Hsinchu (Taiwan News) – Japanese-style ramen has become a buzzword among local foodies over the past few years with more and more of the most prestigious brands expanding stores in Taiwan. Among them, Ramen Iroha, the five-time champion in Japan's Tokyo Ramen Show since 2009, is opening its first shop on December 22 in Taiwan, featuring ramen free of additives.
Japanese-style ramen has been known for its rich and thick taste of the soup to compliment chewy homemade noodles and marinated braised pork belly. For some health-conscious diners, ramen contains too much sodium and additives, but, with the help of Taiwanese food giant I-Mei Food, local diners at Ramen Iroha will be able to enjoy ramen with a peace of mind.
Honored as a role model in food safety in Taiwan, I-Mei has invested heavily in its own food safety laboratory to conduct a variety of residue testing and purchases the finest ingredients for food manufacturing. As part of its diversification growth strategies, I-Mei has expanded into the restaurant business and is now partnering with Ramen Iroha to provide the first-ever health-conscious ramen products, including its signature chicken bone broth ramen (Bai-Jing Chicken-Broth Ramen) and pork broth in dark soy sauce ramen (Toyama Black Ajitama Ramen) products. To reach a perfect balance between the mouth-feel and health, the president of Japan's Ramen Iroha, Kiyoshi Kurihara, has visited Taiwan several times to work with the I-Mei team to hammer out solutions.
The photo shows the president of Japan's Ramen Iroha, Kiyoshi Kurihara (Taiwan News Photo/ Sophia Yang)
Asked by a Taiwan News reporter about the biggest challenge while working with I-Mei, Kurihara said there are two: firstly, most Japanese-style ramen operators would add 'kansui' (alkaline) to noodle dough to make ramen noodles less absorbent and more bouncy. After talking to I-Mei, Ramen Iroha has decided not to add the ingredient and tried six months to produce the 'additive-free' ramen noodles suitable for the champion's chicken- or pork-based ramen soup.
"The second biggest challenge is to produce 'additive-free' or 'all-natural' dark soy sauce and it took us a lot of time and money to reach that end," Kurihara said. He added that the store sources local ingredients to produce a perfect base for its Toyama Black Ramen series, including I-Mei's whole-bean fermented soy sauce, natural fish essence, pork bone, and other natural ingredients; more than 200 kilograms of soy sauce were destroyed after trying a hundred times. The team put all the ingredients together to slow cook for more than five hours to prepare the soup and reduce the amount of sodium to localize taste.
The photo shows Ramen Iroha's signature Toyama Black Ajitama Ramen (Taiwan News Photo/ Sophia Yang)
Another featured soup base at Ramen Iroha is Bai-Jing Chicken-Broth Ramen, which are made of chicken bone, chicken feet, konbu (seaweed), and other locally-sourced ingredients, with toppings like Chashu (sliced marinated braised pork belly) soft-boiled eggs, roasted seaweed, simmered bamboo shoots, and spring onions.
At the end of the interview with Taiwan News, Kurihara announced a plan to develop a first-ever ramen soup base using I-Mei's soy milk as a Taiwan-only ramen product and will also continue to develop health-oriented ramen products in Taiwan.
The store also provides various side dishes for your choice, including mini donburi (rice with braised pork), karaage (Japanese version of fried chicken), gyoza (pan-fried Japanese dumplings), and I-Mei black and green tea.
The store sits on a busy street corner near Hsinchu Science Park at No. 103, Ziqiang South Road, Zhubei City, Hsinchu County.
The photo shows Ramen Iroha's mini donburi (Taiwan News Photo/ Sophia Yang)