Ramen - What is it and where can I get it?

I think ramen love with you.

Confession: I have a huge crush on Chrissy Teigen. She's a swimsuit model, she's engaged to John Legend, she goes to cooking school and most importantly, she has an awesome food blog called So Delushious that's "personal random ramblings from a girl who loves bacon but can't be fat." Just google "John's Best Steak Marinade in Existence" or "Tuscan Grilled Chicken Under a Brick," and you'll see what I mean. 

But the thing with Chrissy is that sometimes she'll go a month between posts, that is, until recently when she started blogging about ramen. And when Chrissy Tiegen dedicates six consecutive blog posts to her love of ramen, it's time to learn more about ramen.

Now I know what you're thinking, RAMEN??? Isn't that the stuff you get 6 packages for $1 at Kroger? And the answer is no. Once you try real Japanese ramen, you'll never go back. 

Stacey immediately began searching for the best ramen in Columbus which led us to Tensuke Express. According to various Yelp.com reviewers, it's the place to go if you're craving the best, quickest and cheapest ramen in the city. Tensuke Express is a small restaurant in the back of Tensuke Market at 1167 Old Henderson Road and according to their website, "If you want a delicious Japanese meal or snack without taking much time out of your busy schedule, then Tensuke Express is just the place!"

Here's an interior shot of the restaurant. It's a small, clean space where you order at the window and they'll hand you a buzzer that lights up when your food is ready. I'd say 80% of the people eating there were Japanese which was a good sign and yes, that is a giant 400 gallon fish aquarium in the middle of the room.

Now we move to the "Oh crap, I'm at a Japanese restaurant and have no idea what to do," portion of this lesson. Luckily for you, I've got some tips. First, they've provided a helpful menu with pictures of all the choices which are mainly noodle dishes in a variety of broths.

Since we were here for one thing and one thing only, Stacey ordered the basic Ramen and I had the Spicy Kimchi Ramen. They will ask you what choice of soup you want and as you can see above, your choices are Shoyu (Soy Sauce), Miso (Bean Paste), Shio (Salt) and Tonkotsu (Pork). Stacey ordered the bean paste and I had the pork and we both agreed the pork was the way to go. It was creamy and salty and completely comforting not only because it was a cold, rainy day but because it was one heck of a solid hangover cure.

Ramen ($6.50) in Miso (Bean Paste Broth)

Spicy Kimchi Ramen ($7.50) in Tonkotsu (Pork Broth)

I will say that while I loved the broth and noodles, I didn't love the actual pork pieces or egg but they made a lovely presentation. 

Here are a few other things to know about ramen. There is no delicate way to eat it although they do provide a spoon for the broth. It is completely acceptable to slurp the noodles. Stacey was kind enough to demonstrate. And if you're not skilled with chopsticks, they do have forks behind the counter.

Another thing to mention is flavoring. There's a station where you can add a number of toppings (including soy sauce) to your ramen that you won't recognize so here's your cheat sheet (from left to right):

S&B Table Pepper - mixture of black & white pepper
La-Yu - a chili oil with heat and the aromatic flavor of sesame oil
Hachi - seasoning blend with sesame seed, garlic, and salt
S&B Sansyo - Japanese Pepper made of crushed pepper powder

Lastly, Tensuke Express is conveniently located in the back of Tensuke Market, which is a Japanese grocery store so you can grab amazingly prepared sushi from the market as you leave. We left with a nice selection of rolls and sashimi and it was delicious and cheap as you can see here ($3.95 for California Rolls and $4.95 for Spicy Tuna Rolls).