With fat rye noodles
Tsukemen is a type of ramen modelled after its more illustrious cousin, soba (buckwheat noodles). Soba is the most Japanese of Japanese noodles, and it’s most commonly served cold with a side of soy-flavoured dashi (also cold). Tsukemen is different from soba in that, while the noodles are cold, the broth is hot. Since the broth is meant to be consumed as a dipping sauce and not as a soup (although some places will add a little hot soup to your dip at the end and encourage you to drink it), it’s much more pungent and intense than normal ramen broth. Tsukemen was invented by Kazuo Yamagishi, the owner of Taishoken, one of the more legendary ramen shops in Tokyo. In the last four or five years, tsukemen has taken Japan by storm – there are now shops that peddle tsukemen exclusively.
When I opened Ivan Ramen, I wasn’t a big fan of tsukemen, but I felt compelled to
accommodate its popularity. But my tsukemen never quite came together the way I wanted, and I took it off the menu after a few months. The following year, I went back to the drawing board. I realised that the real joy of tsukemen is that it highlights the noodle. Around the time I started trying again, my flour purveyor sent me a bag of rye flour. Rye is a really interesting flour – incredibly fragrant, and with much less gluten than wheat flour. Of course, it also immediately sent me back to my Jewish childhood, when my mother would buy a fresh loaf of rye bread every Friday for Shabbos.
At this point, I didn’t know anybody who used whole grain flours in ramen noodles.
When I told people I wanted to use rye in my noodles, they warned me not to make a noodle with flecks of grain in it– ‘People will think it’s bugs or dirt’. But the rye gives the noodles a beautiful aroma and more integrity. Five years later, whole grain noodles are everywhere. I’m not suggesting I started the trend, I’m just saying…
Makes 4 servings
© 2021 Ivan Orkin / Ten Speed Press · Reproduced with permission. · Extract taken from Ivan Ramen published by Absolute Press, £20.00, Hardback, Photography © Daniel Krieger
You Will Need
Grind the sesame seeds and chilli flakes in a mortar and pestle until they’re about half the size they started. (Alternatively, you can do this in a food processor, but pulse carefully or you’ll end up with butter.)
Mix the ground seeds and chilli with the katsuobushi salt, pureed garlic, vinegar, honey and shoyu-sofrito tare. Set out four cups or bowls and divide the mixture among them, then divvy up the pork fat.
Distribute the hot soup among the cups or bowls. Whisk each briefly to combine everything.
Pile the chilled noodles on to four separate plates and set a piece of warm chashu on top of each pile. Sprinkle with spring onions. Nestle a halved half-cooked egg on the plate, if you’re using them.
To eat, dip some noodles into the soup and slurp them up.