Week Three headlines Nara-based Mushin, one of the most well-regarded shops in all of Japan as it is the tsukemen shop of legendary tonkotsu ramen Muteppo.
We promised to try shops outside of Kyushu for the remainder of the Tsukehaku, but we didn't promise not to try any more delicious, porky tonkotsu, especially when Mushin is bringing out an extra thick bowl of broth.
|Tonkotsu baka ga tsukuru dochokkyu noukou tsukemen (850yen)|
Their special bowl translates to "super thick tsukemen made by tonkotsu fanatics." Tsukemen is normally supposed to be thicker and richer than a typical ramen broth, but Muteppo's broth is already so thick that I had trouble distinguishing Mushin's thick pork sludge from a regular bowl at Muteppo. But Mushin does magic with pork - despite the density, the bowl doesn't feel heavy, largely due to slivers of yuzu peel that accent the soup.
Their homemade noodles are thick and chewy, intended for maximum soup stickiness.
The result is that we are able to eat a bottomless amount of Mushin's umami-rich caloric overload until we explode. Mushin has a sister shop in Tokyo called Mukyoku, which I will definitely be checking out very soon.
Each round allows customers to vote for their favorite bowl, and I immediately cashed in my coin for Mushin's delicious entry.
And immediately regretted it. For I was deceived, as another bowl was made...
In the land of Nagano, in the fires of Shinshu, the dark ramen lords forged in secret a master bowl, to control all others. And into this bowl, they poured their experience, their generosity, and their love for all forms of ramen life. One bowl to rule them all.
|Yorizukushi tsukesoba (850yen)|
Okay, so Kimuzukashi-ya is not the grand dark lord and master of all tsukemen ever made, but it is the most surprising and satisfying of the fest thus far. Their shop name translates to "hard to please," but they are part of a larger ramen group called Bond of Hearts. I was already won over by their name, but this bowl is special.
The flat, silky noodles are specially made for the fest and are somewhere in-between ramen and udon in texture, perfectly equipped to sop up the creamy tori-paitan chicken broth.
But the toppings! Kimuzukashi-ya goes all out with a large piece of sanzoku-yaki - a Nagano specialty that involves deep-frying a chicken thigh. The chicken is slathered with a home-made tartar sauce that is replete with eggs and chopped veggies, which also goes great mixed in with the noodles. Rounding it all out is a pile of green onions and a raw egg.
Kimuzukashi-ya's entry is a hearty and fun bowl, with a range of flavors that we could dip and mix to our hearts' content. I wanted to fish into Mushin's box of votes to withdraw my voting coin and deposit it into Kimuzukashi-ya's box.
Only one more week of tsukemen sampling from across Japan, which makes me sad. Tune in next week for our final installment, where we will sample not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven...okay, actually more like three bowls, but I'm fired up for the NBA season.