In May 2017, I had a chance to make a short visit to the famed Sapporo Ramen Ally. There are two ramen allies in Susukino, Sapporo area, but this is the original, old and authentic one. Ganso means original in Japanese. The shops are small, hole-in-the-wall and grungy, but if you want to taste the best Sapporo Ramen, this is the place. No chain restaurants are here. They have only small hole-in-the-wall little shops. The largest one has about 12 counter seats.
I tasted Sapporo ramen in much cleaner and fancier “Ramen Republic” located on the 10th floor department store next to the Sapporo station on the same trip. Well, I liked my Ramen from the Ganso Ramen Ally much better.
I visited a the Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho little before noon, and only about half of the shops were open in the ally. I guess some shops only operate in the afternoon. I gawked at the menu display of each shop, but I decided to eat in the largest shop in the front called “Karyu” (華龍). The reason I picked this shop? I didn’t want to be the only one eating at a small 6 stall shop, and this one was displaying a sign saying “Anthony Bourdain” ate here. This shop was popular with foreign tourists, had an English menu. It’s sort of a touristy decision, but I thought I couldn’t go wrong in any of the shops.
The bowl of ramen that was served there , did not look too amazing. It did smell great. The taste was much much better! I may be biased, but I think Hokkaido ramen is the best of all regional ramen types. I have eaten ramen with straight thin noodle (Kyushu style), flat fat noodle at Tokyo Ramen Street (Tan men – the vegetable topping was great). Cold ramen with cold dipping sauce (Tsukemen – all the rage right now). I like my ramen noodle thick and curly, not too thin, not too fat, with nice firm texture, that is Hokkaido/Spporo style ramen. I don’t care for cold Tsukemen. For me, ramen should be piping hot no matter what the outside temperature says.
I love the thick miso broth that is typical of Sapporo Ramen. I usually can’t drink the ramen broth in the U.S. because it’s too salty or it’s loaded with MSG. I get thirsty or even sick from too much MSG ingestion. I drank the whole bowl of broth at this shop in Sapporo because it was so good, and no MSG reaction this time!
The workers there were not chatty, and two workers didn’t talk to each other unless they were relaying the orders. You don’t go there for nice atmosphere. You go there for simply a bowl of great ramen!