Although I vaguely knew that ramen was a Japanese noodle dish, I generally just associated it with a cheap, starchy meal eaten frequently during my college years, purchased in a case of 24 packs for about $2. In no way nutritious and delicious only when under the influence (or trying to recover from the previous nights influence), the Top Ramen being consumed by American students is related to fresh ramen in Japan only very distantly.
Ramen comes in all kinds of varieties, often regional specialities. There are many flavors, different types of noodles, differnt ways of eating it. Our little piece of Japan is outside the typical realm of expats, so we don’t have the luxury of finding restaurants with either English speaking staff or bilingual menus, so we are winging it and learning as we go. Ramen is, in general, noodles with broth so I try to be really casual and flexible and throw out a ‘niku nashi’ (no meat) and surrender to the fact that I’m certainly often eating animal based broth but I can’t go hungry damnit! And I really love noodles. And I can’t speak Japanese. In any sense.
There’s stamina, miso, tsukemen, and who knows how many more. I literally do not know, I cannot read the menu. Even the instant ramen in Japan is better than whatever Top Ramen has to offer back home, and many of them include not only the flavor packet but also an oil packet to enhance the flavor.
So far my favorite ramen experience has been tantanmen, which I’m told is the Japanese version of a Chinese dish that usually includes minced pork (although not if you say ‘niku nashi!’ in your best Japanese with an accompanying thumbs up!) and scallions. It tastes like chili and peanut sauce and it is a DELIGHT. I always love me some carbs, but with peanut-anything? YES. Yes please.
The second best thing about going for ramen at lunch (besides, obviously, scarfing down a bowl of noodles) is watching Dave try to sit cross-legged at the table. Someone needs to work on their hip openers!