Exploring Hiroshima

Vol.17 Hiroshima Tsukemen Noodles
Hot in Hiroshima - The City’s Famous Spicy Tsukemen Noodles

Made with fresh ingredients and a natural soup stock, Reimenya’s Hiroshima tsukemen noodles are a delight for the tastebuds

Reimenya

“Hiroshima tsukemen noodles are the only item on our menu,” says Kenta Kadonaka with pride.

Kenta Kadonaka - owner of the Reimenya Otemachi Restaurant.

Kenta Kadonaka - owner of the Reimenya Otemachi Restaurant.

Kenta is the owner of the newly-opened Reimenya noodle shop near the Peace Memorial Park in central Hiroshima. With its light interior and stylish wooden counter, everything about the shop feels new and modern. But the menu at Reimenya strictly adheres to a tried and tested recipe for their much-loved Hiroshima tsukemen noodles.

The interior has a stylish, modern design.

The interior has a stylish, modern design.

“We’ve maintained the same taste and recipe since my father started his shop in 1985,” says Kenta. “Back then, the name of the dish - Hiroshima tsukemen - didn’t exist. People just referred to it as ‘reimen’, meaning ‘cold noodles’.”

Hiroshima Tsukemen Noodles

Tsukemen basically means ‘dipping noodles’ and you can find varieties of the dish all over Japan. What makes the Hiroshima tsukemen so special is the dipping soup. Made from a combination of rayu chilli oil, soup stock, soy sauce and vinegar, one dip into this soup gives each mouthful of noodles a spicy but refreshing kick. The size of the kick depends how spicy you’re prepared to go.

“Most people start off with the least spicy dipping soup, but gradually most people seek out a bit more of a kick each time they visit,” explains Kenta. “There’s no limit - you can make your soup as spicy as you want it!”

The one item on the menu - Hiroshima tsukemen noodles.

The one item on the menu - Hiroshima tsukemen noodles.

When it arrives, Reimenya’s Hiroshima tsukemen looks simple. A dish of boiled noodles and parboiled toppings, and a small bowl of spicy, red soup covered in a layer of sesame seeds. But one mouthful reveals the careful balance of subtle but distinguishable flavors and textures combined in this one dish. As well as being cooked to perfection, the freshness and quality of the ingredients shines through.

Reimenya’s famous handmade spicy dipping soup

Reimenya’s famous handmade spicy dipping soup

“We only use the freshest ingredients and the noodles are made by a traditional noodle shop just for use in our dish,” explains Kenta. “We make everything from scratch every day, including the soup. The soy sauce and the rayu chilli oil are both handmade. When we make the soup stock, all the flavor comes from the raw ingredients - we never add salt or any other condiments to flavor the soup.”

The soy sauce is first used to make the chasu pork before being used in the soup

The soy sauce is first used to make the chasu pork before being used in the soup

You can ask Kenta to add as much or as little of the spicy rayu chilli oil as you wish

You can ask Kenta to add as much or as little of the spicy rayu chilli oil as you wish

Needless to mention, the chilli oil is handmade and the recipe is a closely guarded secret

Needless to mention, the chilli oil is handmade and the recipe is a closely guarded secret

Each plate is meticulously prepared by Kenta.

Each plate is meticulously prepared by Kenta.

Compared to Hiroshima’s other culinary staples like the okonomiyaki or oysters, the Hiroshima tsukemen is a relative newcomer. It was originally a seasonal dish made for the hot Hiroshima summer.

“My father learnt how to make the Hiroshima tsukemen directly from the person who invented the dish,” explains Kenta. His father’s restaurant in the Tokaichi district in Hiroshima City is still as popular as ever, catering to his large following of loyal regulars. “I worked at the Tokaichi shop for eight years and afterwards I decided to start my own restaurant.”

No salt or condiments or additives are used to flavor the soup

No salt or condiments or additives are used to flavor the soup

Rinsing the noodles in cold water

Rinsing the noodles in cold water

Kenta opened his Reimenya restaurant in October 2017. Sitting across the river from the Peace Memorial Park and close to the Atomic Bomb Dome, the location is easily accessible for both locals and tourists. Reimenya also has an English menu to help non-Japanese customers. Even in such a short period of time, Kenta has already established a strong base of regular customers.

“At the moment, around half my customers are regulars and half are new customers,” says Kenta. “But my focus is to just keep creating a delicious dish everyone can enjoy.”

The shop is conveniently located across the river from the Peace Park and down the road from the Atomic Bomb Dome.

The shop is conveniently located across the river from the Peace Park and down the road from the Atomic Bomb Dome.

The price changes depending on the size of the serving

The price changes depending on the size of the serving

Reimenya also provides an English menu.

Reimenya also provides an English menu.

After tasting Reimenya’s Hiroshima tsukemen, it is easy to see how new customers quickly turn into regulars. Kenta might only have one item on the menu, but what he does, he does to perfection.

Reimenya Otemachi Restaurant

Reimenya Otemachi Restaurant

2-4-6 Otemachi, Hiroshima City

TEL : 082-248-7600
Open : 11am-2pm
6pm-9am
Last orders ten minutes before closing.
Closed : Sundays and public holidays
Website (Japanese) : http://reimenya.com/

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

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