A Tokyo ramen shop that calls itself a “laboratory” serves a spicy Sichuan style Mapo Tofu Ramen. 2 culinary worlds deliciously collide – China and Japan.
Niigata Sanpoutei Tokyo Labo (新潟三宝亭 東京ラボ) is this shop’s name. Just try and remember Sanpoutei, the name of the group company. Sanpoutei has origins in Niigata prefecture and they have Chinese restaurants and ramen shops all over the country.
But the only have 2 ramen “laboratories” in Japan. 1 is in Shibuya and 1 is in Naka-Meguro. Go to Naka-Meguro.
Mapo Tofu Ramen
Mapo Tofu is a fiery Chinese (Sichuan) dish. Tofu with minced pork is parked in a spicy oil made from fermented broadbean and chili paste. In the Naka-Meguro laboratory, they take mapo tofu and combine it with ramen noodles (Zentoro Mapo Men).
Lift Off – thick and round noodles
The ramen noodles sit below a thick, piping hot mapo stratosphere. You almost have to use some strength to free the noodles. But when you do, it’s the most beautiful thing.
You might want to use one of their black bibs during this process. The soup (or rather, oil) is chicken bones, pork bones and various vegetables.
Choose a spice level from 1 to 4. 2 They love to use sansho (numbing peppers). Even at spice level 2, that peppery zing will take over and make your eyes water a bit.
Suan La Tang Ramen
Suan La Tang is a Chinese hot and sour soup. Like with the mapo tofu ramen, they add ramen noodles to this classic Chinese dish.
If you’re not a spicy food person, this is a safer option. There’s still that numbing pepper – but it’s not as intense.
This is also a somewhat sticky dish and the noodles always remain wet – there’s just the right amount of soup for them.
Enjoy the little bits of egg, wood ear mushroom and bamboo shoots. The shoots give the soup a sweeter quality.
Niigata Sanpoutei Tokyo Labo will create a specialty ramen every season. In the summer, they’ll serve Hiyashi Chuka (chilled noodles).
In past winters they’ve ingeniously made a Blue Crab Ramen with soy milk. The hot clay pot it’s served in really lets the flavors mesh.
It tastes like a tomato cream pasta, but with a Sichuan. Cabbage, onions and nira round off the dish.
Niigata Sanpoutei Tokyo Labo has recently became really popular. So try and visit outside of peak hours. I took the picture below a couple of years ago and I can’t remember the last time I was the only one there.
They’re popular for a reason. They have some of the tastiest and most creative spicy ramen you’ll find in Naka-Meguro.
Consider booking a ramen tour if you’re in Tokyo!