Out on the Town, Part 1: Interview with a Ramen Chef

Hello to all of our loyal readers!  Today’s blog entry marks the first installment in a new series about what to do with your time in Matsumoto: where to eat, where to drink, and where to find some of this vibrant city’s best kept secrets.  Today, our topic is ramen, a dish which in recent years has captured the imaginations and enthralled the tastebuds of people around the world.  If you’re travelling to different locations around the country, you will have opportunities to sample various kinds of ramen, including miso ramen in Sapporo and Fukuoka’s famed Hakata style.  Matsumoto is also home to some notable places, but you’ll have to know where to go to find the best ones.  Mr. Nishizawa Noriyoshi of Torimen Goshiki has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about his trade and also offer some valuable tips about where you can sample some of Matsumoto’s best.


William: Mr. Nishizawa, thank you for joining us today.  I’d like to ask you a few questions about the world of ramen.

Nishizawa-san: Sure.  It would be my pleasure.

W:  OK.  For starters, why did you decide to open a ramen shop and how did you get started?

N: Well, my father runs his own restaurant, so I grew up with an interest in food and cooking.  Getting into ramen was simply a matter of wanting to make what I personally like to eat.  It only took about six months to become a qualified cook, but devising my trademark soup recipe took a further three years of experimenting.

W:  I see.  You spoke about being a ramen lover yourself.  What makes your shop special?  Can you introduce some of it’s unique qualities to our readers?

N: First of all, where most ramen shops use pork both as their soup based and as a topping (chashuu), I use chicken.  That in itself makes this place unusual.  (editor’s note: this also makes Goshiki a good choice for anyone who can’t eat pork for religious or dietary reasons).)I also pay special attention to ingredients and don’t use MSG.

W: And your noodles are made with whole wheat, right?

N: Oh yeah, that’s also uncommon.  I like the whole wheat for its aromatic quality.  It’s also slightly lower in calories and a good source of dietary fibre.

W:  Yeah, I’d say it tastes a bit more wholesome than the usual white flower ramen.  On the subject of flavours, what would you recommend to a first time customer visiting Goshiki?

N:  Hmmm, I’d say what dish you choose depends on what mood you are in.  If you feel like a big hearty meal, the jiro is a good choice.  For something a little lighter, the torimen might be better with it’s smaller quantity and thinner noodles.  Lastly, if you’re hungover and want something even lighter, why not try the shagamo.  We have an English menu, so figuring out what you want should be easy enough.

Goshiki’s flagship ramen, jiro, with rich garlic flavour, thick noodles, and chicken garnish.

Torimen with all the toppings (ask for “zenbunose”)

W: This is a strange question, but if you were to prepare a tour of some of Matsumoto’s finer ramen-ya, what are some of the places you would choose?  I usually tell people to try Goshiki or the famous Zunpachi in the south east part of town.  Any other ideas?

N: Personally, I really like Sobadokoro Nagomi, which is near Agatanomori Park.  They’re best known for hand-made soba, but also serve delicious ramen.  In the south of town, there’s a newer place called Tsuki no Tokage near Minami Matsumoto Station, which caters to a variety of tastes with both rich, flavourful tonkotsu and some lighter fare.

W: Great!  Thank you so much for your time.  In closing, do you have anything you’d like to say to potential customers?

N: (Laughs)  I guess I’d just say that I’d like them to try my ramen.  Someone traveling around Japan can sample all kinds of unique varieties of ramen, and I like to think Goshiki is unqiue and special as well.  Please drop by!

Once again, a big thanks to Nishizawa-san for his perspective and valuable advice.  For information on some of the places mentioned, including where to find them, please consult the following links:

–Torimen Goshiki (chicken-based ramen, near Matsumoto Station) http://www.deli-koma.com/dk/shop/?clid=1013902

–Zunpachi (寸八: rich tonkotsu and other choices for the discerning ramen fan) http://raamen-zunpachi.town-j.com/ ;

–Sobadokoro Nagomi (hand-made soba, tasty ramen, and so much more) http://www.nagomi-soba.com/

–Tsukino Tokage: (a new but well-loved shop only a few minutes walk from Minami Matsumoto Station) http://tabelog.com/en/nagano/A2002/A200201/20018453/

Till next time, bon appetit!

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