An Ode to Real Ramen

Mouth full of noodles
Especially Santouka
So satisfying


If the topics of my blog posts accurately represented my life, there would likely be many posts about power napping, bubble tea, and maybe Chipotle. There most certainly wouldn’t be a post dedicated to ramen, and this entry makes two. Here’s the truth: I never liked ramen. Sure, I grew up in one of the arguably largest Asian influenced areas in the nation, and yes, I went to a college racially no different — anyone visiting UCLA can attest to this fact — and in a city filled to the brim with Daikokuyas, Tsujitas, and Shinsengumis. No, despite the low barriers of my entry into the club of ramen aficionados, I had never really liked the stuff. It was always a little too slimy, oily, food coma inducing for me to ever truly enjoy. Tack on American sized portions and the hours following a ramen dinner were never pleasant.



Enter my trip to Japan. If a pilgrimage to the land of ramen didn’t entice me to the dish, nothing would. In reality, though, I only had ramen on two occasions during my stay (the first at the famously wordless Ichiran, the second at an unassuming ramen shop at a train station), and here’s what I realized. Real ramen isn’t slick and greasy nor does it make you want to keel over after consumption. It’s savory and filling with just enough substance in the broth (mind you, not filled with chunks of pork back fat) and al dente noodles to tide you over during that long commute by train. It’s for slurping up in between business meetings, sometimes standing up. It’s not overly salty or complicated. Real ramen is as clean as the streets in Japan (not a piece of garbage anywhere).




Since then, the number of times I’ve eaten ramen in the US has increased only marginally, because really, ramen isn’t authentic unless it’s tucked down a dark alleyway and underground two stories. At least there was a massive line greeting us at two in the afternoon during this particular visit — if there’s one thing that the Japanese have successfully transported from their homeland to the States, it’s their knack for creating long lines anywhere and for anything.



Ramen and photos from Santouka, San Jose

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