ASIA

THE WARM GLOW OF MISO

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STORY AND PHOTOS
  //   BY MATTHEW HELMINSKI


Rich, tangy, subtly sweet and surprisingly creamy, miso ramen is a relatively recent addition to Japanese cuisine. Created on the northern island of Hokkaido, it's serious comfort food for a cold, winter night.

Like most ramen shops, Ramen Oyaji offers a variety of options, but it is their signature Oyaji miso ramen that brings noodle lovers to this bustling suburb about 45 minutes southwest of central Tokyo.

At the junction of major commuter rail lines serving Tokyo and Yokohama, Machida is partly a bedroom community, but walk through the downtown area early on a weekend morning and you’ll see plenty of people stumbling home after a night out at the area’s many bars, pubs, and clubs. It’s is also the hometown of Satoshi Tajiri, creator of Pokémon.

Minutes from the station, Oyaji’s atmosphere is classic ramen shop: slightly faded décor, a well-used ticket machine for placing orders just inside the front door, and a dark wood counter overlooking the open kitchen.

Classic Sapporo-style miso ramen often comes topped with kernels of corn and a pat of butter, but Oyaji's toppings are more basic: stir-fried cabbage, onion and bean sprouts, a thin slice of chashu pork, and the obligatory fermented bamboo shoots and sheets of nori (seaweed).

What really separates Oyaji from lesser shops is their beautifully balanced broth made with both red and white miso. There's just a hint of corn and butter mixed in with the creamy sweetness of white miso and rich undertones of pork. Curly, egg-based ramen noodles, cooked al dente, offer an ideal vehicle for soaking up the rich flavor of the soup.

And that soup remains delicious to the last drop, a sure sign of ramen done right. You'll leave an empty bowl with a big grin on your face and a belly full of warm miso goodness. You might be tempted to curl up right there at the counter and take a nap, but you'll also be ready to face the cold with a smile.

INSIDER TIPS:

When you're feeling particularly ravenous, order the 1,100 yen Oyaji Ramen set: a big bowl of Oyaji’s miso ramen, plus a side of gyoza (pork dumplings).

The Spot:  
5 minutes walk north of Odakyu Machida station
Address: Misawa Building, 1-19-1 Nakamachi, Machida, Tokyo 194-0021
Hours: 11:30AM-12:30AM daily

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