Welcome to Morioka, far north in Iwate prefecture.
Morioka, a rather uncommon tourist destination, is known for not one, but three different noodle dishes.
- わんこそば - Wanko soba
- 盛岡冷麺 - Morioka Reimen
- 盛岡じゃじゃ麺 - Morioka Jyajyamen
Reimen is a Korean noodle dish, served cold, that usually follows a hearty meal of Korean barbecue. The Morioka version adds some seasonal fruit, often apples or watermelon.
Jyajyamen is another Korean dish (adopted from the Chinese one of the same name) that tops rough-cut noodles with a giant dollop of black miso spice mix.
I'm not sure why the Korean theme here. The local history has nothing to do with Korea, and Morioka isn't too close to the sea that connects the two countries.
Don't miss your train around here. I arrived just as it was leaving. Less than one an hour. Plan accordingly.
Oh, yeah, the wanko soba.
While reimen and jyajyamen could be classified in the ramen category, soba is definitely not in there. But I gotta mention it. I mean, there is a wankosoba cartoon printed on the side of the high speed bullet train. This is the noodle dish that everyone knows.
The concept is simple. The serving lady dumps one bite of soba noodles into your bowl. Just one. The second you finish, she is there with another. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It's a sort of all-you-can-eat soba noodle event.
This was my first time trying this. It was a little strange at first, but by the 40th or 50th bowl, I was a noodle slurping machine, deftly slurping with one hand and receiving more noodles with the other. The obvious question; How much can you eat?
The average male, the staff told me, eats 50.
The waitress comes out with 15 at a time. So take the minute break between gorging sessions to add some seasonings to your empty bowl. There are a lot to choose from. Nori, sesame, spicy sansho, grated daikon, etc. Mix it up each time.
You can't just quit. You have to finish every last bit of noodle in your bowl and put a cover on it. Sounds simple, but when you are looking like you are in pain, she will be hovering like a hawk. Micro-seconds between the slurp and serve. All I can say is . . . good luck.
How many bowls of wankosoba can a die hard noodle nerd eat?
95 . . . this time. I tried to quit at about 90, but that waitress was relentless!
Oh, and 15 servings of the stuff comprise one regular bowl.