Tsukemen is a bonafide Tokyo specialty, originating from a famous ramen shop called Higashi-Ikebukuro Taishouken in the early 1960s. Since then, it has even gained popularity abroad in cities such as Los Angeles.
Tsukemen does not necessarily have to be made with ramen noodles; other types of noodles like udon can also be enjoyed in tsukemen dishes. In general, the noodles used for tsukemen are quite firm as they do not sit in the soup and soak up the liquid like a typical ramen. Having the noodles in a separate bowl also allows the flavor of the noodles to shine through instead of being masked by the heavy, rich broth. And since the noodles are thicker than most varieties of ramen noodles, they are also chewier and bouncier.
Tsukemen soup is really more like a dipping sauce. It’s potent, powerful, and thick, with a strong saltiness. After eating your fill of tsukemen, you may find that you have some leftover soup. At that point you can get “soup-wari” or “supu-wari.” Just say “supu-wari kudasai,” and the server will bring you some dashi broth to mix with the concentrated soup. This tones down the intense saltiness and also introduces complex flavors of the dashi into the soup.
Enjoy making your own tsukemen during a tsukemen cooking class or compare tsukemen with traditional ramen during a ramen food tour. Soon you’ll be ordering “supu-wari” like a local!