Ramen Trip (Part 2)

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Ramen Trip

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Japan Hour (Synopsis Only):

Ramen Trip (Part 2)

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We continue our four-day ramen trip from Tokyo to Hokuriku in winter. On the second day, in Toyama, we try the famous Uozu clear ramen in a shop called Ito. It features Kanhagi ramen with black scraper fish. Two kinds of soups are used for this dish.

One is made by putting kelp and the Kanhagi bones in water for half a day to extract the taste, while the other is a light pork broth made by simmering pig's trotters. The chef mixes the two soups to make the delicious clear soup.

Our third day starts at Toyama Bay and after asking the locals about good ramen places, we head to Shijima. It opened 52 years ago and attracts many customers, including fishermen. Its most popular dish is Gomoku Chuka, which has many toppings including fish cake and egg. Its clear soup is made by cooking chicken bones and pig's feet for 2.5 hours, then adding Chinese cabbage and green onions and cooking it for another 1.5 hours. Chopped pork back ribs and other vegetables are added to the soup, which is added to boiled thin curly noodles.

Next, we drive to Toyama Station and go to a tourist centre near the station. We are told that beef offal ramen is worth trying and it’s available at a restaurant called Tonton-tei. The dish is topped with lots of beef offal. What makes the soup even tastier is miso. The chef buys the miso from Sapporo, where he learned how to make ramen. He adds other ingredients such as sake to make the miso soup base. He also adds a spicy paste made by cooking three different chilli peppers and chilli sauce with oil.

We then head west to Himi, where yellowtail and Himi beef are famous. We check out Himi Ramen near the market, where the recommended items are glass shrimp ramen and curry ramen which includes ground Himi beef. Himi beef and glass shrimp are among Toyama’s most famous ingredients. Ground chicken is also added to the curry ramen. The soup consists of pork broth, chicken soup and dried sardines from Himi. Sashimi soy sauce is added to the dish. For the Himi glass shrimp noodles, glass shrimp paste, flavoured oil - made from sesame and onion oil - and deep-fried shrimp head is used for the soup. This glass shrimp is called the Gem of Toyama Bay because it's transparent and beautiful.

After this, we drive to Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture. We reach Higashi Chayagai, a town with houses which were built before the Meiji era. We drop by ramen shop Men-ya Fukuzo. Its master worked as a chief chef in a high-class Japanese restaurant in Kyoto for many years. He became a ramen chef 14 years ago. His signature dishes are Fukuzo ramen and salty oyster ramen. The noodles are made from three different types of wheat.

On the fourth and last day of this ramen trip, we first go to Oumicho market, also known as the "Kitchen of Kanazawa". Rockfish is in season now so we want to try rockfish ramen. We go to ramen shop ABRI; it serves only one type of ramen. The soup stock is made from dried young rockfish and local kelp. The noodles are topped with rockfish powder from the Sea of Japan and char siew.

Lastly, we drive to Fukui. We make a stopover at a drive-through ramen shop. Hachiban Ramen is a big chain in Hokuriku. The first shop opened in 1967 along Route 8 in Kaga, Ishikawa. It now has branches overseas, bringing the total number of stores to over 230. Its most popular item is vegetable ramen, featuring thick noodles. First the vegetables are cooked, after which white soup stock made from chicken and pork bones is added. The soup itself is poured into a bowl and the vegetables are cooked again with sesame oil before being added to the soup.

Our last ramen eatery is a Chinese noodle shop called Ichiriki. Its signature item is double char siew ramen. The amount of noodles used is double and different types of meat are used for the dish. These include Kirishima pork, Kagoshima pork and char siew made of pork back ribs. Lots of chicken bones and pork knuckles are cooked with chicken oil to make the soup stock.

Tips:

1) Two must-try items in Himi are yellowtail and beef
2) Rockfish ramen is best eaten in winter

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