After trying tsukemen or ramen "dipping noodles" at Rokurinsha in Tokyo, I decided that I preferred the regular ramen in noodle soup. I found the tsukemen dipping sauce to be too cloying and the fat, udon like noodles quite heavy. The "umay" or "tiredness" factor kicked in early on in the bowl.
So when I saw this menu board for tsukemen in Ramen Koji in Kyoto station, I was really inclined to pass it by.
But when I saw the sign on the door that said "Yamagishi Tai sho ken" I got all excited.
Yamagishi san is the inventor of tsukemen and his shop Taishoken in Ikebukuro is most famous as the birthplace of this noodle dish.
I had read that Yamagishi san had retired but his name (and presumably his recipe) lives on as one of his apprentices took over the business.
It's a good thing that we passed by this ramen shop in mid afternoon -- the place was almost empty. A few hours later and the lines would be snaking out the door.
I head to the ticket machine and buy our meal stubs.
The waiter by the door shows me the button to press for beer so I am able to get an ice cold mug of Asahi draft.
There are three types of tsukemen that are recommended. I opt for the seafood "rich taste" dipping noodle set.
Mix in this fish powder with the dipping sauce and it imparts a decidedly dashi flavour.
Yamagishi Tai-sho-ken's tsukemen is easily, hands down, the winner over Rokurinsha. The flavour is better and deeper -- more savoury. Although both tsukemen were a bit on the salty side, Yamagishi had an underlying complexity which the other one did not have.
I guess the original is always the better one.
Jay opted instead for the regular dipping set with a soy based broth. It's soupier and seemed lighter. It also seemed closer to the traditional ramen in soup -- perhaps this is what ramen purists would prefer. I also noted that because the sauce is more watery, you can actually drink it -- something you cannot do with the heavier "seafood" sauce.
In addition to this, Jay also ordered a side dish of gyoza which he pronounced as excellent.
This is how I enjoyed Yamagishi Tai-sho-ken's tsukemen. Unlike Rokurinsha, no aprons are available. Since it's so messy to bring the noodles from the dipping sauce to my mouth, I had to practically put my lips to the bowl. At least I kept my beige shirt free of tsukemen stains.
No one would know I had a huge bowl of tsukemen in the middle of the afternoon.