I like ramen. Ramen is a reminder of the good moments I had at home with my family.
When I was young my grandmother used to take care of me and she would cook ramen. It was Top Ramen, but the noodles were soaked in the salty broth. They were thick, soft, and tasty. When she left for Taiwan, and eventually died, that was the only thing I remembered about her. My dad showed me how to make ramen with ground beef after I went to college. Just dump a pound of ground beef in a pan and use a spatula to dice it up into small pieces. Put some green onions in with it and take a couple of spoonfuls and put it in with the ramen and the stow the rest for later. When we would have hot pot at our house the leftover hodge-podge broth would be dumped into a pot and made into ramen broth the next day. If we had duck for dinner the heart, liver, neck, and left over meat would be used in the ramen pot for lunch. Good times and good eats.
In college, ramen was el cheapo. Sometimes if I was lucky Market 32 would have ramen on sale — ten for a buck. I stocked up. I bought ground beef to be diced up and yeah, sometimes, I would have ramen every night of the week. When you’re in college that’s what you gotta do. I got the ramen to the point where it reminded me of how my grandmother cooked it up. But afte a year of eating the same thing, I found msyelf staring into a bowl of gloppy noodles and thinking to myself, “this tastes like shit.” I overdosed on it and started eating out or finding other things to try and cook with little to moderate success — I would consider myself a terrible cook, even to this day, and yet I cook well enough for myself that I haven’t died from starvation yet.
NorCal has a few good ramen restaurants. There’s Himawari on 2nd Street in San Mateo. Santa Ramen. There’s a place down in Mountain View which I forget the name of. It’s all good.
It really wasn’t until I was watching Galaxy Express 999 that I realized I really miss eating ramen. Hoshino Tetsuro eats it in bowlfuls. Old men that run ramen shops on distant worlds give him as much as he wants because he’s the poster child for youth and ambition and he’s fueled by noodles. Watching that anime made me crave eating the stuff again but I decided if I was going to have ramen, i was going to “age it up” and make it a little more of a fulfilling meal. I tried with modern success — it was still the same old college meal.
Japan is where the real deal is. I’ve had the good stuff there. I dare say even the airport’s ramen was good. I watched the lady at the food stand make it. They don’t get their broth from some little brown powder packet. She had a clear plastic bag of broth. She had a small basket of noodles and dunked it into boiling water. Microwaved the broth packet and put the whole thing together in a bowl. What a brilliant idea. No wonder even that’s better than the shit they pass off as ramen over here. When I got home a friend got me some Sapporo Ichiban ramen. I love the stuff. It’s a step up from Top Ramen, but seriously, when I say step up it’s like paying a dollar compared to a dime. For a poor college student this is as close as you would get to gourmet. I tried to eat the Ichiban ramen but it tasted like a nasty mouthful of salt and that was sad because I loved it so much before I went to Japan. That’s when I started researching how to make my own ramen broth. I wanted to go beyond Top Ramen and Ichiban. Making broth would take anywhere from 20 minutes to 60 hours for Tonkatsu. I’m not ready to invest 60 hours into simmering pork bones. I have yet to try the 20 minute broth, and I would, but then I found this:
It comes from the Marina asian supermarket in Foster City. In one of those packages you get this:
You get a bag of uncooked noodles and a small liquid package (in this case soy sauce). This might be a decent compromise and I’ve had the Miso flavor and soy flavor. It’s a step up from the brick ramen. I bought some naruto when I was there as something else to put in the bowl. I boiled up some eggs and dumped some veggies in to cook up and put the noodles in and this is what came out:
That’s not bad looking if I do say so myself. It wasn’t bad tasting either. It’s not Japan. It’s not Top Ramen. I didn’t have to cook broth for 20 minutes or 60 hours. I’d say, for me, for right now, I’m content with this compromise.