Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tenkaippin Ramen

After a disappointing bowl of ramen for lunch today in Taipei, I couldn't help but start reminiscing about the ramen my mom and I recently had in Hawaii. An unassuming little hole-in-the-wall shop on Kapahulu Ave. (which seems to be Honolulu's food mecca), Tenkaippin Ramen served me not only the most interesting bowl of ramen I've ever had, but also the most interesting (?) eating experience. Let me elaborate.

But first, a little parking story. With only a small lot behind Tenkaippin to accommodate the entire strip of restaurants and shops, coming by a parking spot during the day seemed liked a game of luck with the most unattractive probabilities. We circled through the one-way lot multiple times, each time with a car backing out just in time for the car behind us to pull in. Then we spotted a Jack in the Box across the street with only a few cars in its lot but numerous signs that said parking was for customers only. We pulled into a spot and considered just parking at Jack in the Box until we noticed a guy wearing dark sunglasses standing on the street corner, observing the lot, making sure no one who wasn't eating potato wedges dared to leave their car there. Hunger-induced paranoia? I think so.

We ended up parking in Tenkaippin's lot anyways after waiting across the street for a spot to open up. When we left the restaurant, the guy wearing sunglasses was gone. He was most likely just waiting for the bus.

Tenkaippin Ramen
617 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
tel: 808-732-1211
dining date: 7/9/11

photo 1
Now, the interesting bowl of ramen. Tenkaippin is a Japanese ramen chain with over 200 restaurants but only one location outside of Japan. They're known for their kotteri broth--a thick, slowly-cooked, collagen-rich chicken broth that they boast to be not only hearty, but also healthy. This broth is seriously so thick, I wouldn't be surprised if it contains collagen to plump up anyone's skin and smooth out those wrinkles. No, maybe not, but it's tasty enough that it doesn't need to replace cosmetic surgery to prove itself. The unique broth combined with perfectly QQ/al dente ramen noodles of the straighter nature (not the curly sort) made for the most interesting bowl of ramen I've ever had. To give a comparison, the concentrated chicken flavor, along with the thickness of the broth, reminded us of the broth in shark fin soup.

photo 2
We also tried a bowl of the paitan ramen with a pork and chicken base soup that is similar to the more familiar tonkotsu ramen. This broth was lighter, not nearly as thick, yet still had the flavor that only comes from hours of stewing bones full of marrow. I actually really enjoyed the slightly spicy presence of white pepper in the paitan broth, and this was the bowl I ended up finishing after yielding the kotteri to my mom.

photo 2-2
And so we get to the interesting eating experience. Apparently, the owners of this particular location of Tenkaippin also happens to be the hosts of a new television show called Ultimate Japan, in which they travel to different parts of Japan and share their experiences. This is fine and dandy, but unfortunately, due to the tragic natural and unnatural disasters that recently occurred in Japan, the episode that they were playing that day (on repeat) was of the hosts visiting and providing relief to those who were left homeless. There was no shortage of heartbreaking footages of the devastation and destruction left behind by the earthquakes and tsunamis. An elderly lady told the story of how she managed to climb up a flight of stairs and save herself, only to watch the tsunami waves wash away her husband who was a few steps behind her. Touching, no doubt, but also understandably upsetting to watch. The women sitting across from me starting uncontrollably shedding tears straight into her bowl of ramen. I had a hard time holding back tears myself. The program left all the customers either unable to tear their eyes away from the overhead TV while crying into their ramen, or hell-bent on keeping their heads down so they could at least swallow. Thus, I can only say this way of eating was very...interesting.

photo 1-2

So while it may have been difficult to consume at times, this ramen was definitely one of the best I've ever had. While the broth is, indeed, very unique, it's also addictive and delicious. The thick broth thoroughly coated the palate in a very pleasant manner with each spoonful and I kept going back for more spoonfuls. I'm sure the other soup options are quite good as well. The pork slices, which I previously forgot to mention, were also very nicely done. We kept trying to return to Tenkaippin during our vacation in Honolulu, but our stay was way too short for us to afford the luxury of repeat visits. Next time!


  1. nice, another place to add to my list. did you get to try any of the hawaiian joints like ono hawaiian foods, etc.?

  2. the tako poke from ono seafood over brown rice is my favorite! i've been meaning to blog about it..just haven't gotten around to it yet haha