6:00 p.m. JST, October 17, 2022
CHIBA — It’s not uncommon in Japan to see someone have a small bowl of rice with their ramen. But how about having only rice in a ramen soup minus the noodles?
A rice wholesaler in Chiba City and a ramen shop owner and manager in Yachimata, Chiba Prefecture, developed their version of “rahan,” a word created by combining “ramen” with “han,” l one of the Japanese readings for ‘cooked rice’. .”
The ramen shop will start serving bowls of rahan from Tuesday.
Teppei Koyama, a manager at rice wholesaler Komebouzu, and Yuichi Ochi, owner and chef of Ganso Nikutama Soba Ochi, appear in a music video promoting their ramen-flavored porridge. The 80-second video has been viewed 1.1 million times since it was posted in mid-September on video-sharing service TikTok.
Many favorable comments were posted about the video, including, “I’ve been waiting for a dish like this.”
The video begins with Ochi, 40, refusing a proposal from Koyama, 38.
“It’s a ramen shop,” Ochi says, in mock TV drama style. “It’s impossible for a bowl of ramen not to contain noodles!”
Koyama does not give up and little by little, the pair gets to work on the flat.
In the end, the two are satisfied with the rice dish they are making.
The video was posted in part because Komebouzu wanted to promote new ways of consuming rice given the current trend for Japanese people to eat less rice than before.
Although the video reenacts the collaboration as going smoothly, in reality there was a lot of work to be done.
Ochi’s ramen soup led to him receiving accolades from a magazine specializing in ramen news. He simmers chicken, pork and beef for more than half a day and a natural sweetness comes through when tasting his soup. Thus, the proposed cuisine using rice as the main ingredient made Ochi feel like his enthusiasm for ramen noodles was negated.
Koyama’s enthusiasm changed Ochi’s mind. Koyama had business deals with around 60 ramen shops, but he had decided that Ochi would be the only person with whom he would develop rahan dishes together.
“Given how this dish is supposed to match rice,” Koyama told Ochi, “the soup you make is the only option.”
It took some time, but Koyama’s persistence in negotiating with Ochi finally convinced the leader.
When eating ramen, some people eat all the noodles but leave out some of the soup. With the rice porridge, the idea is that all the soup is eaten, so for Ochi, her ramen soup won’t go to waste.
They tried over 10 variations of the dish. Finally, they created a dish that has a good mouthfeel by using a less sticky variety of rice produced in the prefecture.
Two styles of Rahan have been added to Ochi’s menu. Nikutama Rahan is ¥980 and contains grilled meat, while Hiyashi Niboshi Rahan, a cold rice porridge using small dried sardines to make the soup base, is ¥880.
“I hope this will be a trigger for the spread of rahan,” Koyama said. “I want people to enjoy the taste of rice in every bowl down to the last grain, knowing that farmers have taken great care in growing it.”
Ochi can’t wait to start serving rahan.
“Nothing makes me feel better than when I see the bottom of a bowl after a customer has eaten the last drop of soup,” he said. “I can’t wait to see my customers enjoy the dish.”