Slideshow: Behind the Scenes of Slurping Turtle's Housemade Ramen Noodles in Chicago

The Noodles, In Their Element
The Noodles, In Their Element

Since the restaurant started serving its own homemade ramen noodles, roughly three months ago, each dish comes with a noodle Yagihashi feels is appropriately sized to the broth and ingredients it's paired with. Tan tan men gets a thick noodle while, say, tonkotsu gets a thin noodle. But in either case, you're getting a splendidly textured, flavorful, and broth-sopping batch of noodles.

The Machine
The Machine

In a basement kitchen space below Slurping Turtle sits the Yamato LM10062IUS, a sophisticated, Japanese-made ramen noodle-making machine. Chef Yagihashi traveled to Yamato's headquarters in Japan to learn about and test-drive the machine, which he said costs nearly $40,000.

Dialing in the Thickness
Dialing in the Thickness

The noodle machine features large rollers capable of exerting intense pressure on the ramen dough. This wheel controls the thickness, in millimeters, of the sheet of dough as it passes between the rollers. And because the rollers are so strong, Slurping Turtle can use less water in its ramen recipe, leading to, as far as Yagihashi is concerned, a more desirable consistency.

Dissolving the Kansui
Dissolving the Kansui

One of ramen's distinguishing traits is its alkalinity, which can be achieved by mixing into the dough an ingredient called kansui. Because Chicago-area water can tend to be on the hard and basic side to begin with, Slurping Turtle uses super-soft Voss water to dissolve the salt and kansui powder called for in Yagihashi's ramen recipe.

Mixing the Dough
Mixing the Dough

Once the seasoned water and dry ingredients are all added to the machine's mixing bin, it churns the dough for a good 15 minutes. After mixing, the dough is indeed fairly dry and clumpy—but the machine will soon smooth out those bumps.

Ready to Roll
Ready to Roll

Garcia dumps the dough into a bin...

First Impressions
First Impressions

Garcia then carefully feeds the clumps toward the machine's high-pressure rollers for the first of three or more passes.

Spooling Up
Spooling Up

The machine creates a long, broad sheet of pressed dough, which Garcia guides onto a metal rolling pin.

The Dough, Post 1st Pass
The Dough, Post 1st Pass

Eventually all the clumps of dough have been pressed into one continuous sheet, tightly rolled around itself.

Smoothing it Out
Smoothing it Out

With each subsequent pass through the rollers, the sheet becomes more smooth and uniform and squared off.

Two Become One
Two Become One

While the machine certainly helps to automate the process and allow Slurping Turtle to make ramen on the scale necessary to supply its kitchen and Yagihashi's location in the Macy's food court, it's clear that a great amount of skill goes into manning the machine, as well. Garcia has the process down cold.

Ramen Roll
Ramen Roll

Now that the restaurant is making its ramen in-house, it can turn out several varieties and thicknesses of noodle. The batch I witnessed being made was Slurping Turtle's thicker ramen noodle, which undergoes three passes through the rollers and ends up as this roughly 10-inch-wide spool.

One Serving at a Time
One Serving at a Time

The dough is fed back into the machine, but now directed through the teeth of the pasta cutters. It's amazing to watch as Garcia fluidly collects, bundles, and boxes each perfectly portioned batch as it exits the machine.

Nesting the Noodles
Nesting the Noodles

Yagihashi said each serving of ramen noodles at Slurping Turtle is about 110 grams, and on my visit the machine fashioned exactly 50 servings out of the ingredients poured in.

Portion Control
Portion Control

The restaurant estimated that on average they go through about 250 servings of ramen a day. These freshly made noodles will keep for about two to three days, but it's very likely that they've already been eaten.

Slupring Turtle's Shoyu Wonton Ramen
Slupring Turtle's Shoyu Wonton Ramen

What all the fuss is about.