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Japanese style Fried Rice - Chahan

The version served up at Tanpopo is delicious - I am just wondering if they have any competitors. Bonus if they use chashu

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  1. Thank you for your post, because I totally agree about Tampopo's chahan and have been on a quest to find other places myself. Tampopo's reminds me of chahan I had as a child in Tokyo -- there's a certain aroma and flavor that distinctly defines Japanese chaha for me and sets it apart from just any fried rice. I just got back from a week in Tokyo where I strived to places that had good chahan, and sad to say, I was not able to find chahan like I had in the old days. I was describing to my traveling companions that the closest thing to what I was seeking was Tampopo's back in SF, and they just didn't understand what the big deal was with fried rice. I'm glad to find your post and that there is someone else who is on the mission!

    4 Replies
    1. re: peacemeal

      Wow! We must have been Japanese fried rice twins in a previous life because Chahan is an immaculate piece of culinary magnificance when prepared well. I even love when it is presented perfectly round - taking the bowl shape and served with a soup spoon. & its not Chahan without copius amounts of beni shoga!

      It is probably my second favorite Japanese dish after kare raisu.

      You may want to consult with Chowhound poster E_Eto for reccomendations for Chahan in Japan - as he will def. steer you in the right direction.

      I think that the mysterious flavor/aroma that you describe and that I consider a drug - is the combonation of smoky pork - "wok hei, " and the sweet egg.

      1. re: kare_raisu

        Yes, yes, presented round out of an inverted bowl is a must and of course, with beni shoga. Absolutely correct! Now I really must visit Tampopo soon to satisfy my craving.

        Let's hope another Chahanhound can come up with another place in the Bay Area that we can try!

        1. re: kare_raisu

          Very disappointing update. I finally had a chance to go to Tanpopo today for lunch and, of course, anxiously ordered the chahan. After I ordered, I noticed that the chef that I could see through the counter to the kitchen was not the usual guy I had always seen in years past. When my order arrived, I was already skeptical.... the chahan was not mounded round like before. Then I noticed large chunks of krab-type surimi instead of smaller bits of the usual uzumaki (spiral) naruto... and the rice was darker brown colored (indicating it was doused with shoyu) instead of the lighter coloring I've had in the past. But most of all, the aroma was not there. It still came with the bowl of chuka broth on the side, but darn it, the chahan was "just not it". It was just fairly ordinary fried rice, something that I could probably make myself at home. That distinct flavor/aroma that I crave so much was just not there.

          Oh, I'm so bummed. It's been quite a while since I had been to Tanpopo and maybe the original chef (the guy with the large mole on his cheek) is now gone and my favorite chahan in SF has just become a treasured memory.

          1. re: peacemeal

            I appreciate the update - thank you. What you described peacemeal reminds me of a Japanese cook I used to work with. If anything was just barely short of perfect - he refused to send it out -no joke.

            We talk too much about how great *restaurants* are, when we should be really commending the men and women behind closed curtains that make them great.

            I guess you and me both will be resigned to perfecting the art of chahan from our respective home stoves.

      2. Please give the location of this place. Thank you.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Michael Rodriguez

          That would be Tanpopo in Japantown in SF, in the Buchanan court area (1740 Buchanan). Walk across Post Street from Peace Plaza to the cobblestone court between Post and Sutter streets.

        2. Chahan at Katana-Ya?
          http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...
          Katana-ya
          430 Geary St. at Mason St.
          San Francisco

          1 Reply
          1. Not in the city, but Oidon in San Mateo (above the japanese grocerie store on 4th ave) has a great fried rice w/ pickles. It's listed on their specials board, not their regular menu.

            Havent been up to Tampopo in a while, so I can't compare.

            Cheers!

            10 Replies
            1. re: ExtraCheese

              Himawari in San Mateo definitely has Japanese style fried rice and you can also get it as a combo. Not a fan of the pink ginger strips (like the kind found in the tonkotsu ramen bowls at Santa). Ryowa might have the fried rice too in both locations (ask).

              1. re: K K

                I've had the one at Himawari and also at Ryowa Mt. View. They are both good in their own way, but they are what I would call yaki-meshi (literally fried rice in Japanese). But the cha-han that I am craving has a different flavor and is becoming very hard to find. It is based more on the Chinese flavors that the original ramen broth was based on. I tend to find this flavor at places that still call their ramen "chuka-soba" (which in Japanese literally translates to "Chinese noodles"). Most places that have ramen, here and in Japan, are now serving something that has evolved and is no longer chuka-soba, and hence, so has their cha-han.

                1. re: peacemeal

                  can you be more specific about the differences between yaki-meshi and chahan? at least in terms of prep, ingredients, flavors? i'm not all that familiar with japanese style fried rice. the versions i've had seemed lighter in flavor and grease, and the short-grain rice gives it more condensed, sticky texture. i'm curious to go check out tampopo for chahan now, having only sampled their ramen from time to time (a dish i find difficult to....rate. although i remember liking their shio broth before).

                  1. re: peacemeal

                    Then it sounds like the late Do-Henkostu Tokushima ramen in San Jose (now Kahoo) offered that, because they really did call their ramen chuka-soba. I can't think of another place that might offer this then, given your criteria...

                    1. re: peacemeal

                      Just chiming in here to say that I do enjoy the chahan at Himawari. I had chahan a long time ago at Halu Ramen and remember not liking it much, but I can't remember the details. But, gosh, it is so hard to find just decent ramen here in the Bay Area (and decent Japanese food in general that tastes like the real deal) that the chances of finding anything along the lines of chuka-soba and yaki-meshi are nil. :-) However, I know this is a bit off the subject, but the chicken soup they serve at Sumika in Los Altos tastes exactly like the soup served with the gyoza sets you get at a lot of the Chinese places in Tokyo. I felt very natsukashii (nostalgic) when I had that soup the other night.

                      1. re: Wendy_san

                        could you describe this chicken soup?

                        1. re: kare_raisu

                          Not sure if this is the kind Wendy is describing, but Sumika has a soup base for their baitan mizutaki (baitan referring to a fine broth rich in flavor and texture from the jidori style free range organic chickens from Petaluma Farms), which is kinda sorta in parallel to a chicken shabu shabu but different. Once the solids are consumed, you can request rice to be added to the remaining soup base and it makes a KILLER zosui (like a pseudo porridge, rice absorbs the baitan and it's supreme). Great for winter time. This used to be a special item but is now on the menu.

                          Didn't know they now serve bowls of that very broth or something close to it.

                          But from what Wendy has described, it does sound similar to the free range stewed chicken soup one might find at a Din Tai Fung restaurant in LA, Taipei, or a really really good top Chinese restaurant, but different.

                          1. re: kare_raisu

                            This is just a very simple chicken broth with green onions and white pepper seasoning that is a side dish on Sumika's menu. I don't think it is what KK is referring to (baitan mizutaki soup base).