All the ramen flavor you could want, without any of the noodles.
So imagine you want to eat some ramen, which shouldn’t be hard to do. The stuff is delicious. But imagine you’re also trying to limit your carb intake, and then imagine yourself sobbing for days on end as you try in vain to enjoy a life without ramen, which may as well be a life without sunshine.
Believe it or not, though, there’s a way to load up on ramen flavor without loading up on carbs, thanks to the Ikkakuya restaurant chain.
Ikkakuya, which has branches in Tokyo and other parts of east Japan, specializes in ie-kei ramen. Originating in the city of Yokohama, ie-kei broth is a hybrid, combining tonkotsu (pork stock) and soy broths, mixing the traditional tastes associated with Fukuoka and Tokyo into something even better than the sum of its parts.
So how are you supposed to cut down on carbs while eating at a ramen restaurant? Simple: by ordering Ikkakuya’s Vegetable Ie-kei, which is a bowl of ramen…
…but without the ramen noodles!
Now if your experience with ramen consists solely of bare-bones instant packs, you might be wondering how this is possible. Restaurant ramen, though, comes with a wealth of toppings, and Ikkakuya’s Vegetable Ie-kei gives you all the fixings, just without any of the noodles.
You can choose between the standard tonkotsu shoyu ie-kei broth, or an extra-salty broth. We went with the standard version, and before long we had our noodle-free ramen in front of us. For toppings, you get sliced chashu pork, uzura (quail eggs), three strips of nori (seaweed), spinach, cabbage, and bean sprouts.
Following proper ramen-tasting protocol, we started with a sip of the broth, which was like a spoonful of liquid heaven. Moving on to the veggies, the cabbage and sprouts were freshly cooked and crisp, with a faint summer sweetness to them.
With no noodles, eating the Vegetable Ie-kei means more chewing and less slurping than you’ll usually do in a ramen restaurant, and that slower pace can help promote a feeling of fullness. However, since the flavor of ramen comes more from the broth and toppings than the noodles themselves, the Vegetable Ie-kei tastes just as delicious as with-noodle ramen does.
At 630 yen (US$5.80), it’s also a pretty good value. However, since we had a few spare coins in our wallet, we decided to add on to the standard Vegetable Ie-kei topping set by ordering an additional four slices of chashu (250 yen) and five more uzura (100 yen).
▼ Truly, it was a thing of beauty.
All in all, the Vegetable Ie-kei is intensely satisfying, and even without noodles it ends up feeling like a hearty stew.
Low-carb diets often try to cap per-day intake at somewhere between 100 and 150 grams. By that metric, the Vegetable Ie-kei is a strong ally in your fight against carbohydrates, as the whole thing (before our additional toppings) contains just 17 grams of carbs.
However, we should point out that low-carb doesn’t mean low-fat, as consuming the whole thing, including drinking all the broth, works out to 68 grams of fat. Of course, you’re not required to drink all the broth, and a lot of people don’t. It’s only the real gluttons who…
…you know what? The Vegetable Ie-kei was still awesome. We regret nothing.