Traditionally, men tend to make up the majority of customers in ramen shops. Because it’s high in calories and sodium, and low in vitamins and fiber, ramen is often looked on by women as a naughty treat. But new styles of ramen that feature a lighter stock and healthier ingredients are proliferating, and this has had the knock-on effect of attracting more female customers.
According to Nikkei Woman Online, one of the driving forces behind the trend is Italian ramen. Taiyo no Tomatomen Next, in the Shinjuku MyLord shopping complex, specializes in making a ramen with a light tomato and chicken soup stock. In Ebisu there’s a little mobile ramen stall that serves up Genova Ton Shio Ramen, which has basil and cherry tomato on top of a salty soup stock. Both shops appear to be extremely popular with women: 90 percent of Taiyo no Tomatomen’s customers are female.
Though the lighter soups are attractive to women on a diet, the fusion aspect of the meal is winning points. Taiyo no Tomatomen do a cheese topping for one of their noodle soups, and fresh cream is the surprise ingredient in Boku no Miso Ramen, served at restaurant chain Ramen Kagetsuarashi. The butter bolognaise-style ramen, designed by celebrity chef Tatsuya Kawagoe, also contains ground pork and three types of miso paste.
But it’s not just about Italian fusion. One ramen shop in Takadanobaba has made a collagen ramen aimed at women. Potano San No Beji Pota Soup, which is also high in fiber, is said to give you glowing skin. In Nakano, the cooks at Heibon make Yasai Tappuri ramen, which is filled with 12 different kinds of veggies, including bean sprouts, cloud ear mushrooms and carrots. Reportedly popular with women, the dish is only available one day a month.
Presentation also appears to be a factor in attracting female clientele. Nidaime Ebi Soba Keisuke in Takadanobaba uses elegant crockery and serves up a shrimp soba in a sweet teacup. Their sweet shrimp and white soy sauce ramen is also popular with women and around 40 percent of the store’s clientele are female.
Women who want to find out more about female-friendly ramen stores can consult Jyosei Ramen-bu (Women’s Ramen Club) or read the book written by the website’s authors. There’s also a website All Japan Women’s Noodle Association which, since 2009, has been introducing not only ramen but other kinds of noodles to female gourmets across the country.