Suddenly, Ramen – Part Deux

The world of ramen should be a nice place, so in order to make up for lashing out last time I’ll focus this post on praising a couple of my favourite noodly entrepots. Well, only one, really.

Muteppou was an incredible find. I stumbled upon it during my not-so-short exile in Osaka. Not physically, though, I found it on Google Maps, which isn’t quite as romantic. Yet little did that change the ultimate outcome of my first visit, which led me to falling in love with the place. After initially locating the venue, I moseyed there only to find a queue of people standing in the street for no apparent reason. I walked past a few times looking like an idiot just to make sure they were doing the exact thing I was frightened of, queuing for my noodles. That was not a euphemism, by the way. I was more curious than hungry at the time so I queued for half an hour and eventually enjoyed slurping the best noodles in my life so far. I left the premises stuffed, burpy and wondering if I would ever feel like going there again. Then I repeated the procedure on the following day. And the day after that.

かため、こってり、ねぎおおめ

My visits to the Muteppou in Osaka were all quite interesting. At the time I had just began getting over my flu, and therefore my nose was slightly less clogged up each day, leading me to gradually get a better taste every visit before eventually going back to Tokyo.

It’s also quite ridiculous that there is exactly one Muteppou in Osaka and one in Tokyo. The one in Osaka was next to my hotel in Nipponbashi, and the one in Tokyo is on the way home from work, in Egota. These cities can’t really be classified as the smallest in the world, either. It’s like winning the tonkotsu-lottery. Twice. I know if something like that did exist, I’d be the first – and probably only – one to participate.

Muteppou offers a tonkotsu broth that is, for lack of a better word, rich. This is partly explained by the restaurant using 300 kilograms of meaty pork bones for broth each day. As you sit at the counter you can observe the huge vats of raw pork bones in their kitchen for kicks. The result of this grotesque amount of bones is that the broth at Muteppou is so thick and rich that it’s far closer to gravy in consistency than to standard ramen broth. And this is not an exaggeration but an objective observation.

The stores function in exactly the same way in both locations. There is a vending machine at the entrance for picking the desired meal. Once you have ticket in hand to submit for your favorite noodle feast you will be asked a question in three parts. The inquiry goes “how would you like it?” and refers to the chewyness of the noodles (katame = al dente / normal / yawarakame = overcooked), the richness of the broth (kotteri = rich / normal / assari = bland) and the amount of spring onions you want thrown in. Because apparently the broth isn’t meaty and greasy enough as is, they also throw some pork back fat on the top for good measure. Exquisite. I’ve found heaven, too bad there’s a queue.

Close-up of spring onions and fat at Egota. Actual noodles are well hidden underneath

My personal favorite and coincidentally the only one I’ve ever tried, the chashuu tonkotsu ramen, costs ¥900 in Osaka and ¥1000 in Tokyo. It includes a large bowl of  meaty pork bone broth, around 12 slices of chashuu (they count them, not me) and a normal serving of noodles. Kaedama (extra serving of noodles) cost ¥100 per serving, or ¥150 with some added chashuu. The taste is exactly the same at both shops, and the advantage of Tokyo is that until now I have not yet encountered a real queue.

In addition, one of the ten-ins at Egota is slightly too enthusiastic and wants to make sure that the gaijin curiosity fully enjoys his meal. He repeats the performance with every customer to some extent, but he actually follows me out in the street every time to ask for feedback on how the broth tasted on that specific visit. I guess the remote location doesn’t really attract foreigners, especially in this day and time. He also seemed quite impressed at my limited knowledge in famous tonkotsu ramen shops as well as flattered by my repetitive praise of their noodles. It would be more difficult for me not to praise them. It is by far the best noodle broth combination I have eaten anywhere. The shop clerk actually asked me if I’m not beginning to get tired of the taste. I retorted that two visits a week is perfect. I can hardly wait for tomorrow.

Ramen.

-Antti

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