I have always been more of an udon person than a ramen fan. Most people (including my Japanese friends) are surprised by
that fact because ramen always makes a very tasty meal, while udon is more for times when you need some hot soup or when
you are feeling sick. After all, instant ramen is the one that got famous, not instant udon. As a result, when my
friends invited me to go to a Japanese supermarket that’s 3 hours away for a Hokkaido-themed weekend with special ramen
being served, I wasn’t that keen on going. Now that I have had the bowl of ramen, I realize that that was a very stupid
thought. That question shouldn’t even be legal.
We arrived at the Mitsuwa supermarket, located in New Jersey across the Hudson River from Columbia University, a couple
of minutes before 11am. There were probably more than 100 people waiting patiently in line by then. Some guy who was
walking by asked sarcastically if that was the line for the new iPhone. This ramen restaurant rented a temporary shop to
serve their special menu over the weekend. Initially, I wanted to grab something from another ramen shop (Santouka), but
after my friends insistence in lining up and realizing that the line wasn’t that bad considering that they were not open
for business yet (they start at 11am), I submitted to the peer pressure and walked to the end of a very long-ass line.
In short, it took us nearly an hour before we could place our orders and another 10 minutes to get the food. If you are
impatient or not willing to wait long periods of time for a meal, this is definitely not something you want to do. Pro
tip: the line was very short by the time we were leaving, which was closer to 3pm, so that might be something to factor
in if you are heading that way.
I was surprised to find that Santouka, a Hokkaido-based ramen chain found at most Mitsuwa supermarkets, was not the one
that jumped on the bandwagon of selling their miso ramen during the Hokkaido-themed weekend special event. Instead, the
line was served by a restaurant nobody had ever heard of, Ezo Fukurou. After some research, I learned that this was a
ramen shop based in Sapporo—I’ve listed the address of the original restaurant at the bottom of the post. It seems like
for the past few years, Mitsuwa invited their chefs all the way from Japan to share their unique ramen recipes during
the Hokkaido gourmet fair. They served three different flavors of ramen and only two of them were sold each day. One of
them was the famous Hokkaido ramen, which is a miso soup base ramen; the other two were ramen black (not available on
the date I was there) and ramen red. It seemed to us that the only difference between the original and ramen red was the
addition of hot sauce and half an egg.
With such popularity for a simple bowl of ramen, I assumed that this bowl of ramen was going to come in a really small
portion for some ridiculously expensive price. However, it seemed like not everyone on the planet got the memo to become
a capitalist, and some of us still maintain high levels of professionalism by not mixing business and food. I was given
a really large bowl of miso ramen with a generous portion of noodles. Even though the restaurant hailed from Hokkaido,
the miso ramen wasn’t the variant from Sapporo; instead, it was ramen in a rich miso soup base with sliced pork, green
onions/scallions, kamaboko (the white thing with the pink swirl in the middle), and bean sprouts.
The broth of this bowl of ramen achieved a delicate balance between being darn awesome but not damn salty. This requires
skill because ramen is supposed to be rich and salty. The noodles, on the other hand, were chewy and easy to slurp down.
There weren’t many toppings on the bowl of noodle but I was totally fine with that. The noodle and broth totally made up
for the lack of toppings, and I did not care for those toppings. In some way, the chefs and I agreed on that one most
important thing when it comes to soup noodle – it is the noodle and the broth that defines the ramen, not the toppings
on it. I wolfed down the noodles in the blink of an eye and had to restrain myself from drinking all the broth. It was
Was it worth the three hours’ drive and having to stand in line for an hour for a bowl of ramen? I think so, especially
if you are here in the United States. I would probably not have done the same had this been in Japan, but this isn’t
land of the rising sun. Taste-wise, this bowl of ramen is probably of decent quality in Japan, but it will be voted as
the supreme leader here in the U.S. The chef(s) easily knock all other bowls of ramen around here out of the water, and
the price made it so much easier to swallow. So yes it was worth it, and I will be counting down the days for the return
of this temporary ramen shop next autumn.
Ramen Ezo Fukurou
Address: Japan, Hokkaido Prefecture, Sapporo, Higashi Ward, Kita 7 Johigashi, 9 Chome−2−20
Mitzuwa Marketplace NJ
Address: 595 River Rd, Edgewater, NJ 07020
Visited: September 27, 2014 for lunch at 11am.
Special Note: This is only available during the annual Hokkaido Gourmet fair. Check the store calender of the Mitsuwa near you if they host similar events.
Edited by: E. Chen