Shijo-Karasuma Ramen Niwatoriboko-cho 474, Shimogyo-ku

Seats: 16


Open Times: Noon to Midnight Closed Sunday

Price range: Less than ¥1000

Accepted: Cash only

Smoking allowed? : Yes

Another noodle specialist, and a rare find indeed, an eatery right in the heart of Gion Festival celebrations that doesn't inflate its prices. Manpuku serves chuka soba, the lighter 'Japanese-style' ramen, and is the epitome of an old-skool noodle shop. Small, family run, tasty and cheap.

Manpuku Chuka Soba Ramen Noodles Gion Festival FoodManpuku's shoyu soy sauce base noodles

What's not to like? It also stays open until midnight for those still hungry after the festival revelries. It's not too posh, obviously. The highlight here is the shoyu soy sauce-based chuka soba noodles. This style is often described, admiringly, as mukashi nagara no aji, which translates roughly as 'a taste unchanged over the years'.

Manpuku detail wa

John adds: When are the noodles 'Ramen' and when are they 'Chuka Soba'? It seems there's no clear rule on the subject. In part, it boils down to whether you perceive ramen as Chinese or Japanese. Clearly the yellow noodles served (usually but not exclusively) in a hot broth originated in China, and arrived in Japan sometime in the distant past.

Manpuku Outside

Yet ramen only exists in the Middle Kingdom as a relatively uncommon re-import from Japan. Chuka soba means 'Chinese soba', but the only thing it has in common with buckwheat is that it's a noodle.

Mrs Ashburne advances the theory that one defining characteristic of chuka soba is that the noodles themselves don't contain kansui, the alkaline, mineral-rich binding agent that liberates natural flavonoids in the noodles and gives ramen its distinctive golden hue. Thus chuka soba is paler, and suited to lighter, often soy sauce-based broths.

Manpuku Noren

My own impression formed over the years was simply that of a marketing tool, and chuka soba denotes a 'Japanese-style', and the above mukashi nagara no aji, whereas ramen can be interpreted as contemporary in style. In practise, they are probably interchangeable, so don't lose any sleep over it!