Hong Kong noodle restaurant’s spicy mixian rice noodles are described as “too delicious to translate into Japanese“.

Hong Kong noodle chain restaurant TamJai SamGor opened its first Japanese branches this April in Tokyo’s Shinjuku and Kichijoji, with another branch set to open in Ebisu in May.

It’s likely that TamJai SamGor, famous for its mixian rice noodles, will be the latest hotspot for food connoisseurs in Tokyo, as the chain is the proud owner of a Michelin Bib Gourmand Award. The Bib Gourmand is an award given to restaurants that serve delicious food at a reasonable price, and TamJai SamGor has received the award for the past three years in a row.

So delicious are their noodles that the chain claims they’re simply “too delicious to be able to translate into Japanese yet”,  so to test this claim, we sent our noodle expert P.K Sanjun to a branch of TamJai SamGor to see if it lived up to all the hype.

He was immediately met with a queue of people waiting to get inside, but while this might seem like a lot of people, fellow foodie and crack reporter Mr. Sato visited the Shinjuku branch on the day that it opened, where over 100 people were queueing to get in.

▼ In comparison, this queue was much more bearable.

The queue meant that P.K. had plenty of time to look at the menu and plan what kind of rice noodle dish he was going to try, but for anyone who hasn’t been to TamJai SamGor, the number of choices available is pretty intimidating. TamJai SamGor’s founder Mr. ‘SamGor’ Tam Chap Kwan believes that the “most important thing is whether customers like it”, and as such all dishes are completely customisable, with six kinds of broth base, twenty-five kinds of toppings, and ten levels of spiciness. With so many options, customers can create their rice noodle dish from one of 1.4 million available combinations.

▼ With so many indescribably delicious options to choose from…

▼ … you’ll need a moment to think about what you want.

Unfortunately, P.K was on the clock and didn’t have time to mull over what he wanted to eat, so he decided to get in touch with the big wigs at TamJai SamGor and ask — what are their most popular dishes back in TamJai SamGor’s homeland of Hong Kong?

The most popular dish is the MalaHot and Numbing‘ soup base, with coriander and beef as toppings. The spice level is customisable, so P.K opted for a level 5. The soup is described on the website as ‘so spicy and numbing it’ll leave you electrified’, and P.K braced his mouth for a spicy explosion.

▼ The ‘Hot and Numbing’ plus toppings (950 yen [US$7.43])

However, the wave of spice never really crashed on his taste buds, and he’d actually managed to drink up all of the soup before his tongue began to tingle. The Hot and Numbing was a slow burn (literally) but it went very well with the smooth, chewy rice noodles. A key ingredient in the Hot and Numbing soup was definitely the coriander, though. Whatever toppings you choose to add to the Hot and Numbing, P.K. strongly recommends you include coriander regardless!

The second most popular dish ordered at Hong Kong branches of TamJai SamGor is the Clear Broth, with pork and fried tofu as toppings. The Clear Broth is ‘delicious and invigorating’, according to the website, and P.K. was in complete agreement. The broth was rich, but not heavy, and had a refreshing aftertaste. In comparison to the ‘Hot and Numbing’ Mala broth, the Clear Broth had a gentle, mild flavour and wasn’t spicy at all.

▼ The ‘Clear Broth’ plus toppings (790 yen)

Some might find the idea of fried tofu as a topping a little boring and bland, but P.K. thought it soaked up the broth excellently. Chicken or maitake mushrooms are also supposed to go great with the Clear Broth, if tofu is not your thing.

The third most popular dish is the Tomato Soup, which is described as ‘sweet, tangy, and appetising’. P.K. added premium beef, Chinese cabbage and kikurage mushrooms (shredded wood ear) as toppings, and chose a spice level of 3 for the broth.

▼ The ‘Tomato Soup’ plus toppings (1,040 yen)

With the addition of tomato in the broth, the burn was even slower and yet more flavourful. The initial mouthful of soup may seem bland and without impact, but P.K. calls it a ‘magical soup’ that will disappear into your stomach before you’ve even realised. The Chinese cabbage topping went very well with the tomato soup, and the mushrooms had a pleasing, crunchy texture.

Like the Clear Broth dish before, the Tomato Soup is very unassuming, but the taste and spice levels become more vivid as time passes.

After tasting the three most popular meals on the menu, P.K. had to admit that it was a lot different than what he had expected it to be. After hearing that TamJai SamGor was a restaurant with roots in Hong Kong, he had expected a more punchy, impactful flavour to the dishes, but instead each dish was a ‘slow but steady’ meal that gradually got more delicious as time passed. He also noticed the distinct lack of any bottles of condiments or spice containers on the tables, showing that TamJai SamGor clearly takes pride in the taste of its broths and feels that they don’t require any additional changes once they hit the table.

TamJai SamGor currently has more than 80 stores in Hong Kong and Singapore, and P.K. predicts the chain will be just as popular in Japan. Right now there are two branches in all of Japan, but if TamJai SamGor’s mixian rice noodles are as delicious as P.K. says they are, no doubt more will pop up soon. Hopefully by then, someone will have invented a word in Japanese adequate enough to describe the deliciousness of the noodles.

Restaurant information
TamJai SamGor /譚仔三哥
3-28-16 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
東京都新宿区新宿3-28-16 1F /2F
Hours: 11:00 a.m. ~10:00p.m.

Related: TamJai SamGor
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