Welcome to my ramen dream... Currently being interpreted in Ramen Burger Land... Looking for a good slurp? Email me ! - Keizo

Sunday, September 28, 2008

麺づくり Men Zukuri Cup Ramen - Rich Tonkotsu (Maruchan)

It's not often that I eat or blog about cup ramen, but like the GooTa I ate while in Japan, this looked like something worth trying. Men Zukuri is a cup ramen that contains dehydrated nama-style noodles which are suprisingly not fried. Oh yeah, and it's only 327 calories...if that means anything.

The contents include:
  • Powder soup
  • Kayaku
  • Special Oil
  • Non fried noodles

The kayaku and powder soup go on top of the noodles followed by the boiling water. Then after 3 minutes you add the special oil and mix it around a bit before you begin slurping. For some reason it doesn't look like the picture on the lid (I guess it never does). Anyway, the soup was very sweet and creamy, but not quite as rich as I was expecting. There was also a strange underlying flavor that insinuated a bad aftertaste. I still don't know what it was, but I hope I never taste it again.

I was looking forward to the highlight of this ramen, the extra-fine noodles, but unfortunately they were also a disappointment. They practically tasted like thin plastic tubes. Fried or not, I won't be wasting 327 calories on this again.

FYI, the chashu tasted like an eraser. Too bad I can't erase this post from my mind...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Kairakutei (revisited) - Tustin, CA

17292 Mcfadden Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 368-0233

It's not the first time that I've been here. But it's the first time that I've been here with someone who is approaching ramen royalty. You may not realize it, but edjusted from ramenramenramen.net, or otherwise known specifically as "The Ramen Blog", has been blogging about all things ramen since the invention of the internet (okay that's a slight exaggeration but it's been many many years). I've known edjusted for about a year now (since I started blogging) and it's been a pleasure to exchange ramen stories on the few occasions we get to hang out. And today was no exception!

Tonkotsu Miso Ramen: A self-proclaimed "Best 3!" of Kairakutei, it's one of my favorites there as well. If you've ever asked yourself what tonkotsu plus miso ramen would taste like, then I'm sure your brain would somehow imagine this--a creamy tonkotsu with a slightly overbearing miso sensation that creeps up on you...boo! Uh...nevermind, it's not Halloween yet. The toppings (chashu, nori, wakame, egg, negi, shoga) are good complements for most, but I still miss the menma. The noodles are not much to rave about, but since I've recently learned how difficult it is to make your own noodles in the states, I won't be too harsh.

Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen: Edjusted ordered this so be sure to check out his review here. I had a taste and it was probably the lightest tasting tonkotsu I've ever tried. It wasn't bad, it was just very smooth.

Chahan (Fried Rice): The chahan was actually very good. It still reminds me of those "okosama lunches" though. Mama もっとちょうだい!Hahaha!

Hey edjusted, thanks for coming out today! We oughtta do this more often! Please say hello to your wife.

中華そば 一力 Ichiriki Instant 生 Ramen

The best part of the Raumen Musuem is that you can eat at one (or many) of the 9 ramen shops and then take 'em home with you. That's exactly what I did after trying Chuuka Soba Ichiriki for the first time last month--a classic ekimae yatai ramen.

The contents include:
  • 3 packs of noodles.
  • 3 pouches of soup.
Now I just need to find 2 friends.

The soup is nearly the same as I remember--a pungent pepper paradise. A nice juicy piece of chashu would go perfect with this ramen. It's too bad it didn't come with any.

The noodles were somewhat disappointing and more transparent than the real stuff. They still tasted okay, but I was hoping for more of that chewy texture that defines chuuka soba.

I couldn't find 2 friends so it looks like I'll be having 2nds and 3rds. And in the words of my former newly-defunct bank...WhooHoo!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

なんつッ亭 Nantsu-Tei Instant 生 Ramen - うまいぜベイビー

It's been a well-rested week since my last post and 3 weeks since I got back from my trip, but did you really think I left Japan without any loot? C'mon! It's not a trip without having to pay the overweight luggage charge...haha.

Nantsu-Tei is a popular ramen-ya in Japan with a couple shops in Tokyo and Kawasaki that I know of. I've read about them often, but I have yet to step into one to try their うまいぜベイビー (loosely translated as "damn good baby") futuristic tonkotsu soup. Lucky for me, I was able to buy a box at the Raumen Museum and bring it home to cali.

The contents include:
  • Tokusei Gara Soup
  • Tokusei Shoyu Tare
  • Tokusei Kuro Ma~yu
  • Noodles

The preparation for this ramen is slightly different from the norm. Instead of adding the packets to the bowl then adding hot water, you add the gara soup and shoyu tare to a pot with 280ml~300ml of water and slowly bring it to boil. Once the soup is hot enough, you transfer it to the bowl and then add the Kuro Ma~yu on top before you add the noodles. And that's what you see below.

This tonkotsu soup is not like any other. Well...it is, but it isn't. Uh...okay. I'm a little confused myself but this flavor is awesome! This creamy gara soup mixed with shoyu tare and topped with a mysterious garlic concoction called Black Ma~yu is unmistakenly habit-forming. All I know is なんつッ亭 will be first on my list of ramen-ya's to try when I get back to Japan.

The noodles were incredibly fresh and the way the gritty Black Ma~yu added an additional coating of flavor was awe-inspiring.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Night at Foo-Foo Tei (Hacienda Heights)

Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to have dinner with the owner and head chef of the original Foo-Foo Tei, Takeshi Murakami. He had contacted me by email on Day 1 of my recent trip to Japan and I was completely stunned when I read that he wanted to meet me and talk about ramen. So being the ramen geek that I am (yes I admit it now), I was looking forward to this night for weeks.

It ended up being more than I expected. We basically spent four hours casually talking about ramen, eating ramen, and drinking shochu. There was so much knowledge to be extracted from Murakami-san and it was just flowing into my alcohol soaked brain at a frenetic pace. And although I wasn't there to learn about his secret ingredients, he did trust me enough to share a few. But out of respect, I won't be able to share everything with my readers (sorry...). After all, we don't need another Monterey Park to happen. For those that don't know, the Monterey Park Foo-Foo Tei is a result of partnerships gone sour and an ex-manager's betrayal. And to make a long story short, Murakami-san is currently in litigation with them to resolve this huge headache. As for the recipes, he smiles as he says "they didn't get everything." For instance, their shoyu ramen is completely different. Murakami-san's technique of extracting flavors cannot be matched!

Some other things I learned are:
  • The name Foo-Foo Tei is derived from the action of blowing the noodle before you slurp it, hence the kanji 風 (wind).
  • If you've ever read those free magazines they have at the Japanese supermarkets, you'll notice that Foo-Foo Tei is never listed in the restaurants section. Murakami-san's customers have always just showed up, so he feels that there's no need to advertise (I don't blame him).
  • A lot of people have thought (including me): "Why is this place in such a remote industrial area?" And the simple answer is: "Because it's close to my home."
  • Another thing he doesn't advertise is the use of organic ingredients in everything that he cooks. I was shocked to learn that he doesn't use any pork for any of his soup bases. It's all chicken-based.
  • Even the rice is super premium koshihikari and not the cheap stuff that most other restaurants use.
  • The reason he and other ramen-ya's don't make their own noodle is due to the strict health regulations imposed by the regulators. So he has Myojo mass produce his own noodle recipe solely for Foo-Foo Tei.
  • There are 31 bowls of ramen on the menu for everyday of the month--1 noodle a day. Could this be a challenge?
On to the food...

Nanchatte Tonkotsu Ramen: If you ask Murakami-san what his specialty is, he'll just point to the wall listing all 31 bowls of ramen, but the Nanchatte is by far the most popular and the most interesting. We all know that tonkotsu ramen is made primarily with pork bones, but that's not the case with this one. A cruel joke to most tonkotsu lovers (nanchatte means just kidding), but what this ramen does is actually help shed America's image of an unhealthy soup. The main ingredient of the base is tofu and how he gets it to taste and look like this is beyond me. Although it tastes like a creamy Japanese corn soup, there's no corn in it at all. If I had to guess, I'd say the other key ingredient is...soy milk?

Shio Ramen: Of course the shio ramen's key ingredient is salt, but this shio ramen is also infused with a perfect blend of pepper and you can taste it's uniqueness right away, but you may not appreciate it. The next time you try this, please pay attention. I also have a thing for baby bok choy in ramen. I tend to use it a lot when I make ramen at home.

Tenshin Ramen: If you like omelette ramen covered with a sweet and sour sauce, then you'll enjoy this one. I'm not much of a fan of Tenshin-men, but I know my brother will like this one.

Gyoza: I've said it before and I'll say it again. Foo-Foo Tei has the best gyoza that I've ever tried in Southern California! And I finally know why! Instead of using water when cooking them (which often results in a loss of flavor), they use the ramen soup...genius!

Fried Potatoes: The perfect food to go with a few drinks...or a couple bottles of shochu.

The most flattering part of the night was learning that Murakami-san has read practically every page of this blog. I thought he was kidding, but his memory of certain posts proved it.

So if you're in the neighborhood be sure to stop by. It just might become a fixture in your regular dining rotation. And remember...Hacienda Heights NOT Monterey Park!

Murakami-san ありがとう!ご馳走様でした!Thank you for your time and most importantly the advice you gave. I truly appreciate it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Asameshi Maeda Honpo - Mitsuwa Hokkaido Fair 2008 (Costa Mesa)

Umm...guess what I had for dinner?...nevermind that was a dumb question. After visiting Sumire earlier today, the only thing on my mind has been Asameshi's Asahikawa shoyu ramen. I originally planned to go tomorrow, but what the heck...I was hungry and they were open.

Shoyu Ramen: If you remember from the last time they were here, the noodles were not very impressive and some even called them the "Achilles heel of the ramen." Well guess what ed, they got better! No more starchy/sticky/pasty texture. They actually meshed with the rest this time. The thinly sliced shabu-shabu-style chashu was better than I remember and the long slender menma was as good as ever. The rustic-nature of an Asahikawa shoyu always gets my blood flowing--and Asameshi Maeda Honpo was no different.

If you missed them in February, you have no excuse to miss them this weekend!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sumire - Mitsuwa Hokkaido Fair 2008 (Torrance)

Did you really think I'd skip this? Being that I'm still detoxing from my trip, I contemplated whether I should go or not...for a second.

Miso Butter Corn Ramen: Since I've already tried their miso ramen earlier this year, there was no hesitation in ordering the butter corn version. As usual, the ramen was piping hot and once again I burnt my tongue (it's still numb). Well I'm not much of a butter and corn fan, but it was intriguing how the butter masked the mild spiciness of the miso and added a smoothness to the soup. The rest of the toppings were good like before, but I would have liked to see more of the diced chashu. I also noticed something else--ground pork? Anyway, the noodles were great and I made sure to grab my tray as soon as my number was called.

Although I enjoy Sumire's signature miso ramen, I can't wait to see their shoyu and shio someday. Here's a picture of the other booths. The curry pan looked delicious!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mitsuwa Hokkaido Fair 2008

Ramen is back at Mitsuwa in this weekend's Hokkaido Fair! (Actually, it starts on Thursday)

Here is the lineup:

Asameshi Maeda Honpo: Shoyu Ramen
9/11(Thu) - 9/14(Sun) Costa Mesa Store
9/18(Thu) - 9/21(Sun) New Jersey Store

Sumire: Miso Ramen & Miso Butter Corn Ramen
9/11(Thu) - 9/14(Sun) Torrance Store
9/18(Thu) - 9/21(Sun) Chicago Store

Santouka: Shio Ramen
9/18(Thu) - 9/21(Sun) San Jose Store

Other non-ramen specialties include...

Bake De Arle: Cream Puffs and Ice Cream
9/11(Thu) - 9/14(Sun) Torrance, Costa Mesa Stores (Cream Puffs, Ice Cream)
9/18(Thu) - 9/21(Sun) New Jersey Store(Ice Cream, Yuki Roll)
9/18(Thu) - 9/21(Sun) Chicago Store(Ice Cream)

Pullman Bakery: Curry Pan
9/11(Thu) - 9/14(Sun) Torrance, Costa Mesa Stores
9/18(Thu) - 9/21(Sun) New Jersey Store

And more...

See you there!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ramen Kagetsu 嵐 - Narita Airport (Day 13)

The sound of airport ramen may make you cringe, but not in Japan! Even though there's hundreds of Ramen Kagetsu's located all over Tokyo in which I'll never step foot in, trying one at the airport is a different story. It's a great way to say sayonara to an awesome trip!

Genkotsu Ramen: This shoyu-tonkotsu soup was surprisingly good and had a nice, rich flavor that doesn't weigh you down. The toppings (chashu, egg, menma, negi, nori) were about what I would expect from a chain--full of preservatives. The curly noodles were also pretty decent for fast-food food-court ramen.

I can't believe this trip has already come to an end. I've been averaging some record hits in the past couple of weeks so thank you all for joining me on this little journey. I hope I was able to give you some good ideas for your next trip. If you're the adventurous type, I highly recommend the Fujisan climb...but make sure to go prepared!

By the way, I did end up going to Bassanova again (for the 3rd time) last night. I'll miss that place the most.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tsukumo Ramen Ebisu Honten 東京都渋谷区広尾 - Tokyo, Japan (Day 12)

Another reason that dreams do come true, Tsukumo Ramen in Ebisu was worth the trek on my last full day in Tokyo. Did I ever mention that Tokyo is the greatest city in the world for ramen? The best ramen from all around the country somehow makes it to Tokyo and there's no need to leave. I'll surely miss this place!

Sometimes the best stuff is the free stuff. One thing I've noticed with the tonkotsu ramen-ya's is that they have a lot of free stuff--great stuff.

Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen: A tonkotsu ramen with a special shoyu sauce drizzled on top, this ramen was definitely worth the trek. I never thought a shoyu flavor could be so creamy. The toppings (chashu, menma, nori, negi) could have been better, but this is my last day and I'm not going to complain a bit. The noodles were typically thin and delicious. Tsukumo also serves a cheese ramen that I've heard is pretty good, but it'll have to wait.

So I've been debating on whether to pack or visit Bassanova one more time. It's getting late, but then again Bassanova is open late (3am). Maybe I'll pack and then go. Who needs to sleep tonight anyway. We'll see...

Ramen Jiro Mita Honten 東京都港区三田 - Tokyo, Japan (Day 11)

Perfection is a place least visited, if at all, for anyone in search of that bowl, but according to one of LA's most renowned ramen blogger's, he's found it. And after waiting in that same line for almost an hour, I nearly found it too. What I mean is, Ramen Jiro in Mita is probably some of the best and most authentic ramen around, but I just had a horrible time leading up to it. I just don't think I was in the mood to fully enjoy it. No matter, I still wrestled the pig with incredible tenacity.

It finally stopped raining today and the mosquitos were out in full force. I must have been sucked a total of 8 times while standing in this long line. Ramen Jiro is a tiny triangular ramen-ya that can be very entertaining to someone like me or purely disgusting to others. The soup is rigorously stirred with a block of wood that resembles the leg of my dining table and pork fat literally flies everywhere. My clothes afterwards were as if I'd wrestled a pig to the death...I'm still not sure if I won.

ぶた入り Ramen: Ramen with pork is more like ramen with chashu and a huge pile of cabbage and moyashi. There's no napkins and no renge (spoon). Just you and this gigantic bowl. If you desire, they will also pile on the garlic. This geniune bowl of ramen is made with a soul that has been around for a long time. Even though I fasted for breakfast, I still had trouble finishing it, and not to mention the train ride home.

The noodles are incredibly fresh and honest. The most amazing part was the way that they're cooked. The tensho continually adds noodles to a huge vat of boiling water and is able to discern which ones have been cooked to the desired texture. It's pretty amazing if you ask me.

Perfect or not, this ramen kicked my butt! Perhaps I would enjoy it more under different circumstances, but it was still pretty damn good.

Bassanova (The Return) 東京都世田谷区羽根木 - Tokyo, Japan (Day 10)

It's official, Bassanova is now my favorite ramen-ya in Tokyo and so far the only place I've gone to more than once on this trip. If you happen to be in the neighborhood or living somewhere on the planet Earth for that matter, I recommend that you come to Bassanova. You won't be disappointed!

豚濁和出汁肉 Soba: A closer experience with the tondaku wadashi soba containing extra meat has led me to believe that an entirely new generation of ramen is emerging. This half tonkotsu, half seafood blend of soup is pure ramen fusion ecstasy, especially after a night filled with drunken madness. The toppings (thick-cut menma, ham-like grilled chashu, negi, nori) were so good that my keyboard is now soaked with drool. The noodles were also good, but I think I'll ask for the thicker cut next time.

Take one look at the pic below and dare to tell me you don't want to try it.

Tom Yum Soba: Another Thai-influenced ramen at Bassanova is the tom yum soba. If you like tom yum soup then you'll love this ramen. To quote my brother, "Bassanova rocks!"