The smooth broth that warms you to your bones. The perfectly slurpable al dente noodles. The rich, savoury, spicy toppings. Once you’ve had it, you’ll never forget it.
My first experience with life-changingly delicious ramen was in Tokyo in 2009. My cousin Christine and I were finishing up shopping at an outdoor mall/amusement park. It was cold and we were getting so hangry (wiktionary: hunger induced anger). We found an unassuming little noodle shop where we had to select our order from a vending machine outside first. That unique quirk was more than enough to win us over.
More quirkiness inside. The shop was pretty much made so that customers could have as minimal human contact required. We were seated in side-by-side individual cubicles with a curtain that separated us from the kitchen/staff. On our individual desks, per se, we were handed a sheet with a comprehensive list of ramen options to mark down our preferences.
Once we were finished making our selections, we were to slide the paper underneath the curtain for them to take our order. Once our bowls were ready, they opened the curtain, quickly slid the bowls to us and shut the curtain. Pretty impressive, efficient, no-bullshit service!
Our bowls of ramen didn’t look extravagant or anything, but it was truthfully the most delicious thing I ever tasted.
To be honest, I developed anxiety over if I’d ever experience it again. I felt overjoyed to have had the chance to taste it, but then immediately crushed about the uncertainty of the future. They don’t have this where I live! They only serve udon! I can’t make this myself! The struggle was real. Yes, we are still talking about noodles.
Fast forward a couple years and ramen is roaring! I’d say, it’s the new pho!
In Calgary, I’ve thankfully found a rival ramen bowl that matches my original Tokyo love.
You can find it at Shikiji and Shiki Menja…I assume they are related restaurants. The Chili Goma Ramen is my go-to. I seriously ate it monthly when I worked near one of the restaurants. (Yes I got fat because I was also eating my feelings, but it was worth it)!
What’s that you ask?! Of course I took photos!
I’m just going to put this out there now. I can’t pretend I’m one of those cool “I-just-lived-seemlessly-among-the-indidenous-people” travellers. I can be one of those quintessential must-take-too-many-photos asian tourists.
I’m not obtrusive though! I’m self-aware and embarrassed enough about it to control my overwhelming need to capture the moment.
I do it for a token of the experience or feeling I was enjoying at the time so I can cherish it forever, okay!? (I also feel like my friends hate it when I take photos of them, but then they are so thankful after the fact!)
Anyways, off on a tangent again.
What’s your favourite ramen house? Better yet, can you make homemade ramen easily? Maybe I’ll try one day and let you know if I succeed!