Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Yokohama Ramen Museum

1000yregg and I are currently in Japan (thus the lack of recent blog posts). We've been eating really well, but yesterday's trip to the Ramen Museum in Yokohama was just too good to wait until we got home.

I adore ramen and lament the fact that most Americans only think of the instant cup noodle variety. Watch the movie Tampopo if you want to understand the passion these noodles can elicit. So finding this place was like the Holy Grail for me...

The museum is a "Ramusment Park" just a few minutes walk from Shin-Yokohama station and the Nissan soccer stadium. You walk down from a modern lobby, down a rather industrial looking flight of stairs, past a big clock whose hands are spinning backwards and descend into a large 2-story recreation of 1950s Japan (the year 1958 precisely, the year instant ramen was invented and the Chinese-style noodles became popular all over Japan). All dark alleys, neon signs, hanging laundry, telephone boxes -- I felt like a kid at Epcot Center! The stores are all different ramen stands - 8 total to choose from - all chefs from different regions of Japan. Apparently they also get star ramen chefs for guest runs.

You buy tickets for full or half bowls from vending machines outside each stand and sample as much as your stomach can hold. I had two 1/2 bowls -- the first from ramen shop Shinosobaya's chef Minoru Sano, the "Demon of Ingredients." Simple, elegant perfection -- thin straight firm noodles, mild perfect clear broth (generally I can't finish a whole bowl of ramen broth because it's too rich and salty, but this broth was eminently drinkable!)

My second bowl was a good complement to the first -- from ramen shop Ryu Shanghai, which invented this "karamiso" ramen in 1960. A much richer broth, this one had thick curly homemade noodles and it's distinguishing feature was a dollop of spicy karamiso paste on top that you mixed into the broth. Even though blowing your nose in public is considered rude in Japan (probably the equivalent of spitting or picking your nose), I wasn't the only one there having to blow my nose from the spice!

I wished I could eat more... but sadly no... We did split up for variety, so 1000yregg will add his own post, and more ramen from Tokyo to come.

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