved it — I think I need to develop a taste for it more. But it’s a welcome taste to my arsenal of ramen knowledge.

But look at what I could have eaten.


It’s not like I need any more reasons to go back to Kyoto, but if this beast doesn’t get me there, nothing will. It’s Gundam’s abura soba (soupless noodles) that my host ordered, chock full of pig hunks. It’s so wrong it’s almost hentai. I was drooling with envy even after stuffing myself with my own ramen. I’d like to see what Charlotte would put in her web about this monstrosity.

Seeing a geisha chowing down on this bowl of ramen might be my number one life goal from here on out.


6-74 Takanoizumicho
Sakyo Ward, Kyoto

One Comment

  • Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    Man, if that ain’t food porn, I don’t know what is…

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