We thought we knew everything that was on the menu, but there was one dish that surprised us. 

Ringer Hut is a Japanese fast-food chain that specializes in Nagasaki-style chanpon (sometimes spelled “champon”), a Chinese-influenced dish of mixed noodles, vegetables, and broth, as well as sara-udon, crispy noodles topped with seafood and vegetables.

▼ A typical order at Ringer Hut

Our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun has always appreciated how Ringer Hut sticks true to its values with a fairly standard menu of its most popular dishes. However, he couldn’t help wondering whether there was some kind of hidden gem that he was missing out on by always ordering the same things. He decided to test this theory by taking a similar cue from our team’s tendency to ask taxi drivers where the best places to eat local dishes are while traveling. This time, he would ask the restaurant staff what their typical go-to orders are for themselves and follow their advice.

Now, this could be a tricky strategy depending on what was recommended. However, at a place like Ringer Hut where there are really only variations on two staple dishes–both of which he likes–nothing would be a huge miss…right?? There was only one way to find out.

Shredded dried plums and chicken breast over chilled mixed noodles (790 yen [US$5.67])

You can’t go wrong with anything chilled at Ringer Hut, so this first dish recommended by the staff was sure to be a winner. The burst of plum flavor and springy noodles paired well together. This one was definitely a win in P.K.’s book.

Nagasaki sara-udon (730 yen)

Sara means “plate,” which pretty much sums up how this dish is served. One worker said that they order this dish even more than the famous chanpon and also douse it in a considerable amount of vinegar before eating. It also turned out to be a solid choice. P.K. enjoyed it with some karashi mustard.

Boiled chicken tsukemen (600 yen)

Tsukemen are chilled, Chinese-style noodles with a dipping broth/sauce. According to Ringer Hut’s website, this particular dish is only sold at select store locations in the Tokyo area. P.K. was trying to think if he had ever seen it before himself when staff mentioned that there’s no picture of it on the digital touchscreen for ordering, so many customers miss it.

For a flat fee, you can customize the amount of noodles from 200 to 400 grams (7.1-14.1 ounces) as well as adjust the proportion of broth. The staff also told him to add as much condiment paste from yuzu zest and chili peppers as he liked.

The noodles and the broth turned out to pair well with each other. It was quite salty as is usually the case with tsukemen, but the condiment paste added a lot of flavour. There were even kamaboko fish cakes in the broth and small strips of nori. All in all, he was impressed with Ringer Hut’s version of tsukemen.

Half-sized fried rice (290 yen)

Lastly, one worker said that they often order a small fried rice as part of a meal set with the boiled chicken tsukemen. This particular fried rice tasted relatively mild, so it was an excellent partner to the stronger-in-flavor tsukemen dish.

While he was musing over the delicious taste of everything, PK realized that it actually made sense for the workers to often eat something other than the two main types of meals that Ringer Hut is particularly well-known for. They’d have to get tired of chanpon and sara-udon after a while, after all.

As he was paying for his food at the end of the meal, the staff who gave their recommendations to him asked how everything was. He truthfully responded that it was all the best. With a renewed appreciation for Nagasaki cuisine, maybe it was time for him to actually pay the city a visit and sample some foods there.

Reference: Ringer Hut
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