Posts Tagged ‘ramen’

J-blip: Ramen cake

Friday, March 1st, 2013

At Machi no Kumasan (“The Town Bear”) bakery in Takasaki, they’ve recently added ramen, soba and pork katsu to their menu. That’s right, a bakery. A closer look shows the dishes are actually sweets made of pudding, chocolate and creamy Mont Blanc chestnut paste cunningly shaped to look like savory dishes. Not surprisingly, they’ve gone viral on the web.

We called Ken Ichikawa, the bakery’s head chef, to get the sweet low-down. “I wondered if we could make a cake that looked exactly like the ramen on instant noodle packages,” he said. Obviously, it was a success since many customers are fooled by the lovingly crafted details … from the ramen noodles in the glassy soup to the slices of pork (chashu) sitting on top.

Even Ichikawa himself says he is amused when a customer comes in and orders a ramen. “It’s a funny thing to hear that in a bakery, no?” he says with a laugh. The ramen cake is the same size as a regular bowl of ramen, about 18 cm across. Ichikawa says that on busy days, they make about 40 of them a day.

Ichikawa says he’s thinking of ending the ramen cakes at the end of the month. As for the next surprise, Ichikwawa said, “That’s a secret.”

Machi no Kumasan is at 1436-2 Minami Oorui Takasaki-shi, Gunma-ken

Today’s J-blip: Anti-Loneliness Ramen Bowl

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Had enough fun playing with your food? For the times you find yourself having a meal alone and wishing for some virtual company, your solitude can now be relieved with the Anti-Loneliness Ramen Bowl.

Conceptualized by MisoSoupDesign, the dish comes with an in-built iPhone dock that gives you a hands-free way to do the things you’ve already been awkwardly trying to do with your phone as you slurp away. This could be the ideal resting spot for your virtual dinner date. The bowl was created after one of its designers, Minnie Jan, witnessed a man eating with one hand while browsing through his phone with the other, she told the New York Daily News. “We did it for fun — it’s kind of sarcastic,” the paper quoted her as saying. But we think there might be a market for it in Japan. As Japan Pulse has noted, plenty of Japanese diners eat alone, and there is no shortage of restaurants catering to them. These solo-friendly place settings would make a lot of sense in hitorisama establishments.

The bowls will come in black, white and red and the company is now accepting a limited number of orders via email (info@misosoupdesign.com) and Facebook. The price has yet to be announced, but they are expected to arrive around April or May. Whatever happened to simply savoring the experience of feeding the body, though? How about some tips on mindful eating? Yes, you can read them on your phone.

 

 

Pulsations (10.26.12)

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Ramen Competition on the street (from Adele Wong): What looks better than a bowl of yummy ramen? A bowl of yummy ramen meant for photographing. Blogger Adele Wong shows us how one event made sure everyone got perfect  pictures of their seemingly perfectly crafted food.
  • Tanaka Hisashige (from James Calbraith): Author James Calbraith follows in the steps of Google and pays tribute to this master innovator of the late Edo Period. Oh, and you have Hisashige to thank for your trusty Toshiba laptop.

Visual Pulse:

Neurowear’s wearable cat ears is now complete with the latest addition of a wearable cat tail that is controlled by brain waves. Want to express your excitement at seeing a friend but too lazy to say so? Let this nifty thing do the talking.

Pulsations (08.04.12)

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

Reconditioned Bicycles: The Two-Wheeled Wonders & Where To Find Them (from Tokyo Cheapo): Fixie, schmixie, we’ll take a refurbished mama-chari to go, please.

 A Day in Tokyo (from Pechakucha.org): Sometimes it’s good to see the city you live in with fresh eyes.

Dynamite and Godzilla’s eggs: peak summer is upon us (from Tokyo Food File): Two from the pantheon of super melons.

Japan’s OTHER Languages (from Tofugu): Did you know there were eight languages unique to Japan? Neither did we.

Empty Ramen Bowl Tour (from Vimeo): Enough said. But hang on, if you like emptying ramen bowls, we might have a job for you . . . 

Visual pulse:

This week the classic “Tokyo Story” jumped up two spots to the top of Sight & Sound’s director’s poll. If you need a primer in the brilliance of director Yasujiro Ozo, here’s a quickie.

 

Cool heat-blockers for summer 2012

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Though Japan is still experiencing rainy season, the country is bracing for a super-hot summer. Predicted power shortages and another season of setsuden are raising the demand for products that can help beat the heat without electricity. Here are a few of the more unusual ones.

Forget icy glasses, frozen foam is where it’s at

Frozen beer: Kirin has invented a machine that creates frozen suds on top of your pint. Working rather like a softserve ice cream machine, the device adds a frosty froth to a glass of draft beer. The froth is actually made from beer so that it doesn’t dilute your drink as it melts. According to Kirin, there are currently 252 establishments serving it nationwide, and 91 of those are in Tokyo.

Chilled foods: It’s unsurprising that manufacturers are casting around for unexpected foods to stick in the cool box. Chilled doughnuts have been around for a few years now and have proven to be more than a passing fad. Last year we had chilled Hiroshima okonomiyaki and cold curry. This spring snack giant Calbee brought out Potato Chips Zeitaku (Premium) Vanilla, which, the company claims, taste much better after being chilled in the fridge. There’s even a chilled instant ramen from Nissin (which, strangely enough, was launched in February).

Fans: Old-school paper fans have enjoyed a bit of a revival 0ver the last few years, but why waste all that energy flapping your hands around when you can get your hands on a Kurukuru Eco Fan? This environmentally friendly toy fan from Takara Tomy has been so popular that the company has had to double the shipments of the product. Thanko, our favorite store for wacky gadgets, put out this petite little fan that resembles bladeless household fans and comes in at a very affordable ¥980. Thanko has also got a product for cooling the insides of your shoes. The USB Shoes Cooler produces a cooling breeze when inserted into footwear, promising to prevent your feet from getting all sweaty.

Today’s J-blip: robot-made inari-zushi

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

While the nation’s robots might not have been up to the task of nuclear-diaster reconnaissance, Japan’s androids are making strides in the kitchen. Suzumo Machinery Co., Ltd. has unveiled a robot capable of creating 2,500 inari-zushi rolls an hour. All the user (read: human) has to do is fill the rice hopper and place fried tofu rolls on a turntable. While we doubt anyone will be consuming that much inari-zushi any time soon, that type of efficiency is indeed impressive. Of course, this isn’t the first robot capable of dishing up Japanese food; in fact, robotics engineers seem to have a fair amount of pride in the national cuisine and program their creations to prepare all sorts of dishes,  from ramen and sushi to the potentially messy okonomiyaki. Yes, half the fun of this savory pancake is preparing it yourself, but watching a robot make it, and sing at the same time, is pretty cool, too.

 

Ekitame — coming to a station near you soon?

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

 

Will shops like Glicoya Kitchen in First Avenue, in Tokyo Station, become destinations in their own right?

Running for the train? Not so fast. According to a trend report released by @Press, Japanese people are spending more time browsing in train stations instead of bolting through them. PR flacks are calling this shopping experience “ekitame,”  combining the words eki (station) and entame (entertainment), to refer to the station shopping mall as an entertaining destination in its own right. Focusing on the continuing success of Tokyo Station’s First Avenue mall, the report hints that this shopping complex may be the shape of things to come.

Instead of just being a convenient place for commuters to kill time,  this station mall exploits the fact that tourists from all around the country pass through Tokyo Station. Two areas of First Avenue are particularly adept at attracting tourists: One is Tokyo Ramen Street,  which has eight outlets operated by famous Tokyo ramen shops; and the other is Tokyo Character Street, which houses over 20 big-name character goods stores.

Over the years, speciality food theme parks have proved popular in other shopping malls in Japan, such as Gyoza Stadium, Ice Cream City and Dessert Republic in Sunshine City Ikebukuro. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that  Ramen Street has proved a hit since it opened in April last year. It is attractive to  Tokyo day-trippers who might not have the time to trek out to these famous ramen stalls, and long queues regularly form outside the shops. But it’s Tokyo Character Street that’s proved the biggest hit. Since it opened in 2008, around 5 million visitors have checked out the array of character stores, which include Hello Kitty Land and the NHK Character Shop, and this March three more stores opened here.

Looking to raise its profile as a tourist destination, First Avenue will launch a new area called  Tokyo Okashi (Snack) Land on April 14. Comprised of  three “antenna shops” (outlets used by companies to gauge public reaction to trial products) from major Japanese food brands Calbee, Glico and Morinaga, the area will entice visitors with limited edition souvenir sweets and the chance to see confectionery being made in the store.

We think the idea of ekitame might just catch on at other major transport hubs where tourists passing through have the spare time to enjoy browsing in specialty stores. And adding the station to the sightseeing itinerary is certainly an attractive option to the footsore tourist.

Rich Japanese flavors for lean times

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

You might have heard that Japanese food is all about delicate flavor; that seasoning tends to be muted to allow the flavors of the main ingredients to shine. Despite this, according to J-Cast, the current food trend is all about rich, strong flavors. These days packages of instant ramen, potato chips, happoshu (a beer-like beverage) and puddings are often emblazoned with the words “noukou” (rich) or “koi” (strong flavored).

Rich cream stew

Rich cream stew

A recent program on TV Asahi presented by Yohei Onishi demonstrated that in supermarkets there are now 38 products labelled noukou or koi. Out of these Koi Stew, by S&B Foods, has been a hit among consumers. There are two varieties of Koi Stew, one beef flavored and one béchamel cream. Dense, creamy sauces are the reason many Japanese shy away from French cuisine, citing the fact that they are just too rich and difficult to digest, so it’s interesting that S&B’s product has been so successful.

Richer flavors are found not only in processed foods. There’s been a trend in restaurants in recent years for ramen broths to be thicker and richer. We asked Brian MacDuckston, author of the blog Ramen Adventures for his thoughts on this trend: “It’s true, there has been a recent trend to make stronger flavors in ramen. In the past, the soup was simply a vessel to keep the noodles hot. Now, the noodles are a vessel to deliver the soup, often motor-oil-thick, to your mouth. Chefs have a difficult task, though, as the long boiling times required for thickness can easily result in a bitter broth.”

So why the change in attitudes? Economic analyst Kazuyuki Hirano states that in this bad economic climate when salaries are taking a hit, people want to indulge in small luxuries or small extravagances. In summary, the recession is pushing this boom for richer flavors. Consumers on the Asahi show commented, “If it costs the same, I’d prefer a rich taste” and “I feel deep flavors are tastier.”

 

Photo by Mekkjp via Flickr

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