Have all of you already tried eating one of Japan's representative dishes, ramen? It comes it countless different flavors including miso (a seasoning made from fermented soybeans), salt, pork and shoyu (soy sauce). Everyone seems to have their favorite type of ramen, and which one they order often depends on the day of the week.
In today's article we'll be featuring Moukotanmen Nakamato, a shop specializing in tanmen, a noodle dish that's slightly different from your typical ramen.
The main feature of this shop is that customers choose how spicy they'd like their ramen to be. The shop's spice scale ranges from level one (not spicy at all) all the way up to level ten (extremely spicy).
Checking in at level ten on the spice scale is hokkyoku ramen. This dish is famous for its spiciness, so this is a must try at least once for those who like their food hot.
Moukotanmen Nakamoto's Main Characteristic
Tanmen consists of soup made with stir-fried meat and vegetables simmered in a dashi stock and flavor sauce, served with Chinese-style noodles. Moukotanmen's standard dish is miso tanmen (miso flavoring) which registers at level three on the spice scale.
There's a huge variety of choices listed on the ticket dispensing machine inside the shop. First of all, for those who don't like spicy food we recommend shio (salt) tanmen which isn't spicy at all (750 yen). Please note that miso flavored tanmen dishes all have a certain level of spiciness.
Next, for those who like a bit of a kick to their noodles, we suggest ordering miso tanmen (780 yen) and for customers who like their noodles even hotter, we recommend mouko tanmen (800 yen).
For those who'd like to explore the far reaches of spiciness, there's hokkyoku ramen (820). Customers should first decide what level of spiciness they'd like to try, and then order from the menu accordingly.
Let's Give Ramen a Try
In today's article we'll be featuring three recommended dishes on the Moukotanmen Nakamoto menu.
Miso Tanmen: for First Timers Who Don't Know Where to Start
First we'll introduce miso tanmen. This dish has a slightly red-colored soup and is fairly spicy, registering in at level three on the spice scale.
The soup is characterized by the harmony of the sweetness of the vegetables and the miso flavoring, and the hot chili peppers add a nice accent. The noodles are quite thick and slightly curly, so the soup and the other ingredients stick to and wrap around them quite nicely.
This dish might be slightly understated for spice-loving customers, so we recommend it for those not accustomed to spicy food and also for first time visitors.
Mouko Tanmen: The Shop's Most Popular Dish
This is mouko tanmen, which is also included in the shop's name. This dish consists of miso tanmen, topped with a generous serving of karashi mabo dofu, and registers at level five on the spice scale.
Mabo dofu is a Chinese dish in which tofu and ground meat are fried with a Chinese chili bean paste, before finally being simmered in a chicken soup stock. In the final stages of cooking, starch powder is added which gives the dish its thick consistency. The shop's karashi mabo dofu is known for its characteristic spicy taste.
The thick consistency of the mabo dofu ensures that it sticks well to the noodles. Once inside the tanmen soup, it starts to blend in and melt, and undergoes a change in flavor. Just by taking one bite, many spicy food lovers get hooked on its exquisite flavor. This explains the long line-up of regular customers who seem to keep coming back again and again!
Everyone has their own way in which they experience a food's spiciness, and this is one dish in which you can savor the perfect balance of the spicy chili peppers and the smooth umami (*1) flavor of the soup ingredients.
Just when you sense the spiciness starting to kick in, the flavor of the vegetables keeps the dish's overall balance in check. In particular the sweet tasting cabbage gently permeates throughout your entire body.
For those who have a big appetite, not only can you order an extra large portion of vegetables and or noodles, but for only 180 yen you can have a small-size portion of karashi mabo dofu and white rice. This is good news for customers who don't get completely filled up by noodles alone!
*1 Umami: refers to a rich, savory flavor that's often referred to as 'the fifth taste' as it is not sweet, sour, bitter or salty. The flavor is apparently caused by the interaction of glutamates (a kind of amino acid) found in the food, with taste receptors on the tongue.
Hokkyoku Ramen: Taking You to the Upper Limits of Spiciness
The hokkyoku ramen will have spicy food lovers screaming with delight... and possibly a little discomfort! The temperature of the soup is extremely hot because it's heated right up until the time it's served, and the strong red color looks as though the chili peppers were juiced and put directly into the broth.
Just smell the soup and you'll know it's spicy. Just one sip and your mouth will soon be on fire from the chili peppers, and don't be surprised if your tongue goes numb! But just under the heat there also lies a smooth umami flavor.
If you can conquer hokkyoku ramen, which has tried to attain the highest level of spiciness, then you can truly call yourself a spice lover. By all means, using a little caution, challenge yourself to this special noodle dish.
Actually, the spiciest item on the shop's menu is hiyashi miso ramen (a cold miso ramen dish that goes for 800 yen), with hokkyoku ramen being the spiciest selection among hot noodle dishes.
Spicy Times Ahead
We recommend starting out with the miso tanmen, and when you're ready you can slowly move up the spice scale. As you go along, feel free to adjust the spiciness and the kinds of toppings that best suit your taste buds.
Also for those not accustomed to spicy noodles, please remember that you can also enjoy the shop's signature flavors by choosing either shio tanmen or hiyashi shoyu tanmen (both are 780 yen).
One of the attractive features of Moukotanmen Nakamoto (Higashi Ikebukuro location) is that they stay open until 2:00 am, so even amidst your busy schedule you'll have no problem finding a little time to stop in for a nice meal.
In addition to a take-out menu, they also sell cup ramen, so how about taking some home for a souvenir?
Moukotanmen Nakamoto-Higashi Ikebukuro
Address: Tokyo, Toshima, Higashi Ikebukuro 1-12-15, Kindai Group Building #2, 1F
Closed: Open every day
Credit cards: Not accepted
Nearest Station: Ikebukuro Station (JR Line, Tokyo Metro Line, Tobu Tojo Line, Seibu Ikebukuro Line)
Access: 5 minutes on foot from the east exit of Ikebukuro Station
Price: from 1000 yen and up
Official Homepage: Moukotanmen Nakamoto-Higashi Ikebukuro (Japanese)
Read More About Japanese Ramen:
Ramen Guide: Types, Regional Varieties & Tokyo's Best Ramen Restaurants
The Secret to Delicious Ramen - 7 Basic Toppings!
See Japan in Videos - Unique Ramen In Miyagi, Okinawa, Yamagata And Tottori
Enjoy Totally Vegan Ramen at Cafe the 6BT in Roppongi
Hokkaido's Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho - A Ramen Lover's Paradise!