Back in the day, the idea of sandwiching Japanese food between bread was mostly unheard of, limited only to a fusion food known as the yakisoba dog, which contains fried soba noodles instead of a sausage.
These days, however, you can find a wide range of fusion foods that combine traditional meals with bread — just the other week, our reporter Mr Sato attended the annual Ikebukuro Bread Festival, where he came across brow-raising burgers filled with katsudon (fried pork cutlet rice bowl), oyakodon (chicken and egg rice bowl) and even unadon (eel rice bowl).
One thing he didn’t see at the festival was a Tempura Soba Burger, so when he heard there was a place in Tokyo’s Asakusa that sold them, he immediately headed over there to try them out.
▼ The place that sells them is called “Tsukumo Sandwich“, which is written in Japanese above the words “Super Size Sandwich” in English.
As the name suggests, this joint specialises in sandwiches, and when Mr Sato visited, they were even selling a collection of fruit sandwiches, in collaboration with Tochigi Prefecture’s “Eat Me Sandwich.”
Tearing his eyes away from the creamy, colorful fruit sandwiches, Mr Sato found what he’d come here for — the Tempura Soba Sandwich, which was advertised with the words “世界初?” (sekaihatsu), which translates to “World’s first?”
Having never tried it or even seen it before, Mr Sato surmised that the Tempura Soba Sandwich may very well be a world-first, but he was also curious about the sandwich next to it, which contains young pickled ginger from famous Japanese company Iwashita New Ginger.
▼ So he ordered both, with an iced coffee on the side.
Mr Sato could hardly contain his excitement at trying two sandwiches he’d never tried before, and he decided to start with the pickled ginger one.
▼ The pink ginger was visible straight away, nestled above a mound of grilled pork and beneath some fresh greens.
Taking a big bite out of the sandwich, he was swept up in the perfect harmony of pork and ginger, with the crunchy pickled ginger accentuating both the texture and the flavor of the meat. The spicy root also helped to cut through the oiliness, lifting the flavor profile to create a refreshing finish.
Impressed by the freshness and quality of the first sandwich, Mr Sato had high hopes for the star of today’s meal, the Tempura Soba Sandwich.
This one was immediately impactful, with noodles, prawn tempura, and kakiage (vegetable fritter) all presenting themselves proudly without shame, as if they were meant to be cocooned in a bun all along.
▼ Peering closer, Mr Sato spotted some green shallots and shichimi pepper hitching a ride inside.
Taking a big bite, Mr Sato immediately realised that resistance would be futile. He kind of wanted to avoid being seduced by the burger’s charms, but now that he was in the thick of it, he fell head over heels in love with the unified harmony between bread, soba and tempura. All three were unlikely bedfellows, but somehow they blended together seamlessly here to create a fantastic burger.
Unlike other unusual fusion finds, nothing felt out of place here. Even the crunch of the tempura was a welcome surprise, and rather than stand out, the bread worked well to bring everything together beautifully.
The sandwich was so good that when he finished it, he asked the staff how they came up with such a creation. They told him there was a lot of trial and error during the development stage, and they even sought out the perfect bread to match the texture of the soba, which this one does perfectly.
Then, as he was leaving, he discovered that the company behind this sandwich joint is U.Rakata, which is headed by Kenichiro Usui, the former president of fried pork cutlet restaurant chain Katsuya.
Mr Sato had sensed a level of skill and expertise in the sandwiches when he ate them, so it was no surprise that a professional with experience at Katsuya had been involved in their making. After all, Katsuya is known for pushing the culinary envelope in wonderful ways, having previously seduced us with their Full Power Egg and Bacon and Sauce Katsudon for breakfast.
Tsukumo Sandwich / ツクモサンドイッチ
Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Nishi-Asakusa 2-14-16
Hours: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
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