Ramen: Nagi, Shimokitazawa

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Typhoon strength ramen as Tokyo takes a direct hit from one of three tropical storms

Today was my first day back at work after the summer break – and it seemed like the weather didn’t want to play ball. Right now three tropical storms are spinning near the country, and in the last 24 hours Tokyo has taken a direct hit from one of them, Mindulle, which strengthened into a typhoon early this morning. It’s the first typhoon to make landfall near the metropolitan region in 11 years, with gusts as high as 180 kph.

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The three tropical storms over Japan this morning (NASA)

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Progress of Tropical storm Mindulle over Tokyo

When I got to school this morning my bag and wallet were absolutely drenched, and I had to hang my money up to dry in the classroom. Thankfully, this particular storm now seems to be passing but the rain is likely to continue for a good few hours. On the way home from school, once again soaked by the horizontal rain, I decided to check out the newly opened Nagi in Shimokitazawa. Nagi originally started as a small ramen shop in Shinjuku’s Golden Gai district, but it has grown into half a dozen shops scattered across the city.

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Niboshi ramen. This packs a punch. A thickish soup made from dried sardines, topped with a huge slab of chashu pork, sansho numbing pepper and raw spring onion.

Its signature dish is niboshi ramen – a soup stock which is made from more than 20 types of dried sardines. These tiny fish have a very bitter flavour, and so it’s a difficult task to extract as much smoky, fishy taste from them without it being too overpowering. I’m still admittedly a novice to ramen, and so this was my first full-on experience with a niboshi stock. I ordered my soup to be medium strength but I still winced on the first sip. This is big-boy ramen! Over the years I have grown to prefer lighter, clearer soups but niboshi is none of these things. The flavour was super intense, but somehow kind of addictive and so I kept eating. The noodles were extremely curly and thick, soaking up up the soup and suiting the bowl perfectly. The highlight for me though were the flat noodles, almost a cross between wonton pastry and pasta. I wish you had the choice of ordering a full bowl of them.

Next time I go, I’ll order a weaker soup – I dunno how people eat the maximum strength stuff. And just in case the strongest isn’t strong enough there are dried fish for you to scatter on your bowl. Even the vinegar is infused with dried sardines!

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Ramen: Nagi, Shimokitazawa – Surviving Japan with a Smile

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