Tuesday, August 19, 2008

i heart ramen

The ramen master scene in tampopo is hilarious. Watch it here, courtesy of youtube.

Just watching it makes me hungry. In the scene, the ramen master and his apprentice are at a ramen bar where they are served steaming bowls of ramen. The apprentice wants to dive in straight into his bowl of ramen, but his master sits there, contemplating the ramen, and upon being asked what the right way to eat ramen is, the ramen master launches into a soliloquy and goes through the rather elaborate rituals involved in approaching the esteemed bowl of noodles. It’s hilarious.
"first caress the surface with the tips of your chopsticks.."
"what for?"
"to express affection".

D and I did no such thing when we found ourselves seated at Yamato. I could hardly wait for the ramen. This was so exciting. D and I had been having i-love-ramen talks for a while and this was going to be it. the day of ramen reckoning. It was Yamato’s first day back in business after their summer holiday, and even before it had opened for the evening service at 7, a considerable queue had formed along the street. They finally let us in and the queue snaked in. Fortunately, D and I were able to bag the last few seats at the bar while the rest of the queue continued to wait. I admit there was a brief moment of schadenfreude joy.

I must have squealed in delight when the bowls were finally handed to us across the counter where behind it, mr and mrs yamato were busy cooking them up. Proper ramen noodles swimming deliciously in a deep earthy miso broth, topped with slices of katsu, a deep fried, panko coated fat marbled pork cutlet. None of that poseur nonsense that gets passed off as ramen in wagamamas and other pseudo ramen-yas of that ilk in london. I was so happy it was unbelievable.

Later in the fortnight, still beaming at the memory of ramen, I contemplated returning to Yamato for another bowl but somehow decided to head towards au bon bol for a bowl of their hand pulled noodles, or la-mian, the Chinese version, which technically is the ancestral root of all ramen. They were well springy, having been pulled and stretched into gluten submission, served in a clear meat broth and topped with my choice of roast duck. Despite having the same lineage, ramen and la-mian are almost two completely different creatures. Without prejudice to my own Chinese ancestry, I have to say I prefer ramen to la-main any time, but that’s perhaps largely due to the fact that I’m also extremely partial to the gyoza potsticklers that you can always get with them.


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