Four Great Masters in Ramen World Developing New Noodles Using Wheat Made in France
Reporting on Four Bowls of “Japan-France Collaborative Ramen” by Actually Eating Them Up ZUZUTTO!
On Wednesday of November 21, 2018, a press tasting event of the collaborative noodle project titled “PARIS RAMEN ZUZUTTO 2018” celebrating the 160th anniversary of the establishment of Japan-France friendly exchange relationships was held at SHINYOKOHAMA L’ENTRACTE situated just in front of SHINYOKOHAMA RAUMEN MUSEUM. The reporter is Captain Ide known as a ramen writer exploring the ramen of 47 prefectures all over Japan. Please read his report based on his real experience which will definitely tempt you to eat ramen!
WORDS by IDE TAICHO
PHOTOS by SHOKI HASHIMOTO（point zero Co.,Ltd.）
A French mission visited Shimoda from September 13th to 19th in 1858, just before the conclusion of The Treaty of Amity and Commerce between France and Japan. After 160 years since then, while the exchanges between Japan and France have been deepening, both Japanese dishes and French dishes have made dynamic achievements, becoming a big food culture respectively.
This time, “Ippudo”, celebrating the 160th anniversary of the establishment of Japan-France friendly exchange relationships, was going to design and carry out in Japan “Collaborative Noodle Project Cerebrating 160th Anniversary of Japan-France Friendly Relationships Titled PARIS RAMEN ZUZUTTO 2018” jointly with SHINYOKOHAMA RAUMEN MUSEUM. This project, by incorporating ingreedients made in France into Japanese dishes, aims to have Japanese people get interested in France and further finding the differences in tastes between the two countries and future possibilities.
Japanese Ramen Really Impressed Gourmets in Paris, Capital of Cuisine
This project originates in an event titled “PARIS RAMEN WEEK ZUZUTTO” held in Paris in 2014. Five ramen shops as well as well-established sushi and yakitori shops visited Paris, the capital of cuisine, introducing the ramen culture that Japan is proud of. This event was very much talked about by French people enough for them to make a long line before its opening time day after day, achieving a big success. That was the moment when Japanese ramen really impressed French gourmets. Mr. Kawahara, the founder of Ippudo, looks back such moment by saying,
“I can say that we were able to gain really many things during one week of “PARIS RAMEN WEEK”. People from all over Paris all the way visited a small restaurant in Paris. We made noodles and soups using the flour and ingredients available in Paris partly because it was difficult to bring them in from Japan. I really enjoyed finding how ingredients made a substantial difference and how we should finish those as a Japanese-style taste.”
“Ippudo” later advanced to Paris in 2016 and is currently operating three shops.
Making Japan-France Collaborative Noodle Using Wheat Flour Used in French Baguette
This time, “Ippudo”, “Chibakiya”, “Tora-Syokudo” and “Soranoiro” all of which participated in “PARIS RAMEN WEEK ZUZUTTO” have been brought together again. These four shops make ramen utilizing respective techniques and ideas for again exploring the possibilities of the ingredients made in France and ramen. The theme celebrating the 160th anniversary of the establishment of Japan-France friendly exchange relationships is “Making Japan-France Collaborative Noodle Using Wheat Flour Used in French Baguette”. Mr. Kawahara discusses this theme:
“We set the theme as ’Staple Food’ this time. French bread (baguette) that French people eat as their stale food. Using this French wheat flour automatically makes “Noodles” the gateway for us to discuss this theme. We knew that those noodles made of flour used for breads would taste good and, as a ramen master, were so interested in making noodles from flour used in French baguette. I have hardly seen an event like this focusing on “Noodles”, but I am convinced that ramen masters should study flour further.”
The flour that have been chosen for this project is “La Tradition Française”, a French flour product of VIRON. We have procured this flour with the help of Le Still that is operating “VIRON” and “CENTRE THE BAKERY” in Japan. This flour has been frequently used at the baguette concours held in France and the baguette of “VIRON” is very popular in Japan as well.
Can we make the flour used for French baguette into tasty ramen? A battle of the owners of the four ramen shops has just begun.
Four Ramen Masters Completing Four Different Ramens with Making Creative Arrangements!
Mr. Kenji Chiba, the owner of “Chibakiya”, used to be a cook of Japanese dishes. He has been always satisfying people with his gentle, deep ramen taking advantage of the original tastes of ingredients by applying his skills developed when cooking Japanese dishes to ramen making. Participating in “PARIS RAMEN WEEK ZUZUTTO” in 2014, Mr. Chiba was surprised to know that people in Paris loved ramen that much. He also told that he was happy for the four of them to gather again for holding the event. This time, “Chibakiya” will take up the challenge of making mildly thick noodles for the first time. According to him, “La Tradition Française” has a strong flavor and therefore will become assertive noodles.
●La Tradition Française: 30%
Chibakiya makes its ramen with this blend ratio. Its chewy noodles that are nevertheless smooth when sliding down your throat has been completed. These noodles are accompanied with the soup thicker than normal one. While absolutely keeping the plain feeling unique to it, “Chibakiya” has made a type of soup not submissive to the assertive noodles. A delicious taste as deep as it gets and the texture of the noodles – by approaching ramen from the right angles like these, “Chibakiya” impresses us so much. “Chibakiya” has excellently fitted the wheat made in France into the ramen made in Japan. This is the only job that could be done by Mr. Chiba who used to cook Japanese dishes.
After its opening in 2011, Soranoiro suddenly gained attentions from people for its healthy ramen named “Vege-Soba” using carefully chosen vegetables. Mr. Chihiro Miyazaki, the owner of Soranoiro, was also inspired by “PARIS RAMEN WEEK ZUZUTTO” held in 2014. He made ramen then with looking for various ingredients including carrots at marché in Paris. He says that some visitors even throwed their arms around him because his ramen was too good. Exposed to the potential of French ingredients thorough its really good chicken and vegetables, Mr. Miyazaki has finally determined to participate in this event held in Japan. This time as well, he blends wheat made in France into their regular menu “Vege-Soba”.
●La Tradition Française: 30%
●Rice Powedr (komeko): 40%
This is the blend ratio for his thin and wide noodle (hirauchi-men). By purposely using “rice powder”, Mr. Miyazaki expresses “Japan”. He also produces its flavor by further blending whole-grain rice. Harmonizing the soup where the sweetness of carrots is spreading with salty “tare” soup. Lotus root oil is used as its flavor oil. A very mild soup has been completed. A variety of ingredients makes his ramen not boring because it gives you different tastes depending on a part of ramen you eat. Nevertheless, his ramen keeps its balance well as a whole, giving us a mysterious feeling. The noodles and ingredients smoothly slide down our throat together with the soup without giving us any strange feeling. In addition, you can change its taste by adding yuzu-flavored red pepper or mascarpone cream. This is a bowl of ramen that pursuits the possibilities of ramen.
Now, here comes “Tora-Syokudo”, a long-established shop representing “Shirakawa Ramen”. This shop is featured particularly by its handmade noodles slapped with a wooden stick or a piece of green bamboo and such technique is quite difficult to be copied by others. Mr. Kazuyuki Takei, the owner of Tora-Syokudo, has provided his original, hand-made noodle this time as well, and, please hold your breath, its blend ratio is:
●La Tradition Française: 100%
He has surprisingly finished his noodles totally with French wheat! What’s more, he has bravely taken up the bleeding challenge of doing it by his own hands – a traditional method. This is, in a sense, a straightforward approach. This noodle is the result of Mr. Takei’s having squarely faced French wheat. According to Mr. Takei, “La Tradition Française” is a type of wheat containing few gluten, easy to be made, and similar to buckwheat flour (soba-ko). You would be surprised with his ample and amazingly elastic noodles although being thin and curly. This is a bowl of ramen made by Mr. Takei that intentionally places a distance from Japanese ramen and leaves a trace of French wheat.
Among all the four shops participating in this event, “Ippudo” is the only shop that uses the milky tonkotsu (pig bone broth) soup. Considering that French wheat would have a difficulty of being assertive if the noodles go with “Ippudo”’s normal soup, Mr. Kawahara has thought up an idea of blending certain ingredients into the noodles. His wheat combination ratio is as follows:
●La Tradition Française: 50%
What being blended into this noodle are, guess what, black pepper and oregano. He courageously brought the mild feeling of tonkotsu up against the hard spiciness and flavor of the pepper. This collision unexpectedly causes an interesting taste, making your chopsticks keep moving without noticing it. The noodles have an increasing crunch feeling than usual and leave a chewy texture at last. Mr. Kawahara tops his ramen with char siu (Chinese-style barbecued pork) and Kujyo negi (green onion), finishing it simply.
And, believe it or not, his ramen is served with the 50g of baguette supervised by VIRON. “Please enjoy a piece of baguette after fully dipping it into the soup”, Mr. Kawahara recommends. In the same way as enjoying a piece of bread after dipping it into the soup at a western-style restaurant, you dip a piece of baguette into the ramen soup. Then, you can feel its sound firmness and the sweetness of wheat different from those of the noodles, being able to appreciate it differently. This is a bowl of “yummy” ramen through which you can enjoy the wheat of VIRON in both noodles and a piece of bread.
Future of Japan-France Exchange through Foods That Producer of Baguette Envision
Mr. Takahiro Nishikawa, President of Le Still, describes his impressions of the four bowls of ramen after eating up all of them:
“They have made their respective noodles while carefully differentiating the types of wheat that go well with their ramen and those that don’t go well with them. I believe that French wheats can be adjusted to Japanese ramen just as Japanese wheats have been successfully adjusted to them. I hope we will one day reach a stage where “Ippudo” and we cooperatively make a kind of wheat that goes well with ramen. It would be ideal if such wheat is born in Paris and brought back to Japan.”
Mr. Alexandre Viron, President of VIRON, kindly visited the venue of this event. Mr. Viron also ate up the four bowls of ramen and discussed the future possibilities of ramen:
“President Mr. Nishikawa of Le Still is the first person who has taught me about diversifying Japanese dishes and the differences between those and French dishes. I have heard that ramen masters make ramen this time using VIRON’s wheat and been very much surprised with an idea being presented one after another that we will never think of. Their willingness to take on a new challenge is amazing. This event is a challenge that very much interests us French people as well.”
The four ramen masters who seek to maximally bring out the attractiveness of ingredients made in France through trial and error while improving the unity between Japan and France through ramen. I firmly believe that this event will undoubtedly lead to the development not only of Japan-France communities but also of the food culture of the two countries and will become an initiative to open up the future possibilities of ramen all over the world.
WORDS by Captain Ide
A ramen writer exploring various ramen restaurants in 47 prefectures nationwide. Contributing articles about ramen to numerous media such as Toyo Keizai Online, AERA.dot, Bunshun Online, Retty Gourmet News and Rurubu News. Working actively as contest judge, MC for several TV programs and events. Regularly communicate information about ramen through his own internet program, blog, Twitter and Facebook. Playing as musician several bands such as “Captain Ide Band”, a tribute band to the Southern Allstars and “Fuka-Ide Cafe”, a unit playing mainly popular songs from Showa era and Oldies.