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Eating out / Freshwater clams add distinct flavor to specialty Aomori ramen

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A bowl of noodles served at Aomori Jusanko Honke Shijimi Ramen

By Shun Nemoto / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterAOMORI — At the end of a shopping arcade that stretches for about 1 kilometer from the east exit of Aomori Station, a host of fashionable eating and drinking establishments can be found. Among them is a ramen restaurant that uses abundant amounts of shijimi freshwater clams, a specialty from Lake Jusan in Aomori Prefecture.

As I’m susceptible to nightlife temptations, I have a lifestyle that is not friendly to my liver. So I dropped in at the ramen restaurant, called Aomori Jusanko Honke Shijimi Ramen, in an effort at self-care because shijimi are said to have some benefits for the liver.

The ramen shop has operated for more than 10 years with shijimi as its specialty. When I asked what a popular menu item might be, owner-chef Yoshiki Wada, 45, immediately recommended one with a mild salt-based soup, which is priced at ¥850.

I ordered it and waited for about 5 minutes. When my bowl was served, its rich shijimi aroma stimulated my appetite.

First, I tasted a spoonful of the soup, which was slightly whitish but clear overall. The moderately salted soup gently touched my tongue as the essence of the freshwater clams gradually spread in my mouth.

Wada’s shop uses relatively soft, thin, curly noodles, which the chef himself chose by eating various products from four noodle makers in the prefecture.

When slurping the noodles, I was able to enjoy a deep flavor as the noodles drew up the shijimi soup with them. “No other noodles can match my soup,” Wada boasted.

I picked up the shells and removed their flesh, which had a rich umami flavor with the smell of the ocean. Lake Jusan, which is connected with the Sea of Japan, has brackish water.

Wada said that when he makes his soup, he brings shijimi to a boil and then simmers them for about 30 minutes. The shellfish are heated once again just before being served so they can be enjoyed hot without their flesh losing its consistency.

Shijimi contain many substances good for health, including ornithine, an amino acid.

“My ramen does not leave negative effects on your physical condition the day after a drinking gathering,” Wada claimed. “I hope people will drop by here casually to have a final dish on a drinking night.”

The owner-chef has recently developed one new menu item that adds soy milk and another featuring niboshi (small dried sardines) in a bid to attract more customers. “As a cook, the best moment for me is when I see customers delightedly eating my dishes,” he said.

When the flavor Wada prepared with careful consideration seeped deep into my fatigued body, I began to feel it was a bit frustrating to drink the soup bit by bit by using a spoon. I ended up picking up my bowl to drink from it directly and drained it all.

■ Aomori Jusanko Honke Shijimi Ramen

Open: 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. (until 2:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays)

Closed: Sundays

Address: 2-7-23 Honcho, Aomori

Phone: (017) 773-9555

The restaurant has a branch in the Akihabara area of Tokyo. For details, visit https://

www.facebook.com/akb135sijimiramen

To find out more about Japan’s attractions, visit http://the-japan-news.com/news/d&dSpeech

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