Like most Westerners, I had tasted the cardboard Ichiban Ramen noodles that you add boiling water to a styrofoam cup and then a packet of seasoning. Most of us experience it in university days. I was introduced to the real thing in Hokkaido Between 2002 and 2005. I remember being in a friend’s small town and being in a shop literally the size of a tiny kitchen and a counter along the outside of the kitchen with about eight stools. The chef made the egg noodles by hand and we got to watch as we perched on the stools straining our necks higher and higher to get a look. The taste was amazing with a hearty homemade feel, all local ingredients: meat, corn, a pat of butter and veggies. The aroma to die for and the comforting feeling on a snowy winter day after a day of hard work is hard to beat. But it can be replicated and the beauty of ramen is that it is different in each region of Japan.
After my Friday night Taiko I rode my bike to the Ramen shop my friend Mayumi and her two children Kenta and Sana recommended. Not sure of the name. It might even be a chain restaurant…. but the chorus of “welcome” as I walked through the door gave me tingles of anticipation in my spine. The warm welcome. The familiar counter, the many pictures on the menu and the delightful smell coming from the kitchen assured me I made the right decision.
Larger parties can be a little more social and sit on a raised tatami (straw woven flooring) floor with a short table and cushions to sit on. But most seemed to sit at the counter, slurp and run. I ordered a miso ramen and a draft beer, attempting to fill out a customer satisfaction survey as I waited. Ten winners a month get 3000Yen worth of food (about $30) so why not?!
Fatty pork and delicious broth. Yes, each country has its own hangover food and Japan has picked well with ramen. The salt and fat are just what your dehydrated alcohol soaked body needs. Haha. And after sweating a storm at Taiko I was only too happy to imbibe! I admit my Canadian self consciousness overruled and I didn’t use the socially accepted, even encouraged slurping method of consumption. Slurping, I am told, cools the noodles down as they flip and flop their way through your pursed lips into your mouth.
It was great. Lots of ‘goma’ (sesame seeds) and a perfect amount of noodles. The beer went down fine on the hot and humid Osaka evening. Perhaps it will be a Friday night tradition!
A link to an article showing the various regional flavours of ramen. Ramen