Day 33: The Land of the Rising Sun

In Japan simple everyday events become works of art and perfection: making and pouring tea, woodworking, gardening, and, of course, food.  Historically, Japan prided itself on its ethnic and cultural hegemony.  After a brutal and radiological ending to WWII, Japan and the USA rebuilt relations and Japan is now a technologically advanced country, producing almost 30% of the worlds electronic components (that is half of what it used to be).  Ecologically, Japan is on the western side of the ring of fire.  Seventy percent of Japan is mountainous.   With more than 200 volcanoes, there are about 1,500 earthquakes every year.   Japan is home to three major religions: Shinto, Buddhism, and Christianity.  In general, Japanese people are not very religious and insofar as they are religious they are syncretistic.  Sociologists express this hybrid religious identity as "Born Shinto, marry Christian, die Buddhist."

The artistry of Japanese cuisine is evident in this bowl of Ramen.

Ramen girl.png

My Food Fantasy About Ramen

I enjoy movies about food and culture.  I watch the movie The Ramen Girl when it came out.  It is a movie about a young girl (Brittany Murphy) who has always followed men around.  Her latest squeeze dumped her after she moved with him to Japan.  Hurt and disillusioned, she decided to make her own identity in Japan; she wanted to become a Ramen chef.  The majority of the movie shows her doing the grunt work to please her teacher, but ultimately overcoming and going on to win a ramen cooking contest.  Through the course of the movie, the beauty of Japan and the artistic side of Japanese cuisine.  I was inspired; I went on a search to find such a food.  Partly because of my hyped up expectations and partly because of some rookie mistakes, my first Ramen experience left much to be desired.  This has all been remedied, however, and if you are looking for a fantastic ramen experience, you have to try the ramen at Soma Sushi.

How to Eat Ramen 

There are a number of rules to know about Ramen before you try it for the first time.

  1. If there is a hard boil egg, crack it open and let it get to know the dish.  I learned this one the hard way my first time.  Many times it is not a hard boiled egg, it is a soft boiled egg--meaning that the yolk is still runny.  I made the mistake of putting the whole thing in my mouth only to find out that there was yolk....  
  2. Most of the meal is eaten with chopsticks.  Thats right, you eat soup with Chopsticks.  This is not as hard as it sounds as most of the soup is noodles, meat, and other garnishes.  
  3. The noodles can be tricky as they are often balled up or tangled.  The trick is separate a dignified portion from the tangle before attempting to eat it or you will wind up looking like an anaconda on a wildlife show.  
  4. Put the noodles in your mouth and then slurp the rest in.  Slurping is not rude when eating ramen.  Don't try to wrap up a bite with no loose ends on the chopsticks.  Simply take that group of noodles that you separated and get any part of it into your mouth and then lean over the bowl and slurp the rest in.
  5. There are typically four kinds of broth offered in most ramen places in the states.  If you don't like the one you picked, don't write off the dish; try a different broth.  My first experience, it was the Miso broth.  Miso is made from fermented bean paste and it is not a favorite of mine.  The ramen pictured in this article is the Shoyu.  This is the most common style and has more of a savory-soy flavor, sans fermentation.  The other two broths are Shio (its salty and made from seaweed) and Tonkotsu (made from pork bones--this one is next on my list).

Japanese Ingenuity 

Japanese ingenuity and integration of technology into everyday experiences know no equal.  Recently in an article about travelers revenge, such ingenuity was prominently featured on this website.  At the risk of grossing you out, I repost the link.