We get a taste of the famous chain’s new fried tonkotsu ramen, inspired by a dish served at food stalls in Hakata.

The other day, we received a call from a representative at Japanese ramen chain Ichiran, who told us, “We’re launching a product that’s never been seen before!”

As big fans of Ichiran ramen, we were excited to find out what it was all about, so we asked them to send us a sample of the product before it went on sale. When we received the package, we discovered that the new product was…

▼ …Yaki Ramen!

The word “yaki” means “grilled” or “fried”, and though we’ve tried yakisoba (fried buckwheat noodles) before, we’d never heard of yaki ramen. What’s more, these packs contain tonkotsu yaki ramen, which really piqued our interest as Ichiran hails from Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture, the home of tonkotsu ramen, which is the style of noodles the chain specialises in.

▼ Ichiran’s tonkotsu ramen is so popular it’s even available in instant-noodle form.

According to the chain, fried ramen originated in the food stalls of Hakata, a city known for its yatai (food stall) dining scene, where it’s usually sold as a side dish. As the name suggests, yaki ramen is fried up in a frypan, so our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma got a pack out and popped it on a portable gas stove to try it out.

Opening it up, he found that each package is a two-person serving containing noodles, cooking oil, soup powder and spicy sauce. According to the instructions, this is all you need to make the meal, but you can add other ingredients like meat and vegetables to your liking. As this was Masanuki’s first time trying the product, though, he decided to keep things simple by frying it up without any extra ingredients, using only what was included in the pack.

First, he put 300 millilitres of water in the frying pan, and after bringing it to a boil, he added the cooking oil, conveniently marked “A” to mark it as the first seasoning pack that needs to be added to the mix.

▼ Then, he broke the noodles in half lengthways so they would fit in the pan, and added them to the heat.

Masanuki then left the mixture to boil for around two minutes, stirring with chopsticks to prevent the noodles from clumping together.

Now it was time to add seasoning “B” — the soup powder — and mix it in. After giving it another good stir, Masanuki waited until enough of the water had evaporated to get the broth to a thick consistency.

▼ At this point, his kitchen became filled with the tantalising aromas of an Ichiran restaurant.

Transferring the noodles onto a plate, Masanuki poured the spicy sauce on top and now he was ready to eat.

▼ Ichiran’s “secret red sauce” is so special only four people in the company know how to make it.

It certainly looked delicious on the plate, but it didn’t look like the piping-hot bowls of Ichran ramen Masanuki is used to eating. While the noodles themselves were still straight and thin, in true Hakata-style, the broth was pretty much non-existent.

The aroma of tonkotsu was certainly there, though, so Masanuki lifted a good-sized serving up to his lips and prepared himself for a mind-bending experience.

Slurping the noodles into his mouth, Masanuki swallowed and threw his head back in delight. It was absolutely delicious, and because the noodles had absorbed all the tonkotsu broth, they were packed with the umami richness of Ichiran, resulting in a delectably intense tonkotsu flavour.

Even though he’d cooked the noodles a little too long, resulting in a softer texture, they were still slippery and delicious. He couldn’t quite believe this easy-to-make meal could taste so good without the use of any additional ingredients.

In fact, Masanuki says he reckons these fried noodles taste even better than Ichiran’s instant tonkotsu noodle bowls, which is certainly saying something, given their immense popularity.

So if you’re looking to get a new taste of Ichiran at home with minimal fuss, keep an eye out for the Yaki Ramen, which went on sale at Ichiran stores nationwide and online from 26 June, priced at 580 yen (US$4.04) for a two-serving pack.

They also make an excellent souvenir for tourists to stock up on, especially if you’ve got enough cardboard back home to fashion up your own solo booth counter to enjoy them with!

Photos © SoraNews24
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