Ramen Talk

As a specialty Japanese ramen shop, we are proud to be diligent, honest, and passionate about ramen. We will never serve pre-made, artificially preserved broth or use mass-produced commercial noodles that other ramen shops may use. If you stop by our Samurai Noodle restaurants, we promise to always present you with our fresh, handmade noodles and our authentic ramen broths.

We would like to talk you about the thin straight Tonkotsu noodles that we make here at Samurai Noodle. We use a noodle machine (about 700 pounds) that we have imported from Japan and produce over 1000 servings of noodles on a daily basis. You can watch our noodle artisan skillfully craft our noodles at the Samurai Noodle’s Capitol Hill store or Houston store almost every day! You might watch them at work and think that making noodles is an easy task, but you would be sadly mistaken! Noodle making requires a sensitive touch that you can’t learn from reading a manual or recipe. The recipe itself must be constantly altered slightly depending on several factors including the temperature and humidity. Noodle making is an art that requires the noodle master to “feel” the noodles.

Producing our own noodles not only requires employing a skilled noodle maker and purchasing a noodle machine, but is also more expensive than purchasing mass-produced commercial noodles. So why do we do it? We make our own noodles because we want to control the freshness, control the quality, and preserve the natural sweetness in our wheat noodles.

The noodles served at Samurai Noodles must be super fresh so that you can experience eating very short-cooked and very firm noodles known in Japan as “Bari-kata”, “Hari-gane”, or even “Kona-otoshi”. We want you to enjoy the BITE or “Koshi” which is the sensation of biting into the “Al-Dente” noodles. When you eat at Samurai Noodle, we don’t just want you to only enjoy the flavor, but we also want you to enjoy and experience the different textures, or the BITE of our ramen.

The freshness of our noodles is definitely something that we want you to feel, but we also want you to taste the natural sweetness of the noodles. If you were to take a good look at noodles served in other ramen shops, you will notice that their noodles are somewhat translucent. This occurs when the wheat flour to substance flour ratio is low, which is a way many noodle makers reduce their production cost. Substance flour is much cheaper than wheat flour, but the tradeoff is, the loss of the wheat flour’s natural sweetness. When we were creating our noodle recipe, we had the noodle machine manufacturer eat our noodles. What we needed to hear before we finalized our recipe was “your noodles are sweeter than most ramen noodles in Japan.” After many trials, we got those very words! The noodle machine manufacturer has hundreds of thousands of clients, and has eaten countless numbers of noodles from them all. Gaining their approval has led us to pride ourselves in our noodle recipe. In order to further bring out the natural sweetness of wheat flour, both our Seattle and Houston stores proudly only use flour from local mills and distributors.

Tonkotsu ramen has been Samurai Noodle’s specialty since 2006. “Ton” means pork and “Kotsu” means bone. Tonkotsu Ramen essentially translates to “Pork Bone Ramen”. While the origins of Tonkotsu ramen can be traced back to both Fukuoka (Hakata) Kyushu Japan or Kurume Kyushu, Samurai Noodle’s Tonkotsu Ramen is based off of the Hakata Tonkotsu ramen. The “soup” that comes with Tonkotsu ramen is not just simply “porky water”, but rather a thick, rich, broth that takes days to create. We won’t be talking about our “soup” in detail in this post but it will be covered in another post later.

The noodles that come with Tonkotsu ramen usually have unique and distinctive characteristics. These Tonkotsu noodles generally do not contain any eggs, so they appear to be a very straight, white, and skinny. In Hakata Kyushu Japan, people generally like to enjoy the “Koshi” (Bite) in their Hakata Tonkotsu noodles. For this reason, it is common to order “Kata-men” (firm noodles), “Bari-kata” (extra firm), “Hari-gane” (metal wire), or “Kona-otoshi” (powder dropping). It is essential to not leave the noodles in liquids for an extended period of time since the noodles absorb moisture and become soggy. When the noodles are soggy, the Koshi is lost. Here in America, some people may consider Hakata style Tonkotsu noodles to be undercooked, or uncooked, but this is how Japanese people enjoy the “Koshi” in noodles.

When eating at a ramen shop, there is generally “Kae-dama”, or an additional add-on noodle option for customers. This option is served after the first noodle is served, and is eaten with the remaining broth. This Kae-Dama option aims to serve our noodles as fresh as possible so the customers are able to enjoy the Koshi of the noodles. Again, noodles that remain in broth for a few minutes absorb liquids and lose their Koshi. Hence, this is why we aim to serve the Kae-Dama option after you finish your first serving.

Japanese people try to emphasize the Koshi in their noodles, but not all noodles actually have Koshi. Whether a certain noodle has Koshi really depends on the recipe. There are hundreds of ways to obtain good “Koshi”, but controlling the water quantity is a key factor. For Tonkotsu noodles, the less water used in the noodle making process, the better Koshi will be produced. This water to flour ratio in ramen noodles is called “Ka-Sui-Ritsu” (加水率). Samurai Noodle’s noodle recipe amazingly calls for 16%-18% Ka-Sui-Ritsu. The average person may not be able to appreciate this fact, but any noodle maker would definitely tell us “no way!” Using such a low percentage of water makes creating the dough for the noodles extremely difficult. The dough is very powdery and rough, and the texture of the dough is actually very harmful for the noodle machine. Using dough with a low Ka-Sui-Ritsu is almost like running pebbles through our machine. Due to the difficulty of the dough making process and the fact that the low Ka-Sui-Ritsu potentially damages the noodle machine, the average noodle maker is discouraged from following our special recipe. We follow our recipe despite the challenges because we want to present you with the finest quality “Koshi” (bite). Here at Samurai Noodle, we pride ourselves with our original Tonkotsu noodles. We will of course, serve you soft noodles if that is your preference. However, if you are interested, please enjoy the authentic way of eating Hakata Tonkotsu ramen at our Seattle and Houston locations.

To request firmness, you can tell your server the following options when you order your Tonkotsu ramen:
– Kona-otoshi (Ultra firm); 7 -10 seconds to cook. *Uncooked
– Hari-gane or Bari Kata (Very firm); 15-20 seconds to cook. *My preference
– Kata-men; 30-35 seconds to cook. *Store’s recommendation
– Normal; 45-60 seconds to cook
– Soft; 90 seconds to cook. *If you are used to eating Chinese noodles, this would be similar to your preference.

Hopefully by now you understand why we at Samurai Noodle choose to make our own original noodles!