Monday, November 29, 2010


ズームイン!! SUPER


I've had some interesting ramen adventures in these past couple years. The latest started with an email from a producer at Nihon TV's morning show, Zoom In!! Super. It's a daily, nationwide news program with random segments thrown in the mix. The Maru Q bit takes a topic, asks questions to strangers on the street, and consults with an expert. Yesterday, the Maru Q piece was about how dirty your curtains get, and how to clean them. This Thursday, December 2nd, the subject matter is foreigners and their love of ramen.


They wanted me to be the expert in their show. Jumping at the opportunity, I recommended about 10 shops that I often take foreign visitors to. We ended up filming at 3 of those. Nagi, Bassanova, and Fuunji.


We filmed a lot of stuff. Introducing the shop to the news reporter, eating, commenting, talking about the web site.


A surprise, Nagi had on hand some of their new spice mix that was made for their Hong Kong shop, Butao.


I mentioned before that I am really loving this taberayu boom that is happening now. Well this was the best so far. A mix of hot oil, numbing sancho spices, shrimp meat (I think), and peanuts. We all had a taste, and though it might have been too spicy for some of the crew, Imanaka-san and I loved it.


Next up was Bassanova.


Keizo and I got interviewed side by side. I really hope it makes the final cut. It's been great to share so many things with my good friend.


On camera, Japanese people eating food is a cliche. Take a bite, ponder for a second, then give a deep, emotional response. Follow it up with an insightful comment. I tried my best!


Another cliche of Japanese food shows is the closeup shot of the bowl, steam rising, spoon gently swirling the soup.


And the noodles slowly being lifted. I have never seen a food program where this was not the case.


There's a better shot over at goramen.


The next shop was Fuunji. I think it's the best tsukemen in Tokyo, though sometimes I miss the hot stone over at TETSU.


Same deal. Intro the shop, eat in front of the camera, make comments.

A piece of advice. Some people say not to wear white after Labor Day, but I say don't wear white to a ramen shop.


I used Japanese and English. I'm curious how they will edit it.


The show will air sometime between 7:00am and 8:00am on Thursday, December 2nd here in Japan on Nihon Terebi, which is channel 4 here in Tokyo. I'll try to get my hands on a copy. This sort of thing usually makes it onto youtube.

覆麺 (Junk Style at Fukumen in Jimbocho)



In my adventure to find awesome junk-style ramen, I returned to Fukumen, the members only shop that sports some crazy ramen, and equally crazy chefs. And though they were without their wrestling masks this time, the ramen made up for it.


I didn't even read the entire menu item on the ticket machine. As soon as I noticed 食べラー油 I pressed the button. Taberayu is hot on the scene, literally. If you can read the kanji characters, you'll see eat and rayu, hot chili oil. Taberayu is a chunky, often crunchy, spice mix that you can dollop onto anything. Ramen, gyoza, rice; I even spread it on ham and cheese sandwiches.


Fukumen's junk-style had a massive spoon-full of taberayu, pork bits, and potato chips. Although tasty, the thin noodles were tough to eat. They tend to clump together. You can order it with or without soup.


Diluted with a little of the shops signature shoyu soup, it becomes more manageable.

I highly recommend this shop, but try their normal stuff first please.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ramen Walker 2011



Out of the dozen or so ramen magazines published in Japan, Ramen Walker might be the most famous. The "Walker" name is appended to all manner of things. If you ever live in Japan, I suggest you pick up a your-city-name-here Walker.


This year there's not 1, but 4 for the Tokyo area alone.


And 36 in total in Japan. Each has shop info for a 100 to 200 places. That's a lot of ramen shops.

If anyone wants a set, show me the money and I'll pick them up for you!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

麺屋 いろは (Iroha in Mito)

麺屋 いろは


The Ramen Riders tried to visit my friend's #1 choice one Sunday afternoon. Always a skeptic about other's opinions, I was reassured that it was a good shop - when we saw the sign out front stating that they were closed - because the soup was sold out. So we went to another nearby shop, as I didn't really have the time to venture to greener pastures.


Tasted like a bland miso with squirts of Thai Sriracha sauce. Not so good. Save that sweet spice for your pho.

ようちゃん (Yuchan a.k.a. Gyoza Power in Ibaraki)



Living in Tokyo, it's easy to get bogged down by the sheer madness of the city. For this reason, I try and do some motorcycle touring at least once a month. A few hours in any direction on the fabulous (and expensive) expressways is all it takes. Towards the end of November, I planned a nice outing to Northern Ibaraki, about 150km north of the city.


I on the Honda CB1000, and my friend on the Honda CB750. Our shared obsessions go a bit beyond Japanese motorcycles though. He has the most knowledge of Ibaraki's ramen shops out of anyone I know. Well, he's the only one I know, but that doesn't really matter. We planned the first outing of The Ramen Riders, an official group I just made up. In the future, we'll be riding to ramen destinations near and far. Stay tuned!


Official named Yu-chan ramen, I'll choose to call this shop Gyoza Power from now on. The shop sponsors a bike race team, and the walls are covered with photos and props. Like this spent tire.


The fare at Gyoza Power is shoyu, miso, or stamina. Having ridden for a few hours, with a few more to go, stamina was something I could use plenty of.


Stamina ramen is a whole genre that I have ignored until now. The soup and toppings contain different elixirs of stamina. In this case heavy on the garlic and topped with a thick stir fry of pumpkin and liver.


I was pleased, to say the least. The sweetness of the Japanese pumpkin, the umami of the liver, and the thick shoyu soup came together well. I can't imagine many of my readers will be up in this part of Japan anytime soon. But if you are, here's a winner.


The spicy miso should have been dubbed spicy garlic miso. In a good way.


And, yes, the gyoza was heavy on garlic as well.


We sped off, satisfied, with plans of more shops and touring the following day.

If you live in Japan and ride a motorcycle, drop me a mail and I'll let you know about the next meeting of The Ramen Riders!

むつみ屋 東京ラーメンストリー (Mutsumiya at the Tokyo Ramen Street)

むつみ屋 東京ラーメンストリー


The last time I went to Mutsumiya, on the Tokyo Station Ramen Street, I enjoyed the bowl, but wasn't blown away. Maybe a second chance is in order. Well, I was in the mood for miso, and had forgotten my usual stack of ramen literature, so it seemed like a good choice.


Somehow I really enjoyed it this time around. Maybe it was the limited edition gyoza.


Definitely on the more unusual side of collaborations. This actor, Sho Aikawa, looked familiar, bit it wasn't until I got home that I realized what a fan I am of his. You see, he's been in a number of Takahashi Miike movies, of which I've seen many. Not for the faint of heart, these films deal with Yakuza and ultraviolence. Memories of Rainy Dogs and Fudoh, and of course the Dead or Alive Trilogy. But this mashup between performer and ramen shop is actually to promote one I haven't seen; Zebraman.

Did I mention that Miike's movies are a bit strange?


Either way, the gyoza was delicious.

Monday, November 15, 2010

naginicai (Snacks at Nagi Nicai)


Homemade gyoza topped with ratatouille sauce.


Fried ramen with cheese topping.


And a preview of an unreleased ramen magazine.


Just a typical day at Nagi Nicai.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

麺屋武蔵 (Menya Musashi in Akihabara)



It had been a while since I visited Akihabara, the electronics district of Tokyo. My time spent there this week was more of a cable adventure than a ramen adventure. The purchase of a new TV meant a new a coaxial antennae cable. That was trip #1. Trip #2 was for long VGA and audio cables to attach my computer to the big screen. The 3rd trip was for another audio cable, since I purchased the wrong one during trip #2. But I wasn't done.

Lucky for me, I didn't have to go out of my way, as my Friday student wanted a bowl. The newest Menya Musashi just happens to be in Akihabara.


Named after Musashi Miyamoto, each Musashi shop, much like each of the famous swordsman's battles, is different. And, as said battles, each bowl is a little unconventional.


Like a 1608 victory with a piece of kindling.


Or his frequent use of his short sword as a thrown weapon.


This shop features Ganryujima ramen, named after, what else, a famous Musashi battle. In this battle, Musashi fought (and won) with a wooden oar.


It's a deep, strong shoyu, topped with bean sprouts and garlic. You can ask for it with a double or triple size stack, but I just went with normal.


The shop is actually more famous for the tsukemen.



After lunch, I took care of my shopping list: a coaxial splitter and an audio cable splitter.


And when I got home, as expected, the cable was the wrong size.