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).
Ramen is traditionally stereotyped as a male thing, the heavy, meaty, carb loaded meal of men young and old. Although some ramen shops like Afuri have sought to attract a more gender diverse audience, Bario (バリ男) goes in the complete opposite direction. As the character 男 implies, it literally is ramen for men.
It’s interesting how something that seems so simple like tempura — vegetables and seafood that is deep-fried in batter — can either be unsurprisingly cheap or surprisingly expensive. For most people living outside of Japan, the tempura you find in your local Japanese restaurant is probably tasty but on the less expensive side of the spectrum. Even in Japan, you can find tempura in convenience store bento, fast food restaurants, and even made right at home.
So why can tempura get so expensive, perhaps costing hundreds of dollars for dinner? I’m sure one of the reasons is the use of fresh, high-quality ingredients that tend to cost more. Another is that high-end tempura is labor intensive, with each piece deep-fried perfectly and immediately served one at a time, so it doesn’t get cold and soggy from sitting out.
We’re deep into autumn here in Tokyo, which means it’s the ideal season for shabu shabu — Japanese-style do-it-yourself hotpot. One might think that there isn’t much variation to something as simple and straightforward as boiled meat and vegetables, but I recently learned that there are indeed some regional differences in shabu shabu.