Funassyi on the banner of a ramen-ya!
My first (and hopefully not last) bowl
of the special-to-Funabashi dish! :b
Until I got to watching Funassyi videos on Youtube (a tip: you get more options if you type out Funassyi's name in Japanese, like so -- ふなっしー), I had never heard of sauce ramen, a type of ramen that's specific not only to the city of Funabashi but, in fact, the area around the JR Funabashi station.
But especially after I heard The Pear name it as one of the major strong points of its hometown (around minute 3:47 of this video clip showing his famous appearance on the Sukkiri! morning TV show in February 2013 that's one of the few Funassyi ones with English subtitles) -- ahead, host Kato-san noted, of pears(!), I got to thinking that I wanted to try Funabashi's sauce ramen some day; and this all the more so after coming across another video clip, this one showing The Pear taking a visitor to Funabashi to try sauce ramen at what I gathered was/is its favorite ramen-ya.
Thus it was that when I finally did make my Funabashi pilgrimage, there were two "must do" things as far as I was concerned: one, visit the first and still main branch of Funassyiland (but of course!); and two, try a bowl of sauce ramen at a ramen-ya close to the JR Funabashi Station! I admit it: the original, vague idea as far as the sauce ramen sampling was concerned was to walk about and look for a promising looking ramen-ya in the area after arriving at JR Funabashi Station.
As luck would have it though, I spotted a sign alerting me to the existence of an area tourist information office nearby, and I duly headed there to get some local ramen-ya recommendations. And not only was the staff member I talked to nice enough to present my party with samples of Funabashi pear and carrot jelly (whose containers bore the visages of Funassyi and official city mascot Funaemon respectively) but it turned out that the ramen-ya he directed us to was the very one in the video clip that has Funassyi happily partaking of sauce ramen passed through its "Illusion" by a human friend!
If truth be told, I had lowered expectations re the taste of sauce ramen after reading a negative review of the specialty ramen whose soup is flavored with Worcestershire sauce (rather than the more usual shoyu (soy sauce), miso, shio (salt) or tonkotsu (pork bone), like those associated with Tokyo, Sapporo, Hakodate and Hakata (Fukuoka) respectively) and is served with a breaded meat (rather than the usual marinated pork belly) and an assortment of vegetables that include at least one -- cabbage -- not found in more famous types of ramen dishes. But Funassyi's right: it is delicious!
Although the aroma and taste of Worcestershire sauce is definitely noticeable, that sauce doesn't actually power everything else in the sauce ramen -- and is far less sour- and far more umami-tasting than I expected. In retrospect, I should have known I'd love this flavorful dish (which also has sour-sweet notes) since I very much like the other Japanese dishes for which Japanese-style Worcestershire sauce is an ingredient: among them, okonomiyaki, tonkatsu, and kushiage!
So, thank you, Pear, for introducing me to yet another wonderful local Japanese specialty dish and confirming that you really do have good taste! And, actually, I'd go so far as to say that Funabashi sauce ramen may well be one of my favorite types of ramen (along with Sapporo miso ramen) -- and I wish we had at least one ramen-ya here in Hong Kong serving it as I definitely prefer it any day to any of the tonkotsu ramen I've had both in the Big Lychee and the Land of the Rising Sun!