Japanese Delicacy (XV): Tsukemen
Japanese cuisine is known for its diverse range of flavorful and satisfying noodle dishes, each with its own unique texture, flavor, and presentation. Tsukemen is a type of Japanese noodle dish that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It offers a unique dining experience that combines the best of both worlds: cold noodles with a great texture and piping hot, flavorful broth.
What is Tsukemen?
Tsukemen is a type of Japanese noodle dish. Unlike regular ramen, which is typically served in a hot soup, tsukemen consists of a bowl of cold, thick noodles served separately from a hot dipping broth. This means that the noodles maintain their firm texture, as they are not sitting in hot liquid for an extended period of time.
Tsukemen allows diners to dip their noodles into the broth as they eat, resulting in a more interactive and customizable dining experience. To enjoy tsukemen, diners first take a mouthful of noodles and then dip them into the hot broth. The broth can be customized with various condiments such as vinegar, chili oil, garlic, or sesame seeds to suit individual tastes. As the noodles are consumed, more broth can be added to the dipping bowl to keep it hot and flavorful.
The broth is usually made with soy sauce, pork bone, fish stock, and other seasonings that provide a rich umami flavor. You can also add toppings and condiments, such as sliced pork, boiled egg, bamboo shoots, or seaweed to enhance the flavor of the dish.
History of Tsukemen
The origins of tsukemen are not entirely clear, but it is believed to have originated in the middle of the 20th century in Tokyo. Some sources attribute its invention to a ramen shop called Taishoken, which opened in the city's Higashi-Ikebukuro neighborhood in 1954.
According to legend, Taishoken's owner, Kazuo Yamagishi, came up with the idea for tsukemen after noticing customers leaving behind leftover soup in their ramen bowls. He decided to serve the soup separately from the noodles so that diners could enjoy it as a dipping sauce and avoid waste.
Others believe that tsukemen may have emerged as a regional specialty in the coastal town of Yaizu, where fishermen would dip their cold soba noodles into the hot broth as a way to warm themselves up during breaks from work.
Type of Tsukemen
There are many types of tsukemen, each with its own distinct flavor and style. Some common variations include:
Tonkotsu Tsukemen: A rich, creamy broth made from pork bones, served with thick noodles.
Shoyu Tsukemen: A soy sauce-based broth that is savory and slightly sweet, often served with thinner noodles.
Miso Tsukemen: A broth made from fermented soybean paste, which gives it a salty, umami flavor.
Curry Tsukemen: A spicy, aromatic curry-flavored broth served with noodles and various toppings.
Lemon Tsukemen: A refreshing, citrusy broth made with lemon juice, served with cold noodles.
Spicy Tsukemen: A broth that is infused with chili oil or other spicy ingredients for a fiery kick.
Abura Soba: One of the most popular variations of tsukemen is called abura soba, which literally translates to "oil noodles." In this version, the noodles are coated in a layer of savory sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar, and chili oil, rather than being dipped into a separate broth. Abura soba is often topped with green onions, bean sprouts, and other vegetables, as well as slices of meat or pieces of tempura.