July 6, 2022

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Special brisket barbecue ramen only available once a year

3 min read

With barbecue culture as strong as it is in Houston, it’s no surprise that tender, smoked meats make appearances on far more than barbecue trays. Barbecue chicken pizzas, sausage-stuffed kolaches, and brisket-filled tacos aplenty can be spotted around town.

And soon, for a brief time, Houstonians can get their fill of barbecue ramen at Ramen Tatsu-Ya in Montrose.
 
From May 16 to 20, the popular Austin transplant will offer smoked shoyu brisket ramen, which has surfaced annually—give or take a year due to COVID-19—since the restaurant’s Houston location opened in 2017. 
 
The idea for barbecue ramen came about organically when a member of the Tatsu-Ya team in Austin returned from a visit to Lockhart with brisket, which made its way into ramen for the staff’s family meal. “A lot of interesting things come to fruition from our family meal experiments,” laughed Takuya “Tako” Matsumoto, Ramen Tatsu-Ya’s chef-partner and director of culinary operations.
 
The dish is available for one week only, beginning Monday. So, why the limited release?
 
“All of our ramen bowls are pretty laborious to make,” said Matsumoto. “But the smoked shoyu brisket ramen is even more so, because the process to make our tonkotsu broth can take two to three days, and then the brisket needs its own time respectively.”
 
Matsumoto explains the fleeting nature of the menu item is nothing more than logistics, which make it difficult to offer the bowl on a more regular basis. In the past, the restaurant has partnered with local fan favorite Truth BBQ, combining their brisket with Tatsu-Ya’s tonkotsu ramen, but this year they’re taking on all of the responsibility—and not having a smoker on site makes things a tad inconvenient.
 
Despite the arduous process, Matsumoto says he wanted to create a ramen that was reflective of Texas flavors. “Ramen is a very regional dish,” he explained, adding that tonkotsu, made with pork broth, is widely available in Southern Japan because the region has historically had an abundance of pigs. The excess bones led to the development of the famed pork broth soup.
 
Miso ramen is widespread in the northern region of Japan, while chicken broth-based ramen is considered Tokyo-style. “You incorporate things which are available to you, and in Texas, that is barbecue,” he said.
 
Along with brisket, the smoked shoyu sauce is the highlight of the dish. Matsumoto says the sauce, made with dashi and bonito, offers great depth of flavor. After it’s smoked on post oak, it is layered with broth, noodles, brisket and other toppings. “The meat holds up in the soup, and it turns out really good, really delicious,” he said.
 
The smoked shoyu brisket ramen is not entirely a one-off experience. The chef says it serves as an introduction to what the group’s soon-to-open, yet-to-be-named Austin barbecue ramen restaurant will offer.
 
As far as becoming a permanent fixture on the menu at Ramen Tatsu-Ya in Houston, Matsumoto teases: “Never say never.”

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