Rounding up Japan's Best Instant Ramen isn't easy. There's PLENTY to choose from, whether it's the ramen style or the company producing it. Even as someone who grew up in Japan and has eaten A TON of instant ramen, it was tough coming up with this top 5.
But here it is! From deliciously spicy ramen from a Michelin star ramen shop...to silky smooth pork bone ramen, we've got you covered! All instant ramen on this list are the "premium", fancier bowl-shaped ones.
1. Hakodate Shio Ramen - Uniquely Fluffy Topping
We're starting off with a clear, salt-seasoned (shio) ramen from company Yamadai. Even though it's light in flavor, it's anything but boring. Pork back fat (seabura) gives the soup a warm richness, contributing to the punchy salt base. There are also subtle hints of fish.
Of all the ramen here, I'd happily eat this one every day and not feel guilty about it. Among toppings, the fluffy wheat gluten (fu) is a wonderful treat. It soaks up the soup like a sponge. This topping is unique to Hakodate (a city in the North) style shio ramen.
2. Nakiryu Tantanmen - Michelin Star Worthy
Nakiryu is one of only two ramen shops to boast a Michelin star. This instant ramen is based on their award-winning tantanmen, a spicy style of ramen. There's spiciness from Nakiryu's signature chili oil, creaminess from sesame paste, and savoriness from
elements like chicken bones, duck, and oyster extract. There's even black and apple vinegar that give it notes of sourness. In short, this Nissin produced instant tantanmen more than does the real thing justice.
3. Santouka Tonkotsu Ramen - Silky Rich
This one comes from another famous ramen group, Santouka. Santouka has grown to have a whopping 40 shops outside of Japan. This growth can be attributed to their menu's top seller - a tasty salt-seasoned (shio) ramen with a pork bone (tonkotsu) broth.
The instant ramen is naturally based on this top seller. It carries a silky but mellow richness from pork bones. The salt seasoning contrastingly adds some brightness. The toppings are no joke too - including Santouka's trademark red pickled plum (ume).
4. Sano Shoyu Ramen - Beautiful Noodles
I cannot get enough of this one. Like entry no. 1, it's relatively light...but PACKED with pure flavor. The tangy, delicate soy sauce (shoyu) seasoning carries a fantastic, chicken-leaning soup. The toppings are simple. But they perfectly match everything else.
You have big chunks of crunchy bamboo shoots (menma). refreshing green negi (spring onions), and a generous slab of juicy chashu pork. But the biggest highlight may be the thick and flat, chewy noodles. They're just like in Sano City (where this ramen is from).
5. Sumire Miso Ramen
We are ending with a heavier type - Sapporo style miso ramen! This is one of the finest examples of it, via renowned ramen shop Sumire. Their miso ramen features a thick layer of savory pork lard, which keeps the broth piping hot (Sapporo City is very cold).
This is properly replicated in instant ramen form, with a bold miso flavor still shining through the richer broth. The medium-thick, wavy noodles are top-notch. It's the same for toppings - negi (spring onions) and seasoned minced pork.
There you have it, my 5 favorites - Japan's best instant ramen. I'll need to expand this to 10 in the near future!