At the foot of Mt. Eba lies a ramen-ya with a bright red chōchin lantern and noren above its sliding frosted glass doors. There are no flashing lights or illuminated signs full of pictures of steaming bowls of ramen because family-owned and operated Youki has 62 years of solid history and legacy as purveyors of one of the most definitive bowls of Hiroshima ramen to speak for it.
Characterized by a rich shōyu-tonkotsu (soy sauce and pig bone) broth, thin ramen noodles (chū-hosomen), and a simple garnish of bean sprouts, green scallions, and roast pork slices (chāshū), Hiroshima ramen, while perhaps overshadowed by Hiroshima soul food powerhouse okonomiyaki, remains a flavorful and filling part of the local gastronomic scene. As one of the few founding ramen-ya of the genre remaining, Youki specializes in one dish and one dish only: chūka soba (not to be confused with Japanese buckwheat soba, chūka soba is a term used post-WWII for ramen). In fact, until February 2019, this was the sole menu item to be found (they now serve omusubi during lunch hours), the recipe unchanged since 1957.
Youki is a cozy little place with a long counter and a few tables against the wall. During peak hours, the shop fills to capacity almost instantly: regular customers, families, and fanatic Carp fans alike sitting shoulder to shoulder while they await a piping hot bowl of ramen. The distinct aroma of tonkotsu is something that might be a little polarizing, but for me, it means you can trust that the soup has been handmade on the premises, not in some central kitchen far away. In fact, all of Youki’s four locations are not only family-run, they also each make their own soup and chāshū. The process of making tonkotsu soup is long, requiring at least two days of constant simmering for a fresh batch. This commitment to excellence, and to authenticity, is what keeps customers coming back.
The soup is golden, milky, and deep with a rich, melted-butter consistency that’s not too thick and not too thin. It’s just viscose enough to coat each noodle in velvety gold without being overly oily and cloying. It’s like drinking a hug after a dismal day, as soothing and warm as a friendly smile. Accented simply with peppy green scallions, bean sprouts with the right amount of crunch, and slices of tender chāshū, the soup is allowed to express itself to the fullest spectrum of flavor. Add in a dash of black pepper and wait for the magic to happen as the fragrance and pop of pepper bring out the subtler complexities of the soup. It’s a soup worth savoring to the very last drop, leaving you just full enough to enjoy a stroll around the nearby Mt. Eba park before heading home.
A true legend in the realm of Hiroshima ramen, the original Eba storefront is a must for any Hiroshima foodie and ramen aficionado alike – you simply cannot claim to be a true connoisseur if you haven’t been to Youki. Plus, they’re open late so you can get your fix after catching the Carp game or drinks in the city. Look for a new Youki location coming to the Hiroshima Station area downtown in the fall of 2019!
Youki Ramen (Eba)
Address: Eba Minami 3-4-1, Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
11:30 – 01:30, 16:30 – 24:00 (weekdays)
16:30 – 24:00 (weekends)
Closed: 1st, 12th, 13th, 26th of each month