Mapo Tofu + Ramen = Sapporo’s Mabo Ramen
Sometimes a girl just has to have ramen. Even if it’s the middle of the summer. Even if the weather is oppressively hot. That’s what over air conditioned offices are for, right? The other day when the ramen craving struck, I was feeling too lazy to head for my fav midtown ramen haunt, Menchanko Tei and instead headed over to the closer to home Sapporo where I couldn’t resist ordering the Mabo Ramen ($8.75).
I’m a huge Mapo Tofu fan. It’s genetic. My whole family loves it, my normally spice-adverse mom included. I don’t know how I missed this option on other visits to Sapporo, but it’s also gotten some love in the comments with Lunch’r Chip Beef saying back in ’08:
Not a recent discovery, but the Mabo Ramen at Sapporo needs at least honorable mention here. For some reason it is perennially overlooked, even though in my opinion it is the best dish on the menu. I’ve been eating this for years, and actually have a very difficult time ordering anything else there, even though I go at least once a week.
A word of warning, the broth is very thick and oily, with a near-gelatinous texture, and is definitely not for everyone. But the play between the thick, scalding broth and the minced pork and tofu offers up an awesome stew-like result.
By and large I prefer the noodles and broths at Menchanko Tei, but this one, magical dish guarantees Sapporo my business, year after year. Everyone should try it at least once.
Not sure if that’s still true for Chip Beef (feel free to let us know in the comments!), but it certainly is a compelling endorsement.
When I got my order I was pleased that the noodles weren’t overdone (what can I say, I’m Italian, I’m hardwired for al dente). Interestingly the broth wasn’t thickened as Chip Beef described above, so it felt like less of a true Mapo Tofu/Ramen mashup, but it was less oily than I was expecting as well. If you’re expecting a lot of heat, you might be disappointed, I didn’t find this terribly spicy at all, though the little tidbits of ground pork seemed to pack a little bit of fire. The squares of tofu were good, but overall I wished there were more goodies in my soup (although part of this may be due to eating the ramen out of a takeout quart instead of a bowl where you’d have better control over the goodie distribution.) I did notice that Men Kui Tei also has Mabo Ramen on their menu–for 50 cents less! I might have to give that a try soon.
Has anyone else had the Mabo Ramen at Sapporo before? Has their recipe changed?
Sapporo, 152 W. 49th St., btw. 6th & 7th 212-869-8972