Courtesy of Aubin Lohier.
Dipping noodles and unique broths make Ojichan worth visiting.
There’s never a shortage of cool and interesting places to eat in Baltimore. As Chris Katz, head chef of Atchara, described it, “Baltimore is like the wild west of food.” And few places can beat the diversity of food vendors found at Fadensonnen, the sake bar located at 3 W. 23rd St. (and accessible by Blue Jay Shuttle).
If you came down to Fadensonnen last Wednesday and checked out who was popping up in the food truck, you would have found Ojichan Tsukemen, the newest food venture of Steve Chu and Ephrem Abebe, the chefs behind Ekiben.
Ojichan, which means grandfather in Japanese, has a different DNA than Ekiben, however. Where Ekiben entices customers with their delicious eclectic steamed bun sandwiches, Ojichan’s claim to fame is their bouncy dipping noodles and tasty broths. It was birthed after a fateful trip to Taiwan, during which they ate these incredibly bouncy noodles.
Unable to find something similar on this side of the globe, they decided it was time to bring them to Baltimore. My roommates and I found ourselves thoroughly enjoying the wheat noodles, which were served cold with a dark soy egg and the three different options of warm broths.
In 1961, Taishoken, a well-known ramen restaurant, began serving Japanese-style dipping noodles (known as tsukemen) as an option in Tokyo, Japan for the first time. To say it spread beyond Taishoken would be an understatement, as now restaurants exist that exclusively sell tsukemen across Japan, and it has become particularly popular in Los Angeles.
Ojichan follows in these footsteps but goes two steps further by offering them on this coast with a unique variety of broths inspired by different cuisines.
From the start, the broth I found myself enjoying the most was the spicy pork. It was angry red and topped with cilantro. If you looked in the bowl, you could see the delicious chunks of pork belly floating around, soaking in the oil. The meat fell apart in my mouth. I loved the extremely bold flavor that the noodles picked up in the broth when dipping.
My roommate Jesse was a large fan of the mild pork broth. The flavors were more muted than the spicy pork broth, but delicious nonetheless. It also had pork chunks and cilantro floating around but swapped the bright red for a darker brown color.
The most unique sauce we found at the pop-up was easily the onion soup. It was thick, rich, served with a combination of bacon and corn on top, and reminiscent of Western onion soup in flavor; it was bolder and made for a creamy combination with the noodles.
The noodles, made in house, were light and bouncy and instantly warmed to the temperature of the broth during dipping. The soy egg was sweet and was colored a deep dark brown. If you’re free this Wednesday night, Ojichan is exactly where you want to be. But do go early (right at 5 p.m.), as they have been known to sell out rather quickly.
The style of dipping noodles seems to be taking off here in the States, from the soft opening of a new Taishoken in San Mateo, Calif. to Ojichan, right here in our backyards. As restaurants battle to provide us with dining experiences we can’t forget, they will have to try and draw inspiration from as many places as they can. From places like Fadensonnen’s food truck, to R. House’s The Pop-Up, they are all trying to get in on offering consumers something that they can’t find anywhere else.
With places like these, they always have something to offer that keeps you coming back. Fadensonnen and R. House, for example, have become hubs, not only for budding chefs and entrepreneurs, but also for the community to come and meet their friends, neighbors, and learn about what’s new. They act as testing grounds where chefs can give back to the communities that helped raise them.
And the easiest way to continue supporting them is to eat their delicious food. Go check them out at Fadensonnen for the next couple of weeks serving on Wednesday evenings from 5 to 10 p.m.!