When it comes to ramen, there are many tastes and regional variations whether it be shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), tonkotsu (pork bone broth) in Kyushu or miso ramen which is served up in Hokkaido. On top of that come the crazy novelty ones which include things like cheese, coffee, ice-cream, tequila, kiwi, ham, pizza, sake, pineapple and so on. The kind of things that the true ramen masters would most definitely turn their nose up at!
Back in the UK, the phrase “…is a bit Marmite” is a metaphor often used for very divisive food items or people that are something of an acquired taste. The Japanese equivalent to the sticky, dark brown paste with a distinctive, salty, powerful flavour (in terms of polarising opinion) is probably natto which translates as fermented soy beans. It’s typically eaten with rice but not at this place!
Natto has a strong smell and a very sticky, slimy texture and it surprises many students when I say that I like it. However, it is one of those things that I just didn’t eat for my first few years in Japan. I only really ever had it in an omelette before meeting my wife. One evening she made a simple natto and tofu side dish with sesame seeds on it which I really enjoyed and then subsequently adopted as my regular breakfast dish. Not only do I eat it almost every morning but I sometimes even have an additional packet of it for lunch or dinner. Who could forget the natto on toast post back in 2014!!
When I heard about a ramen restaurant featuring natto I was very keen to try it. A couple of years on and I finally got round to trying it. That was back in mid-October last year for those wanting to know the specifics. I stopped off at Ramen Shinjuku Horiuchi Shinbashi (3-19-4 Shinbashi, Minato-ku) whilst cycling around the Inari Shrines of Chiyoda-ku (look out for that in about August or September!!)
Please be aware that only the menu on the shop’s outer window has English language. Once inside, it’s your typical machine for selecting your order. The natto ramen is a fairly reasonable ¥790 (£5.50/$7.50).
The combination of natto and ramen is fairly unique, and I guess I was quite surprised by how foamy it was when my dish was placed in front of me. It turned out it had been mixed with a raw egg which is a common thing to do in Japan. The egg supposedly softens both the aroma and taste of the natto which loses its smell and stickiness when heated anyway.
The classic shoyu broth is filled with fairly thick doughy noodles and topped with seaweed and chāshū meat. It was a fun and enjoyable experience and though I did enjoy the taste I have to admit that I wasn’t enamoured by it. I’d happily eat it again but wouldn’t go out of my way to sample it. This might be one to have again when my wife and I have instant ramen noodles at home and are short on ingredients or toppings!
Click here to read ‘Dining Out: The Happy Rainbow Cheese Ramen Which Puts A Smile On Your Face!’
Click here to read ‘Dining Out: White Chocolate Ramen Is This Years Ideal Japanese Valentines Meal!’
Click here to read ‘Dining Out: Lemon Ramen (& Pineapple Ramen Too!)’
Click here to read ‘TF Recipes #3 – Natto On Toast’