For those who have me on their Facebook or even follow my Instagram, I’m pretty sure many of you know of my obsession and appreciation for Japan’s most favorite dish of all time:1 ramen. I’m not talking about the Nissin Cup Noodles-types or the Maruchan Instant Ramen types, but I’m referring to the real deal ones consisting of fresh and authentic ingredients and freshly-handmade ramen noodles.
I used to blog a lot about food in general, but other topics and ideas just stepped in and became priority, ending up with me forgetting to blog about my food entry. What prompted me to start writing about food again, ramen in general, simply because I have tried a well-known, talked-about ramen-ya2 at the city bordering my town and I have tried one of their two best-selling ramen specials: The Paiku-men Ramen,3 snapshot shown above.
In my town, there are three ramen-ya restaurants that serve a variety of ramen. It may seem like the three are in hot competition with each other to win the local familiarity among the Unes,4 but each of those restaurants serve regional-specific types of ramen. For instance, one would serve Sapporo-style ramen, the second serves Tokushima-style ramen, and the third (and newest) joint that just opened over a year ago servers Yokohama-style Iekei ramen. I know that there are probably a whole lot more regional styles of ramen but I still have yet to find a nearby ramen-ya to serve a specific region other than Sapporo, Tokushima, or Yokohama. When I went to that particular restaurant mentioned before for the first time yesterday, I identified that this restaurant also serves Sapporo-style ramen, as many of their menu items are similar to the ones I got familiar with in the Sapporo ramen restaurant in my hometown: majority are miso5-based soup, some seafood added, a variety of vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, onions, etc. Like all the other ramen I have dined on, the Paiku-men was so flavorful, juicy, and blissfully delicious. You can’t go wrong with very tender and soft pork rib meat with some special marinated flavor that snuck in there.
The only problem that I had with this one compared to the rest of the ramen dishes I’ve eaten before is none other than the key ingredient to a good bowl of ramen: its noodles. They’re simply called ramen noodles, but the texture and sometimes the flavor does make a difference compared to all the other noodles you would have in an Asian-style bowl of noodle soups. Ramen noodles only have four ingredients: wheat flower, salt, water, and another type of water called kansui6 and they can be shaped in different shapes, thickness, and length depending on the style of ramen prepared. Eggs can also be substituted for the kansui, and both these items gives those noodles that yellowish color, but the kansui gives that familiar firm texture that many ramen aficionados have grown to love. All of the ones I have dined have the same firm texture, even though some of the noodles are straight, flat, curly, thin, etc., but the firmness is there. The noodles that I had on my first bowl of Paiku-men did not have the actual ramen noodles that I have become familiar with. It’s almost as if they were using another type of noodle— Chinese-style egg noodles, maybe— in this particular ramen bowl, if not all of the ramen bowls in their menu.
I have been looking around for recipes in making homemade ramen noodles,7 instead of using those instant noodle blocks that you normally see at your local grocery store. I suddenly have the urge of returning to my kitchen duties again to do some experimenting in cooking my very first bowl of real, authentic ramen. I haven’t found a recipe book for fresh, authentic ramen yet, not even in Kindle eBook format so I can just refer to it on my Kindle app. I’m still looking.
For those who have read this entry and have any suggestions on where I can find some recipes, please feel free to let me know.
On the sidenote...
- in my opinion… [↩]
- Japanese term for a ramen joint. It could be your typical restaurant or a ramen stall that servers nothing else but different types of ramen. Of course, that depends on the region too… [↩]
- The name of the restaurant I’ve been to is called Ajisen. [↩]
- I live in Union City, a city of about some 75K people that has the feel of a small town. Long-time residents would often call our hometown as “The Une.” [↩]
- soybean paste [↩]
- a type of food grade alkaline water or lye water. [↩]
- as in the noodles itself, not the bowl of noodle soup altogether. [↩]