Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Fabulousness Quotient Of Ramen, High

No joke, I lived on ramen, mac & cheese, and self-pity for two years during college. But now ramen isn't just for poor, starving college students, it's gone hoity toity and earned itself a NY Times article.
"Ramen?" you ask. "That plastic-wrapped block of dry noodles and powdered soup?" But freshly made ramen is another thing altogether. In Japanese ramenyas (ramen shops) a bowl of ramen holds a house-made soup, springy noodles, the chef's own tare (a mix of soy sauce, sugar and rice wine to flavor the soup) and exactly six traditional toppings. The wait at top Tokyo ramenyas can be up to three hours.

Remember the 1985 movie "Tampopo," in which a ramen chef undergoes training as rigorous as a boxer's to create the perfect bowl of noodle soup? That's ramen mania.

And with new and authentic ramenyas opening in Manhattan, New Yorkers are getting a taste.

Places like Momofuku, Minca Ramen Factory and Rai Rai Ken in the East Village offer Berkshire pork, free-range chicken and proprietary blends of organic miso paste. In Chelsea the just-opened Nooch, part of a Singapore-based chain, is raising the fabulousness quotient of ramen with Karim Rashid-designed donburis (bowls) and a D. J. booth. Chikubu in Midtown makes its succulent ramen only on Friday and Saturday, but it draws a loyal crowd of regulars. Sapporo, though it has all the charm of an office cubicle, serves the best goma (sesame) ramen in the city.

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