A reader sends in a link to an article from the NEW YORK TIMES about ramen shops in Manhattan.
“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.
In Japan ramen is more than a cheap cup of noodles. It is the national dish, cheaper than sushi, available everywhere and perpetually fashionable. With its rich, meaty broth, ramen is very different from other Japanese soups; in fact the dish is a relatively recent import from China. But since ramen became popular in Japan in the 1950’s, it has been a national institution: quick, inexpensive street food, as closely associated with young people and budget meals as it is here. One Japanese name for instant ramen is gakusei ryori, or student cuisine. Ramen stalls cluster around train stations, and vending machines provide customized bowls.
Read the full article here (free registration required).