Ramen is pretty well-known around the world as a hearty soup of plentiful ingredients. Sure there are variations from country to country, but at the end of the day, it’s all just noodles and broth with the necessary toppings to add character.

At least that’s how it used to be, before one ramen restaurant felt bold enough to reinvent the wheel and take the “men” (as noodles are called in Japanese) out of ramen. But what did they put in place of the lovely noodles that traditionally define ramen?

■ Ratofu
This particular restaurant goes by the name of Tachikawa Mashi Mashi and is considered to be of the Ramen-Jiro-influenced line of new ramen joints. These restaurants are known for their heavily piled-on toppings and bold seasonings. And occasionally, as with Tachikawa Mashi Mashi, they try something completely unique.

On 19 May, Tachikawa Mashi Mashi announced that they would be offering a new service to customers by replacing the noodles in the ramen with tofu for no extra charge. This triggered a string of puzzled comments from followers along with the occasional accusation of blasphemy.

This combination of controversy and food was like a patio lamp to the food-reporting moth who is our own Mr. Sato. So he headed down to Tachikawa Mashi Mashi to see how tofu ramen would fare against its well-established predecessor.

■ Parting the mountain of vegetables
Without knowing beforehand Mr. Sato might have been confused by the button labeled “tofu” with no price listed. However, as the neighboring note showed, this button would grant the pusher a ticket that would allow them to swap the noodles of their ramen for tofu at no extra charge.

And so he ordered a small bowl of ramen…no wait, ratofu. However, when it arrived he wasn’t quite sure what was inside. The were heaps of meat and vegetables in keeping the Ramen-Jiro-influenced shops such as this.

It took a good five minutes of eating before Mr.Sato reached the broth line of the soup.  Still unsure that he actually got tofu, he began poking inside the bowl with his chopsticks and felt something squishy yet firm lining the bottom. After a little more eating, the tofu finally revealed itself in all its soy glory.

■ Was it worth it?
Mr. Sato felt the tofu ramen had its flaws and merits. On the bad side, when one goes for ramen they expect certain experiences such as slurping the noodles up through puckered lips. Without the noodles, it was hard not to feel a little bit robbed of that.

That being said, the tofu had its own tactile pleasure. This particular soup contained a rather large block of Kyoto’s KyoTofu Fujino which had a firmer texture than other tofu. Also in keeping with the Jiro spirit, the tofu was heavily seasoned and flavorful.

It’s difficult to say which was better. Comparing ramen and ratofu is sort of like apples and oranges. In the end, regular ramen probably wins simply because it’s a much more familiar and relatable dining joy.

On the other hand, there is one area where ratofu is far superior to ramen. After polishing off a bowl of ramen it’s generally expected that one feels really full. However, thanks to the lightness of tofu you don’t get that bloated feeling that you might after a big carb-packed wad of noodles.

Usually in a Ramen-Jiro-influenced restaurant, a light eater would be easily overwhelmed by even a small order with all the toppings that are piled on. With ratofu however, it’s possible for anyone to enjoy the taste without busting a gut.

And Mr. Sato says this is why it’s a good idea to check out Tachikawa Mashi Mashi and also a reason that we may see more ratofu in the future.

Restaurant information
Tachikawa Machi Machi / 立川マシマシ
Address: Tokyo-to, Tachikawa-shi, Nishikicho 1-2-16, Urban Hotel 1st floor
東京都立川市錦町1-2-16 立川アーバンホテル1F
Open Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 6 p.m.-1:30 a.m.
Saturday 11 a.m.-1 :30 a.m.
Sunday/Holidays 11 a.m.-midnight

Source: Twitter
Original article by Mr. Sato
Photos: RocketNews24

▼ Tachikawa Mashi Mashi is located in the Ramen Tamakan area of the Urban Hotel surrounded by  three other ramen shops. Make sure you get the right one!

▼ Like many restaurants in Japan, you place orders by purchasing tickets from a machine which you then hand to your server.

▼ “New Service: Change your noodles into tofu!!”

[ Read in Japanese ]