Monday, June 29, 2020

わかば亭 (Wakabatei in Hiroshima)


Hiroshima-style tsukemen, let's talk about it. Clear, spicy broth covered in sesame seeds. Thin, cold noodles topped with crisp cabbage and green onion. Keep the hot side hot and cool side cool.

Wakabatei is a classic shop on the Takanobashi covered shopping street, a bit south of where the tourists hang. I suppose locals would know if this run down 商店街 is cool or not; I personally love an old school shopping arcade. Cool enough to have its own website at least.

Wakabatei is one of a handful of Hiroshima shops to serve some of the city's semi-famous noodles. Hiroshima is much better known for their okonomiyaki and oysters, with spicy tsukemen coming in a distant third.

What sets Wakabatei apart? The staff is hilarious. Two old biddies, talking trash and cracking jokes at the customer's expense. Let me rephrase. Two kind old ladies, welcoming anyone with a nice bowl of tsukemen.

I rode my motorcycle here, taking a few days to ride the coast from Tokyo to Hiroshima. A morning ferry from Matsuyama in Ehime put me just a few kilometers from Wakabatei's door.

Places like Wakabatei let you choose your spice level. The zero to ten scale is a good indicator of what you should order. I went with a four and it was a good choice. Just enough heat to need the cool vegetables. You can, if you want, go up to level 100 here at Wakabatei. If you do so, you get your name written inside on a plaque. Let me know if you do.

Hiroshima-style tsukemen never really caught on outside of its hometown. Occasionally you will find a place in another large city, like Karamaru in Tokyo, but you will need to search. 

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