Ramen

I don’t know who first came up with the idea of noodles in bowl of soup broth, but the entire continent of Asia owes this person/s an undying debt of gratitude. It’s like the Asian version of cookies & cream or peanut butter & jelly, only on a much grander and epic scale. I dare say that every country in Asia has a variant of this beloved comfort dish. The Chinese have bǎn miàn, Indonesia; soto ayam, Malaysia; laksa, Thailand; Kaeng chuet wunsen, Korea; jjamppong, Vietnam; phở, and the list goes on and on. Even its instant noodle cousin sells over 100 billion servings world wide per year. That’s over 14 bowls for every man, woman, and child on the planet. Noodle soup has gone global.

The West has noodles (just look at Italy), and it has soup aplenty but sadly when it comes to the combination one can usually only find the ubiquitous chicken noodle soup. A poor and distant American relation to what can be found on any street in Asia.

And in the pantheon of the soup noodle we cannot forget Japan. Japan who took a once lowly peasant dish from mainland China and elevated ramen into a subtle art form, and a full-time national obsession. In Japan, noodles are celebrated in poetry, books, songs, magazines, TV shows, and movies. No one does noodles in soup broth better, or is more obsessed with ramen, than the Japanese. Each of the large islands that make up Japan have their own distinct ramen styles. The main island of Honshu has its Tokyo style shoyu (soy sauce) ramen, Hokkaido its miso and butter/corn ramen, Kyūshū its tonkotsu (or pork bone) ramen, and a multitude of variations in between.

Japanese ramen is my favorite, and Kyūshū tonkotsu style ramen one of my longest enduring love affairs. The noodles far more delicate than it’s Tokyo cousin, and a broth of lip smacking umami goodness. I could probably eat ramen, or some variation, every day tirelessly.

But sadly, I live in San Francisco where the ramen is…abysmal. I could not recommend a single ramen joint in the city. How this is possible I have no idea. I mean San Francisco is only 5,500 miles from Tokyo and yet the Manhattan boasts far superior ramen. Maybe that’s why I’ve been to Tokyo four times in the past seven months. Okay, there’s a girl too but I originally came to Tokyo for the ramen.

This page, while sparse, is dedicated to ramen and all it’s delicious hand maidens. I hope to have more entries as the months progress but for now there’s just this page.

 

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