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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