Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mill Loves Ramen

Last week I offered up my extra special iPhone review. I hope you used the information embedded (like the iPhone's flash memory) within my review to edify yourself. This week, I'm switching gears a bit. After all, I'm no technogeek. I can review other stuff besides cell phones, video games, GPS devices, and the like. I'm cool as a cucumber, see. So the review I have for you this week is going to be extra-sweet, way, way, far-out gnarly totally rad - as the kids say these days. And just how The Mill likes it. You won't believe how cool this is! Here's my review of...........THE TEXAS INSTRUMENTS TI-85 GRAPHING CALCULATOR!!!!!!!!!!!

Wait, no. That's for next time. Sorry. What I'd like to talk about this week is my love affair with ramen. And I don't mean the instant brick of palm-oil-fried and dried noodles with the little foil packet of crushed boullion cubes, plus 20,000 mg of sodium in the form of MSG. I'm speaking of the authentic, wholesome, flavorful, and lovingly-prepared-by-Japanese-people kind of ramen.

Brick of Crap
Basically just hard-ass noodles and crushed bouillion cubes

I've been haunting East Village Ramen Joints for the past two years or so. My favorites include Momofuku at 1st Ave. and 10th St., Rai-rai Ken right down the block on 10th St. b/w 1st and 2nd Aves., and Minca on 5th St. b/w Aves. A and B. I even like Sushi Lounge's ramen every once in a while, although even for me it's a bit too intensely salty. All are excellent in their own ways. Momofuku uses by far the most animal fat out of all of them, I suspect, which produces an incredibly rich broth. It's almost sinful. In fact, I need to pray right now...............Ok, I'm done. The shredded Berkshire pork practically falls apart in the broth, like only soggy slow-cooked pork can do. But it's so very delicious.

Psychiatric Patient Photographs Ramen
This crazy lady thinks the bowl of ramen is her friend

Rai-Rai Ken's greatest strengths are its low cost and small likelihood of any wait. I usually go there and sit right down. Also, I'd say they use by far the least amount of animal fat of any of the East Village Ramen Boxes. That's either a good thing or a bad thing depending upon how much animal fat you like in your ramen. I like a lot. But I realize that my heart and vascular system do not like a lot. So we need to come to some sort of compromise: I tell my heart and major blood vessels that I'll go for a jog three times a week, and they agree not to get all dammed up with cholesterol and stop working. There you have it. The secret to longevity.

As we continue this Ramen/Animal Fat showdown, the next contestant is the new kid on the block, as it were. Its name is Setagaya, on 1st Ave. b/w 9th and 10th Sts. Another of the East Village Ramen Taverns. But this one claims to be the most authentic: http://nymag.com/daily/food/2007/07/is_setagaya_the_romulus_of_ram.html
After sampling Setagaya's excellent Shio Ramen, I'd be likely to agree with this claim of authenticity. But I've never been to Japan, as it is just too damn far to go for a bowl of ramen. That being said, Setagaya's ramen is intensely flavorful, with a medium amount of animal fat. Smack dab in the middle between Momo's and Rai Rai's.

Little Asian Kid Eats Ramen
If I were Asian, I wish this was me as a kid....Cuz I love ramen! And never had it when I was a kid.

Each and every Ramen Roadhouse, whether in the East Village or elsewhere, treats their broth recipe as as if it were the blueprint for Peace in the Middle East. In other words, it's incredibly valuable, nearly impossible to figure out, and would be enjoyed by both Jews and Arabs. Ramen chefs are notorious for their intense secrecy. Well, I think I've figured it out. Sure, you can mix a concoction of seaweed, dried anchovies, clams, scallops, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, pork, chicken, and Vietnamese sea salt and boil together for 50 hours. But come on. EVERYONE does that. What it really comes down to is the amount of animal fat, and the amount of salt in the soup. Notice how I haven't even mentioned the noodles. They're pretty good everywhere. It's really all about the broth. And the broth is all about the animal fat and salt. And by animal fat, I mean mammal. And by mammal, I mean domesticated farm animal of some sort. And also by mammal I mean chicken, because I forgot to mention chicken but I'm pretty sure they use some chicken fat in the ramen. So chicken's a mammal. And that's the secret to good ramen.

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