As one of my comedic heroes, Tom Papa, might say: “Have you ever eaten eight pounds of crawfish and then ordered a double cheeseburger because you were still starving? I have.”
Such a statement pretty much captures my vexed relationship with mudbugs. As a born and bred Yankee, I initially found boiled crawfish to be profoundly unappealing and invidiously compared them to lobsters. “The meat,” I probably told anyone who would listen, “is not as good and it takes exponentially more work to harvest significant quantities. No thanks!”
In this case, my ignorance was not bliss. Given the number of people whose gustatory taste I highly respected and who did enjoy crawfish, I had a feeling I was somehow missing out. After attending a few more crawfish boils, the taste of the flesh grew on me, though I still struggled with getting enough of it to be satisfied.
I have found the solution to my first-world problem and now I am obsessed: the crawfish ramen, aka “Crawmen” at Ramen Tatsu-Ya. The ramen shop has only been in operation one year in Houston but has already secured a reputation for its specials, such as the cold spicy ramen, which I had the pleasure of sampling a few months prior. I very much liked that innovation; I like this one even better.
Created by talented chef Kevin Kobayashi, the Crawmen is a masterful mélange of savory, umami, and spicy flavors arising from the combination of seafood miso, cayenne, and smoked paprika in the traditional tonkotsu broth. Two whole crawfish, resting on the surface, further infuse the already rich liquid with strong notes of sweet shellfish. To further up the mudbug ante, Kobayashi includes perfectly imperfect (that is to say, obviously hand-made) crawfish and andouille wontons, which bob alongside a sunny ajitama (marinated and seasoned half boiled egg).
So deliciously decadent is the Crawmen that I, in theory, crave (but never in practice could finish) an eight-pound serving. I’ll settle for a large, lovely steaming bowl, especially soothing during some of our unusually cool spring days of late.
The Crawmen will be available through the end of May. Limited quantities are prepared each day, so those eager to try this fantastic dish should visit for lunch to avoid disappointment. (Not to say, however, that the restaurants always sells out before dinner.)