Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles -- A Parable of Obsession



Ramen may not be the noblest of noodle soups, as I'm never shy about opining, but I have to admit it's got a lore you can't ignore -- and I am not immune. I've got a duly purchased copy of the landmark movie Tampopo, several ramen-themed T-shirts including four from Uniqlo's recent line, and I recently subscribed to Crunchyroll for long enough to keep up with an anime series about ramen love.

The series in question, Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles (Rāmen Daisuki Koizumi-san) is about a mysterious and beautiful transfer student at a Tokyo high school who attracts the attention of her peers, especially other girls (boys apparently feel intimidated by her). Koizumi-san (her given name is never revealed) is very distant, one might even think autistic, and shuns all social contacts except in the context of eating ramen. She rebuffs all solicitations of friendship or companionship, though when the rquest is to follow her into the ramen shop she is headed to at the moment, she responds with "I don't care" or "Do what you like."  Once seated at a ramen bar, however, she will sort of open up, robotically spouting her vast knowledge of ramen styles, ramen ingredients, and rsmen shops.

The main problem with the series is that there is no real plot.  There is a glimmer of hope for one, halfway through the series when the boyish Yuu, who has a mad girl crush on Ms. Koizumi, finds her fainted on the street from hunger while waitnig for a ramen shop to open. Yuu carries Koizumi-san to her apartment and revives her by cooking a variety of ramen-like soups of her own creation for her. Ms. Koiozumi expresses her admiration for Yuu's creativity, and we hope for a romance to blossom, but no such luck. Once her ramen withdrawal pains are gone, she becomes the ice queen once again.

What you will find in this series is what amonts to an animated tutorial on the state of ramen in Japan today, tailored to novice and intermediate ramen-heads alike.  How about some euglenia ramen? Or ramen that has a blizzard of fat back shaved into it?

 You can now watch the entire series for free on Crunchyroll, There are three segments to each half-hour episode, so you may find as many as three different ramen styles covered in a single episode.  The list of episodes will give you an idea of what you are in for:

  • Episode 1 – Garlic With Extra Vegetables / Maayu / Rich 
  • Episode 2 – Hokkyoku / K-K-K-K-Koizumi-san 
  • Episode 3 – Saimin / Flavor Concentration Counter / Instant Noodles 
  • Episode 4 – Western Restaurant / Red or White / Convenience Store 
  • Episode 5 – Tomato Ramen / Euglena / Huge Line 
  • Episode 6 – Morning Ramen / Hiyashi / Museum 
  • Episode 7 – Nationwide 
  • Episode 8 – Local Instant Noodles / Iekei 
  • Episode 9 – Mountain / Pork Guy / Back Fat 
  • Episode 10 – Ramen With Unknown Flavor / Conveyor Belt Ramen / Accepting Challenge 
  • Episode 11 – Tasty Ramen / Osaka 
  • Episode 12 – Nagoya / Reunion 

I once read of a (possibly apocryphal) Japanese proverb thst reads "People suffering from the same disease have much to talk about."  Whoever penned that may have had rameniacs in mind.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Cambodian Legend: Dhmen Jay And [Not Exactly] The World's First Noodles

Source: Khmer Forums



If you know me, you know that I will shine my little light into the deepest recesses of the World Wide Web looking for useful insights into noodles. .  You won't be surprised, therefor, that I found an interesting and informative piece on Cambodian noodles on Ricochet.com, which bills itself as "the leading place for civil discussion of the center-right and beyond."

The very civil post I found by member "LC", simply headlined as "The World's First Noodles," recounts in detail the life of a legendary Cambodian "trickster" (hmm...), Dhmen Jay, a young man who lived at the start of the Common Era in Nokor Phnom, the first unified Khmer kingdom (AD 100-500).  To make a long story short, he was exiled to China, got himself in and out of trouble and eventually left China wealthy for having introduced noodles to China.

Any claim for Mr. Dhmen to have invented noodles 2000 years ago, of course bumps up against science, since archaeologists have found a 4,000 year old bowl of noodles in Qinghai Province, China. It's possible, I suppose, he may have come up with the World's First Rice Noodles, or the World's First Fermented Rice Noodles to be specific,  though to demo the making of such noodles he woiuld have to have traveled with more equipment than a rock band, judging from the must-see video in the middle of this post.

After dispensing with the legend of Dhmen Jay, poster LC provided some truly useful info about Khmer noodles:

"The world’s first noodles or not, Khmers love num banh chok, which is the name of our noodles, and also the names of the dishes made with these noodles. Num banh chok is fermented rice noodles. First, the rice is soaked in water to soften the grains. The rice is then grounded into a liquefied batter with a stone mill. Afterward, the batter is placed in a cloth bag and a heavy stone is placed on top to squeeze out water, while the dough begins to ferment in the process. The drying dough is then boiled until it becomes soft, before being transformed into a smooth dough. The transformation process includes a lot of pounding and another boiling. After the second boiling, the dough becomes very hard. Next, it is pounded in a large stone mortar with a wooden pestle. After the pounding, the dough transforms from a hard ball to a smooth, elastic dough. It requires additional kneading by hand for some time. The dough turns snow-white; it looks almost like whipped cream cheese, and finally the dough is ready to be turned into noodles. The dough is spooned into a metal mold with a perforated bottom. Once the mold is filled, it is pressed down through the perforated bottom directly into boiling water. The cooked noodles are then rinsed in water until they’re completely cooled down. With the water squeezed out, the noodles are looped and coiled and they are arranged in a lotus or banana leaf-lined basket in concentric circles; the noodles are ready for the market or the table." 



"There are four num banh chok dishes: num banh chok samlor Khmer, num banh chok samlor krahamnum banh chok samlor kari, and num banh chok Kampot. Num banh chok samlor Khmer is noodles with green fish gravy, num banh chok samlor kraham is noodles with red fish gravy, num banh chok samlor kari is noodles with red chicken and sweet potato curry and num banh chok Kampot is noodles with crushed dried shrimp tossed with pineapple fish-sauce dressing and topped with roasted peanuts and coconut cream.
"Num banh chok samlor Khmer and num banh chok samlor kraham are served with a huge variety of raw vegetables such as banana blossom, cucumber, long beans, bean sprouts, papaya, young mango leaves, water lily stems, water hyacinth flowers, sesbania javanica flowers, some edible border plants, and countless herbs. The other two dishes require fewer adornments. Of course, these adornments also change with the season. Aside from these four dishes, num banh chok is served as an accompaniment to many other dishes as well.
"Num banh chok samlor Khmer, also known by its other name, num banh chok samlor praher, is so ubiquitous and so loved that we simply refer to it as num banh chok Khmer. In Khmer cuisine, num banh chok Khmer is in a category of its own. We simply eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a 2 a.m. snack."
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If you live in the Bay Area, you are fortunate to  be able to sample Khmer noodles and other classic Cambodian fare in a nostalgic environment (featuring 60's Khnmer rock and roll!) at Nite Yun's Nyum Bai in Fruitvale.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Half Nudel Frontity From Kim Kardashian


I don't know much about Kim Kardashian, other than she's apparently one of those people who are famous for being famous because she was on a reality TV show, much like our current President. Since I don't watch much on TV other than news, baseball and Seinfeld re-runs, she only enters my consciousness by occasionally showing up in my noodle content searches. She apparently likes noodles, particularly ramen, and recently emphasized the fact by posting an Instagram of herself eating noodes topless.  Ms. Kardashian's breasts, or at least her nipples, were obscured by her chopsticks hand and her bowl-holding hand respecively, so it mat be a reach to call it a half nudal frontity pose, but Full Noodle Frontity applauds every effort to bring more exposure to the enjoyment of slurping down noodles. We're not about to knock her efforts, you might say.