The art of ramen
As I sat down to this counter to order ramen noodles in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, I was hesitant to say the least. I still have ptsd from eating mass quantities of "ramen" in college. And now, here I was in pop-up ramen shop in the middle of a swedish inspired coffee house. Oh New York.
But, I was starving and I would have eaten anything.
As I sat there, this guy places beautifully crafted chopsticks down beside me. Arranging them to be perfectly vertical.
He then asks which of the two dishes I want? Chicken or Vegetarian. Chicken of course.
We start up a conversation. He describes to me the 10-12 hour slow cooking of the shio paitan, a chicken based stock with fish flavoring. The variety of spices, most of which I've never heard of, and the timing of each. The delicate balance of waiting for the spice to properly open but not missing the window to merge with the others.
He describes how he goes to a farm upstate to get his chickens that are all free range. Never caged. It's a longer drive than the local grocery store, but the slices have to be perfect. That's the other thing, it's not an American size helping of meat. It's 4 little pieces that are cut fresh in front of you, seasoned and then pan fried.
By now I'm dying. My mouth is watering. I don't care what it tastes like. It is the sheer attention detail, the adoration of the ingredients, and the artist's touch of creating this one of a kind bowl of ramen that I have fallen in love with.
After the scallions added, the chicken gently laid on top of the noodles, a dash of Japanese pepper, the final ingredient is brought out. A half of a hard boiled egg that has been marinated in 16 spices for over 24 hours. An egg! It was soaked and dripping with flavor. I felt like I was cheating on every other meal I've ever had.
Once he serves it to me, I have completely lost my mind. It's like I am being presented with a Picasso. It's taken well over 20 minutes to make and in New York time, that is an eternity.
The first slurp was like taking a lover into my arms after being away for 40 years and finally having the first embrace. This was mine. The exquisite dance of flavors and artistry was all mine.
And as I sat there eating it, I was truly amazed at how this person was so completely dedicated to a bowl of ramen. In my world, that wouldn't make sense. Who has time for that? We are all so busy?
Things to achieve. Success to conquer. Ladders to climb.
And yet, here was one of the greatest most memorable successes I've ever seen, in the back of a coffee shop, falling in love with each bowl of ramen he made.
Makes you think what's possible if we all had our version of ramen.
Could you imagine? Wow.
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