Move over ramen, tsukemen is here! Have your soup on the side and appreciate your noodles in a different light. Lisa Cam dips in and discovers the hottest bowls in town The ‘father of tsukemen’, Tokyo chef Yamagishi Kazuo, sadly passed away on April 2, but he leaves behind a legacy of revolutionising how people eat ramen. Kazuo invented tsukemen, a style of the dish where diners eat their noodles after dipping them into a separate soup. Kazuo came up with the idea in 1954 when he wanted to eat on the job but didn’t want to burn his lips on the hot soup. It’s been a huge hit ever since, and now the trend has been taking hold in Hong Kong. There’s a lot of expertise involved in a bowl of tsukemen – how strong the broth should be in relation to how thick it is, how it clings on to the noodles, what kind of noodles to use – but there are loads of spots in Hong Kong where the dish is done with skill and care. In memory of chef Kazuo, we scour the city and come up with our favourite tsukemen...
This little shop in Wan Chai seats less than 20 people but, boy, the lines are worth it. A designer by trade, owner Hasegawa Shinobu is meticulous about his product. Also serving a normal ramen, it’s the tsukemen here that gets all the attention. The super-strong seafood soup base isn’t overly viscous but it makes up for it in flavour as it clings to your noodles. If the fish taste is too strong for you, don’t worry. You can always ask for the base to be watered down with some hot water. Shop A, 1-19 McGregor St, Wan Chai, 2886 3226; fb.com/tokyoaguraramen.
It’s all about the dippy kind of noodle here at Tsukemen Manaka in Hung Hom. Though it does serve the conventional kind, there are a lot of different soups to dip your noods into. From fish to chicken and beef to traditional pork, there is no shortage of broth here. The soup is thin but the advantage is that you can slurp up the concoction afterwards without feeling gluggy.G/F, On Wah Bldg, Block 2, Whampoa Estate, 20 Man Tai St, Hung Hom, 2815 9991; fb.com/manaka.hk.
Mita Seimen Jo
This is one of the biggest tsukemen openings of the year in our city. Mita Seimen’s offering is the dippy noodle equivalent of Tokyo brand Ippudo’s ramen. There are more than 20 stores in Tokyo and five in Taiwan, but the newly opened outpost in Causeway Bay is the first in Hong Kong. Staying true to its name (‘seimen jo’ translates to ‘noodle factory’), the second storey of the premises makes its tasty tassels fresh every day for the restaurant. Be prepared for almost marshmallowy noodles and a broth that’s thick and hearty, most probably because the chefs here use both chicken and bones in the soup. It all comes together perfectly in a superb Japanese experience. Shop D, G/F, Soundwill Plaza II, Midtown, 1 Tang Lung St, Causeway Bay, 2567 8066.
This joint specialises in spicy dippy noodles from Hiroshima. There’s a hugely variable ‘spice level’ here that ranges from zero to 200, so choose wisely as the price increases the spicier your dish becomes. A level of, say, 150 costs $30 more than level zero. However, we say be brave. Go for the atomic 200 level. You’ll understand the extra cost. Not only are there extra spices involved, the rich flavours also level up to match the heat. This spot recently relocated from Lockhart to Jaffe Road. We implore you to give it a try. Shop 1103, 11/F, United Success Commercial Ctr, 508 Jaffe Rd, Causeway Bay, 2891 1530.
Koku Ryu Ramen
These guys, who specialise in pork bone broth, come to Hong Kong straight from Okinawa. The ramen and the tsukemen are made from the same broth, which is delivered jet fresh every day from Japan, but the dippy version is thicker, with an extra dollop of black sesame sauce. The noodle used is also from Okinawa and has a silky texture which holds on to the liquid perfectly. 29 Swatow St, Wan Chai, 2217 6883; facebook.com/koku-ryu-ramen.
This was one of the first places to bring tsukemen to Hong Kong and its unflagging persistence in making the best quality product is astounding. The noodles are made on the premises. The flour is flown in from Japan. There’s a specially made soy sauce from Ehime prefecture. The sardines are from the Seto Inland Sea. There’s Kumamoto mackerel and kelp from Hokkaido. Basically, every bite is a gem from the Land of the Rising Sun. The rich pork belly broth is also the perfect ratio to the homemade noodles. We suggest you mix any leftover soup with rice if you have any room after the first round. 5 Gough St, Central, 2850 6009; shugetsu.com.hk.
You can tailor your tsukemen experience here. Basically, you pick the type you want, the texture of your noodles and your optional sides and drinks, and write your choices on a piece of paper. Hey presto! Superb tsukemen however you like it. The broth tends not to be too thick here and neither is the noodle, which actually complements the texture as it hits the palate. The thing that sets Fujiyama 55 apart from the rest is the soup, which is kept warm on an induction cooker, leaving every bite warm and satisfying. There are no tepid noodles here... Shop 7-8, G/F, South Sea Ctr, 75 Mody Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2723 7737; facebook.com/fujiyama-go-go.