Close by our apartment is a little restaurant called ippinkou.
Japan, unlike America, takes great pride in cooking at home. When speaking with one of my adult classes I asked them if they prepare their own abura age, sheets of fried tofu which are a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine.
With a gasp and a raise of her brow, Masako, an octogenarian and former English teacher declared, “No, we never. Each family has its own tastes, ne?”
As you can see, they’re quite the generous serving. Filled with ippinkou’s perfectly roasted pork, cabbage, and gifts from the heavens for all I know, my mouth constantly waters for these crispy, soft packages of complete deliciousness.
Gyoza is usually dipped into a sauce of vinegar, oil, soy sauce, and some spicy red mash. (which, again, you mix yourself according to your tastes. I add a lot of spice, generous soy sauce, and just a touch of vinegar). ippinkou personalizes it with the family’s preference: a touch of cinnamon in the hot additive gives the sauce a real kick and is a delightful switch from the norm.
The other thing that makes ippinkou stand out is that it’s clearly a family-run establishment. Most of Japanese restaurants are chains with a pretty commercial vibe. The staff is incredibly friendly and the food is good, but it’s just not the same. ippinkou is a mom and pop shop if I ever saw one – literally.At the center of it all is this man. When I asked one of the women working if it was okay to take photos she immediately deferred to this man (my apologies, I don’t know his name). With a stern nod of his head I knew we had his acceptance.
He’s pretty much a one man show. He slices up enormous hunks of pork, measures and cooks the noodles and dishes them out with the broth. Three young girls or women stand at their stations to finish the bowl: bamboo, scallion slices, and pork.
For more details on the ramen itself in part 2, click here.