If you had to pick the Official Food of Backpackers—the beloved staple that almost all of us consume at some point during our trail travels—it would probably be gorp. But a close second would be ramen (also the official food of college students). Invented by Japan’s Nissin Foods in 1958, instant noodles are tasty, fast, lightweight, calorie-rich, and cheap (ten packets for $1 is not atypical). In fact, when it comes to sheer number of calories per dollar, only a stick of butter beats them.
The only people who might love ramen more than hikers are the Japanese: In a 2000 poll by the Fuji Research Institute, citizens ranked instant noodles as the No. 1 20th-century Japanese invention—ahead of karaoke (No. 2) and personal stereos (No. 3). Some brands do have questionable ingredients, like the flavoring MSG (it can cause wicked migraines in some people), but groceries now sell all-natural versions, too. But why confine ramen just to dinner? Here are two sweet breakfast and dessert recipes to broaden its culinary horizons.
The WSJ has a story about a new iPhone app called Ramen Now which can help you find ramen when travelling. Unfortunately the app is only available in Japanese and presumably only useful in places with lots of ramen shops (like Japan).
If you were curious how important ramen is for the diets of many people in the world, check out what South Korea is doing: South Korea is shipping 3 million cups of ramen to North Korea, along with some rice and cement. Let’s hope that they don’t weaponize it.
Hans from RamenRater.com sent me a note today about his site. Although it’s been up since 2002, I never knew about it! (You guys really need to keep me informed ;). Anyway, the site is basically a huge list of ramen reviews. Hans has reviewed way more ramen than I have and always has a good set of pictures for each review. Check it out!
Someone sent me a link to this recipe. It is “Hiyashi Ramen”, or chilled noodles, which work great in Vietnam’s 11.5 month long summer. If you happen to be anywhere near Ha Noi, drop by the Fortuna Hotel and try it in person.
“I simply wondered why ramen and soba noodles always rank high in Japanese favorite food surveys,” Ayao Okumura, 72, said.
His book, “Nihon men-shoku-bunka no 1,300-nen” (1,300 years of noodle culture in Japan), won the Tsuji Shizuo Shokubunka-sho food culture prize in spring. The book was the culmination of two years of fieldwork.
Although he is a well-known expert in traditional foods, Okumura believes a person can always learn something, no matter how old he or she is. So he entered Mimasaka University’s graduate school in Okayama Prefecture shortly before turning 70 and chose noodles for his doctoral thesis.
Knitter Carissa Browning learned that quickly when she decided to see if she could turn noodles and chopsticks into “something unusual.”
Knitting is her main hobby, says Browning, 27, who lives in a Dallas suburb and works at Starbucks. Her most complicated project thus far has been a traditional sweater for her husband with a pattern of skulls and crossbones.
The Wall Street Journal has a tasty story about the Retsuden Ramen festival in Tokyo. The festival unfortunately ended today, but it sounds pretty fun. I didn’t quite follow from the story if you could sample anything without buying, it sounds instead like you pay per bowl, so basically it’s like having a bunch of great vendors in one spot (like a Taste of City X event).
I enjoyed this description:
Ramen fans queue up to buy a “one-bowl” ticket for 800 yen (about $9) at the entrance to the event, held in a public square in front of a large office building, and then select the shop they want to try. It’s a tough choice, as the nine shops at the event at any one time are all dishing out top-quality ramen.
We tried a bowl of Mr. Aoyama’s ramen, which combines several classic influences in a thick, porky soup, topped with slow-roasted pork belly, greens and grated yuzu, an Asian citrus fruit. Despite the fresh citrus undertones, the bowl packed a delicious, meaty punch — like consuming a pig in liquid form.