New food: Tonkotsu ramen

December 18, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Now that we live above Uwajimaya, we’re constantly trying new Asian foods with varying degrees of success and deliciousness. (Even though Uwajimaya was founded by a Japanese family, it has lots of foods from China and other places.) We recently tried kumquat cakes (so-so), smoked plum “soup” (tea?) (not very good), boiled salted duck eggs (so-so), crystal-sugar almond tea (great!) and some assorted mochi ice cream desserts (which I will cover in a future post).

One interesting aisle at Uwajimaya is almost entirely dedicated to noodles and ramen. Both sides are filled to the top with stacks and stacks of single-serving ramen in every color of the rainbow. There are so many, in fact, that it’s impossible to choose just one to try — especially when most of them don’t have any English on the package.

A grocery-store aisle full of ramen

Ramen, ramen everywhere! This photo only shows about 20% of their supply.

Over time I found a few with English translations, and after trying several I’ve finally settled on the most delicious: tonkotsu flavored!

A package of tonkotsu ramen

Yum.

You might be wondering what tonkotsu is, and as far as I can tell it’s “pork bone broth.” I’m not really sure what that means, exactly, but it is SO delicious. Interestingly, unlike the Maruchan ramen sold commonly in the US, all the different bowls I’ve tried from Uwajimaya come with two or sometimes three separate packages of flavor add-ins. Usually some dry powder, dried vegetables, a little pouch of oil, and occasionally some sort of concentrated flavorful paste. This is true across brands and across flavors, so I’m assuming it’s standard with Japanese self-serving ramen.

Ramen instructions

Happily, this particular brand has instructions in English as well.

The instructions are about what you’d expect, and this particular kind has a dry flavor packet and some oil that, as far as I can tell, is totally tasteless. I’m not really sure why it’s there or what it adds, but I put it in every time anyway.

Dry on the left, oil on the right

But even the flavor packets are different than the paltry homogeneous powder that comes with the Maruchan (though it should be noted that I really love Maruchan ramen also). They’re filled with freeze-dried bits of garlic and green onions and sesame seeds and other things that I haven’t been able to identify.

Before adding water

After adding the water it looks about how you’d expect, but it’s a million times more delicious.

After adding the water, covering, and waiting for four minutes, this is how it looks.

As an aside, I have finally found a food that is easier to eat with chopsticks than with a fork! Up til now in life I have always used a spoon to cut up my noodles so they can be easily spooned into my mouth. Recently, however, I got some noodles at a restaurant with no forks on the table and no waitress convenient, so I persevered and felt pretty uncoordinated. In fact, I was sure the two Asian guys at the next table were discussing my technique derogatorily and laughing at the silly white girl pretending she knows how to use chopsticks. Later, though, I ran my process past our Chinese friends Terry and Eva and they said it was perfectly typical! So, armed with new confidence, I began eating my ramen that way every time. (Admittedly, in the photo below it was pretty tricky holding them in my left hand while I took the picture with my right.)

Ramen in a bowl held up by chopsticks

Double yum.

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