CuisineAsianTsukemen 101: Japanese Dipping Ramen Noodles (つけ麺)

Tsukemen 101: Japanese Dipping Ramen Noodles (つけ麺)

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David Larsenhttps://betony-nyc.com
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Have you ever heard of dipping ramen noodles from Japan? They’re called tsukemen (dipping ramen noodles) つけ麺. It’s a beloved type of ramen in Japan, and that’s saying something because there are multiple types of ramen there. 

It’s the favored ramen type during summer because it’s a cold noodle dish with a hot bowl of soup instead of the more familiar hot ramen dish. There’s a way for you to cool off with a dish without necessarily eating desserts like ice cream. 

What is Tsukemen?

As mentioned above, tsukemen is cold noodle soup you’re supposed to dip into dipping sauce or soup made of delicious salty broth made of either meats or seafood. The cold noodles are filling and delicious. It can also cool you down for good measure. 

You might find cold ramen dipped into flavorful hot soup weird, but you’ll get it once you get a taste of it. Regardless, it’s amazing how this dish came from staff eating leftover noodles with leftover broth with loads of soy sauce that they eat during their break.  

A brief History of Tsukemen

According to tsukemen lore, Kazuo Yamagishi and Masayasu Sakaguchi ended up inventing the noodles back in the 1950s. They are relatives who owned Tokyo-based ramen restaurants known as Taishoken. 

Tsukumen is actually rooted from Taishoken restaurant staff dipping leftover noodles into hot soup flavored with soy sauce (reminiscent of zaru soba). Soon, even the customers started ordering this dish, which they adjusted to use fresh ingredients for general consumption. 

The popularity of their specialty cold noodle dipping soup dish spread across the nation in the 1970s and 1980s. Afterwards, in the 1990s onwards, during the resurgence of ramen culture, it really became a staple in many ramen shops. You can find tsukemen in specialty shops around Japan. 

Ingredients

Here are the ingredients for tsukemen.

  • ½ inch of ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 green onions or scallions
  • ½ pound of sliced pork belly
  • 1 tablespoon of roasted sesame oil
  • 10-12 ounces of fresh ramen noodles
  • 1.8 ounces of shimeji mushrooms (half of a package)
  • 1 tablespoon of doubanjiang (spicy chili bean sauce or broad bean paste)
  • 0.18 ounce of katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes—about a whole package of this)

As for seasonings, they include the following.

  • A cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of miso (we use awase miso)
  • ½ cup matsuyu/tsuyu (noodle soup base)

As for toppings, they include the following.

  • 2 soft-boiled or hard-boiled eggs
  • 4 slices of narutomaki (fish cakes)
  • 6 shrimps (you can add more or less of them)
  • Half a sheet of nori (seaweed “paper” you can cut in half)
  • A tablespoon of sake (rice wine) for shrimp boiling purposes

Substitutes

You can substitute the ordinary pack of cold ramen with gluten-free or GF ramen noodles. As for servings, you can either get 180 grams or 6.3 ounces of dry ramen noodles. As for the onions, you can use either 2 green onions or scallions. 

Regarding the doubanjiang, it’s an optional ingredient. You can either get the spicy chili bean sauce or the broad bean paste variant. We use awase miso from the toppings, but you can avail of other miso types as well. 

The eggs can either be hard-boiled or soft-boiled. The fatty pork belly broth can be substituted with whichever seafood or land animal meat that suits your fancy. It can be chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, crab, octopus, fish, and so forth.

How to make Tsukemen at home

Here’s what you need to make tsukemen at home.

1. Noodles

When serving tsukemen at home, it’s best to make chukamen (fresh ramen noodles) first. This will get you chewy, springy noodles when push comes to shove. It involves boiling the noodles until they’re perfectly cooked.

Afterwards, to prevent the noodles from becoming soppy or soggy, dunk them in cold water to cool them down when they’re cooked. This is shimeru (tightening effect) that assists in bringing back noodle springiness. 

2. Broth

As for the soup broth, we’ve used fatty pork belly for it. It can be substituted with other seafood or meat. Drinking the soup is a real temptation, but it’s been made intentionally salty to drink. The cold noodles help balance the saltiness.

It’s like when you eat cakes with coffee. The extreme sweetness of the cakes is counterbalanced with the bitterness of coffee, especially if you have it black. An optimal flavorful state is reached when cold noodles are dipped into hot broth or soup.

We’ve jazzed up our version of the broth with doubanjiang for that bold spicy chili bean paste taste and flavoring. However, it’s ultimately optional whether you want your dipped cold noodles to have a spicy tang to it or not.

3. Toppings

You can serve a variety of toppings on your tsukemen. It can include narutomaki, eggs, shrimp, and nori seaweed. You can use other ingredients aside from these recommended ones too. Let your imagination fly! 

Just curb your enthusiasm with taste tests. Make sure the toppings you’re putting on will go well with the saltiness of the broth and the blandness of the cold noodles.

How to eat Tsukemen

In order to eat tsukemen properly, do the following. You can use machines to order it or just order it regularly via a waiter or the bartender. Afterwards, taste the soup of the tsukemen then add toppings or seasonings on it until you get your preferred taste and saltines. 

Afterwards, pick the noodles up with your chopsticks or your fork and then dip them into the soup. Toss it into the soup and eat them like regular ramen with a slurping sound (the approved way to do it in Japan). 

Tsukemen – FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked questions about tsukemen.

What is the difference between Tsukemen and ramen?

Standard ramen is different from tsukemen because tsukemen has its broth separate from the noodles. Ramen is served with the soup. The main selling point of tsukemen is that you dip the cold noodles into the salty broth in order to get a flavorful result. 

The noodles can either be chilled or remain at room temperature. The soup should be hot and salty. Its broth can be made of chicken, fish, beef, or pork as well as various seafood items. The cool noodles are characterized by their springiness and the hot dipping sauce moistens them.

Why are Ramen noodles so bad for you?

The saltiness of ramen noodles can lead to kidney problems in the future. It’s the same deal when regularly eating instant noodles of the ramen or yakisoba variety. This dish, like many other ramen dishes, is filled with sodium. 

There’s a good reason why many mothers finger-wag about eating too much ramen. Too much of anything is bad, including tsukemen. Their high levels of sodium will give you issues such as kidney stones at best and kidney failure at worst. You should eat this dish occasionally rather than everyday.

It’s not worth injuring your body and sacrificing your health over a 99-cent meal (or cheaper if you avail of the instant ramen variety).

Do you drink Tsukemen broth?

The tsukemen broth or soup is rather strong or salty for straight-up drinking. It’s better to mix it with the cold noodles in order to make the soup flavorful rather than drinking the soup straight from the bowl. As mentioned above, slurp the noodle with the soup like ramen.

The slurping is necessary even though in non-Japanese or western culture, slurping is considered rude. If you’re in a U.S. restaurant the slurp isn’t necessary but in Japanese restaurants the slurp is a sign of approval.

Tsukemen ramen with roasted pork egg and dipping soup

Homemade Tsukemen 101: Japanese Dipping Ramen Noodles (つけ麺)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Have you ever heard of dipping ramen noodles from Japan? They're called tsukemen (dipping ramen noodles) つけ麺. It's a beloved type of ramen in Japan, and that's saying something because there are multiple types of ramen there. 

Ingredients

Tsukemen

  • ½ inch of ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 green onions or scallions
  • ½ pound of sliced pork belly
  • 1 tablespoon of roasted sesame oil
  • 10-12 ounces of fresh ramen noodles
  • 1.8 ounces of shimeji mushrooms (half of a package)
  • 1 tablespoon of doubanjiang (spicy chili bean sauce or broad bean paste)
  • 0.18 ounce of katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes—about a whole package of this)

Seasonings

  • A cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of miso (we use awase miso)
  • ½ cup matsuyu/tsuyu (noodle soup base)

Toppings

  • 2 soft-boiled or hard-boiled eggs
  • 4 slices of narutomaki (fish cakes)
  • 6 shrimps (you can add more or less of them)
  • Half a sheet of nori (seaweed "paper" you can cut in half)
  • A tablespoon of sake (rice wine) for shrimp boiling purposes

Instructions

Make the noodles first, make sure it doesn't end up soggy by washing it with cold water.

  1. When serving tsukemen at home, it's best to make chukamen (fresh ramen noodles) first. This will get you chewy, springy noodles when push comes to shove. It involves boiling the noodles until they're perfectly cooked.
  2. Afterwards, to prevent the noodles from becoming soppy or soggy, dunk them in cold water to cool them down when they're cooked. This is shimeru (tightening effect) that assists in bringing back noodle springiness

Make the soup broth next using fatty pork belly to create a rich taste..

  1. As for the soup broth, we've used fatty pork belly for it. It can be substituted with other seafood or meat. Drinking the soup is a real temptation, but it's been made intentionally salty to drink. The cold noodles help balance the saltiness.
  2. It's like when you eat cakes with coffee. The extreme sweetness of the cakes is counterbalanced with the bitterness of coffee, especially if you have it black. An optimal flavorful state is reached when cold noodles are dipped into hot broth or soup.
  3. We've jazzed up our version of the broth with doubanjiang for that bold spicy chili bean paste taste and flavoring. However, it's ultimately optional whether you want your dipped cold noodles to have a spicy tang to it or not.

Finish things off by adding the toppings.

  1. You can serve a variety of toppings on your tsukemen. It can include narutomaki, eggs, shrimp, and nori seaweed. You can use other ingredients aside from these recommended ones too. Let your imagination fly! 
  2. Just curb your enthusiasm with taste tests. Make sure the toppings you're putting on will go well with the saltiness of the broth and the blandness of the cold noodles.

Notes

The servings for this tsukemen recipe are about one or two people. You can also undercook the noodles by 1-2 minutes to make them perfect when you're ready to eat them. Don't forget to drain the noodles and rinse them in cold water to prevent sogginess.

In 2019, Taishoken (the inventor of tsukemen) opened a location in San Mateo. It was from here that the tsukemen craze rooted in the U.S.

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Nutrition Information
Serving Size 2
Amount Per Serving Calories 658Total Fat 30gSaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 181mgSodium 1510mgCarbohydrates 108.8gFiber 2gSugar 6gProtein 25g

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