When in doubt, always ask a local.
We relied on the kindness of friends while we planned our trip to Tokyo. Having yet to meet Marc of NoRecipes.com while he lived in NYC, we made it a priority to share a meal in Tokyo where he now resides. He suggested that we meet at Chomoranma (ちょもらんま, which means Everest) near Ebisu JR Station – a ramen shop by day and izakaya by night. As noodle fiends, we were psyched.
By that point, we’ve had many-a-bowls of ramen throughout Tokyo. When Marc asked whether we liked spicy food (because the Japanese generally resist it), we perked up and nodded. As it turned out, he brought us to this rebellious ramen join that serves up absurdly hot, pepper-laden Szechuan style noodles.
Not everything here was spicy, of course. We sat down with a round of cold sake and Marc proceeded to order on our behalf. Fortunately, we arrived before the lunch rush so the food reached our table quickly.
First up, we placated our hunger with some steamed gyozas. The wrapping had the right thickness and pull and were loaded with ground pork and chives. Served with a simple soy and chili oil, these babies did not last long on the plate.
Next up, a bowl of Dan Dan Men with minced pork, onions, and bean sprouts was placed before me. Judging from the opacity of the broth alone, I knew this would be a fine bowl of noodles. When I slurped the creamy soup up with some noodles, I was pleased to discover that the noodles were the toothsome, Chinese hand-cut kind. It was a refreshing change from the yellow kansui ramen noodles that we were becoming a tad weary of (I know, boohoo). The broth was rich with chicken essence, nutty, and mildly spicy. A clear winner.
Then came the star player, the ramen inferno. After a few slurps, it was evident why there was constantly a line up out the door here during lunch hour. The heat was a lingering heat that first hit the nasal cavity and slowly flooded the mouth. It built up and began to singe ever so slowly, as if to lure us further into its grip with each bite. It succeeded.
The more we ate, the hotter it got, but the more irresistible it became. Not only was it additively spicy, the broth was remarkably complex with layers of spices and meaty flavours. The sophisticated heat swirled around our mouth and rushed to our heads without burning our mouths to the point where we could no longer taste. The kicker was we wanted to finish it before the noodles became soggy but the more we ate, the harder it became to finish.
At one point, I threw in the towel, passed the bowl over to my husband (who was also sitting in a pool of sweat) and knocked back another cold sake to quench the fire. While he endeavored dauntlessly, Marc and I caught up on life, travels, and the like. Admittedly, I was a tinge envious of his adventurous new life in Japan.
Thinking back now, I would do anything for another bowl of this habit forming noodle. Thanks, Marc, for testing our breaking point and introducing us to something we wouldn’t have been able to find in Toyko ourselves. Until next time, my friend.
ちょもらんまAddress:東京都渋谷区恵比寿 4-9-5 マンションニュー恵比寿103 5 minute walk from Ebisu JR Station.