Chocolate and matcha green tea aren’t even half of the surprises here.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and for us, that means it’s time to eat ramen. “Wait a minute,” we hear you asking “don’t you guys eat ramen all the time?”

We remorselessly admit to being guilty of that. Valentine’s Day, though, means it’s time for us to eat special ramen…special chocolate ramen!

Popular ramen chain Menya Musashi has an annual tradition of teaming up with Japanese confectioner Lotte to make a chocolate Valentine’s Day ramen. Not ones to rest on their laurels, Menya Musashi’s chefs create a new recipe every year, and this year they’ve really gone all out in making ramen unlike anything we’ve ever eaten before.

Because of the pandemic, this year Menya Musashi is offering its chocolate ramen exclusively through Uber Eats. So we fired up the app and ordered a bowl of the 1,485-yen (US$14.35) noodles. That’s pretty expensive for ramen, but you do also get a bar of Lotte’s flagship Ghana-brand chocolate as part of the bundle.

Our delivery came in a box, almost like it was a little cake. Inside, though, was a bowl, and inside that was some extremely unique looking ramen.

If you’re wondering why there’s so much green, it’s because this year’s chocolate ramen is called the Chaghana. Cha is the Japanese word for “tea,” and the noodles have matcha green tea powder kneaded into them.

But that’s just the start of the surprises that go beyond chocolate on the ingredient list. Taking a look, we could make out two kinds of melty chocolate, shiratama mochi dumplings, mint, nuts, basil, and uzura (quail eggs).

Then there was this indeterminate mass of dark matter. We could tell the outside was covered with chocolate, but what made up the core?

Grabbing a clump with our chopsticks, we popped it into our mouth and were startled to learn that it’s ground pork, like the kind used in tantanmen/dan dan noodles. The combination didn’t taste half-bad, either! The meat flavor is actually the more prominent element here, with the chocolate lending it some sweetness and helping to draw out the salty notes.

Next it was on to the noodles, and once again we were in for a shock.

Sure, it starts off with the pleasantly bitter sensation of matcha, but then…fish?!? Yep, there’s gyofun, a dried fish powder used in some varieties of flavorful ramen, here. But again, the flavors were an oddly successful match, which sort of makes sense when you think about how a cup of hot green tea is the perfect accompaniment for sushi.

Now, by this point you’ve probably noticed that the Chaghana ramen has no broth. That’s because it’s a style of brothless ramen called mazesoba. Maze means “mix,” so you’re supposed to stir everything together with your chopsticks to create its full flavor form.

So how does it taste post-mixing?

Pretty funky.

Let’s take another look at the ingredients here: noodles, two kinds of chocolate, green tea, ground pork, mochi, eggs, nuts, mint, and basil. There’re also two different kinds of pepper flakes, hanayamasho and togarashi, present in liberal quantities.

The result is a like rush hour on your tongue, with all sorts of different sensations crowding the taste bud highway. Or to keep with the Valentine’s Day theme, imagine having a whole bunch of people who’re smitten with you all vying for your affection at the same time. “Pick me! I love you the most!” each one says, and while the attention is in a way exhilarating, you’re also not really able to focus on any individual out of the group throwing itself at you.

Still, there’s no denying that this is a stimulating, memorable experience. Ultimately, it’s more a meal with sweet elements rather than a confectionary with noodles, and the Chaghana is best eaten as lunch or dinner, not dessert. It’s available only between February 11 and 14, in limited quantities from Menya Mushashi’s branches in Tokyo’s Shinjuku, Takadanobaba, Okachimachi, and Kichijoji neighborhoods, with each offering 15 servings per day for those looking for a wild culinary fling.

Related: Menya Musashi
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