Chocolate Ramen for Valentine's ~ Only in Japan ~
You may have seen this image doing the rounds before Valentine's Day. Ramen chain 幸楽苑 [kourakuen] were having a special promotion menu item, Chocolate Ramen, available at their stores, for lovers of chocolate and ramen.
Let's read that again, for lovers of chocolate and ramen.
It's as if they were talking specifically to me. I'm sure most people when reading this would think, "It's just a gimmick", or "It' gonna be disgusting!". I know, I had those doubts myself. But still this is chocolate and ramen we are talking about. Two of my favourite things. And there were photos coming through on twitter of people eating, and enjoying it.
It was torturous as there was two impossible hurdles preventing me from experiencing it too. It was available only in Japan, and it was only available until Valentine's Day.
Resigned to my fate, I messaged a friend about it. The response was extraordinary.
"Let's make our own!!!"
Anyone for a Ramen Sundae?
This was immediately followed by.
"Let's do a Ramen Sundae too!".
It was one of those moments where your mind is just blown open, new doors opening up and ideas that you had never imagined to be possible before flooding in. If you've experienced Namja Town in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, you would have tasted weird and wonderful ice creams of all different flavours, but making your own Ramen Sundae was taking things to a whole new level. Beyond the question of how do we even make a ramen flavoured ice cream and what toppings would go well with it, was the more important question of could we survive eating Chocolate Ramen, and then follow it up straight after with a Ramen Sundae, and somehow not go all キラキラ [sparkly] at the end of it?
In the end there was only one possible solution.
"We can do a Chocolate Ramen Sundae mash-up!!".
Chocolate Ramen Sundae ~ Preparing the Dream ~
After many more wild plans, the dream day finally arrived and it was just a matter of execution.
We still had some big decisions to make. First and foremost was how do we even make chocolate ramen? And then what toppings do we add on top? Do we go all savoury, or ridiculously sweet?
For the ramen, we decided simplest is best, ordering a takeout miso tonkotsu ramen from Hakata-Maru Ramen, North Sydney. The wonderful staff there kindly separated the broth and the toppings for us into our own takeaway containers that we were able to take home.
Arriving home, we set about chocolatizing the broth. Over a low heat on the stove we began by adding about 30g of chopped dark chocolate. Then our first taste - a wonderfully strong tonkotsu flavour, with just a hint of bitterness from the chocolate. But it was not enough. We gradually added about another 20g slowly to try to bring out more of a chocolate flavour, but it still was not enough. Finally we decided to go all in. Adding another 50g of milk chocolate, and stirring in, the broth began to darken and take on a rich chocolately texture. And the taste? Creamy tonkotsu with a sweet undertone of chocolate, and just a subtle bitter aftertaste from the dark chocolate.
It was now a real thing. That amazing moment where the dream world had seeped into reality.
All that was left now was the assembly. First the noodles, a mixture of Hakata style frizz and thin straight noodles. Then the greens, spring onions, corn, and sprouts. A seasoned medium boiled egg, and crispy roast chashu slices. Garnished with a sheet of nori [seaweed] and sesame seeds. By now it had the appearance of a proper ramen.
And then ... Fairy bread. Home made rilakkuma chocolates, and one delicous scoop of creamy cookies and cream ice cream.
And yes, to ensure we had a well balanced meal, we prepared salads for the side.
And the taste? 大成功！！！
Finally we had arrived at the main event. Would we ascend into chocolate ramen sundae heaven? Or would we go all キラキラ afterwards?
In the background we had Otsuka Ai's ラーメン3分クッキング [Ramen 3 minute cooking] playing in repeat.
"Sluurp. Hmmm. This is actually pretty good!!!" Usually I would start with a sip of the broth, but today I decide to start by slurping up some noodles. Flavourful with just a hint of sweetness from the chocolate. Next I dip my spoon in and drink deeply of the broth. A mixture of strong tonkotsu flavour, the sweetness of chocolate, and a slight bitter aftertaste. Some of the ice cream melts down from the spoon to form a thin white creamy river. I scoop it up, the cold creamy texture melds wonderfully with the broth on the top of my tongue. This could be a real thing I think. My friend murmers in appreciation of the taste besides me and then complains that her rilakkuma bear has already melted. Mine is just a head floating in delicous chocolate soup. It doesn't matter though as we continue to slurp it all down in appreciation, with only the lyrics of Ai's song to accompany us.
Miso shouyu to to to to to to to to tonkotsu shio raamen ♫
Apart from the last portion of the broth where the chocolate flavour began overpowering all else, it doesn't take long for both of us to finish. A testament to the flavour. It's probably not something that we will do again anytime soon - obviously it can't compare to ramen in its purest form - but as I leaned back in my chair, I only felt satisfaction and happiness for being able to participate in this fun experiment!