The Japanese sure love the Chinese-style spicy noodles known as tantanmen (or dandan mian in Mandarin Chinese). Previously, I wrote about two tantanmen joints in Tokyo, Rashohan in Kanda and Kisurin in Akasaka. Yesterday, I went to another well-regarded place called Yokarou (よかろう).
When people first hear me mention burnt miso ramen, they usually think it sounds intriguing and want to try it. However, some folks are a little more skeptical. After all, how good could burnt anything really be? But rest assured, the burnt miso ramen at Gogyo (五行) is among some of the tastiest ramen I have had so far in Tokyo.
Not too long ago, my friend BT (who introduced me to Ichiran Ramen) told me that I should try a ramen joint called Yamaguchi (やまぐち) near Waseda University, on the western side of the city. He said that it had been touted by a respected Japanese ramen expert as having “the ultimate chicken ramen,” and obviously I was intrigued. So a couple of days ago, I went down there with several friends to check it out. And wow, did my taste buds have a great day!
A couple of weeks ago, several of my friends and I went for some breakfast ramen at Tokyo Station’s Ramen Street. When we arrived, we found out that the Street was undergoing some major renovations and that most of the eight stores were either closed for the next few weeks or had shut down completely. Posters around the station with the tagline “We Love Ramen” heralded the opening of brand new ramen joints and the reopening of popular old ones by September 20.
One of the most fascinating things about food in Japan is how many foreign foods have been reinterpreted and reinvented in ways that make them distinctively Japanese. I’ve talked previously about tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet) which is the Japanese version of German schnitzel and American chicken fried steak. And of course there is ramen, which is Chinese in origin but has evolved into a quintessential Japanese dish.
What you may not be as familiar with is the Japanese take on pasta, the stuff that (according to legend) Marco Polo introduced to Italy from the Far East and the Italians have exported right back. You can find Italian pasta in Tokyo and, depending on where you go, it can be quite good. However, the Japanese have also developed their own unique versions that reflect local ingredients and flavors.
One of the fun things about exploring places to eat in Tokyo is that it often takes you to neighborhoods that you would not otherwise visit, especially if you’re a foreigner. After all, great food doesn’t need to be limited to those areas that are well-known or the most popular. That’s certainly the case when I went to a restaurant called Maruchi for tonkatsu (which I wrote about here) and, in an even more recent trip, to an awesome ramen joint called Matador (マタドール) in the Kita-Senju neighborhood. Both are located on the outskirts of Tokyo, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise that many people asked “why would you go all the way out there” when I told them about my plans.
Afuri (阿夫利) is the gift that keeps on giving great ramen. I went to the branch in Azabu-Juban again a few days ago to introduce the restaurant to a friend. It was a very hot, humid and sunny day and we weren’t really in the mood for hot soup. Luckily, Afuri offers other ramen options better suited for the weather, including a summer special: cold yuzu ramen. Continue reading
Akihabara is one of those neighborhoods that is synonymous with Tokyo. Its electronics shops and more recent stores dedicated to the obsession with Japanese comic books (manga) and animation (anime) represent many of the modern images that people around the world have of Japan. It’s also home to maid cafés and the wildly popular all-girl musical ensemble AKB48. If you visit Tokyo, Akihabara may be one of the places you will go to. And while you are there, you will probably at some point look for something to eat… perhaps ramen, at a place called Tsumugi (らーめん紬麦).
Best tantanmen in Tokyo. That’s a serious declaration, one that gets your attention especially when it comes from multiple people, including ramen blogger Ramen Adventures and local English magazine Metropolis. So my friend TC and I had to go and check out Rashohan (辣椒漢), also written as La-Show-Han.
Ramen is arguably Japan’s national dish, but it originates from Chinese la-mian (pulled noodles). In fact, another term for ramen in Japan is chuka soba — Chinese noodles. If you’ve been to China or even a local Chinatown, you may have come across a noodle shop where someone made la-mian by taking a big piece of dough and stretch it out with to the full length of his wingspan, separating it into many individual strands in the process, and doing it over and over until he achieves a pile of noodles. Interestingly, I’ve never seen or heard of any la-mian places in Tokyo. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough or perhaps I need to go to a fancy high-end Chinese restaurant. It’s also possible that the demand for la-mian is limited here, overshadowed by the locals’ affinity for their own iconic ramen.
However, what I have found are plenty of noodle joints that serve tantanmen (dandan mian in Chinese), a spicy Sichuanese noodle dish.