Mr Sato takes us on a dance with the devil, but will this turn out to be a sweet memory? 

Valentine’s Day in Japan is a celebration of chocolate, and in recent years ramen chain Kourakuen has been joining the celebrations with a limited-time treat on the menu: Chocolate Ramen.

Lovers of chocolate can be a discerning bunch, though, so for this year’s iteration of the sweet noodles, Kourakuen has teamed up with confectionery giant Lotte for a release that’s said to be even more flavourful than ever before.

▼ We decided to be the judge of that, so our Japanese-language reporter Mr Sato headed down to his nearest branch for a taste test as soon as the new ramen was released.

▼ There are two types of chocolate ramen on the menu: the Devil’s Chocolate Ramen (left) and the Angel’s White Chocolate Ramen (right).

Because this is a tie-up with Lotte, customers who order the new noodles are able to receive a free sticker, just like the ones included with Lotte’s Bikkuriman chocolates. These stickers, however, are exclusive to Kourakuen, and tie in with the original Akuma (“devil”) vs Tenshi (“angel”) sticker series which debuted in 1985 and went on to became phenomenally popular.

These seals are still popular today, as the ramen chain had a special offer where customers who ordered both the devil and the angel bowls would receive a special Pink Zeus sticker. Limited to ten per store, these had already been snapped up by customers, despite Mr Sato arriving at midday, just four hours after the offer began.

▼ “Remaining Pink Zeus stickers: 0”

Mr Sato had grown up collecting the stickers as a young boy at school, so he was pleasantly surprised to discover they were still so popular. There was a part of him that wanted that Pink Zeus sticker, though, so with the same tinge of disappointment as a child discovering a common sticker in their Bikkuriman, he took a seat at the counter and ordered the Devil’s Chocolate Ramen. 

▼ The “Super Devil” sticker he received after ordering wasn’t all bad.

After a short wait, Mr Sato’s devil sticker was joined by the Devil’s Chocolate Ramen. The broth was an unusually dark colour that made it look like beef stew, but this was actually the chain’s famous soy sauce ramen, slightly altered with the addition of cocoa oil.

▼ While the familiar toppings of char siu and green onions were there, Mr Sato spotted a dash of grated ginger and a square of chocolate on top as well.

▼ Lowering his head to the bowl, he could make out the faint scent of cacao, suggesting this would be a very sweet ramen experience.

However, when he took a sip of the broth, Mr Sato was pleased to discover this wasn’t really sweet at all! In fact, he had to take another sip straight away because it tasted like there was no chocolate in it. After the second sip, though, he could definitely taste the cacao flavour, and when he combined it with the ginger, it added more of a flavourful punch, creating a well-rounded, refreshing aftertaste.

▼ The noodles helped to spread the deep flavour of the broth throughout the palate.

Kourakuen is also offering diners the option to add more chocolate to their noodles, with a “chocolate chaser” tube on sale for 100 yen (US$0.96). Mr Sato decided to give this a try to see if it would sweeten the meal, squeezing every bit of the paste out onto his noodles.

▼ He created a pool of chocolate in the middle so he could get a good mouthful of the stuff while he ate.

This time, he dragged a heap of noodles through the sauce to get as much chocolate in his mouth as possible. However, Mr Sato was surprised yet again to find that it still wasn’t nearly as sweet as he thought it would be. Sure, it added another layer of richness to each mouthful, but it was so perfectly balanced he wouldn’t be able to distinguish it as chocolate in a blind taste test.

This is a great ramen Mr Sato recommends trying at least once, because even if you’re not looking for love this Valentine’s Day, there’s a good chance you’ll fall in love with these noodles. Both chocolate ramen varieties are priced at 640 yen and are on the menu at Kourakuen branches around Japan from 28 January to 17 February.

If you prefer to have your ramen to-go in a paper cup, though, there’s a rival waiting in the wings, without the noods, that’s waiting to please you as well.

Related: Kourakuen location list
Images: ©SoraNews24
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