|http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/07/21 11:26 《Speak 2 Me》|
Ramen Rising--There’s nothing simple about this simple bowl of noodles
“If you’re looking for good ramen, look for a place that’s old, crowded and a little dirty,” advises our guide, as we wander the back streets of Sapporo in search of lunch. “Another rule of thumb is that, if there’s a line outside, it’s probably worth the wait.”
We finally pick a place, suitably old and crowded, and wait for a table. The tiny restaurant is filled with noise from hungry customers slurping down bowls of steaming hot noodles. We’d heard that making a lot of noise while eating ramen is considered polite, but apparently, we’d heard wrong. “Japanese people love noodles so much that we don’t care if we make noise while we eat,” our guide tells us. “Though some people claim that slurping makes the noodles taste better.”
Ramen is an obsession in Japan. Fifteen years ago, the owner of Taishoken, a legendary noodle shop in Tokyo, closed his doors following the death of his wife. A month later, the owner returned to the restaurant to find the front door covered with notes from his customers pleading for him to reopen.
Ramen lovers are also appalled by some of the misconceptions that some people have about their favorite dish. “Lots of foreigners think that cooking ramen is easy,” says one chef. “This is because they’ve been led to believe that ramen and instant noodles are the same thing, but nothing could be further from the truth.”
These days, ramen are going upscale. Shiodome Ramen, a new shop in Tokyo found its chef through a year-long search for the best ramen chef in Japan. Prices are nearly four times what a bowl or ramen down the street would cost, but there’s no shortage of customers, some of whom line up for an hour or more to get in. But late-comers are out of luck – the chef only makes enough soup for 800 bowls a day and, when he runs out of soup, they close the store.