There is a considerable dose of irony in eating ramen in China. Ramen which most people would consider typical Japanese fast food was introduced from China a long time ago and it’s seem to have been around for enough time that most people forgot it’s origin. Ramen in contemporary Japan is still refer as chūka soba or basically Chinese soba.
It’s now possible to find 86 Ajisen ramen franchises in the city of Shanghai and on my second day in the city, I must have ran into 4 or 5 restaurants so I was intrigued. How would the journey back to the homeland taste? I was expecting a carbon copy of a carbon copy but who knows? Fake watches, fake ramen, let’s find out!
Ajisen ramen hails from the city of Kumamoto on the island of Kyushu. I’ve actually eaten ramen twice in Kumamoto and on these two occasions, a native from the area didn’t take me to Ajisen ramen. I will certainly try to eat there on my next visit, just for the sake of comparison.
I ended up going to a restaurant just off Nanjing Road.
The restaurant was located in a basement and the place was busy when I walked in. I was given a table near the kitchen, probably my favorite spot in any restaurant especially if I have a chance to peek in.
The restaurant was long and noisy and everybody seem to be happily slurping.
My first surprise was the size of the menu which offered ramen, noodles and countless appetizers. I am always suspicious when I see a big menu at a ramen shop since my idea of a perfect ramen shop offers nothing else than ramen with maybe gyoza or fried rice. Despite all this, the menu is well illustrated, bilingual and very easy to order from.
I ordered spring rolls and ramen with bamboo shoots and pork which looked like the closest thing to ramen from Japan and not some Chinese version of Japanese ramen. The spring rolls were crispy and came with some spicy ketchup sauce. After a long wait, I could finally start trans-national ramen slurping.
On first appearance the Shanghai Ajisen ramen looks like something you would get from a shop in Kumamoto. Under the surface, the noodles were the biggest difference between Chinese and Japanese ramen. The bigger noodles aren’t the perfect match for pork based soup. The soup itself definitely lacked the richness and depth of typical Kumamoto ramen.
I only paid a single visit to Ajisen ramen and decided it would be wiser to stick to Shanghai food until I came back to Japan. I don’t think this back and forth journey of a recipe was a success, the fact that I have visited so many ramen shop in Japan might influence my judgement.
I will go along with this ramen shop food inspection report and give Ajisen a PASS.