(Will Fee, for JAPAN Forward)

I had my first taste of Japan in 2011 when I moved to Fukuoka, Kyushu, to work as an eikaiwa (English conversation) teacher. And while no Kyushu danji (hyper-masculine Kyushu male) of the predominant stereotype, I still consider myself something of a Kyushu boy.

Living in Hakata (one of Fukuoka’s two main districts), I was in the home of tonkotsu ramen. My first taste of Japan was thus dominated by the smell of yatai (portable ramen stalls) and the moreish delights of noodles served in pork broth.

No night out was complete without a yatai stop on the way home.

Often open late into the night, these wooden stalls line the outskirts of Fukuoka’s entertainment district. Their proprietors entice hungry revelers with brightly lit signs, distinctive charumera (musical horns) and, of course, the promise of delicious, appetite-sating ramen.

Beyond the yatai, Fukuoka — like every other major (and minor!) conurbation in Japan — is filled with ramen shops of various sizes and repute.

Large chain store Ippudo, for instance, began life as a small ramen restaurant in Hakata. Likewise, rival chain Ichiran, whose original store in Fukuoka’s trendy Daimyo district still draws queues that snake around the block on busy days, hails from this city.

The ‘Ramen Setto’

For me, however, the best ramen is always to be found in the myriad nameless mise dotted around Japan’s train stations.

My all-time favorite meal — discounting fish-and-chips and my mum’s Sunday roast, of course — is the ramen + gyoza + white rice set commonly served in such establishments.

It is this ramen setto that I yearn for when I am outside Japan. And it is the ramen setto that I yearn for now, as the counseled quarantine sets voluntary limits on where it is advisable — or now even possible — to dine.

Project: Make Ramen from Scratch

Given the culinary restrictions at play during these unprecedented times, I decided that it might be fun to have a pop at making ramen. From scratch. On my own.

I’m really not much of a chef. So, largely for comedic value, I also decided to film the undertaking.

Photo by Memi Nojiri | © JAPAN Foward

Photo by Memi Nojiri | © JAPAN Foward

Given my utter inexperience and lack of expertise, this proved, inevitably, a somewhat labored process.

However, it was also great fun. An immensely enjoyable task I never would have voluntarily opted in were it not for the current state of emergency. A silver lining, if you will.

Photo by Memi Nojiri | © JAPAN Foward

This was an opportunity to learn the hidden secrets of a dish that has provided me innumerable delicious memories over the years. So, as if it were the final few sips of a bowl of tonkotsu ramen itself, I took the opportunity in both hands, and greedily drank my fill.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.