posted by Jonathan
I guess I'll keep on ramblin'. This is Jonathan at Sakura Hotel Ikebukuro.
I am of the impression that ramen has already become ubiquitous enough that it needs no explanation. As I understand it, there are even full on ramen shops outside of Japan (although you'll have to forgive my skepticism about the quality). I also expect that there are quite a few people who know about the various varieties that are available, like tonkatsu, miso, and etcetera.
What do these various varieties of ramen have in common? Soup and noodles of course. But what if you just cut one of those two basic ingredients? To my knowledge, no one has ever tried noodle-less ramen, but the soup-less version does in fact exist. Today let's talk about abura soba (油?そば).
I haven't bothered to research the genesis of this delicious variation, but I do eat it every now and then. Here is a sample from a store very near to the hotel.
On the left is the ramen itself (although this picture does not do justice to the size of my portion). On the right is a vegetable toppping I ordered along with it. There are all manner of toppings you can get, from egg, to extra meat.
The ramen itself is just noodles, meat, vegetables, and flavored cooking oil. You mix the ramen when you get it to coat the noodles. Veteran eaters often add vinegar and a red colored spicy oil (called ra-yu in Japanese (ラー油)) to their own liking. COndiments of course vary from store to store, with some providing things like garlic (I remember one store with a sign that said "We don't recommend this condiment for customers on a date.).
This the front of the store (called "Choji"). It's between our hotel and the west gate of Ikebukuro Station.
What this flag is advertising is the fact that for 680 yen, you can get your serving at normal size, big size, and extra big size. The portion I got above was the extra big option, and after I finished, I badly needed to take a walk to stave off food coma.
There are actually a couple of restaurants that specialize in abura soba near the west gate. Here are two more places that I tried and enjoyed.
This one is the closest to the station's west gate. You can tell they mean business, because they named the store after the food that they serve. That's right. This store is called ABURA SOBA. Like Choji, they let you choose the size.
And here is the other place I've gone, which is also pretty good, although I don't remember the same generous options on portion size being available.
So there you have it. Maybe if you're visiting Japan, and looking forward to trying some real ramen, you might consider abura soba as a fun alternative. As with any food, there are restaurants that do it well, and others that do it not so well. If you want to try it in the Ikebukuro area though, I would recommend any of these 3 stores.
Anyway, that's all for this time. Thanks for reading!
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