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Tsukemen Gonokami Seisakusho 五ノ神製作所1/3
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
Morris2/3
Tsukemen Michi3/3
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Best tsukemen in Tokyo

Not all ramen are served in soup. Tsukemen, or dipping noodles, are equally popular and these restaurants serve the best in town

By Kaila Imada
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Tsukemen means ‘dipping noodles’ in Japanese. The noodles and broth of this ramen are served in separate bowls and you simply dip the former into the latter and happily slurp away. It was invented in Tokyo back in the early ’60s by chef Kazuo Yamagishi; other tsukemen restaurants soon sprung up and the variety grew. Today, you can also find dipping udon and soba.

Tsukemen noodles tend to be on the thicker side while the broth is a lot more concentrated in flavour and not as diluted as the typical ramen broth. Some restaurants will even offer hot water to turn your dipping broth into a soup once you’ve finished your noodles. You can usually choose to have the noodles hot or cold, making it an ideal year-round treat.

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Dip 'n slurp

Tsukemen Gonokami Seisakusho 五ノ神製作所
Tsukemen Gonokami Seisakusho 五ノ神製作所
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Tsukemen Gonokami Seisakusho

Restaurants Ramen Shinjuku-Sanchome

Located behind Shinjuku's Takashimaya department store, this hugely popular tsukemen restaurant has hungry customers lining up an hour before the opening time, especially on weekends. The ebi (shrimp) tsukemen is the hero here – unlike regular ramen, this is eaten by dipping thick, chewy noodles into a hot, dense soup made with a heavy helping of shrimp. There are a few variations on the theme, including ebi miso tsukemen and the more daring ebi tomato tsukemen.

Tsukemen Michi
Tsukemen Michi
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Tsukemen Michi

Restaurants Ramen Katsushika

There's always a queue for the tsukemen at Kameari's Michi, and it sure ain't due to some passing fad: this is a traditional, greasy variety combining tonkotsu and seafood soups to great effect. Despite the high fat content, the soup tastes mild, almost sweet, and refined. The noodles are thick and fluffy, and can be ordered in quantities up to 400g. Toppings range from the standard (egg, chashu pork) to the peculiar (look out for the 'daily specials'), so go ahead and mix freely. This is a dish every tsukemen enthusiast should try at least once.

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Menya Ittou
Menya Ittou
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Menya Ittou

Restaurants Japanese Shin-Koiwa

This ramen chain has gained a devoted following for its signature tsukemen, which is served with a seafood and chicken broth. The soup is rich and packed with flavour without being too oily or salty, and is complemented with chicken meatballs, menma, negi (Welsh onion) and green onions. The thick noodles, on the other hand, are perfectly al dente and are topped with an ajitsuke tamago, two types of char siu (chicken and pork), plus a slice of marinated pork. It’s generous and hearty.

Morris

Restaurants Japanese Itabashi

This Itabashi joint is worth the trek for its unusually light yet flavourful dipping broth. It’s made with both tonkotsu (pork) and fish, giving it a well-rounded flavour that’s neither too meaty nor too fishy. The homemade noodles have a good consistency, and coupled with the thin slices of char siu (roast pork), menma (bamboo shoots) and ajitsuke tamago (marinated soft-boiled egg), it’s a bowl you’ll relish till the last drop.

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Fu-unji

Restaurants Ramen Yoyogi

This is the place to go for tsukemen in Shinjuku. The double soup, made with chicken and fish, is thick and creamy and goes perfectly with the noodles. Although the sauce is thick, it does not feel overly heavy, which explains the amount of repeat customers and consistently long queues both day and night.

Warito

Restaurants Ikejiri-Ohashi

Ramen or tsukemen? The battle between noodle clans rages on in Tokyo, and many of those pledging allegiance to the dipping variety consider Meguro's Warito their greatest ally in the fight. Adhering to the orthodox ways of tsukemen, pioneered by Ikebukuro's Taishoken, these guys prepare a pork-and-seafood 'double soup' that goes along with their springy noodles. Portions are hearty, and you can ask for more noodles at no extra cost – great for big eaters. Because the noodles are kept cold to retain their superb texture, they cool the soup as you eat; ask for a yaki-ishi (hot stone) when you feel the need to add heat.

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Tsukemen Tetsu

Restaurants Ramen Sendagi

The Tetsu chain is one of the shops that helped spark a tsukemen (dipping noodles) boom in Tokyo, with queues often forming in front of this eatery – the chain's first outlet – during peak hours. The noodles are made from both bread flour and udon flour, while you can pick either a chicken-based or a pork-and-seafood-based broth.

Rokurinsha

Restaurants Ramen Shinagawa

This famed tsukemen spot continues on the tried-and-tested path of pork- and seafood-based 'double soup' dipping noodles, a now-common style said to have been pioneered here. The creamy soup goes perfectly with the extra-thick noodles, made exclusively from domestic wheat, and the dried fish powder topping brings out additional marine flavours. Our only gripe is with the appearance – these fellows aren't exactly plating experts, it seems. If you're not near Shinagawa, try their other location in Tokyo Station's Ramen Street. 

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ajito ism
ajito ism
Photo: Lim Chee Wah

Ajito Ism

Restaurants Japanese Oimachi

Whether noodles are a Chinese or Italian invention, it doesn’t matter at Ajito Ism: here, the ramen, which is Chinese in origin, has been reinvented with Italian flavours. The tsukemen noodles are unmistakably ramen – thick, chewy and slightly doughy – but cooked al dente like the best of pasta. They are slicked with chilli and basil oil, garnished with specks of spring onions and fried shallots, and topped with baby spinach leaves, grated cheese and tomato cubes. We’d gladly eat this on its own, if not for the superior tomato-based dipping broth. Made with vegetables, pork back fat and seafood dashi, the thick broth has a meatiness that lends some depth to the sweet and tart tomatoes.

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