Hakata Ippudo, or ramen real style

last night i was telling my brother about the ramen at Ippudo and he started laughing. "ramen?" he said incredulously, "like maruchan? you ate that at a restaurant?" that exchange alone is the reason why places like Ippudo are so necessary.

ramen, as known in the majority of the united states, is notoriously maligned as the rock hard brick of dried noodles with the mysterious "flavor" packet. most american kids have had this at one time in their lives (or for my brother and me, many, many times) and forever associate ramen with this semi-edible astronaut-like food. like many other things in life, the real deal ramen is very very different and so much better than the cheap facsimile. (don't get me wrong though, there are times when i crave the fake stuff too.)

real ramen is japanese comfort food, similar to what mac and cheese is to americans, and adobo is to filipinos. it is different in every household, but, like mac and cheese, always has the same basic components: a very flavorful broth, chewy noodles and a smattering of vegetables. there is often also sliced pork. different regions of japan have different specialties, mainly differing on ingredients that make up the broth. in nyc, there a couple great ramen places, but almost all of them match the hole-in-the-wall, night-after-drinking, vibe of the typical ramen places cluttering japan's main metropolises. other than momofuku noodle bar, Ippudo is the only place i know of in NYC where ramen in served in a more upscale setting, hopefully introducing ramen newbies to the deliciousness that is pork broth.

shown here are the two options for ramen at ippudo: the paler broth is the white pork based ramen, Shiromaru, which is smoother and less assertive, while the darker "red" broth, Akamaru, is the bolder, porkier flavor. each bowl came with some heavenly slices of tender, fatty pork. seriously, if you like pork as much as i do, just those slices are worth the visit. i also had an appetizer of larger, cube-like slices of fatty pork, which i will forever fail to describe the deliciousness of. a pork-lover's dream, i'll tell you that much.

apparently, the genuis behind Ippudo is Shigemi Kawahara, also known as the ramen king in japan. he's won numerous prizes for his ramen, and treated with the reverence fit for a king there. and one other tangetial bit of information: the momofuku restaurant chain was named after the inventor of the modern instant ramen, Momofuku Ando.

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