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My first REAL Ramen

Submitted by: BillyBoy  | Nearest Major City: Osaka  | Category: Food


Ramen in Tokyo, The REAL Thing

Ramen in Tokyo, The REAL Thing

"You’ve never had ramen before?"

I rolled my eyes at the laughter and mischief dancing on my roommate’s countenance before launching a pillow in her direction. I had known Kasumi for only three weeks tops but I was already enjoying my stay in Japan more than I did in some of my travels. While most would expect Japanese women to be meek, indirect, and polite to the point of being cryptic, Kasumi had no such difficulty expressing herself, although her levels of politeness were still impressive.

"I mean, I’ve had ramen before in those instant noodle cups but that’s about it," I admitted with a gusty sigh. Food was one of my guilty pleasures. New food was an even greater pleasure.

Kasumi laughed again. "Well, why didn’t you say so? Grab your jacket and I’ll treat you to your first bowl of ramen."

Well, I wasn’t one to say no to free food so I grabbed my gray sweater and hauled it over my shirt. We both grabbed our footwear on the way out.

"Eating ramen straight from the stall may be a bit messy," she warned me as we walked down the street. "We might not be able to sit together but I’ll try to find a spot that puts us close. Remember, the moment we get our tickets, make a go for the first empty seat."

"Make a go for the first empty seat. Got it."

When we got to the ramen stall, there was a vending machine with colorful depictions of broth, noodles, toppings, and drinks with descriptions of each in kanji. After a few instructions from Kasumi, I chose a miso-based ramen with chashu, or barbecued pork belly.

Luckily for us, a young couple had just left, so we were able to immediately occupy the two seats they left behind. The atmosphere in the shop was pretty manic with everyone moving so fast and the head cook calling out orders above the din of the customers slurping their soup, which was part of Kasumi’s lecture on proper ramen etiquette on our way to the stall.

"Make sure to slurp your ramen rather loudly," she’d said. "Most cooks would be insulted if you eat too quietly. We’ll have none of those darling table manners of yours once you get your ramen."

In a few minutes, a steaming bowl of broth and noodles was shoved under my nose seconds just before another bowl made its way before Kasumi. Copying her movements, I leaned into the bowl and held it with one hand as I took one long whiff of piping hot goodness.

"Save the pork for the last," Kasumi instructed me before she started slurping her noodles. I nodded and picked up my chopsticks. The scent was definitely tantalizing but the taste was even more so.

The moment the noodles made it to my tongue, there was an explosion of flavors that made my taste buds dance in glee. I was only too happy to convey my appreciation to the cooks’ talents by loudly slurping and sloshing my way around the soup. After I was done with it, I picked up the pork with my chopsticks and chewed on it thoughtfully. Kasumi was right to save the pork for last. The broth had made it nice and soft.

As quickly as we came, we left the stall after several gulps of water. More customers were lining up for the flavorful broth as we exited. It looked rather manic in there but with a tummy full of free food, who was I to complain?

All I knew was that that bowl wasn’t going to be the last during my stay in Japan. I was definitely going to go back for more ramen.

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