Exploring Hiroshima

Vol.11 Soup-less Noodles “Shiru-Nashi Tantanmen”
King-Ken

There is an abundance of delicious regional dishes to discover in Hiroshima. In recent years, one spicy noodle dish is proving to be a hit in the city.

“Just keep mixing”

This was the advice of Takashi Watanabe, the owner and founder of the noodle restaurant chain ‘King-Ken’ that specializes in spicy, soup-less “Shiru-Nashi Tantanmen” noodles.

Takashi Watanabe, the owner of King-Ken

Takashi Watanabe, the owner of King-Ken

This style of noodles is fast becoming one of Hiroshima’s most popular dishes. Although the original spicy tantanmen served in a hot broth is a common sight on menus throughout Japan, the evolution to the soup-free version happened in Hiroshima.

“A restaurant called Kisaku opened in 2001 and introduced the soup-free tantanmen noodles and I was hooked,” explains Watanabe. “I went there religiously for ten or so years before I decided to start my own restaurant.”

According to Watanabe, Kisaku’s new dish tickled the tastebuds of Hiroshima’s food-savvy locals, prompting a sudden surge of Shiru-Nashi Tantanmen restaurants popping up throughout the region. Watanabe opened his first restaurant in 2011 and never looked back. Now he runs five popular Shiru-Nashi Tantanmen restaurants, with two located in Tokyo.

There are three King-Ken restaurants in Hiroshima and two in Tokyo

There are three King-Ken restaurants in Hiroshima and two in Tokyo

“The best thing about Shiru-Nashi Tantanmen besides being delicious? Without the soup, it’s also very healthy,” says Watanabe. “My staff and I eat it everyday and none of us are overweight.”

“Itadakimasu” - Time to Eat

Although each restaurant has its own twist on the Shiru-Nashi Tantanmen formula, the basic principles of eating the dish remain the same.

At King-Ken and many other noodle restaurants, you purchase your meal tickets from a vending machine at the front of the shop. The recommended order is noodles, a lightly poached egg, and a side of white rice.

“You can choose from four levels of spiciness and a level zero for children,” explains Watanabe. “The standard is level two, but level four is fine if you like hot and spicy food.”

Buy your meal ticket at the vending machine.

Buy your meal ticket at the vending machine.
The buttons in the red frame show the level of spiciness. The larger the number, the spicier it gets. The number 2 is the most basic and popular taste. Below the red frame is the buttons of a large portion.

Once it arrives, use your chopsticks to mix the noodles and toppings with the small dash of soup at the base of the bowl. Mix it thoroughly (they recommend over 30 times) or until the soup has been absorbed into the noodles, creating a sticky coating.

Mixing the noodles.

Mixing the noodles.

Dip into the poached egg and enjoy.

Dip into the poached egg and enjoy.

Finally, when the noodles are all but gone and there’s a sprinkling of toppings left in the bowl, the custom is to put the white rice into the bowl and mix it in with splashes of vinegar and special sauce.

Adding the rice, vinegar and special sauce.

Adding the rice, vinegar and special sauce.

This dish turns into a two-course menu.

This dish turns into a two-course menu.

If you need a reminder, Watanabe has a sign outside with helpful instructions written in English.

There are instructions on how to eat Shiru-Nashi Tantanmen written on the sign outside in English.

There are instructions on how to eat Shiru-Nashi Tantanmen written on the sign outside in English.

Words and Photography by Tom Miyagawa Coulton. (Visited in February 2018.)

Details:
King-Ken
Hondori Restaurant
Tel: 082-249-2322
Open: 11:00am - 10:00pm
Address: 730-0035 Hiroshima-ken, Hiroshima-shi, Naka-ku, Hondōri, 8−7
Website: http://www.kingken.jp/
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