10.10.2016 | Words by: Alise Akimova.
Have you noticed the steaming bowls of ramen served in café DS, available for guests, dancers and friends every evening from Tuesday to Saturday? Originating from Japan - quick, easy and delicious ramen is immensely popular in all corners of the country. When dusk sets in under the flashing lights of Tokyo, the numerous ramen joints that boast the city get filled up with hungry salarymen ready for their fix. A deep aroma seems to linger through the streets of the southern city of Fukuoka, where strong and milky pork-based ramen is the one that is traditionally cooked and eaten. On the northern island of Hokkaido, which lies in a colder climate and contains a more mountainous landscape, ramen will taste different due to the warm nutty flavor of miso that seasons the broth.
Ramen has now acquired fame worldwide as a cultural export product from the land of the rising sun. The essential structure of the dish is the same wherever you go: it consists of a seasoning base, noodles, broth, and toppings like roasted pork, boiled or poached egg, spring onion and other veggies. Still the umami-bomb remains to have a surprising depth to it: due to its historical origin as well for its versatile qualities.
Originally it were Chinese workers who introduced the dish in the late 19th century in Japan. Later on it gained popularity with the local Japanese worker community at the beginning of the 20th century. Not unlike many other good cuisines, ramen originated due to a shortage: rice was scarce after the Second World War, so imported cheap wheat from America, that makes ramen noodles, could be used as a substitute for rice. After that still a lot of wheat was consumed, because of strong economic ties with America. In the 1980s and 1990s the ramen craze emerged worldwide, as well as celebrity chefs making the art of cooking ramen their own.
Once originating an emergency situation, its versatility is still what makes ramen original. Most Japanese food is bounded by rules and tradition, with techniques and methods chefs have been using for maybe thousands of years. But in contrary to foods like sushi or the traditional Japanese kaiseki-tasting menu, innovation and experimentation is something that was always embraced by ramen lovers in Japan and worldwide. The reason that the variations are endless, are what makes it such a popular dish that will satisfy the cravings of everyone. The same holds for our own ramen at café DS, where you will find different varieties and different toppings.
So as soon as you will get to it: is there a right way to eat a bowl of ramen? According to Japanese cult movie Tampopo (1985), one first observes the whole bowl: you have to appreciate it and savor the aromas. Jewels of fat glistening on the surface - seaweed slowly sinking. Spring onions floating. Then concentrate on the pork slices. Caress the surface, with the chopstick tips, to express affection.
This is of course a highly anecdotal depiction of how to eat ramen. Originating from a country that is bound by strict rules in terms of their cuisine, ramen is a unique food that symbolizes a more forward-thinking and individualist kind of Japan, which can be enjoyed, as you like. One thing is for sure: in the process of eating, slurping and sipping, repeating is one thing that will be happening for sure.