There is no way in the world I could ever compete with Nate, the ultimate Waseda ramen junkie; and I would probably never describe myself as a ‘ramen-expert’ or ‘huge ramen fan’ as some people do, erroneously simplifying tsukemen as “dry ramen”. But there’s one thing for sure, I do like me a good bowl of ramen.
My dad’s a bigger ramen junkie than I am, physically and philosophically. How else could you beat a man who tries to replicate the ramen he’s eaten, and bring his ramen-loving daughter out to every possible ramen store back home in Singapore? I still remember very first real introduction to tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen back in 2000. Led by my father into the snaking alleyways of Shinjunku (it’s a miracles that I remember that it was actually in Shinjuku, but the iei-kei, family-style, ramen left that much of an impression on me), the family sat down, in a reasonably crowded hole in the wall and we all wolfed down steaming bowls of chaa-shuu ramen. Until that day, I had never known what real chaa-shuu ramen tasted like. And I have never forgotten the taste. Now I will admit that that was never the best ramen I had. But at that particular point of time, with my teeth sinking into gorgeously marbled pieces of chaa-shuu and letting the fat slide over my tongue, I was sold. One day I’m going to find that store, and eat there again. I’m going to tell the cook, “I am your ramen ten years ago and I never looked back.”
But nostalgic gastronomical crushes aside, Oita Horaiken‘s hearty (and by that I mean cardiac arrest inducing) Kyushuu-style ramen has taken first place as my favourite Baba (short for Takadanobaba, the district I live in) ramen joint. This is after I tried Ippudou Ramen‘s (一風堂ラーメン) world famous bowl. There’s just something about Ippudou that doesn’t do it for me. It probably has something to do with the fact that it’s simply not rich enough to compare with Oita Horaiken’s, that for the same amount of money, I can actually not eat for a whole day. Don’t get me wrong Ippudou’s an awesome recommendation but when I want to have a real meal, I’m heading to Oita Horaiken.
Finding Oita Horaiken happened by chance. I was out with a bunch of my Singaporean buddies looking for a place to eat (we decided: no Curry, because I had eaten curry every alternate day for the past week — I’m sorry, I do love curry a whole bunch — and something that was warm and soup) and chanced upon Oita Horaiken. Their huge testosterone filled signs (because really, you have to be a man to eat this daily!) with heavy brush-strokes caught our eye immediately as we wandered from street to street and finally caught a whiff of their tonkotsu broth. It also didn’t hurt that they had a time-service offer of gyoza for 100yen!
With such good bargains and good food, it’s no surprise that we had a 10 minute wait to simply get into the place. Most of the group picked out the house-recommendation of yaki-buta ramen (焼豚ラーメン, roast pork ramen) while I decided to go for the jugular and order a cha-shuu banchou (チャシュウ番長, The Boss of Chaa-Shuu) with a gyoza side. And man, was I rewarded. I haven’t eaten at Ramen Jiro‘s yet, but seeing this bowl full of pork and ramen come towards me immediately reminded me of the photos from Ramen Jiro’s. There is no other word to describe it other than spectacular. Put thin, straight, slightly katame (al-dente) noodles (typical of Kyushuu ramen), and an unbelievably dense tonkotsu broth (I have to imagine that they boil the pork bones for at least a day and a night straight with controlled fire… there’s nothing else other than sheer effort to get this sort of soup-broth!) and a very generous serving of fatty chaa-shuu with heaps of garlic and negi (spring onions), and I think we have a winner here. It definitely helped that we had a whole stock of condiments at our disposal: beni-shoga (red pickled ginger) and even pira-kara takana (spicy mustard vegetables) to make it a truly Kyushuu bowl of ramen. It’s exactly the sort of ramen that doesn’t need any extra sauces or chili powder or whatever you might usually dump on your bowl. Just scoop a bit of garlic into it, and bam, the soup becomes even more rich.
It would have seemed almost offensive if I didn’t order a kaedama (かえ玉, where the dama refers to a ‘ball’ of ramen) so I requested for one with one of the other guys. It was probably a mistake to have ordered an extra helping, what with the gyoza, and the six slices of fatty pork and ramen in me, but I had a little soup left over (my friend drank it all up to the last drop — it’s that good) and decided to go for it.
And now I’m recovering from indigestion. But it was delicious indigestion, and worth every minute in the loo.
Read the original post at In Your Basement.