Ramen

Where’s the water? |Nyuzen Ramen Matsuri 2015

You might remember that I went to a ramen festival last year. I ate a lot of good ramen and I was eager to go again. I actually went both days this year because I am very, very committed to eating. This year I interviewed people about the ramen they were eating and put it all together in one article over at The TRAM.

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I tried a total of four ramen over these two days. The first day I split a Hokkaido seafood ramen and a green ramen with the friend. I had the green ramen from Takaoka last year too and I should have remembered that it was good but not mind-blowing. It’s worth trying but I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to get it. The seafood ramen was pretty good, but the broth made me a little sad. I also ate a white ramen from Oyabe which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve eaten white ramen before in Toyama, but I didn’t like it. I think the restaurant was running it as a special dish for a few months, which might explain why they didn’t nail it. The one I ate at the festival, however, was realllyy good. Satisfying, and a little spicy, it was exactly what makes ramen a comfort food.

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Takaoka Green Ramen

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Hokkaido Seafood Ramen

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Oyabe White Ramen

The second day I ate the ramen from Kanazawa which was definitely the best I had! It was meaty and oily and very, very, very unhealthy. I assume that’s why it was so delicious. The meat was almost like bacon instead of the regular chashu that’s served in ramen. It was a little spicy, too. Always a plus. Funny story, my friend asked me to get him an egg since the stall he got his ramen from had none left. When I ordered one ramen with two eggs the guy at the stall was super confused that I would want two eggs. I felt this weird awkward compulsion to explain that “it’s for my friend…ha ha”.  lol.

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After we ate, my friend and I went looking for water. But every vending machine was sold out of anything possibly thirst-quenching. So we went to the nearby convenience store and laughed when we saw that the fridges with drinks were almost completely empty. We ended up buying a large litre bottle of water to share.

All in all, it was a successful day. It’s hard not to be content (although very sleepy) after eating ramen as your day’s main activity. Whenever I go to Oyabe or Kanazawa next, I’m going to try the ramen again!

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Kyoto Gogyo’s Burnt Ramen

Gogyo restaurant serves burnt ramen just off of the Nishiki market in Kyoto. I don’t usually put the word “burnt” in front of food and expect positive results. I was a little skeptical the first time I went, but I thought hey, “I’m sure everyone eats it, I might as well try!” Actually as it turns out, no one eats burnt ramen and all my co-workers gave me dubious looks when I told them about it. So this restaurant is a little experimental, but for good reason because this ramen is amazing!

I liked it so much I’ve gone back every time I’m in Kyoto. The broth is cooked to 300 degrees which gives it an earthy smokey taste. I’ve had both the Soy (Shoyu) and Miso Ramen. The Soy Ramen broth was a little clearer and more salty and the Miso brother more dense and smokey. Both are pretty oily and the portions are big so it’s best to go when you’re really hungry and you have a leisurely evening planned.

The restaurant itself is gorgeous, with dark wooden furniture and a dimly lit atmosphere that feels both elegant and cozy.

Shoyu Ramen

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Miso Ramen

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Price Range: 900-1200 Yen per bowl

Monday to Friday – Lunch: 11:30-3 |  Dinner: 5:00-11:00

Saturday and Sunday – Lunch: 11:30-4 |  Dinner: 5:00-11:00

The restaurant has now opened locations in Tokyo and Nagoya! Check out all their information and menus on their website!

Location near the Nishiki Market in Kyoto.

Amen for Ramen! Nyuzen Ramen Matsuri 2014

Yesterday I took the train to the town of Nyuzen, in the East of Toyama Prefecture for “The 14th Nyuzen Ramen Matsuri 2014”. It was the perfect day for a food festival, with the already not-so-cold winter feeling like it was coming to a definite close. The main street was lined with Ramen vendors from different areas of Japan (although many were from Toyama prefecture) averaging around 800 Yen a bowl. Ramen sounds pretty straightforward in theory, but this festival was evidence enough just how much variation is possible. My first was a miso ramen from Ishikawa, and it was super oily and a little spicy- amazing! My second was a Soy Ramen from Hokkaido which was a little lighter and more sweet.

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Miso Ramen from Ishikawa Prefecture – Smokey and Oily, my favourite one!

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Sea Urchin Ramen from Toyama

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Spinach Ramen – perhaps the “healthiest” of all the options!

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Soy Ramen from Hokkaido! Clear and a little sweet.

I managed just over one and a half bowls all together (with plenty of taste-tests from my friend’s picks), which left me in a slight food coma for the rest of the day. It was a great way to spend an afternoon, you really can’t go wrong with good food, weather, and company. They also happened to play pretty great music, including some Barry White which was an excellent soundtrack for noodle slurping. We also ran into the official Nyuzen mascot- a giant watermelon! Or, watermelon King to be precise.

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Cats, Temples, and Geishas: KYOTO in a Nutshell

KYOTO: my first trip there and I’ve fallen in love. Japan’s old capital validated my high levels of anticipation, making a return trip the top of my travel to-do list. Two and a half (very) short days were crammed full of sight see-ing and (of course) food, more than I can fit into one post. I’ll be breaking Kyoto down into smaller stories, but first here it is: Kyoto in a nutshell.

Day one: An embarrassingly indulgent breakfast of pancakes and coffee and roaming around Kyoto station and its many levels of shopping. Kyoto station was a stunning example of functional but beautiful design. Large expanses of criss-crossing metal beams form walls- yet never enclose to form a building, allowing light and air to stream through.

Nishiki Market: It was easy to get disoriented in the bustling roads of shopping for everything from fish to wigs.

It was here that I also visited a temple to receive a fortune, after a few technical difficulties. Like most temples, a few hundred yen can be exchanged for a “fortune”, which you can take as lightly or as seriously as it suits you. I found a somewhat kitschy machine with an automated dragon(?) who fetched fortunes within an enclosed case.

It was here that I also ate a cat donut (adorable) burnt ramen (yes, burnt) and visited my first Cat Cafe.

The day culminated with a sensory overload at the Fushimi Inari Shrine. A series of hundreds of orange “Torii” gates leads up a mountain, called the Senbon Torii. We hit it just as the sun was going down, making the climb down treacherous but worth the view of the glowing orange shrines.

Day Two: Maiko Dress-Up in the Gion District, something I’ve been dreaming of doing and finally had the opportunity!

Kinkaku-ji, a stunning, golden temple which in the perfect weather absolutely glowed in against the blue sky and water.

This was followed by a return trip to the Gion District to explore the bustling nightlife and souvenir shops. In contrast to my other experiences in cities, Kyoto was surprisingly lively past 8 pm. Tokyo’s nightlife felt more hectic, and chaotic, especially in the Shibuya area. Kyoto, on the other hand was alive with excitement and yet entirely comfortable, like a spirited reunion with old friends.

Day Three: after a hasty breakfast and bus ride we spent an ethereal hour at Ginkaku-Ji, Kyoto’s silver temple (aka… the not so silver temple).

Day Trip to Kanazawa

Ah, the long weekend! A chance to wind down after a hectic week of teaching and seize the opportunity of extra time to take a quick trip to the neighbouring Prefecture of Ishikawa.

We left in the morning and arrived just in time for a lunch of (of course) Ramen.

The main attraction was the Kanazawa Castle park and Kenrokuen gardens, an enormous property full of winding paths and buildings. The castle itself was built in the 1500s and burnt down several times. Now what remains are the many utility buildings that have also been reconstructed, the largest of which is the Gojikken Nagaya warehouse reconstructed in 2001. It’s recent construction (although it uses traditional building techniques) makes the inside of the building feel more like the swanky interior of an upscale vacation home than a warehouse.

Then we walked through the massive and meticulously groomed Kenrokuen gardens, enjoying the lush trees and flowing water… an accompanying green tea ice cream cone making it all the more sweeter.

The final stop was the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa much to the delight of the Art History nerd in me. The circular building features high ceilings and glass walls that often allow views straight through to other parts of the museum. As its name suggests, the museum was filled with Contemporary art, mostly video and installation work. In many of my contemporary art classes we talked at length about the impact that a museum’s space has on its visitors. That the construction of the building, positioning of art work, the text on the walls and much more all inform, dictate, and facilitate an experience that extends far beyond visual perception. I certainly felt this as I walked from room to room, standing in the dark watching a film, or sitting in a glass room listening to a poem as those on the outside stared in at me.

An extremely captivating work was Leandro Erlich’s “The Swimming Pool” of 2001. At first glance it seems to be a typical swimming pool, save for its positioning in the middle of a museum. But standing on its edge, viewers can look down and see the shapes of other people underneath the water. The work is multi-level, and visitors can enter into a room underneath the pool and stand beneath the surface of the water. It’s an absolutely simple yet thrilling moment to re-experience the familiar setting of a backyard pool.