Ramen all the Way

Moving on from instant noodles,Puneites slurp ramen in the traditional soupy form with vegetables and meat

Written by EXPRESS FEATURES SERVICE | Published: August 24, 2013 5:03:29 am

We were just getting over Cronut (a croissant-doughnut pastry) taking the West by storm,and now another hybrid product is making headlines — Ramen Burger. Made with an all-beef patty,sandwiched between two ramen noodle “buns”,it’s garnished with a “secret” sauce,salad rocket and green onions. The flavour is a salty-sweet combination,but the texture of the buns is what has made this burger so enticing for many foodies.

What has served as staple food for college students and singletons across the world in various forms — burger,instant or cup noodles — is being served across Pune in its traditional glory at Soul Kitch in Shivaji Nagar,Off Beat on Baner Road and Cafe Peter Donuts in Aundh,among others.

Ramen — although it wasn’t called that — first appeared in Japan when Chinese cooks at a restaurant created a signature dish comprising broth and Chinese noodles,which were yellower and more elastic than Japanese noodles because the dough was kneaded with kansui,a sodium-carbonate-infused alkaline mineral water. The traditional ramen preparation is made with boiled ramen noodles in a chicken,fish or vegetable-based broth (often flavored with soy sauce),and uses toppings such as sliced pork,dried seaweed,green onions,and occasionally corn,among other things.

Chef Alex Calidguid,who has added the traditional “meal in a bowl” ramen noodles to their menu at Hara Juku restaurant,O Hotel,Koregaon Park,sees it as a very healthy alternative,especially when eating out. Explaining the preparation process,the Filipino chef says,“Only the chicken or vegetable stock takes a long time to prepare. Once that

is ready,all you have to do is boil the ramen and serve it with the meat of your choice. We generally use ginger,garlic,soy sauce,Worcestershire sauce and sesame oil to add more flavour to it.” He also adds that the dish itself is slightly bland,and spices are added by the diner according to taste.

While originally,ramen comprises freshly made wheat-based noodles,instant noodles that is eaten with meat and vegetables in a soupy form,has fast become a comfort food available in a range of flavours and toppings. Testifying to its popularity,during a survey in Japan,people picked instant ramen as the greatest Japanese innovation of the 20th century — ahead of products such as the bullet train and digital camera. In a new book,called The Noodle Narratives,three anthropologists have analysed the precipitous rise — or the “brilliant career”,as the authors say — of instant ramen,from its birth in post-war Japan to its sales of over 100 billion servings worldwide in 2012.

But purists such as Korean restauranteur Chang Soo Kim of Cafe Maroo,Aundh,swear that instant noodles can never be compared to the real thing. While emotions may ride strong among ramen enthusiasts,Pune-based hotel management student Mayur Rao offers some trivia on how it should be eaten. He says that it is good manners to slurp your ramen even if you are eating at a fine-dining restaurant. “Ramen should be eaten very quickly because if it sits in the broth too long,it will get mushy. That’s why we have to make that slurping noise when we eat it,because the broth has to follow the noodle into the mouth while it is still warm,” he says.

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