When ramen lovers think of Kyushu, they think of tonkotsu ramen. When rameniacs think of tonkotsu ramen, they think of Kurume. The ramen of Kurume is considered "original Kyushu ramen" and has pretty much influenced all of the different tonkotsu ramen styles in the region (with the notable exception of Kagoshima ramen).
It was in 1937 that "Nan Kin Sen Ryo", the first ramen shop in Kyushu, opened in Kurume. It is rumored that the use of pork bone as a ramen soup originally came from the Chinese restaurants of Nagasaki, while the thin, unrisen noodles of Kurume were added to create the first modern-day tonkotsu ramen. Tracing the history of many prominent Kyushu ramen chains, one will find that a great number of them have original shops in this mid-sized town about an hour's drive south of Fukuoka city.
Kurume ramen is in fact quite similar to Hakata ramen, but it is much more rustic. Shops specializing in Kurume ramen typically have kitchens that reek of a strong pork bone stench. The soup is richer, far more kotteri, and the noodles are a little bit thicker than the wispy strands found at Hakata's yatai. It is easy to taste the grit of boiled bone marrow in a bowl of Kurume-style ramen, often sold as "mukashii" (traditional or "old school") in tonkotsu shops.
One unfailing characteristic of Kurume ramen is the use of nori (roasted seaweed) as a topping. This is a feature similar to the old Nagahama style, which unlike Kurume ramen, has a lighter and mellower broth. Some shops also add "kari kari" (chunks of fried pork lard) to "mukashii" ramen, as was popular in the old days.
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