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The Origins of Ramen in Japan: Chuka-Soba

November 12, 2017

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Chuka-soba: so important in the history of ramen in Japan, yet so underrepresented in the world of ramen. You’ll hear more about Ichiran ramen, or Ippudo, or Momofuko even, but Chukasoba? Barely at all. Hell, I only heard about it a couple of months ago after living in Japan for over a year and a half. I’m glad we got the chance to try this out and to learn a little more about where ramen in Japan comes from.

From all that we’ve read and have been told, ramen came to Japan in the early 1900s (some suggest around 1910) from China. At first Chinese style noodles didn’t suit the Japanese palette at the time, so they were made thinner and lighter. And at first it was known as Chuka Soba, which literally means Chinese Noodles. Later it was called Shina Soba, which means the same thing. And now it’s just called Ramen, though some shops will still call it Chuka Soba, for a sense of historical importance, it seems.

We went to Katsumoto so we could get more of a chance to explore and understand Chuka Soba. And, hell, they do a realllllllly delicious Chuka Soba. This place here takes a lot of time in making their broth, which is why they suggest trying it first before you try the noodles. For starters, the broth is made of Pie Water. Not water from pies, but math π. It’s called パイ)ウォーター. You can get more info about π Water here. I’m not literate enough in the sciences to be able to talk about the importance of this water, so maybe one of you here can let me know more about it.

Added to the water are a bunch of things, including
・Genkotsu げんこつ which is pork thigh bone,
・Momiji もみじ Chicken feet
・Marudori まるどり 丸鶏(まるどり)Whole Chicken
・Nagoya Cochin 名古屋コーチン(なごやこーちん)
・Chicken Bones 鶏ガラ(とりがら)
・Giant Kelp 真昆布(まこんぶ)
・Mackerel Block サバブロック(さんぶろっく)

All of the above ingredients are boiled at 90 degrees C for six hours. After six hours, all of the ingredients are removed, then four different types of small dried sardines and giant kelp are added to the remaining broth and boiled for another 2 hours. After two hours, the sardines and kelp are removed and this bombastic consommé is left over.

Yeah I realize that was a lot of information to give about the broth, but it gives me a better understanding of how much work goes into a ramen. We’ve been thinking about making a Martina’s Midnight Munchies for ramen, but if we want to make something really good, it’ll take soooooo long. Once we find an easier recipe to make, we’ll share that.

Otherwise, for the sake of transparency, this video was paid for by Katsumoto. And what that means isn’t that our opinions are paid for. Just our time. If we don’t like a place, we turn down payment from them and don’t do a video. If we do like a place, we’ll spend a lot more time doing research on it, bring in more help to shoot the video, and get some extra help with editing it as well. Even the salarymen in the video are friends of ours to come help with the shoot (in case you were worried that we were bothering other customers there). In this case, the Chuka-soba at Katsumoto is actually delicious and worth sharing. And that’s important to say because oftentimes I’m bored by Shoyu ramen. We even went to a famous place in Kyoto, where our friend said he takes the Shinkansen to get there just for the ramen (no joke). We filmed something there, but we didn’t like it all too much, and so we didn’t share the video. But this place, the Chuka-soba is worth the trip.

So, I hope you give Katsumoto a chance and try out some authentic Chuka-soba. You can find them on Tabelog if you want to read more about it. It’s located in Suidobashi, which is on the yellow Chuo line. The address is 2-15-5 Misakicho Chiyoda Tokyo, or 東京都 千代田区 三崎町 2-15-5 in Japanese. And, on a less serious note, here are some extra scenes that didn’t make the final cut!

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The Origins of Ramen in Japan: Chuka-Soba

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  1. Hi Simon and Martina! Me and my girlfriend are in tokyo on vacation, we just saw this video two days ago and went to eat there… it was delicious!!! We are planning on visiting some other places in your videos :D!

    2 weeks ago
    • Oh that’s great! Wasn’t that broth just amazing?! Ah. Answering comments about food first thing in the morning isn’t a good idea. Now I really need to go back :D

      1 week ago
  2. I had chuka soba at least once when I was living in Japan. I went to a ramen place and chuka soba was the cheapest one and I just went like “it’s China something, whatever that means.” Then got really confused because I expected soba noodles… But it all makes sense now!! haha Maybe because it was quite cheap the broth was too fishy for my taste but I wouldn’t mind trying it again!

    2 weeks ago
    • Ah! I hate it when I get overly fishy broth. Just not my thing. This one isn’t that fishy, so you should be alright, if you get the chance to try it out :D

      2 weeks ago