Food + Beverage
A popular Japanese noodle shop with outlets on both sides of Victoria Harbour has added Curry Tsukemen and several other dishes to the menu. I check it out with another foodie. What will our verdict be?
The Japanese have a way of importing something from another culture, adapting it, and making it uniquely their own.
A good example is curry, which originally comes from the Indian subcontinent and has become one of Japan’s most popular dishes.
But the curry you find in Japan can actually be quite different from the curries you find in India. When I was living in Japanese many years ago, one of my favourite dishes was steak curry, which is something I’m sure you would never find in India.
It was, basically an American style steak cooked medium rare, which was then chopped into cubes and served with a mild curry sauce on top.
Believe it or not, it was DELICIOUS!!!
So it’s no surprise that Taiko-Ken Maruichi, A Japanese style noodle shop that specializes in Tsukemen – or dipping noodles – would add Curry Tsukemen (HK$68) to the menu.
The spicy yet mild curry complements the rich taste of the pork-based broth, which also has chicken, dried sardine, dried black crab, dashi stock, and various vegetables added to it.
Curry Ramen (HK$88) and Curry Mazesoba (HK$68) are also available. Other new noodle dishes include Salt Ramen, Black Garlic Oil Ramen, and Chilled Chinese Style Ramen.
Salt Tsukemen – using thin noodles, Master Chef Eiichi Tanaka has formulated a new broth using scallop, squid, and dashi stock with the addition of Japanese salt to lighten the flavor. The creation is the most popular dish at the shop in Akabane, Japan (HK$62).
Black Garlic Oil Tsukemen – a richly flavoured broth based on black garlic oil. It is also called black sesame oil because the garlic gets darker after it has been deep-fried several times ($72).
Chilled Chinese Style Ramen – with sour sauce, cucumber, and red ginger, this soothing summer dish is only served from June to August ($68) .
BTW, in case you’re wondering what the difference between tsukemen and ramen is, ramen are noodles served in broth.
Tsukemen are a kind of springy noodles that are served in a separate bowl, and diners dip them into a separate bowl containing broth.
Mazesoba, meanwhile, are dry noodles without the broth. Maze mean “to mix”. Soba means “noodles”. So mazesoba means to mix the noodles.
Usually, there is a sauce hidden beneath the noodles at the bottom of the bowl. So you are supposed to mix the noodles together with the sauce.
How to Order Noodles
The menu is relatively short. Dishes include several types of tsukemen, a few types of ramen, mazesoba, three rice dishes, and several snacks. Plus some toppings …
Start by choosing your noodles. My advice: go for the tsukemen. It’s the specialty of the house. It’s also great if you’re eating with others as it will be easier to share.
- If you’re short on cash, go for the rice dishes. The BBQ Mayonnaise Bowl is only HK$22 and makes a great snack!
If you opt for the tsukemen (or the ramen), decide on the size: normal (200 grams) or large (250 grams) – same price. My advice: go for the large.
With or without green onion? My advice: with green onions. They add kick, and I love the texture.
If you order tsukemen, you can choose either hot or chilled. My advice: depends on the season. Chilled noodles in hot weather, hot noodles in chilly weather.
Now you can add some toppings, which run from HK$8 to HK$15 for a choice of BBQ pork, seaweed, hot spice, BBQ pork belly, bamboo shoots, sliced green onion, marinade egg, and vegetable.
My advice: the hot spice is to die for. Loved the rich, sweet flavor! The bamboo shoots were also nice.
Sauces and Powders
If you are new to Japanese noodles - or Chinese noodles, too, for that matter - there will usually be some sauces on the table.
At a minimum there should be what I think of as the holy trinity of dipping sauces: soy sauce, vinegar, and chili sauce.
It is customary to add vinegar and chili sauce to noodles. Otherwise they might strike you as a bit bland.
When consuming dumplings, it is customary to create a dip using a combination of the three sauces: soy sauce, vinegar, and chili sauce.
Some restaurants will do this for you, often including a bit of ginger.
There might also be some additional sauces, powders, or pastes on the table. At Taisho-ken Maruichi, for example, there is a paste made from minced garlic, sesame oil, and a few other items.
And some dishes will be served with a specific sauce that is designed to complement those specific dishes.
Noodle shops usually have a few side dishes on the menu, and Taisho-ken Maruichi is no exception. I couldn’t resist ordering my favourite: dumplings.
New side dishes on the menu include Bamboo Shoot with Diced BBQ Pork and Diced BBQ Pork and Scallion.
Bamboo Shoot with Diced BBQ Pork
The snack is very popular in Japan for its scrumptiousness and spiciness. The chewy bamboo shoots are flavoured with chilli and sesame oil, adding a delightful touch to the BBQ pork (HK$25).
Diced BBQ Pork and Scallion
Another snack that is served in almost all ramen shops in Japan is Diced BBQ Pork and Scallion. The dish is seasoned with white pepper, sesame oil and chili oil, which is an ideal companion to beer (HK$35)!
Fellow foodie Kaos Lam and I were invited to sample the new dishes. We both agreed that the restaurant represented excellent value. And we would both go back if we were in the neighborhood.
Everything was excellent, but I like strong flavours so I liked the Curry Tsukemen best. I also loved the two new sides dishes, especially the Bamboo Shoot with Diced BBQ Pork.
Taiko-Ken Maruichi – Shop G14, ground floor, Site 4, Whampoa Garden, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 2763-6278.
The restaurant is a short walk from the Whampoa MTR station. There is another outlet in Taikoo Shing on Hong Kong Island.