Ebi Soba Ichigen (えびそば一幻); Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan, Incredible Shrimp Miso Ramen
So I had an amazing experience taking Youtuber The Food Ranger around famous ramen restaurants in Japan and we decided to make plan our trip starting from the north and making our way down south. Flying from Tokyo, we made our way to the northernmost metropolitan city in Japan, Sapporo and went straight to one of the most famous Miso ramen shops there. Strolling in at 2 am, we were met with both incredible aromas and long queues of more than 20 people. Loud bellowing voices of the staff shout “Irashaimase~”, or welcome, in Japanese and will take your order as your time to sit approaches. The menu is quite simple with three different seasoning tare varieties and three different soup stock intensities. Ichigen has proper English menus available, but in case you wanted to see the menu beforehand, I was able to snap a photo shown below. Ebi Soba Ichigen takes its name directly from their ramen. Ebi is Japanese for shrimp and soba comes from the old style name of ramen, Chuka-Soba.
The three ramen seasoning varieties are the Miso, Shoyu, and Shio with the soup stock intensity ranging from Normal, Moderate, and Extra Rich. Being as this was our first stop on the Ramen Noodle Tour, we had to try the Sapporo specialty of Miso. Trevor from The Food Ranger and I decided on the Extra Rich soup stock while Trevor’s wife Ting went for the Moderate. You can also choose noodle thickness between thin and thick. I would recommend the thick noodles for the Ebi Miso Ramen as the rich, dense soup pair better with a chewier, more dense noodle. In addition, they offer rice dishes of Ebi Onigiri (Shrimp Rice Balls), Regular Rice, and Small Rice, as well as Side Dishes of Char Siu Roast Pork (3 slices), Gyoza Pot Stickers (6 pieces), and Aji-Tama Soft Boiled Egg. For drinks Ichigen serves Beer, Oolong Tea, Orange Juice and Coca Cola.
Once we reached the front of the line and three seats opened up, we were brought to the counter where water and a variety of condiments sat waiting. Starting from the left, the condiments available to spice up your ramen is a garlic puree, Japanese chili powder, Shrimp Oil, and ground Japanese black pepper. The shrimp oil was unique to the shop and has shrimp essence, I’m guessing with leftover shrimp shells, to infuse the oil. It was quite good, but not necessary to incorporate in to the broth. As for the ramen, in order to provide patrons with ramen at the most optimal condition, the chef behind the counter starts mixing the soup as soon as you sit down. Unlike a lot of Shoyu and Shio ramen bowls, Miso ramen typically needs to be heated in a separate pot or wok to dilute the Miso in to the broth. Ichigen was no different, having a giant stock pot for their main broth and small wok stations used to mix together the stock with the seasoning sauces. While the chef waited for the noodles to cook, he meticulously concocted our rich, miso shrimp ramen soup. Almost simultaneously, the soup and noodles were ready and put in to their iconic red bowl with their assortment of toppings placed over top. Each bowl was made to order and within five minutes, our bowls were ready and placed in front for us to enjoy.
Many of my long time followers may know that I’m not typically the biggest Miso fan. Between the three choices of Shoyu, Shio, and Miso, my preference follow that order. However, being in the mecca and home of the original Miso Ramen, I had to try the Ebi Miso Ramen and I was not disappointed. The counter seating has an upper level the chef places the prepared bowls for you to grab and bring down to your table. Given the counter’s proximity to your face, as the bowl is brought to you, you’re immediately hit with that amazing, shrimp fragrance. The shrimp broth is out of this world with an incredibly creamy consistency. The consistency may have come from ordering the extra rich version, but regardless this was a fantastic soup blend. Ichigen’s Miso is quite light and pairs perfectly with the broth, not too overpowering and just enough to let you know that it is in fact a miso ramen. I’ve had a couple shrimp based ramen so far, one of which was Gonokami Seisakujyo, a highly regarded shop in central Shinjuku, but this definitely took the cake for me as best in class. The shrimp flavor is way richer and was just generally a better balance of savoriness and sweetness. Noodles were quite typical of Sapporo style noodles; yellow and thin. I wasn’t the biggest fan of their toppings, but they are honestly an afterthought as you’ll be so consumed in the delicious soup and noodles.
So obviously I haven’t had a ton of ramen like I do in Tokyo, but I did make my rounds to the more famous and well regarded shops in Sapporo and Ichigen ranks up there as one of the best I had in Hokkaido. It’s different from the traditional image of Sapporo ramen, which is typically a regular miso ramen or a ramen with corn and butter, and I love their commitment to using such a delicate ingredient. Making a broth from shrimp is difficult as simmering them too long can extract a lot of bitter flavors from the shrimp, but Ichigen has got it down to perfection. I definitely recommend a visit if you’re in Sapporo and want to try something a bit different while you’re here. Again, I want to thank The Food Ranger for having me and allowing me to show him around the best ramen shops in Japan. Check out his channel and look out for his ramen videos he’ll be posting soon to see a glimpse of my ramen tours.