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"At the beginning, we often sold 100 or more ramen salads each day," explains Head Chef Asano.

The beer and cuisine restaurant Hokkaido Dining BIG JUG is inside the Sapporo Grand Hotel. Located about five minutes on foot from Sapporo Station in the city's business district, most of the restaurant's customers are businessmen who visit on a regular basis, although a significant number of tourists also come to try the ramen salad.
An average of 50 or so ramen salad dishes are sold here daily on weekdays: A majority of these are ordered as individual selections during lunch, but because ramen salad comes with all dinner courses the total number served daily actually reaches 60 to 70 in reality.

Furthermore, between 80 and 100 salads are served daily during tourism peak seasons and on days that are busy due to numerous dinner event reservations. Male customers are the most numerous, with a male-to-female ratio of 7:3 individual ramen salad orders.

Designed for women but popular among men:
growth as a dish for drinking establishments

A rising star among local specialty dishes, ramen salad (often shortened to ra-sala in Japanese) has become increasingly common on drinking establishment menus throughout Sapporo City. Hokkaido Dining BIG JUG, a beer and cuisine restaurant inside Sapporo Grand Hotel, developed ramen salad in 1985 as a ramen dish geared toward female customers, but it garnered surprising popularity among businessmen and grew from being a lunchtime selection to a common dish at drinking establishments for sharing among groups of customers.
At a glance, many people mistake ramen salad for a vegetable-rich version of hiyashi-chuka, a common Japanese dish consisting of cold ramen noodles with assorted toppings and sauce. However, ramen salad is something entirely different. The key ingredient is the Chinese- and French-style dressing blend that is added into the Chinese noodles-this exquisite dressing is the reason that ramen salad has worked its way to the top in Sapporo's world of local specialty cuisines.We are proud to introduce this unique ramen salad dish created by original BIG JUG shop.

Businessmen as catalysts:
a resurgence in customer popularity leads to ramen salad brand development

Back in 1985 before the ramen boom, when women still found it uncomfortable to casually enter ramen shops, Tamotsu Sato (head chef at the time) developed this menu item with the goal of providing something women would feel more comfortable ordering. However, an overpowering majority of orders came from men working at nearby companies, and orders of ramen salad as a side dish for alcohol in addition to orders as a lunch item increased sharply. The dish was a hit, and as Head Chef Asano explains, "we often sold 100 or more ramen salads each day." The pace settled down a bit following the boom in popularity, and ramen salad became a signature dish with sales of 50 or more per day. Three years ago, ramen salad was featured on the "Himitsu no Kenmin SHOW" television show, following which sales shot back up to 100 or more per day. Sales have gone down to about half that pace in recent times, but the most recent resurgence in popularity spurred the restaurant to start retails sales of its dressing as a commercial product, a gift item and so forth under the BIG JUG brand name. These efforts have led to increasing awareness of ramen salad throughout Japan.

Two-to-one blend of Chinese and French flavors with a tartness from pickles that makes you want more

Ramen salad's key ingredient is the special dressing mixed in with the Chinese noodles. This dressing is a two-to-one blend of Chinese-style dressing with a soy sauce and sesame oil base and French-style dressing with a mayonnaise and salad oil base. And because dressing blends made in-shop tend to separate easily, BIG JUG staff individually blend the two just before serving each ramen salad order.
Ramen salad is made as follows:(1) thoroughly mix 100 ml of dressing into boiled Chinese noodles (120g of thick, wavy-type, fresh noodles) and put them on a plate; (2) add lettuce, tomatoes, potherb mustard, pickles, and boiled shrimp and steamed mussels as toppings and garnish with red cabbage and carrots; and (3) add both Chinese and French dressings separately on top.
Head Chef Asano explains that, when preparing this dish, it is important to "thoroughly rinse the Chinese noodles in cold water after boiling to tighten them up, and then remove excess water, which helps prevent the dressing blend from separating." Because noodles tend to harden when all necessary water content is removed, Asano recommends "boiling the [thick-type] Chinese noodles for four minutes-a minute longer than usual-and fine-tune their level of resilience as you go." Asano adds that "the tart taste of the pickles is also important. It counteracts lingering tastes and resets the mouth back to a refreshingly neutral state."

- Business information

Hokkaido Dining BIG JUG (Sapporo Grand Hotel)
Address: Nishi-4-chome, Kitaichijo, Chuo-ku, Sapporo
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. (last order) and 5:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. (last order), open year-round
Seating capacity: 140

Published in a June 2011 restaurant dining newspaper.

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