Friday, September 24, 2010

Hide-Chan Ramen Guarantees Satisfaction with Authentic Tonkotsu

Another Fukuoka shop joins our Soul Food Festival: Hide-Chan Ramen! Hide-Chan is a small ramen shop specializing in tonkotsu, or pork bone ramen, that is part of the group of restaurants (ie. Soba Totto, Yakitori Totto, and Totto Ramen) owned by Bobby Munekata. The chef, Hideto Kawahara (a.k.a. Hide-Chan), hails from Hakata, Fukuoka, known far and wide for its tonkotsu ramen. Made from boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen for hours, tonkotsu broth is characterized by its intense pork flavor and rich, almost milky consistency, and cloudy whitish color. The noodles in this soup are usually thin and straight and usually topped with chopped scallions, red ginger, tree ears, and of course, pork (cha-su). The interesting thing about Hakata-style ramen is that you can choose your noodle's level of firmness as well as the level of fat in your broth. If you want seconds of ramen noodles, you can order another helping by asking for kaedama.

We went to check out Hide-Chan this week. Tucked away on on the second floor of a nondescript location, the restaurant contains a bar bathed in light and few intimate tables are partially screened for privacy. We found several lone office workers there having a dinner of ramen after work as well as small groups of friends that night.

There are only nine ramen dishes on the menu, which I thought made decisions easier. Because tonkotsu wouldn't be right without some fat but we wanted to avoid future high cholesterol problems, we opted for the medium instead of the rich fat for our broth. We ordered the Hakata Kuro Ramen, served with inky ma-yu roasted garlic oil that coated everything black, including the heaps of green onions, tree ears, and some tender pork slices. Sublety complex, garlicky, and a bit gritty throughout, the Kuro ramen instantly became my favorite ramen of all time. We also ordered the Hakata Grilled Toro Pork Ramen that was chock full of slices of Berkshire (toro) pork marinated with brown sugar and soy sauce. The pork tasted delicious, with a smoky, just-off-the-BBQ-grill aroma and was soft enough to easily break apart. The medium firm noodles were fresh and al dente, though I don't think I could really tell the difference between medium and firm. Both ramen dishes were generously portioned, and priced at about $10 a bowl, it wasn't a bad deal in Midtown.

Hide-Chan will be offering a new dish not on their menu specially for the Soul Food Festival. It's called Yaki Ramen, a Fukuoka hometown specialty that is like yakisoba but is flavored with Worchestershire sauce and simmered tonkotsu broth. They saying goes that it was invented by a Fukuoka yatai stalled called Kokin-Chan in about 1968. You could only get it in Fukuoka before, but it's become so popular that an instant Yaki Ramen has been recently created that's now available everywhere in Japan. It's stir-fried, which makes it easier to eat while walking around the festival.

We highly recommend you check out Hide-Chan for a great bowl of authentic Hakata tonkotsu ramen and invite you to have a taste of Yaki Ramen at the Soul Food Festival this Sunday!

Hide-Chan Ramen
248 E 52nd Street
New York NY 10022   
(Between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)


Noodle Firmness and Broth Fat Options

Hakata Kuro Ramen
Hakata Kuro Ramen
Hakata Grilled Toro Pork Ramen
Toro Pork
Hakata Grilled Toro Pork Ramen
Spicy Mentaiko
Yaki Ramen