For some (delicious) reason, the US has been in a ramen craze for over 10 years. David Chang’s famous Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York may have started this slurp-able trend, but hundreds of restaurants across the country have helped turn what in Japan is a regular, working man’s lunch into hip, popular food. Sun Noodle, a gourmet ramen noodle factory in California that supplies restaurants nation-wide, has helped proliferate the ramen-ya (Japanese for ramen-shop) and make it a must-eat destination. Again, in Japan, ramen began as the workingman’s meal. Each region has many local varieties, from Tokyo’s salty shio ramen to the heavy, porky tonkotsu of the South to the nuttier, miso base of the North. Along the way renegade ramen-ya owners changed up the formula–one Tokyo restaurateur invented tsukemen, where room temperature noodles are served separately from boiling broth, allowing the slurper to dip as he/she pleases. There truly are thousands of varieties, pointing to the ubiquity of ramen while at the same time its commonality.
In Philly alone there are several ramen shops all worth exploring. Right in University City is Ramen Bar, with its 12 variations of ramen, including tsukemen, and CoZara, offering more provocative styles such as Spicy Chick, Fat Pig, and Seafood. Perhaps the regional varieties of Japan are alive. In center city there is, among others, Terakawa Ramen, Yamitsuki, and, perhaps the most popular, Cheu Noodle Bar, now with a new location in Fishtown. In celebration of ramen in general (why not!?) and as a precursor to a possible review and interview at Cheu Fishtown (get excited!) I’d like to share how I operated a personal ramen-ya for one night.
I decided, perhaps due to the ramen-dredged environment where I lived, to serve homemade ramen at an upcoming dinner party my family was hosting. After extensive research, I pulled from several recipe sources, most notably Momofuku’s David Chang’s very own Lucky Peach magazine (now sadly out of print) and Serious Eats. Detailed below is the process:
Look out for that Cheu Fishtown article, and remember, ramen is a great cure for a hangover.
By Xander Gottfried (chef, writer, and photographer)