Friday, February 14, 2003


If you're under 100 years of age and are interested at all in food, especially the finest oriental cuisine, then you probably saw the Japanese movie Tampopo, and if you saw Tampopo you know what it means to get a ramen craving, like you did after the movie. And as to the ideal venue for craving ramen, Japan is of course the Ramen Empire. The ideal ramen emporium (forget about making ramen at home, do you make truffles at home?) is perhaps the epitome of the greasy chopstick. I have an unspoken dictum somewhere among my ramen parameters, to the effect that if the counters sparkle, the waitresses are radiant and you can see clearly out the windows, seek thy ramen elsewhere. One of my first priorities, whenever I've moved to a new neighborhood in Japan, has always been to find the best ramen shop around (some urgencies are more urgent than others), which isn't easy, there are so many flashy imposters attempting to cash in on the rep of the one true noodle nirvana to be found in any town. In such a quest, the best person to ask is a local college student if you can find one, because ramen may be excellent brain food, but it's also low in price. And the difference between run-of-the-mill ramen and ramen for the gods is about the same as the difference between here and heaven, quite enough reason to go looking. I've found the best ramenya around here, it may even have an edge over the one I used to go to in Kyoto, and if you think I'm going to give you the name of either, you're out of luck; they're too crowded as it is. The one I go to now still has those sort of naugahyde seats and smeary plastic chandeliers, with greasy red pepper and garlic paste jars (for a short run in the sidebar there's a photo of the stuff they have on the table), their tonkotsu (pork marrow (broth)) is perfection, I always get the chashu (from the Chinese for 'roasted pork') (once you've found perfection, why change?), in which the pork, roasted to near disappearance, is sliced even nearer disappearance until it's little more than a fragrant rumor residing atop the chewy deliciousness of the noodles swirling in the tonkotsu, with some garlic paste just here and some red pepper paste over here... Back later, I'm going out to get some ramen. Tonkotsu chashu, kudasai.

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