CHICAGO (WLS) --While the ramen wave continues to sweep across Chicago, there is a sub-category of the beloved Japanese noodle soup, but it's barely seen here.
It's called "tsukemen" and there are a just a couple of places offering it now.
Popular in the summertime, some ramen shops here are now offering tsukemen year round. The noodles are chilled and the broth is a bit thicker, but the condiments remain pretty much the same.
And as we discovered recently at two local ramen shops, the interest in this hot and cold dish is on the rise.
At first, the ramen assembly at Ramen Takeya looks typical: soy is ladled into powdered sesame, along with some ponzu sauce and dried, powdered fish. A rich, warm chicken broth is added then whisked up vigorously. Even the condiments look familiar: scallions, white onions, braised pork and fish cakes. But it's the noodles that seem different. For one thing, they're not in the bowl.
"We use a little bit different noodle like we use a little thicker, more chewy and more curly noodle," said Satoko Takeyama, owner of Ramen Takeya.
After they're cooked, they're immediately chilled in an ice bath, then served with condiments. To eat, you simply dip them into the broth, which is slightly thicker, in order to cling to the noodles.
"Tsukemen broth has a little fish taste to it, so it is a little bit different from other ramen we have," she said.
In Logan Square, Furious Spoon has been offering the dish for over a year, and wants to make sure you know how to order it.
"It's pronounced 'skemen.' Tsukemen roughly translates to 'dipping noodle,'" said Shin Thompson, owner of Furious Spoon.
Thompson makes the alkaline noodles himself, supplying his two other locations. He boils them, then vigorously shakes them off and submerges them in an ice bath. They get a drizzle of garlic oil, then a host of toppings: scallion, lime, nori (or dried seaweed) and a shake or two of sesame seeds. The broth is pork-based, housing thick slices of chashu - the ubiquitous braised pork belly - and Thompson said it's important to reduce and thicken that broth a little bit more than the usual bowl of ramen.
"It's almost like a gravy, because it's a little bit thicker; designed to kind of stick to the noodles," he said.
Thompson recommends squeezing on some fresh lime, then doing your best to lift the noodles, submerge them in the thickened broth with the condiments, then quickly slurp. He says it's a dish made for summer, but not necessarily impossible to have in the winter.
"I think it's popular in warmer months because it's a cold dish, but the broth is hot so it's kind of a hot-cold combo," he said.
Extra Course: Ramen Toppings
And in this week's Extra Course, Steve talks about all of the potential ramen toppings you could order when you visit a traditional ramen shop, and show you how to order and pronounce them, so you sound like a pro.
819 W Fulton Market
1571 N Milwaukee Ave
2410 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Revival Food Hall (Tsukemen NOT available at this location)
125 S Clark St
1316 W 18th St