Posts Tagged ‘noodles’

Cool drinks and eats to beat the heat

Monday, July 11th, 2011

From cold curry sauce to garlic sweets, this summer sees the launch of weird and wonderful products aimed at beating the season’s intense heat. Here are but a few:

Chilled Hiroshima okonomiyaki: This revolutionary product developed by the Tokugawa restaurant chain has been making waves on the web as Japanese get their heads round the mindboggling concept of cold okonomiyaki. Made in the Kansai style, it contains strips of meat and cabbage with a special ponzu-based sauce and dried bonito flakes on top. It has a lighter texture than your average stodgy okonomiyaki, making it easy summer eating. Because you don’t need to use a microwave to make it, it also helps you do your bit for setsuden (power saving).

Chilled curry: This chilled sauce is designed to be poured on top of cold noodles. The concept of chilled curry sauce for noodles was introduced by Yamasa last year, so the fact that House Foods has jumped on the bandwagon this year proves that the concept has staying power.

Stamina candy: Containing plum, salt and garlic, we’re guessing these candies are not for the faint of heart. However, the ingredients are purported to counteract the effects of heatstroke, so I suppose it’s worth sucking on one of these when temps become unbearable. We love the picture of a burly builder on the front of black packaging that gives the product a macho vibe.

Ring Jelly: Released by Mister Donut in June, these doughnut-shaped jellies come in four refreshing flavors: strawberry, coffee, pineapple and grape. Alongside these wobbly treats, Mister Donut is also really pushing the chilled doughnut concept this season (normal doughnut stuck in a fridge), which we’ve seen gradually gathering momentum in Japanese donut outlets over the past few years.

Menthol Shock: Despite the fact that refreshing menthol products are trending right now, This Nihon Life gave this beverage a test run and came back with the verdict that the experience of drinking it is “akin to swallowing 350ml of carbonated Listerine.” Have you given it a shot?

Cool foods for a chilled-out summer

Friday, July 1st, 2011

For obvious reasons, many of the summer’s food trends are being geared to beat the heat, from unusual sauces for somen (cold noodles) to original recipes for chilled seafood ramen.

Kagome's tomato somen tsuyu serving suggestion

According to Nikkei Trendy, the somen tsuyu (sauce) trend, which began back in 2008, has really caught on this year. While somen has always traditionally been served with shiso (green perilla) as a garnish, Yamasa was the first company to incorporate that flavor into a somen tsuyu. These new readymade sauces, which fall somewhere between salad dressing and soup, are designed to be splashed on top of somen and go well with salad, vegetables or meat. Since the product’s launch, Yamasa has brought out different flavors each year (this year’s is yuzu and pepper), but  according to Nikkei Trendy, the most popular product by far has been their chilled curry sauce; the novel idea of cold curry is said to appeal to young and old.

Yamasa isn’t the only food company riding the trend.  Kikkoman launched their first Salad Men Tsuyu in 2010 (shredded onion, vinegar and olive oil flavor) and this year have added an extra yuzu ponzu flavor to the range. Mizkan, Kagome and Marumiya also launched similar sauces in 2010. Kagome’s tomato tsuyu was particularly popular, echoing the success of their tomato nabe sauces. The trend definitely echoes the winter nabe soup trend we wrote about late last year, in that both give a Western twist to traditional Japanese cuisine.

In restaurants, Tokyo Walker has spotted  new types of chilled ramen being served with seafood, such as eel, snapper and shrimp. Though “traditional” chilled ramen has been a specialty of Yamagata since the 50s (and is served there no matter the season) it’s really took off nationwide in recent years as a cooling food for summer months. Eel too is seen as a cooling food, so the idea of using it instead of slices of pork to ease our woes during an especially difficult summer is a no-brainer.

Foodies might want to take note of the Tokyo Walker’s seafood cold ramen restaurant recommendations for the summer: Chilled sea bream soup ¥780 from Shinmen Shirohachi; chilled seafood soup ¥900 from Menya Busashibukots; and conger eel and green tea soup ¥980 from Men Yashiyouno.

New-style ramen targets female noodle-lovers

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Old school ramen, high in calories and sodium, is often seen by women as a naughty treat.

Traditionally, men tend to make up the majority of customers in ramen shops. Because it’s high in calories and sodium, and low in vitamins and fiber, ramen is often looked on by women as a naughty treat. But new styles of ramen that feature a lighter stock and healthier ingredients are proliferating, and this has had the knock-on effect of attracting more female customers.

According to Nikkei Woman Online, one of the driving forces behind the trend is Italian ramen. Taiyo no Tomatomen Next, in the Shinjuku MyLord shopping complex, specializes in making a ramen with a light tomato and chicken soup stock. In Ebisu there’s a little mobile ramen stall that serves up Genova Ton Shio Ramen, which has basil and cherry tomato on top of a salty soup stock. Both shops appear to be extremely popular with women: 90 percent of Taiyo no Tomatomen’s customers are female.

Though the lighter soups are attractive to women on a diet, the fusion aspect of the meal is winning points. Taiyo no Tomatomen do a cheese topping for one of their noodle soups, and fresh cream is the surprise ingredient in Boku no Miso Ramen, served at restaurant chain Ramen Kagetsuarashi. The butter bolognaise-style ramen, designed by celebrity chef Tatsuya Kawagoe, also contains ground pork and three types of miso paste.

But it’s not just about Italian fusion. One ramen shop in Takadanobaba has made a collagen ramen aimed at women. Potano San No Beji Pota Soup, which is also high in fiber, is said to give you glowing skin. In Nakano, the cooks at Heibon make Yasai Tappuri ramen, which is filled with 12 different kinds of veggies, including bean sprouts, cloud ear mushrooms and carrots. Reportedly popular with women, the dish is only available one day a month.

Presentation also appears to be a factor in attracting female clientele. Nidaime Ebi Soba Keisuke in Takadanobaba uses elegant crockery and serves up a shrimp soba in a sweet teacup. Their sweet shrimp and white soy sauce ramen is also popular with women and around 40 percent of the store’s clientele are female.

Women who want to find out more about female-friendly ramen stores can consult Jyosei Ramen-bu (Women’s Ramen Club) or read the book written by the website’s authors. There’s also a website All Japan Women’s Noodle Association which, since 2009, has been introducing not only ramen but other kinds of noodles to female gourmets across the country.

Morning ramen, breakfast of Tokyoites

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

First slurp of the morning to ya.

The new early bird special: quick, cheap and filling ramen

Summer is here, finally, in all its hot, sticky, muggy-with-a-chance-of-rain glory. What better way to recover from a jammed morning train and get ready for the work day than with a nice . . . steaming bowl of ramen? That’s how a growing number of Tokyo office workers are starting their days, if Walker Plus is to be believed.

Asa-raa, Japanese shorthand for “morning ramen,” is something of a tradition in other parts of the country like Shizuoka and Fukushima. Now it’s making inroads into Tokyo Metro city limits, with an increasing number of shops in business areas offering morning-only deals. Mezamashi TV reported that there were only 20 or so ramen shops open in the morning 10 years ago. The Japanese website Ramen Database now lists 65 shops in Tokyo that are open either early or non-stop, with some ladling out noodles as early as six or seven.

A quick bowl of noodles in the wee hours is to many hungry Japanese drinkers what a late-night slice of pizza is to a New Yorker or a curry for a Londoner. In contrast to the heavy booze-sopping broth popular in the late-night incarnation, the breakfast version often features a lighter soup, fewer toppings and a smaller portion of noodles. Keika near Shinjuku Station opens at 6:30 am, and Hinomaru in Shinbashi opens at 6.

The appeal? Those interviewed on Mezamashi said the top draws were that it was cheap, quick and filling. The early bird specials are often ¥100 or so less than the rest of the day, with many at the magical ¥500 “one coin” price point. Some said that with a belly full of noodles, they were fortified enough to wait until after the noon lunch rush subsided to get lunch, while some said a bowl of asa-ra let them skip lunch all together.

Skipping lunch could make after-work drinks on an empty stomach a little rough. And thus the day might end as it began, with a nice… steaming bowl of ramen.

Have you tried ramen in the morning? Would you?

The link for Mezamashi TV is on its own down here because we wanted to warn you that it launches loud.

Ramen photo by mahiro1322.

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