Have we ever chatted about my complete obsession with ramen? Let’s do.
I am thoroughly convinced that ramen might just be the perfect food. A complete, one-bowl meal that satisfies both belly and soul with its abundant but carefully curated inclusions: savory, glistening broth; toothsome, bouncy noodles; meltingly tender pork; fresh veggies; and in instances of pure ramen bliss — one perfectly soft-cooked egg. While I can’t begin to tell you how the ideal ramen egg comes into being, I could devote almost an entire post to my joy at consuming one. But I’ll leave that for another time.
Here in the Bay Area, there is no shortage of ramen houses. San Mateo is famously known for a few in particular, as is the area from Sunnyvale to San Jose. Anyone who takes a particular liking to ramen will quickly be able to name off at least one or two favorites — along with their standard wait times for a table. Forty-five minutes is not an unusual wait time for the area’s most popular eats, and it’s not like you’re waiting for Michelin-starred service (the food, I could argue, is a different story). At some establishments, a kind but hurried employee might take your order before you even enter the restaurant so that you’re presented with your steaming selection of soupy goodness within just moments of being seated. Ironically, following that hefty wait, you then you have maybe 20 minutes to slurp and smack your way through supper under the watchful eyes of those waiting to next occupy your seat. Care to add a little leisure to your meal with a cold beer or a few rounds of sake? Please, but do so at your own risk.
As much as I’d like to devote this post to reviewing the various ramen options out there, there are plenty of online sources that do a fine job of summing up the basics. Yelp, of course, brings out the highs and lows, and the enthusiasts have all the bases covered. A sneak peek: They’ll tell you that Santa Clara’s Orenchi is the place to go for a more refined broth and a seriously dialed egg (specially sourced and then boiled in a soy bath) that is swoon-worthy to the Nth degree. They’ll tell you that San Mateo’s Ramen Dojo’s one-two punch of hot n’ dirty garlic pork broth and silky fried whole garlic cloves more than makes up for their tasty but average egg offerings (quail is standard, chicken is extra). They’ll regale you with stories of Santa Ramen versus New Kid on the Block Ramen Parlor (both also in San Mateo), and they’ll downplay the no-wait offering that is Palo Alto’s Dohatsuten — off the beaten path, but, in my opinion, an incredibly solid option that, in addition to turning out an egg that easily rivals Orenchi, offers instant gratification when you can think of ramen and nothing else.
Which brings me to my point. (You knew I’d get there eventually…)
Call me a Rambie, a Rampire, whatever. I have a hunger, people. And my appetite for ramen is completely, unrealistically focused — to the point where I have sucked my innocent husband into many an argument over what equals a “normal” frequency of ramen consumption and how many times he is allowed to partake in ramen outside of my company (never, duh). I have used ramen as both reward and punishment and as a bargaining chip to end arguments. Last night, in a particularly unreasonable (on my part) conversation, I even browbeat Chris into paying his way out of the doghouse with a ramen dinner:
“Flowers are lovely,” I said sweetly. And then, teeth bared, fingers twitching: “BUT IF YOU REALLY WANTED TO MAKE IT UP TO ME, YOU WOULD HAVE OFFERED RAMEN.”
The poor guy. Until we moved to the Bay Area, he had no idea.
The good news: I’m making progress away from my addiction, albeit forced. Guilt Ramen, it turns out, while satisfying in belly is not nearly as satisfying in soul. And once morphed into Karma Ramen by morning, she is no more kind, my scale reporting a 3 lb gain in sodium bloat overnight. (Rather metaphorically, my wedding band is threatening death on my ring finger.)
Needless to say, I’m more than a little ashamed…and sausaging at the seams. So I’m publicly declaring that I’m hanging up my soup spoon for at least a little while — and humbly request that you think of me while pursuing your own noodle fix.
To all my Little Rampires out there, I hope to be back soon.
And in the meantime: