At night, at the entry to Ameya Yokocho, an old market street in the outer Tokyo neighborhood of Ueno, my favorite ramen vendor appears with his yatai, an old-fashioned wooden pushcart on which he constructs steaming bowls of ramen. I don’t know the hawker by name, and his cart is unbranded, but his ramen I am intimately attached to; I always order a bowl when I’m in the area. The Japanese are nuts for this iconic soup, built around wheat-flour noodles made with kansui, an alkaline mineral water that renders them yellow and springy. Of the many types of ramen—porky tonkatsu, salty shio, chile-spiked tantanmen–my guy makes just one: Tokyo-style shoyu. He ladles a soy sauce-enriched clear broth over thin, straight noodles, roasted pork loin and belly, bamboo shoots and mung bean sprouts, fragrant scallions and greens, and a creamy, soy sauce- and mirin-marinated soft-boiled egg. A reverent silence surrounds the cart. All that can be heard is the slurping of noodles and the clatter of chopsticks against bowls. It is the music of satisfaction.

See the recipe for Tantanmen »

Ameya Yokocho
North entrance outside of the Yodobashi Camera building
4-10-10 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo