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Ramen. A meal with a simple concept: noodles in soup.
But the ramen bowl holds unlimited possibilities. Unique types of ramen are being created all the time using new ingredients and new techniques. Tokyo is a place where all sorts of ideas, information and people gather. Here, 8,000 ramen shops are battling for customers. We go looking for the ultimate bowl in the ramen lover's paradise called Tokyo.
Kagurazaka (3 min. 37 sec.)
When ordering ramen, you can have it customized to suit your tastes. Here are some handy expressions for ordering ramen your way.
The length of time the noodles boil alters their firmness. If you like a firm texture to your noodles, say... "Katame."
Or if you like your noodles softer... "Yawarakame"
Some ramen shops will also adjust the soup to your taste. If you enjoy a lighter flavor, say... "Assari." If you like a thicker taste, say... "Kotteri."
Roppongi (4 min. 10 sec.)
It's called tsukemen, and essentially it's ramen with the noodles and soup served in separate bowls. The soup is extra-rich and thick, drenching the menma and pork.
Why separate the soup and the noodles? Actually, it's to preserve the texture of the noodles until the last moment. With regular ramen, the noodles get limp the longer they sit in the hot broth. Eating them tsukemen-style means the last bite of noodles is just as delicious as the first.
Tsukemen noodles tend to be fatter than typical ramen noodles. Thin noodles can get overwhelmed by the soup, adversely affecting the flavor balance.
Akasaka (4 min. 11 sec.)
This is a ramen chain with 28 locations around Tokyo.
It's spacious inside, with counter seating and tables to accommodate 40 diners.
Ramen for 290 yen, 304 with tax? The soup is a balance of three different types of stock: meat, including pork and chicken, seafood, and vegetable. The wavy noodles are made using a proprietary method to soak up plenty of soup. This has been a central dish for the restaurant in its 50 year history.
Naka-Meguro (4 min. 25 sec.)
This chic spot has the Tokyo hallmarks of food luxury. First, there is no menu. And one item and one item only is available: ramen.
It looks pretty much like standard ramen, but this is no ordinary soup. You get five flavors... sweetness, saltiness, spiciness, bitterness, tartness... and all distinct, not muddled.
This soup emerged from the chef's relentless perfectionism. He conjures his broth by simmering the flesh of hens and roosters and gourmet kinka ham. Alternatively, he uses freshwater prawns, fresh herbs and other ingredients to make a bouillabaisse. Into that he mixes shrimp and crab paste, and finally egg. It takes three full days to create a batch of this soup, and the price is a stunning 10,000 yen per bowl.
Akasaka 2 (4 min. 37 sec.)
Akasaka is an upscale area in central Tokyo, and home to many luxury hotels. On the sixth floor of this building is a legendary Chinese restaurant. Founded 50 years ago, it popularized the seriously spicy Szechuan cuisine in Japan.
The menu includes Szechuan favorites like spicy tofu and twice-cooked pork, but Estella is here for the ramen.
Here it is: soupless tantanmen. Soupless tantanmen comes from China's Szechuan Province. The sauce is created from eight seasonings including soy sauce, black vinegar, sugar, sesame paste and hot chili oil. The sauce coats the boiled noodles. And they're topped with minced pork and negi. The sauce, noodles, and toppings can all be mixed together.
- Customizable ramen: Kurobei
http://www1.odn.ne.jp/~cbw91250/framepage1.htm (in Japanese only)
- Tsukemen: TETSU
Address: Roppongi Hills North Tower B1, 6-2-31 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
- Standard ramen: Kourakuen
http://www.kourakuen.co.jp/index.php (in Japanese only)
- Chic ramen place: Fujimaki Gekijou
http://www.fujimakigekijou.jp/ (in Japanese only)
* reservation required.
- Tantanmen: Sisen Hanten
http://sisen.jp/access/index.html (in Japanese only)