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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: More Ramen at Home

Speaking of ramen…Naoto made homemade broth on Saturday and it was a step-up in flavor from the Furious Spoon version! He is going to try a bunch of different recipes until we find the perfect blend for us! We used this recipe which is chicken based and seemed easy enough for a “quick” broth. It took about four hours from beginning to end and we had enough for our two bowls, and a huge container to freeze for leftovers.

With the broth recipe, you first roast chicken wings and vegetables (to intensify their flavors.)

Next, you boil the roasted chicken and vegetables for hours along with shiitake mushrooms and aromatics.

By the end, the meat is falling off the bone and the broth is a deep brown. You’re never supposed to let it boil; it just  barely simmers on low for hours. This keeps it from getting cloudy. (No one likes a cloudy broth!)

In the end, you strain the broth and you’re left with a giant bowl of spent chicken and vegetables.

Here’s the final product. We added chashu (using the Furious Spoon recipe,) a soft-boiled egg (that was a little overdone,) and scallions. I love the Hokkaido-style ramen at Misoya so Naoto made buttered corn and roasted potatoes to add to mine. It was a fun experiment for a Saturday! I kind of wish we’d started this earlier in the pandemic! There’s time to perfect Hasegawa Ramen before winter!

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Furious Spoon Ramen Class at Home

Furious Ramen take home ramen kitOur anniversary was June 2 and we were both bummed we couldn’t go out to dinner. Well, we could…Illinois is technically open for outdoor dining (and indoor as of today) but neither of us feel comfortable with that option yet. So when I saw that Furious Spoon is offering virtual ramen classes, I decided that would be a fun way to celebrate. The class came with a ramen kit with everything we needed to make two servings of pork and mushroom ramen at home. asahi beer and empress cocktailSo we mixed a drink (this one!) and opened a Japanese beer and followed along on Instagram. I’m sure you’ve guessed (as much as I look like I’m paying close attention up there,) Naoto did most of the work, but I helped with the broth. Speaking of the broth…I know it doesn’t look super appetizing but it was interesting to see it come together. Real ramen broth takes hours and often uses bone-in pork, but this is a quick ramen broth made with ground pork, mushrooms, scallions, garlic, and some other things. I think it simmered for about forty minutes. I really enjoyed the ramen, but it’s hard to duplicate that taste of a long-simmered broth.Here’s the finished product–I need to work on my ramen plating, and also, we need some official ramen bowls if we want to make homemade ramen on a regular basis. The chashu (braised pork) was amaaaazing–the marinade was really tasty and Naoto cooked it perfectly. And Furious Spoon’s noodles (made in-house) are really good, holding up perfectly in the hot broth, even with a slow eater like me. Have you watched Never Have I Ever? Don’t you think Chef Shin gives off Paxton Hall-Yoshida vibes? I thought having the class on Instagram would be weird, but it ended up being great. We could ask questions and interact through the comments and we were even able to stay on track with cooking. Our ramen finished maybe five minutes after the end of the class–perfect timing for eating together for our anniversary.



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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Afuri Ramen

Believe it or not, we only had ramen once while we were in Tokyo. I know, I know…what a waste of our visit during the cold months! But seriously, there is so much to eat in Japan…it’s hard to not explore a thousand different cuisines there! Afuiri Ramen SangenjayaWe found Afuri near our hotel in Sangenjaya. (It’s been there since 2014! How were we sleeping on this for so long?!) It’s a chain, so you can find them all over Tokyo (and even in Portland!) Their specialty is yuzu ramen, so you know I was a happy camper eating here!ramen ticket machine, Afuri RamenIt’s the kind of ramen shop where you order at the machine and get a ticket to present at the counter, but it’s a fancy computerized ticket machine with pictures! (Also, pro-tip…you should choose your meal on the menu outside and then go to the machine when you know exactly what you want…otherwise you look like a dumb American, not that I would know how this feels…) Afuiri Ramen SangenjayaI had the Yuzu Shoyu Ramen, which is a chicken and dashi shoyu (soy sauce) broth with all of the traditional ramen toppings. It may have been my favorite chicken broth ever. It was bright and citrusy because of the yuzu but the shoyu made it a little bit more robust. Naoto had a special dumpling ramen that I couldn’t find on the website.

Now writing this, I’m totally in the mood for ramen.

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Ramen Takeya

The day we went to the taping of the Very Serious Crafts Podcast was cold and snowy, so we decided to stop in the West Loop for some ramen. We went to Ramen Takeya, a sister restaurant of one of the best rated ramen shops in the city, Wasabi. We haven’t been able to get up to Wasabi yet, but Ramen Takeya specializes in chicken broth ramen, which seemed interesting. Plus we have quite a few friends who don’t eat pork, so we figured we’d do some ramen research for them!

We got to the restaurant a little before they opened, so we had a chance to scope out the menu outside in the snow. When we got inside, we were barely greeted and I just had a bad feeling about the whole thing. (Basically, the host–who also was our server–tossed our menus on a table and walked away while we were still at the front of the restaurant.) The shop was decorated with old metal Japanese signs and advertisements, including an old Japan Post sign. I just loved the “old Japan” feeling of the place! We ordered drinks, a beer for Naoto and a lychee cocktail for me. The drinks were good, and so were the buns (pictured above.) But the service continued to be…cold. I got the Osaka Shio ramen, which has both pork and chicken broth. It was good. I enjoyed most of the toppings and the noodles, but I felt like the pork was extra fatty (which I know some people love, I’m just not one of them.) I also got buttered corn as an add-on, which would have been delicious if it didn’t come freezing cold. Naoto ordered the Chicken Paitan Ramen with fried garlic as an add-on topping. He really enjoyed his bowl (and half of mine!)

At the end of our meal, we weren’t offered another cocktail, or water, or dessert, or any sort of friendliness, so we just paid our check and left…which seems like all they wanted anyway. I feel bad writing a negative post, but man, customer service is important…especially when there are so many ramen restaurants in Chicago. And I think our experience was just so shocking for us because the West Loop has so many great places to eat and we’ve always had stellar service in that neighborhood.  On the way home, I checked Yelp and all of the negative reviews mentioned the service and most of those people had our server, so…apparently no one at Ramen Takeya cares enough to give this dude some feedback. So, all-in-all, we’re glad we tried it, but a second visit isn’t in our plans. (Sorry to be a Debbie Downer today!)

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Ramen-San

I’ve been fighting a losing battle with a cold since the new year, so Naoto’s birthday was a little bit neglected this year. But I think I made up for it by making reservations at Ramen-San, a ramen shop in Chicago. It was a pretty warm night in Chicago (for January) and it felt good to get out of the house for awhile and a hot, salty ramen was very good for my cold. First things first…the drinks! Naoto had a very cold Asahi in a frosty mug. He actually had three of them. The draft beer is run though a specialized chiller to make it extra cold. A super-cold beer is the perfect thing to drink with ramen, (or so they tell me…I don’t drink beer.) I had the Cilantro-Lime Margarita, which also has yuzu in it and you know how much I love yuzu! It was amazing, and also really nice with the ramen. Ramen-San also offers a yuzu lemonade which I will have to try next time.For our starter, we ordered the raw tuna on sesame crisps which were just enough to enjoy without spoiling our giant ramen dinner. I ordered their special for the night: a roasted garlic ramen. I have to say, this is the least photogenic bowl of ramen I’ve ever had, but it was so, so tasty. (I know it would have been more photogenic with more add-on toppings, but I can never finish an entire bowl of ramen, and really, I’m just here for the broth and the noodles.) It came with an egg, scallions, and shredded pork. The pork was so tender and flavorful. The broth was made with a garlic and miso and it would have made your Italian grandmother cry tears of joy. It was so garlicky, I honestly felt like it could have cured my cold right then and there…but really, that’s asking a lot from a bowl of ramen.Naoto ordered the kimchi and fried chicken ramen, which again, sorry for the terrible food photography, but he loved it. He even got a second helping of noodles to finish off his broth. For dessert, we shared this giant bun filled with matcha cream and coated in matcha sugar. It was incredible.

We’re already planning our next ramen outing so hopefully I’ll have another Noodle Tour update for you soon. In the meantime, catch up on previous Naoberly Noodle Tour adventures here.

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Owariya

Owariya Noodle Restaurant, Kyoto We stumbled upon Owariya while we were craft shopping in Kyoto. It was such a lucky find! Owariya has been around since 1465 when it opened as a confectionary shop in Kyoto. There are a few shops around town, but we went to the honten, the original shop. Downstairs, there’s a counter where they still sell their sweets and upstairs there are several simple dining rooms. Owariya tempuraWe started our meal with a beautiful tempura appetizer. Owariya noodlesI ordered the Seiro Regular, a simple cold buckwheat noodle dish. It came with a tray of noodles, broth, thinly sliced leeks, and wasabi. owariya noodles, 2I mixed the broth, scallions, and wasabi in the bowl and then dipped the noodles. It was simple and perfectly refreshing on a warm day. So delicious!  deluxe noodle dish, Owariya NoodleOwariya Noodles, delux dishNaoto ordered the Hourai Soba, a deluxe cold noodle dish. There was a stacking container of five levels of noodles, broth, and a tray of toppings: tempura shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, omelet, seaweed, sesame seeds, wasabi, daikon, and leeks. As he ate each tray of noodles, he added whichever toppings he wanted, so each level was like eating a slightly different dish. (The top picture shows our server explaining about each ingredient.) It was really fun to watch but it seemed like so much food, especially for Japan! And his meal came with a pot of tea made with the water they used to cook the buckwheat noodles–nothing goes to waste in the restaurant! buckwheat desserts, Japanese confectionary, Owariya sweetsAt the end of our meal, they brought out a tray of desserts. All of the desserts in Owariya are made with buckwheat flour. I wasn’t expecting to like them as much as I did. buckwheat cake, Japanese confectionary, Owariya sweetsThe first thing we tried was the soba rice cake. It was light and had a lightly sweet flavor. Inside was red bean paste. buckwheat snack, Japanese confectionary, Owariya sweetsThen we had Soba-Ita. They were about the size of a stick of gum with a nice, crunchy texture and a great toasty flavor. I liked these so much that we bought two boxes to bring home!

I know I say this about all of my meals in Japan, but this really was one of the best. I guess when you eat at a restaurant that’s been perfecting their soba for 550 years, you know it’s going to be good!

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Fujishiro

Fujishiro in sangenjayaOn our last night in Japan, we finally ate ramen in a neighborhood shop. After our happy hour in Carrot Tower, we walked though the winding streets on a hunt for dinner. We found so many little ramen shops, but it was hard to choose which one would be tastiest. Fujishiro was tiny and crowded and it had recently been featured in a Tokyo magazine, so we figured it was good.Fujishiro in sangenjaya, ramen ticket, ramen in Tokyo We made our choices using the ramen ticket machine outside the shop and then we sat and waited on little stools outside for seats to open up inside. Fujishiro in sangenjaya, place settings, Tokyo ramen shops Fujishiro in sangenjaya, place settings, Tokyo ramen shopsOnce we got inside, Naoto gave our tickets to the guys behind the counter and they started making our ramen. One guy focused on the noodles, the broths, and the grilled meat and the other interacted with customers and built the bowls of ramen. Chopsticks, spoons, spices, and pitchers of water were on the counter so we could help ourselves. It was a no-frills kind of place. There were six other people filling the restaurant with us, mostly salary men, but also another couple enjoying noodles together. Fujishiro in sangenjaya, tonkotsu ramen, Tokyo ramen shops, fishcake Fujishiro in sangenjaya, tonkotsu ramen, Tokyo ramen shops I ordered the tonkotsu ramen. It had a meaty broth and nice, chewy noodles topped with pork, egg, scallions, nori (seaweed), and fishcake (that pink and white thing in the picture above). Simple, but delicious. Fujishiro in sangenja, shoyu ramen, Tokyo ramen shopsNaoto had the store special ramen*, ajitama ramen. It was similar to mine but it had two marinated soft boiled eggs (ajitama) in it. He enjoyed every bit of it and part of mine! It was the perfect end to our vacation!

*Ramen Tip: If you go to a local ramen shop that uses a ramen ticket machine, the shop’s special ramen will often be on the top left corner. It’s a fun way to try unique ingredients or preparations!


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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Cup Noodles Museum

Cup Noodle Museum entranceBack to Japan

After we stuffed ourselves at the Ramen Museum, we decided to make a noodle day of it and visit the Cup Noodle Museum. We just made it with an hour to spare, so we didn’t have time to read every word in the museum, but we had a good time learning the history of our favorite late-night snack*. Cup Noodle Museum lobbyThe museum is really spare and modern. The lobby is huge, open and only decorated with an illumination of a Cup Noodle. You take a giant staircase upstairs to the museum. Cup Noodle Museum hall of noodle packagingThe first part is the Instant Noodles History Cube where you can see the history and the packaging of 3000 instant noodle products. Cup Noodle Museum hall of noodle packagingCup Noodle Museum hall of noodle packagingIt was crazy to see the subtle changes in packaging over time and all of the regional flavors that were introduced as Cup Noodle took over the world. Cup Noodle Museum noodle artCup Noodle Museum Momofuku AndoMuch of the Museum is devoted to Momofuku Ando, the inventor of the instant noodle. (You may be familiar with Ando because he recently was honored with his own Google Doodle!) Because he invented the instant noodles later in life (he was 48) after two failed careers (he was even jailed for tax evasion!), Ando is the perfect example of how success can come at any age. Cup Noodle Museum Momofuko AndoCharming illustrations take you through the history of instant noodles. It took over a year of trying and failing every single day (and only sleeping four hours a night), but in 1958 Ando invented Chicken Ramen (which is like the packaged block of noodles we have today.) Cup Noodle Museum Momofuku AndoLater, in the 1960s, Ando came to the U.S. and saw people breaking up the blocks of ramen into styrofoam cups and adding hot water and eating them that way. Ando figured, why waste time with a separate bowl when the ramen could come in its own bowl! Cup Noodles were introduced in 1971. Cup Noodle Museum Momofuku Ando Cup Noodle Museum historyCup Noodle Museum historyAndo’s last invention and lifelong dream invention was Space Ramen–instant noodles that could be eaten in space. (They are thinner so they cook quickly and have a thicker broth that won’t float around as easily.) Cup Noodle Museum historyIt was fun to see the annual consumption of Cup Noodle around the world. Cup Noodle Museum historyCup Noodle Museum history, Momofuku Ando's obituaryAndo passed away in 2007. (Isn’t the drawing sweet?) I loved reading the New York Times obituary. Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleCup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleIn the next part of the museum, we got to make our own Cup Noodles. (It was an extra ¥300, so less than $3US.) There were stations set up in another huge room where you could decorate your cups. (I’ll share ours tomorrow, but we didn’t go too crazy with the decorating!) Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodle Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleNext, the Cup Noodle guy sanitized our cups and we each turned a crank that and added a block of noodles to our cups. Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleThen we got to choose from four different soup flavors and twelve different toppings to personalize our cups of ramen.Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleThe guy seemed excited about my choices, but now I’m not so sure: spicy tomato soup flavor, scallions, corn, cheese, and little bird wafers (I can’t remember what they are). Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleCup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleNaoto played it safe: chicken soup flavor, ham, bacon, corn, and little bird wafers.

Then our cup noodles went through a machine that sealed the tops on and shrink wrapped the cup. (Please enjoy my mediocre video.)

“Noodle Day” was definitely one of my favorites on our trip. I really left the Cup Noodle Museum feeling thoughtful about failure and age and invention. Ando’s determination to turn his life around and his success at midlife was really inspiring. Momofuku Ando said, “It is never too late to do anything in life.” and I couldn’t agree more.

Do you eat Cup Noodle? Have you ever tried the spicy tomato flavor?

*We’ve slowed down our instant noodle eating because it’s not the healthiest diet (though Ando supposedly ate it every day for his whole life and he lived to be 96), but we still enjoy a cup now and again.

P.S. This bit about the Cup Noodle Mascot shoveling snow made me smile.

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: The Shinyokohama Ramen Museum

Shinyokohama Ramen Museum, insideNaoto had one wish for our trip–to go to the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, a “food amusement park” in Yokohama. Since we’ve been on our Naoberly’s Noodle Tour, I was almost as excited as he was to try different varieties of ramen. ramen by region,  Shinyokahama ramen museum ramen strainers, Shinyokahama ramen museum ramen bowls, Shinyokahama ramen museumThese three pictures pretty much represent the “museum” part of the Ramen Museum. Actually, the museum part is smaller than the gift shop! But the real purpose of going to the museum is to treat yourself to different varieties of ramen. Two floors below street level, there is an old fashioned “neighborhood” featuring the best ramen shops from all across Japan. (Shown in the top picture.) ramen menu, Shinyokahama ramen museumOutside each shop, there’s a ticket machine where you choose your ramen, any extra toppings, and drinks. You pay at the ticket machine and when you sit down, the servers take the tickets and serve up your order. Museum rules dictate that each adult must order one bowl of ramen at each place he dines. Thankfully, the shops all offer a “smaller” bowl of ramen (in addition to a regular-sized bowl), so you can try a few different types. Sadly, though, even that small bowl of ramen was too much for me. Kumamoto style ramen, naoto's bowl, Shinyokahama ramen museum Kumamoto style ramen, kimberly's bowlWe started at Komurasaki, which serves Kumamoto-style ramen. Naoto had a traditional tonkotsu ramen with added pork and eggs (pictured first) and I had the King’s Ramen with fire roasted garlic with added pork and corn. Kumamoto style ramen, naoto Kumamoto style ramen, kimberlyIt really was delicious! Aaaaaand that was the only bowl I ate! IMG_2819After the first ramen shop, we sat at a table in the bar area and had drinks. Naoto had an Orion beer on tap (which is apparently a big deal since you can’t find Orion on tap around here) and I had a Okinawan citrus cocktail, which may have been the best thing I drank during this vacation.postcard writing, Shinyokahama ramen museum While Naoto moved onto another ramen shop, I stayed at the bar and wrote some postcards. Shina Soba-ya ramen, Shin Yokohama ramen museum Shina Soba-ya ramen, Shin Yokohama ramen museumNaoto went to Shina Soba-ya (where I could see him eating from my postcard-writing station!) and had not only another bowl of ramen, but spare ribs, too! Okinawan style ramen, Shin-Yokohama Ramen MuseumAfter walking back upstairs and spending some time (and money) in the gift shop, we went back down to try one last bowl of ramen. We went to an izakaya and had Okinawan-style ramen (and another Orion beer and another citrus cocktail!). It was really simple but tasty and it had the thickest noodles of any ramen I’d had before.

I highly recommend the Ramen Museum for an afternoon full of noodle fun! I have a few more Naoberly’s Noodle Adventures to share with you soon!

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Oiistar

Oiistar Ramen oiimen ramenI’m behind in my ramen reporting! We tried Oiistar back in February, before we went to Furious Spoon. Oiistar gets really good reviews from food writers in Chicago and it’s made it on several “best ramen in Chicago” lists. It was the first ramen shop in the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood. It definitely has a “hipster feel” to it, for better or for worse. It’s casual and there are individual tables, a counter, and communal seating to choose from. The owner describes his menu as having French and Italian influences, and you can definitely see that in the menu along with some Chinese and Korean. Oiistar RamenThere are old black & white Looney Tunes cartoons projected onto the wall and the music is old school and loud (but not too loud.) It was freezing and snowy the night we went, so we were both in the mood for a hot bowl of noodles. We started with drinks and I will just say this: my review of this restaurant may be unfairly colored by what you are about to seeOiistar Ramen embarrassing mason jar glassMy drink, the house-made sangria, was served in a mason jar glued to a candlestick. This thing was enormous and clunky and just plain embarrassing. It was so top-heavy that I kept thinking it was going to fall over and spill everywhere. And it stood up so high on the table that it almost blocked my view of Naoto! Everything else in the restaurant was normal…I just have to wonder what in the world the restauranteur was thinking when he chose to serve his (perfectly delicious) sangria in this monstrosity. Oiistar Ramen, baoOkay…back to the food. We ordered buns as appetizers. They arrived at our table with our ramen, which was a huge bummer because it was impossible to enjoy both at the same time, as ramen noodles are best when eaten right away. Pictured above is the Tempura Shrimp bun, which is a fried shrimp with chili mayonnaise, fennel slaw, and sesame seeds on a Chinese-style bao bun. It was delicious and something I would order again if we venture back here.

For ramen, I got the oiimen (pictured at the top) with pork belly, egg, scallion, mushrooms, spicy oil, and garlic. Naoto got the kimchee ramen. The ramen was solid, but the texture of the noodles didn’t wow me. They are made in-house, which is supposed to be a huge plus. All of the other ramen places we had tried until that point have them shipped in from Sun Noodle. (In the meantime, Furious Spoon opened with their own homemade noodles and, after eating Furious Spoon’s noodles, I think Furious’s noodles are better.) But the flavors and the pork and the soft boiled egg in Oiistar’s ramen were delicious.

I would love to go back and try some of their salads and snacks. They offer a bruschetta topped with pickled shrimp, fennel, balsamic and olives that sounds intriguing enough for a repeat visit. I just won’t be ordering another ridiculous sangria.

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