Around the World in 80 Plates – Ten Ten Ramen

Hello everybody! Welcome to Around the World in 80 Plates! This’ll be a series of entries about restaurants that feature cuisine from around the world. This is an attempt to expand my palate, eating foods I wouldn’t normally have access to, and expand my knowledge of other cultures. While I’m in the midst of graduate school, I may not have the time to backpack around the world, but I can backpack around the city, meet folks, and eat food just the same!
To start, we’re going to Japan, specifically, Ten Ten Ramen in Baltimore.
When I went to Japan in 2007, I was only 15, and I discovered a lot of wonderful food. From green tea ice cream, to okonomiyaki, gyoza, and my personal favorite, inarizushi. One thing I had yet to love and learn, however, was ramen.
We’re all familiar with TopRamen or Maruchan ramen, but my friends, this is just the base. If you have been eating ramen like this,

and not like this,
you’ll start to see how much you’re missing out on. You’ve been eating bread sandwiches with no fillings, my friend. Let me show you the way.
This being said, when I saw a ramen restaurant open up in the city, I put it on my list to check out. Less than a year later, there Alesha and I were, at Ten Ten Ramen. 
“Hyrule is my hometown!”

Alesha in all black, of course.
The moment you step in, you hear a loud, “Irasshaimase!” or “Welcome!” 
And you’re greeted with a happy-go-lucky Maneki-neko, or “beckoning cat.”

You’re then directed to the menu, and given a huge amount of choices with all the toppings you could ever desire for ramen.

so. many. choices.

 Luckily, Alesha knew a few of the folks there, and upon their suggestion, I got the spicy tonkontsu, and Alesha got the shoyu ramen. (I also buy Ramune, mango Hi-Chew, and a green tea bun, ’cause I love bread).

So Alesha and I play catch up. Alesha’s finished with school, we’re both facing a winter that’s just getting started, and boys still suck. What else is new? Ramen.

They look great right? This is what watching all of those Miyazaki films was preparing me for! Have you seen that animated food?

Now I know how Ponyo felt!
It’s a great movie, I highly recommend it!

 Equipped with chopsticks and a soup ladle, Alesha and I set to work.

Now, lemme explain.
When it comes to eating around the world in 80 plates, I have a simple strategy,

“Don’t ask, just eat.”
This is very similar to the mantra of Andrew Zimmern, “If it looks good eat it,” but a bit different. In this case, even if it doesn’t look too good, I have to try it. I mean, pork rinds don’t look too good but its universally known that they’re amazing.
So I decided not to ask questions about what was in my bowl until the very end (good thing the menu is partly in Japanese). So lemme breakdown what was in my bowl.

oh and, Tonkotsu means, “pork bone broth”, so it’s a pork based ramen dish
So, my wonderful travelers, would I return to Ten Ten Ramen and eat ramen again? Certainly. And being that I know close to nothing about ramen, the menu is impressive enough for me to try something new often, and discover new flavors. 
Speaking of new flavors, the chasu is interesting. It’s pork, but it’s a lot of pork fat, and even though the pork was tasty, my texture focused tongue could not handle it. One bite was enough for me to realize it wasn’t gonna happen for the chasu. But I loved practically everything else about this dish (I can take or leave the seaweed and fish patty, they add an interesting texture and taste, but it’s not one I crave or will miss).
And while it wasn’t the grade of spicy I love, it packed a bit of punch to it, especially when I got to the last bits of the broth where all the peppers had settled.
Alesha loved hers as well, and it was the same broth, minus the spice.
Once we finished, Alesha and I bid Ten Ten a happy “Sayonara!” and spent a few moments wandering around downtown Baltimore. 
It’s cold out, but the city keeps moving. 
And so, this was the first installment of Around the World in 80 Plates! Did you enjoy it? What details could I add? What else would you like to know? How many pictures can I fit into a blog post???
Either or, leave me a note, and let’s chat!
I hope I didn’t make you too hungry!
See you soon!

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