Friday, November 11, 2016

Learning the art of eating "tsukemen"

After visiting the highest man-made point in Tokyo, I felt like I worked up a serious craving for ramen. And where's the best place to have authentic Japanese ramen? Japan! One of the famous ramen restos in Tokyo is Rokurinsha. The queues here are reportedly very long... the food was reportedly that good. Fortunately for me, Rokurinsha has a branch very close to the Tokyo SkyTree. I had to get some help finding it, of course, because the name's written in Japanese. 

When I got there, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to wait to be seated or if I should just go and grab a seat. Good thing was that one of the servers noticed that I was clueless. He asked me to wait while he found a table for me and then directed me to the ordering machine. It's like a vendo machine, actually: put in your money, click on the food you want to eat, and collect the change, if applicable. (I've encountered such machine previously: in Matsuya Shinsaibashi!)

After I finished ordering, I was led to a bar table with a good view of the open kitchen. An advantage for me because the servers could check on me if I had questions or if I needed anything.

Within a few minutes, my ramen arrived. But it didn't look like regular ramen. It was basically a deconstructed ramen dish! There were two bowls: one contained the noodles and a soft-boiled egg; the other bowl contained a thick sauce with the meat and other ingredients.

It is called tsukemen and there is a special way of eating it. That's according to the English pamphlet that the servers kindly provided me.

Of course, I followed the instructions to the letter.
     (1) Dip a biteful of noodles into the sauce.
     (2) Once soaked by the sauce, eat the noodles.
     (3) Add vinegar and pepper to the sauce.
     (4) Repeat steps 1 and 2.
     (5) Once the noodles are finished, ask for soup to dilute the sauce.
     (6) Slurp away!

Note that there were no instructions on how to eat the egg. So I just ate it after I've eaten the noodles. I also dipped the egg in the sauce (Steps 1–6, but with egg).

I ended up enjoying the tsukemen! It had the right balance of the different flavours, with umami being the overarching theme until I added vinegar and pepper. Then the ramen took on a whole different character all together! I wonder where this is being served in the Philippines. I want to try it here too.