Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ramen shop Aji-Q

On May 16th, hubby and I had gone to Akita city to do some shopping. While returning back home, hubby was in mood for a long drive and I wished to see Japan Sea. So hubby took national highway route 07 that runs parallel to Japan Sea. We usually use Nihonkai Tohoku expressway to travel to and fro Akita city as it is more convenient and less time consuming. This expressway road started in Akita prefecture about two years ago, portions of which run parallel to route 07 through much of Yurihonjo city. But once in a while we use route 07 too.

It was a very sunny and clear day and we enjoyed viewing Japan Sea all the way from Akita city to our home. As we approached Yurihonjo city, we saw a big and very colorful signboard at the city entrance welcoming people to the city. Hubby joked that the signboard was so colorful probably because Akita prefecture is covered with snow for almost five months, and such colorful signboards bring a bit of color to the otherwise uniformly white monotonous surroundings during winter!
A colorful signboard at Yurihonjo city entrance

On national highway route 07, a ramen shop named Aji-Q is located somewhere roughly midway between Akita city and our home. Ramen shop Aji-Q is a chain-shop selling various kinds of ramen noodle dishes. The branch name of this particular ramen shop was Aji-Q Nihonkai-ten (Nihonkai branch) and was located in Yurihonjo city limits. We had an early dinner in this shop.
Ramen shop Aji-Q Nihonkai-ten

I ordered tan-tan men and hubby ordered miso ramen set. I love tan-tan men, the Japanese way of making an originally Chinese noodle dish called dan-dan mein. Dan-dan mein noodles is a Chinese Szechuan cuisine which has a spicy sauce containing preserved vegetables, chili oil, Szechuan peppers, pork, and scallions served over noodles. On the other hand, tan-tan men is a ‘noodle-in-soup’ style dish with hot and spicy chili taste soup. It is said to be brought to Japan by a legendary Chinese chef named Chen Kenmin, the Father of Szechuan cuisine in Japan.
Aside from the spiciness, tan-tan men of Aji-Q ramen shop also had an original and great nutty flavor that permeated the thick concentrated pork & chicken broth with rich sesame sauce. The noodles matched the soup almost perfectly and had the right texture. The toppings of ground pork, marinated half-boiled egg (hanjuku tamago in Japanese), and Shanghai cabbage (chingensai in Japanese) were delicious and as important as the noodle itself. Tan-tan men got its blood red color from a thin layer of concocted chili oil. This noodle dish had just the right amount of spiciness and was a delight to eye and palate. There is nothing like a steaming hot bowl of tan-tan men and its good rich broth to lift my spirits. It is an awesome and ultimate comfort food for me. I nearly licked the bowl clean.
Tan-tan men

Miso ramen is a uniquely Japanese ramen, which was originally developed in Hokkaido around 45 years back. Miso ramen of Aji-Q ramen shop had a perfect blend of miso paste and the broth with secret Aji-Q ingredients, which created a thick, nutty, mellow, and slightly sweet soup. The broth had a tangy flavor with a variety of flavorful toppings like sweet corn, leeks, bean sprouts, cabbage, wakame seaweed, menma (a Japanese condiment made from dried bamboo), white pepper, and chopped garlic. Noodles were curly and slightly chewy. Miso ramen with all the ingredients and toppings had a correct balance of quality, flavor, and texture that satisfied hubby’s palate. A bowl of rice and pickles (tsukemono in Japanese) served along with miso ramen was just the right amount of food for hubby’s dinner. Of course, we tried and tasted each other’s dishes too.
Miso ramen

Miso ramen and rice set

Hubby drinking soup of miso ramen

Hubby eating miso ramen

Hubby and I had a filling, delicious, and very satisfying comfort food for dinner. Later we watched the sunset over Japan Sea. We were too absorbed watching the sunset and forgot to take a photo of the wonderful scenery. However, we took the following photo probably 20-30 minutes before the sunset. After watching the sunset, we drove back home.
Scenic view of sun setting over Japan Sea


Anima said...

I miss it.
The taste of sesame seed paste...just yummy.
I didn't know it was brought to Japan by Chen Kenmin. He was a great chef. He also introduced Mapo-Dofu to Japan, as long as I remember.
I like his son, Chen Kenichi as well. He is a character, known as a celebrity chef.
Am planning to go back to Japan for a week in July, and am so looking forward to eating ramen there!

Ερμής said...

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Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Anima for your comment. Yeah, the best part of tan-tan men is sesame seed paste. I just love the taste.

I did not know about Chen kenichi. Thanks for the information. It seems both father and son have introduced a lot of Chinese dishes in Japan but superbly modified for the Japanese palate.

And you must be missing tan-tan men. Have a lot of your comfort foods when you come to Japan in July.