Thursday, August 12, 2010

Drunken tonkotsu deai...

I did plan on writing this post yesterday, but thanks to a hangover of in comprehendible size I didn’t quite pucker up the energy to move my fingers.
On Wednesday, with the Obon holiday upon us, my workmates thought it was necessary that we drink stupid quantities of sake at an izakaya in Morioka.
Great idea, as long as you don’t miss the last train back to Hanamaki at 11pm…
Anyway, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade, so I decided to make a night out of it. After we could drink no more, me and the remainder of my workmates stumbled into a ramen joint called Ippudo (一風堂). To my disappointment, however, I found out today that Ippudo is actually a chain ramen shop and can be found pretty much anywhere in Japan.

I ordered the tonkotsu ramen and found it relatively good. It had a persistent creaminess and was ahh… In all honesty I don’t really remember, but from the photo you tell it’s not much to look at.

The noodles were hosomen and I do recall being able to choose out of scale of 1-5 for how firm you would like them.

My workmates ramen resembles tantan men, but I think it was just a spicy tonkotsu with a miso topping of sorts. I remember him being a bit angry about his noodles though. Like me when it comes to ramen there is no room for compromise…

Size isn't everything my friends and these gyoza prove it. They totally rocked my weary socks off.

Ippudou is open till 3am in the morning giving the drunks and the drunkards a place to dine and socialize after a hard session on the diesel. However, I’m not convinced that it would be worth going to when sober.

Monday, August 9, 2010

First day on the job...

As you probably deciphered from the title, yesterday was my first day working at Mentanpin. After I got there Ushizaki (big boss man) told me just to follow him around and he will explain the basics.

Firstly he went over all the ingredients he uses in the soup and then went on to explain how long he usually cooks the different kinds of noodles.

Around about 6:30 the shop went from a couple of customers to being packed to the rafters. The kitchen heated up to about 40 degrees and sweat was literally dripping off me. Making ramen is definitely no walk in the park…

I noticed a lot of people were ordering chashumen, so I asked Ushizaki if it was normally this popular. He said not usually, but it depends on what the first couple of customers order. “What do you mean?” I replied. He went on to explain that people usually order the first meal they see when they walk into the shop. Makes sense I guess…

After 3 hours of tasting, asking questions and getting in the way I decided that it was time I head off. As I was leaving Ushizaki turned around and shouted “come anytime you want ok”.
I love this casual ramen affair.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Onsen and Torigara Ramen

Last weekend was totally sacrificed for a friend of mine who was leaving town. Among the hectic chore of helping him pack and send his stuff home, we did find time to sneak a trip to an onsen about an hours drive from Hanamaki. Matt had been rambling on about this place for quite a while and was determined to go there before he left. If your curious the onsen is called Airinkan(愛隣館)

Airinkan was a little bit classier than your ordinary run of the mill Hanamaki onsen. As soon as you get out of your car you’re escorted by staff to one of the many onsen baths on site.

A dip in the onsen will cost you 800 yen but its well worth it. This place is by far the most scenic onsen I have ever been to.

Later that night after an intense session of rehydration we made our way to a
ramenya called Housuke 宝介.

Houske boasts a very extensive menu, but prides itself on torigara ramen.

So, being the sucker that I’ am I instinctively went with the ramen that was written in the biggest font. I also payed the extra 100yen for all you can eat pickles and rice.

They were a bit stingy when cutting the charshu, but none the less it was pretty good. It was actually so tender that you couldn’t even pick it up with your chopsticks (or maybe that was just me).

The dashi was very light and from what I could tell had a soy sauce base of sorts. It lacked the sort of complexity that I was expecting though…

My mate’s tsukemen on the other hand was apparently a pretty good feed. So, if you go there I recommend you order anything that isn’t heavily promoted…

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


For many people the word ramen evokes memories of horrid instant noodles. A product packed to the brim with preservatives and msg, a cup of heart burn if you will.
However, don’t let this sinful cup of lies lead you astray from the wonderful meaty elixir that is really ramen.

My love for ramen started when I went to study at Hirosaki University in 2007 for one year. It was there that I was introduced to two outstanding ramen shops, Hanashin and Bunpuku. Hanashin specialised in tantan men, while Bunpuku on the other hand offered an assortment of ramens, but were perhaps more known for their karage miso ramen. During the harsh Hirosaki winter, ramen became somewhat of a comfort food for me. I found nothing heartier than a rich tonkotsu soup on a cold winter’s day. In fact, I was afraid that I had become so emotionally attached to the meal that I would never be able to leave the Hirosaki city limits.

However, reality was cold and swift and before I knew it I was on a plane back to New Zealand. Initially, I suffered minor withdrawal symptoms and in search of a quick fix visited all the noodle houses in my hometown. However, none of them even came close to rivaling the superior Japanese stock. Trying to work out a passable substitute I experimented with a number of recipes, in particular tantan men recipes, but due to my lack of knowledge and experience with the incredible complexity of a good ramen stock I couldn’t surpass mediocre.

Two years later after graduating I was determined to return to Japan for a number of reasons, perhaps the most important one being my share addiction to Ramen. However, because of strict working conditions with my new job, I’m not aloud to do supplementary work in any form. I have avoided this minor obstacle, by becoming a volunteer at my new found favourite ramen shop, Mentanpin, in Hanamaki.

Mentanpin was actually the first ramen shop I visited when I came to Hanamaki two and half months ago. Since then I have managed to visit a number of ramen joints, but still rate this place as one of the top for tantan men.

So to cut a long story short, I asked the owner out for a drink a couple of weeks ago and told him about my passion for ramen. An hour later it was decided that he would take me under his wing as a volunteer and student on weekends. My first day on the job is Sunday next week. I’m bursting with curiosity and excitement. I will do my best to keep you updated with my progress at Mentanpin and my ramen encounters.

Iwate Ramen - Paul

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