Dishin’: Roamin’ for Ramen

We’re crazy about ramen. It might go back to Tampopo, the 1985 “Noodle Western” centered around a ramen shop, with its memorable raw egg and saliva swapping scene. While that movie glamorized the noodles for us, we’d never been to a real ramen shop, instead settling for the 8-for-a-buck version and always wondering just what’s inside those seasoning packets.

Until we went to Japan. No one knows for sure the location of the original Tampopo shop, but we found one that lays claim to the title. It’s in Odawara, about 90 minutes by train from Tokyo; once at the restaurant, we waited in line 90 minutes more for the thrill of slurping our noodles in just under 9 minutes (any longer, and the ramen isn’t as good). It’s a seriously popular noodle shop with seriously delicious ramen. Though lesser quality, we’ve also enjoyed quick bowls of ramen at train stations throughout Japan (a quick way to warm up on a winter’s day). Oh yes… we’ve even ventured to Yokohama to enjoy the ramen museum (the Ramusement Park), featuring exhibits such as instant ramen packages from around the world, a replica of the first ramen dish ever eaten (by a 17th century samurai), and an underground ramen-land, where you can sample some of the endless varieties of ramen from around the country.

Now we have a ramen shop in Seattle. Samurai Noodle opened recently on 5th Avenue South, just behind Uwajimaya. We ordered tonkotsu ramen, a Kyushu version with a slightly thicker and whitish broth that results from extensive cooking of pork bones. It comes topped with a pork slice, green onion, and kikurage –wood ear mushroom that imparts a crunchy texture. We recommend asking for beni shoga (a type of pickled ginger) as well.

Overall, the ramen was good. It had its shortcomings: the pork was a little too thick, the noodles a little too short (they said they’re homemade, but the texture was slightly off and tasted more Chinese than Japanese), and the portion a little too little. For $6, we wanted more, but slurped happily. Like sushi-eating in America, it evoked the feeling of being in Japan and the desire to return there for the real thing. Let’s just say we’re lucky to have something close in quality in Seattle. And afterward, you can always do as we did: duck back in to Uwajimaya to graze for more food – and perhaps some raw eggs for later.

Originally posted at Seattlest (where “we” = me) on October 27, 2006.

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2 Responses to “Dishin’: Roamin’ for Ramen”

  1. August 17, 2008 at 9:41 am #

    Tampopo made a huge impression on me too. The night I first saw it, in college, I rushed home at midnight and tried to concoct a bowl (poorly).

    I ate at Samurai recently too, since they offer a vegetarian ramen in a miso broth. I can’t say it totally knocked my socks off, but it was nice for a veg to be able to play and I certainly would go back, especially on a cold day.

  2. admin
    August 25, 2008 at 5:03 am #

    And let’s not forget that fabulous egg scene in Tampopo!

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