Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Tag Archives: egg

Japan, Tokyo 2011-12: Ichiran Ramen

Ramen.

It’s the one dish to nuke your diet so far out of the water you’re going to need binoculars to see where it went.

It’s the one dish that, in my opinion, throws the entire Japanese diet into disequilibrium – one that most would consider the epitome of health and longevity. Ramen singlehandedly manages to shake all preconceived notions of the Japanese diet. It seems to exist to be a reminder that, underneath the glimmer and rosy-hued tint of squeaky cleanliness, an oddity lies, quite like Tonkatsu and Curry Rice, but none more sinful.

I shall call it the Japanese Paradox – inspired from the French Paradox (of a diet high in saturated fats but a lifespan among the top ten in the world).

Think about it. It’s a paradox! It’s baffling! The only ingredients that look remotely like dietary fibre in a bowl of ramen are the slivers of spring onions. That’s all! There should be a fourth level to the food pyramid, above all the sugary, fatty criminals. Ramen should be there – at the top.

But then there is Ichiran. And all I can say is thank heavens it’s all the way in Japan or I would bugger off the side of a building in self-despair and wanton gluttony.

I’m only saying this because, if Ichiran didn’t exist, keeping Ramen up there wouldn’t require much discipline. There just isn’t any other ramen that would make me tell my reasonable eating habits to have a vacation and never come back.

So, the usual situation: Freezing cold weather, and the prospect of having piping hot soup blipping away in the tummy.

The poison of choice: Ichiran Ramen.

I had it on my list, but with no address and barely any research on it. So when we stumbled across it on the way to Harajuku, we immediately spun around and made the detour up its steps at 11.30am before the lunch crowd poured in.

Now there is a process to Ichiran, but it’s not too difficult. Trust me.

1. Vending Machine: Choose your ramen, and any additional toppings you wish to have. (Please pick the tamago (egg). It was to die for.) Slot in your money, collect your ticket, and head on inside.

2. Direction Board of Vacant Seat (it is named as such, do not mock it): Check the board for seat vacancies. Green lights indicate vacant seats. Red indicates occupied seats.

3. Cubicle: Yes, you have a cubicle, do behave. You may unfold the partitioning if you must see your dining partner. Customise your ramen with the order sheet. Ask for an English one if it is not given to you.  Choose your Flavour Strength, Richness, Garlic, Green Onion, Roast Pork Fillet, Secret Sauce (chilli), Noodle’s Tenderness. I would recommend one full clove of garlic, and firm noodles. Cross your fingers with the chilli. I liked mine Regular.

4. Hand Order Sheet Over To The Disembodied Hands Behind Your Screen: There are wait staff scuttling back and forth behind the screens. If that unsettles you, the appearance of your bowl of ramen should appease you.

I loved every bit of my bowl of ramen. It had one of the best – if not the best – creamy tonkatsu-based broths I have tasted. My noodles came completely submerged in a generous portion of spicy soup. I was tearing and sniveling, and was probably a hideous sight to behold, but that’s what the partitions in your cubicles are for. They will not, however, give you privacy from the chorus of slurping all over the restaurant, so as with any other choir, you are expected to contribute to the chords.

Also, the tamago is served separate from the ramen, and still in its shell. I will let the picture speak for itself.

I was surprised that you can get additional noodles (buttons to order more are at your cubicle), but if you’re like me and found the broth absolutely divine, then you would have practically inhaled all of it. They do not give you additional broth, unfortunately. I polished off my bowl, and let me tell you that I do not polish off bowls of noodles. Ichiran was an experience of many firsts. I could rave, but I shan’t. Needless to say, this is ramen you mustn’t miss – not even on pain of death – when you’re in Tokyo.

Waddling out of the restaurant full and replete, we smugly squeezed past the snaking queue into the cold, stumbling down steps and feeling mightily invincible with the furnace in our bellies. Like I said previously, you can’t have this daily. Because feeling this luxurious every day would render the mysterious Japanese paradox void, and just be boring ol’ reality instead.

Ichiran Ramen

Address: Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan

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Tokyo, Japan 2011-12: Toritsune Shizendou – The Holy Grail of Oyakodons

 

There are worse things in life than a writer’s block – physical pain, for instance.

But while I am sure that physically throwing myself at a wall (repeatedly) would feel infinitely more excruciating than the mental equivalent of encountering the dreaded writer’s block, life sucks anyway.

Clearly I’m not going to be able to spit out a beatific ode to Dario Cecchini, butcher extraodinaire, and the gorgeous Italian meats we had in Chianti anytime soon, so I better kick start my other posts lest I crumble in self-pity and shrivel up in a corner.

Where were we? Right, Japan.

I know that it has been about eight months, but let’s rewind to the start of the year, the fourth of January in Tokyo, where shops and restaurants still threatened to remain closed from the New Year festivities. It was a time of great uncertainty, and the fear that Toritsune Shizendou would be closed was very, very real.

Their Oyakodon was highly praised by The Dirty Stall, and he had all but ordered me to find it because it was that good. He also ordered me to traipse all over Tokyo in search of other things, like Toriki, but I suppose it should suffice that I even managed to find Toritsune Shizendou.

The girls and I did find it, going around buildings in the morning chill, slipping through a deserted alley and stopping outside its shuttered door. Amidst worrying about the possibility of it opening, a Japanese businessman calmly strode up to the door, and stood with his hands in his pockets, staring straight ahead at the wooden sliding door, unmoving, and resolute in stance. That was as good an indication as we could get. We also, obviously, got sniped from being the first customers.

While we were the second customers through the door on the dot at 11am, the restaurant very quickly filled up, first with the locals, and then with a handful of other tourists, walking in bleary eyed and having to wait in line.

The menu is entirely in Japanese, but we knew that we wanted the Tokujo Oyakodon (¥1,600), a large bowl of rice topped with an omelette with chicken strips and the runniest eggs of a blinding, vibrant orange. I am not adept at Japanese, unfortunately, so for a better description of the other dishes, this blogger does a thorough job of it. By ‘thorough’, I really mean Eaten-Every-Single-Thing-On-The-Menu-Because-I-Can.

We weren’t seated at the counter, but the tiny table in our quiet corner yielded an excellent view of the chef at work, effortlessly handling at least three individual pans of omelette at a time on high flame, cracking eggs and lightly whipping them up before sliding it deftly into a bowlful of rice and serving.

What you get from the moment your bowl is set down in front of you is a moist omelette of chicken, scallions, sweet dashi, soy sauce, and gorgeous eggs with their yolks literally running all over the place, soaking into the rice, staining it a bright, oozy orange. It took about five seconds of revered silence on my part as I watched the yolks trickle out before face-diving in all my glory.

The eggs are what make this dish. I’m not sure what chickens they came from, but I’m guessing they must have been very happy chickens. Those eggs are a wonder of nature. To be reasonable, I don’t doubt that there is someplace else with oyakodon so sublime that will top this. I’m not certain, but all I’m saying is that there may be. In the spectrum of things, there are such leeways, but whatever the case, this is the best oyakodon – a shining example of a humble dish done well – I’ve ever had.

Take my advice and googlemap/googleman the address, just so it’s easier to find.

 Address:

鳥つね自然洞 (Toritsune Shizendou)
5-5-2, Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku

Caramelized Onions and Bacon Pasta

Caramelized Onions and Bacon Pasta

I’ve been having something of a writer’s block lately. It’s crippling. There’s nothing worse than a backlog of posts and pictures to share of what I’ve been gorging myself with the past couple of weeks to remind me just how bad things can get when my muse runs out the door. But nevermind that, because here’s what I gorged myself with for lunch on Tuesday.

Eggggg.

Old as it may sound, the fancy meals I sometimes (ahem..rarely) whip up are because there’s some kind of complaint in the household. I don’t cook for myself, in fact, you don’t want to know the kinds of things I eat if I’m left to fend for myself for a meal. So it’s only when there’s some potential disharmony brewing under the roof, you know, things like “Why are we having boring steamed chicken again?”, “Can have some else or not ahhhhhhh”, or perhaps “I want pasta but I don’t want this kind of pasta” (and one is supposed to practice some form of divination to figure out what pasta the brother wants, or better yet, what he doesn’t know he wants but will like) But no matter. If there’s anything that will always be a crowd pleaser, it’s the coupling of caramelized onions and crisp bacon. ‘Nuf said.  Read more of this post

Hatched

Hatched

I do plenty of silly things now and then, and lately, I’ve run out of excuses for the mindless things I’ve done.  It’s like there’s some missing link between my thought processes that my brain just skips without realising.

I have no excuse for dining at an egg-inspired all-breakfast place and not ordering anything to do with eggs.

Really. Don’t bother waiting for my explanation because I have none.

I wasn’t thinking. (Haven’t been doing that for a while, and…wait, is that considered an excuse? Shrugs.)

So I returned to Hatched to redeem myself. Read more of this post

The Roti Prata House

Kaya Bomb Prata

When I was a little tyke, Sunday mornings were spent at Lakeview market, tearing up bite-sized pieces of prata with my bare hands, plunging each into a mound of sugar before stuffing my face with glorious amounts of dough and ghee. But ever since they razed Lakeview market (and left the land desolately empty and barren for more than a decade, presumably for another MRT station or something, although that’s what they always say…), the only other prata place that my family would make the effort to go to is the one at Jalan Kayu.

We don’t really go for prata anymore, anywhere. But sometimes, on the very rare occasion that I get slapped with the crushing and unrelenting yearning for FCB (Fried, Crispy Bread, essentially any kind of dough that gets deep-fried, pan-fried, grilled, roasted, toasted…and not some new acronym-ed vulgarity), I cannot sit still till I find some for my stomach. My brain will not let up on sending life-and-death, SOS signals for copious amounts of Fat and Carbohydrates till it gets it. There’s no fooling thy brain, if that’s one thing I’ve learnt. No amount of gnawing on raw carrots and chomping on apples is going to work. Nope. Just give in, and then spend the next day gnawing on raw carrots and chomping on apples. Read more of this post

The Handburger

The Handburger

The first thing that struck me when I surveyed the restaurant after sitting down on one of its canteen-like benches was the sheer irony of its name. 

See, I’d expected patrons to be eating with their hands, regardless of this being a gourmet burger joint or not because in my opinion, by integrity of the act of eating burgers alone, one is expected to exercise the use of hands at some point. So the pun in its name really has no more of a purpose other than to draw out the bizarre incongruity between it and the actual dining experience. 

Because no one was using their hands at all. Not a person in sight. 

Mind-boggling, I know. 

But your initial bewilderment will soon dissolve into a sort of amused enlightenment, an ‘Aha!’ moment, as Oprah would say, because the burgers bear as little resemblance to actual burgers as opposed to mini replicas of leaning towers of Pisas…which I found absolutely adorable. 

I find paradoxes, oxymorons and juxtapositions adorable. They tickle me. 

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone then, that I just had to order the tallest, most ambitious of them all. Read more of this post

Ricciotti – 1 for 1 Pizza

Pizza Al Crudo

 

I seem to be having pizza every week now. Which isn’t a bad thing by any means, of course. 

For a self-proclaimed bread fanatic, this is pretty much a given. As long as something required yeast in the making, I’ll be all over it like a plague of locusts that would put Moses’ to shame. 

Alright, so that wasn’t the most flattering of similes. But really, if you don’t like pizza, well…who are you?! 

So tell me you could skip merrily by a restaurant signboard, boasting a not-so-modest chalked scrawl of ‘1-for-1 Pizza’ and I’ll instantly drop all previous allegations. I promise. 

I’m talking about a restaurant from the Garibaldi group of restaurants (aka Italian Food Done The Proper, Respectable Way). I’d pick this over Canadian 1-for-1. 

Read more of this post