Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In the Begining, there was Ramen

To begin, it is first necessary to understand why Ramen is such a deep, important concept here. In this entry I will start with a bit of background on some of the history behind Ramen in Sapporo. There are a variety of sources on the material, I will list some helpful websites to those who understand Japanese at the end.


It began with a shop called 竹屋食堂, Takeya Cafe.

Takeya Cafe opened in the early 1920s,  by a man named  Ooku Shouji, near Hokkaido University's campus. It began as a Chinese Restaurant, they had all sorts of other Chinese foods such a pot stickers and stir fried goods. In actuality, it wasn't even a ramen shop per say, merely the first shop to sell ramen in Sapporo. Ramen as a concept even, was just beginning to be sold in Japan, and at this stage Ramen itself wasn't even popular among Japanese people; it was more or less a delicacy that Chinese students enjoyed. The rich, oily taste was something that didn't meet well with the Japanese palate.

However, Takeya Cafe was loved by Chinese study abroad students at Hokkaido University. A sense of nostalgia in a distant land perhaps. Unfortunately the shop has since closed, otherwise I would certainly have attempted to visit and give a bit of insight.

Some suggest the shop actually moved to Kobe, I believe. But it's likely that the new shop, which is open, has no relation to the other. Restaurant names tend to be similar in nature.

But the key point to bring here is that Ramen didn't really begin as a food in itself, it was just one of the many menu items in Chinese restaurants in Japan. And it wasn't even enjoyed at first, it took an understanding of the Japanese palate to manipulate the cuisine to the modern ramen. Toppings were flipped, flavors were changed, it was essentially Japan-ified, so to speak.

No, ramen began to flourish much later, and then Sapporo jumped on the bandwagon. This is not the beginning for Sapporo's fame in Ramen however, this comes far later.

There are two ramen shops open today that can largely be held responsible for Ramen being what it is today in Sapporo. Without these there would be no Ramen, in a way ramen connoisseurs owe their highest respect to the two restaurants. Later, I will give my insight and information on these two.

They are "Daruma-ken", the oldest ramen shop in Sapporo, opening just 2 years after the war, and "Aji no Sanpei", which opened 4 years after Daruma-Ken, and is largely responsible for the concept "Sapporo Ramen". Click their names when available for more information about these two particular restaurants.

From there, Ramen in Sapporo took off. As of now, according to the owner of Aji no Sanpei by any means, there are around 3000 ramen shops in Sapporo alone.

That's a lot of ramen to try.

I will do my best to showcase as many as I come across.

Sources as to how I decide where to go and review be vast, though I will frequently be relying on "Tabelog", a website dedicated to restaurant reviews, as well as various Ramen books and websites. I will attempt to list any information I use at the end of each entry.

So... let's begin with the first review, Daruma-ken.

Helpful Links:

1 comment:

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