Wednesday, October 28, 2020

濃菜麺 井の庄 (Inosho in Ogikubo, Tokyo)

濃菜麺 井の庄 荻窪店 

Inosho is a popular ramen shop on the westside of Tokyo. Their original shop in Nerima is worth a visit, but Ogikubo is on the much cooler (and more accessible) Chuo Line serving Shinjuku Station. The full name is Kosaimen Inosho, meaning roughly 濃 heavy 菜 veggie 麺 noodles. And that's what you get, and intense broth with more veggies than your average bowl.

The spicy bowl is quite nice. They make a spicy fish powder that looks bigger than its bite. 

This is the standard amount of meat. If you want a few more slices, go for the 肉 niku version.

The menu is actually quite extensive. They have tsukemen, Mexican spice rice bowls, and, on weekdays, half a dozen topping bowls you can order on the side. These are just extra cabbage and sprouts with some kind of flavoring. ジロベジ (Jirobeji), for example, is covered in garlic and pork back fat. 

FYI, they do mini bowls, which was great as I had just eaten a full-sized bowl elsewhere.

As I grow older it becomes harder and harder to binge on ramen. I can barely handle two bowls in a row these days, whereas three was no problem back in, say, 2012.

Have any of you been following my ramen adventures since 2012? I found an old post from my first time to Inosho in Nerima. I took the opportunity to meet up with some newly-made Mormon friends. 

Actually, I met up with the Mormons on and off again for a few years. Eventually, I think management realized I wasn't going to be joining them and I was taken off the contact list. It's a shame. They keep a list of possible candidates, and each time a new man on a mission comes to town, they'd get said list and call me up for a date. Fresh young 18-year-olds who had, for the most part, lived very sheltered lives. To be honest, they were fascinating to speak with.

One of them revealed to me that their internet is heavily firewalled from certain sites, and Blogger happens to be one of those. Shame, I wonder what they are up to eight years on.

You can read that one here.

Official site here.

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Sunday, October 25, 2020

函館塩ラーメン 五稜郭 (Goryokaku in Ogikubo, Tokyo)

函館塩ラーメン 五稜郭


Hakodate in Hokkaido is known for shio ramen. They are also known for fresh seafood. If you have a chance to visit Hakodate, you should check out their fish market, even though it is quite touristy.

No time to go to Hakodate? You can get some of that Hokkaido goodness down in Ogiukubo, Tokyo at Goryokaku. They make a light shio ramen with Hakodate konbu.

The konbu here is something special. It's called gagome konbu (ガゴメコンブ), and it is only harvested around the Hakodate area. This particular kind of konbu is easily made into tororokonbu, a kind of shredded topping that melts into the soup and becomes quite an umami bomb (and quite slimy).

It's great stuff, but no one will fault you if it isn't your style.

With global climate change, however, the water around the southern edge of Hokkaido has been increasing in temperature over the years, and this konbu is being harvested less and less.

What makes the kelp special? According to konbu experts, the area where the chishima current (千島海流) meets the kuroshio current (黒潮) is very nutrient-rich. There are also many small streams feeding the ocean from the land. And some kind of acidic rock called ryolite (流紋岩) makes for a perfect substrate for this konbu.

My take away? It is damn tasty.

Yet another solid shop in Ogikubo. Check out more shops on Suginami-ku's official English site here.

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Thursday, October 22, 2020

麺家 獅子丸 (Shishimaru in Nagoya)

 麺家 獅子丸

Shishimaru, just next to Nagoya Station, is ranked as one of Tabelog's best 100 ramen shops (well, the best 300 I guess) so checking it out was a no-brainer. Turned out to be quite a nice creamy toripaitan.

This style has recently been labeled espuma-style (エスプーマ系). Maximum frothiness is achieved by hitting the soup with a hand mixer before serving. This serves to aerate the broth and turn it milky white. Some people think it is too much, preferring the traditional creamy paitan soups made by cooking soup on a rolling boil over high heat. I'll take them both.

The coveted 百名店. West Japan gets its own list of 100 shops, with Aichi Prefecture getting nine. When fact-checking, I found that they were given a nod in 2019, but not in 2020. Sorry Shishimaru, I'll still show you love.

They make their noodles in-house using Japanese flour and salt from Okinawa. During one of my stints at the Osaka Ramen School, they explained that the salt used in the noodles doesn't matter; salt dissipates in the water when boiling and only serves the purpose of helping the noodles cook. Anyways, it's nice to see that they spend the extra yen on premium salt.

I got the standard bowl, as I had just crushed another Nagoya bowl of ramen. Shishimaru recommends the zeitakumori (ぜいたく盛り) which comes with roast beef, stewed beef, an egg, and a side dish. Too much food for me!

I should have tried it anyway. The chef has a background in French and Japanese traditional cooking, so it probably would have been tasty. The normal bowl was on point.

Official site here.

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Sunday, October 18, 2020

らぁ麺や 汐そば 雫 (Shizuku in Nagoya)

 らぁ麺や 汐そば 雫

Shizuku (雫 means drop) is a popular shiosoba spot about 20 minutes south of Nagoya Station. The ingredients are all-natural, including the 10 different salts used in the tare seasoning. Specialty chicken and dried fish make up the broth. Noodles made in house. Like most premium shio spots, there is a lot of attention to detail.

I always wonder how shops come up with their many-salt blends. Many ramen shops have a blend of three or four, but 10 is quite outstanding.

The shop also serves shoyu, mazesoba, and tantanmen. I'm guessing the tantanmen is very good, though I personally gravitate towards the spicy Japanese version of tantanmen at shops that already have a good shio or shoyu ramen.

Like many good shops, this one is lunch only.

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

らぁ麺 飛鶏 (Asuka in Nagoya)

 らぁ麺 飛鶏

Ramen Asuka is a popular chicken ramen shop in Nagoya. I showed up late, about 20 minutes before closing, and they were unfortunately out of the recommended torisoba, but had a few bowls of the creamy paitan left. Still a winning bowl.

Actually, the reason I was late getting to this shop was the one hour walk. They aren't so close to any station, so I figured I would walk north along Route 19, a six-lane major Nagoya road. Walk for a few minutes, then grab a taxi. In Tokyo, there are taxis everywhere. Not so much in Nagoya. Didn't see one for about five kilometers.

Asuka is known as the chicken ramen shops in Aichi Prefecture. They make their broth with only chicken and water.

Chickens of the Nagoya Kochin variety, along with other specialty chicken bones are used. A blend of shoyu is used for the tare seasoning. The master's goal is to have a bowl with the rich aroma of chicken and shoyu as the main feature.

Two kinds of spice are available on the counter. On the left, recommended for the regular bowl. On the right for the paitan. Be careful, it says, not to put too much in.

Like most shops of this caliber, they list their kodawari points.

Three kinds of chashu cooked sous-vide style and homemade noodles using wheat from Hokkaido.

Official Twitter here.

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Sunday, October 11, 2020

総本家 好来道場 (Koraidojo in Nagoya)

総本家 好来道場 

Koraidojo is an epic player in the ramen world. Their style, korai-style (好来系) has given way to around 30 shops. An easy distinction is the use of ko (好) in the name. An example is Koyoken. Deep broth made with chicken, pork, and more vegetables (especially root vegetables) than you often find in ramen. It is often called yakuzen ramen (薬膳ラーメン), meaning medicinal. This is actually a misnomer. In the past, they served actual medicinal ramen but stopped. The name stayed on, and many people (myself included) write that Nagoya's korai-style is some kind of health tincture.

Only open for a few lunch hours a day, run by old men and women, I thought this one would be stuffy and serious. But after a few words with the master, he handed me some mikan oranges to take home.

Koraidojo opened in 1959. The name including the word dojo makes sense. Dozens of wannabe ramen masters came here for their training in the ramen ways. There is a list of some of these shops over on this Japanese site.

Be sure to ask for the tororo konbu (トロロ昆布) topping. It's the koraimen option on the menu. As you slurp, the konbu melts into the soup. The whole thing is rich and hearty. Feel free to add some homemade chili oil or ginseng vinegar to change the taste.

The soup's flavor is dominated by the chicken, but subtle hints of umami from mackerel (ムロアジ) make it something special.

A reason the shop is only open three hours is that all of these already strong flavors become too strong if they simmer for a long time.

When I sat down, the staff handed me a stack of origami paper, most likely meant for children. I quickly folded a crane for them. This earned me a few more mikan oranges to take home.

Be sure to check out some of the books full of old Nagoya photos while you wait.

Regarding the menu, in typical Korai-style you can choose matsu, take, and kotobushi. Matsu (松) is the standard, with the take (竹) meaning extra menma topping. From there the kotobuki (寿) has extra pork. The other items are just combinations of these with more noodles.

Looking over this late, I realize that the far left of the menu is koraimen (好来麺). This means you'll get the konbu topping. I also realized that when I asked the staff directly, after placing my order, they upgraded me for free. I seriously love this spot.

Just remember their three hour opening time could be cut short if they run out of soup.

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Thursday, October 8, 2020

つけ麺 丸和 (Maruwa in Nagoya)

つけ麺 丸和 春田本店 

The history of tsukemen in Japan is deep. Generally, people know about Yamagishi-san and Higashi-Ikebukuro Taishoken. That shop has spawned dozens of other shops with the same name in the vicinity of Tokyo. And while the name Taishoken is a dead giveaway to a ramen shop's lineage (except when it is a different Taishoken!) this is largely a Tokyo thing, with half a century of history. When you leave the nation's biggest city, tsukemen is a much younger beast.

Maruwa is part of Nagoya's tsukemen history. Until recent years, even Osaka people would have to take a train out here to have some tsukemen. Truly a legend shop.

Maruwa began with Taishoken . . . kind of. Taishoken's tsukemen was an offshoot of tsukemen eaten at Marucho (丸長), an old shop in Tokyo, as a staff meal. Apart from Yamagishi-san, Karoku-san (嘉六) was another staff there. He didn't continue along the same path of fame, but he did open a shop in Saitama called Maruka (丸嘉) in 1969.

Fast forward many years. Kurumiya-san (久留宮) is living in his family home in Nagoya, above their rice shop. At some point, he has work in Saitama, meets a lady, marries, and moves in with his new inlaws. His inlaws include Karoku-san.

Fast forward a few more years to 2004. Kurumiya-san and Karoku-san are watching television and there is a special about Yamagishi-san and Taishoken. Karoku-san casually says how cool it is that Yamagishi-san has become famous. He boasted that he had actually eaten tsukemen before Yamagishi-san. This was the first time Karoku-san had heard about any of this. He wanted to make his father-in-law famous.

Karoku-san introduced him to a branch of Marucho in Saitama, and he trained. The master there, Amari-san (甘利), would prepare soup and noodles from 11:00pm until 3:00am every day, and serve 100 bowls from 8:00am until 11:00am. Oh, and he was 70 years old.

After some time, he returned to his home in Nagoya and opened Tsukemen Maruwa (つけ麺 丸和) in the same building that housed his family's rice shop (also called Maruwa).


Maruwa is a descendent of the first tsukemen created in the 1950s in Tokyo.

The menu is quite large, but you should try either the original recipe Karoku Tsukemen or the modern-style Maruwa Tsukemen.

Or one of each. Both are served in a hot iron pot as an homage to TETSU, who put a hot iron stone in your soup to keep it hot.

The menu is larger now, with limited bowls like local favorite Taiwan mazesoba and ramen dishes.

There are actually half a dozen or so shops in the Maruwa group. The original shop is wonderful, though, so you should try and make it there if you can.

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