Things were so simple, so instant, when we first met. I’d pull you out of a plastic package, sprinkle on the salty seasoning and eat you raw-sometimes crushed, sometimes whole. Then things heated up, and I started to boil you to an al dente texture. I’d simmer that seasoning into a broth instead of pouring it directly onto your crispy frame. In college we really started to experiment: eggs, chili oil, veggies, sometimes leftover chicken. Our relationship crescendoed, and we parted ways. Years past, then there you were, featured on a television show. The host praised your rich history and the reconnection with your noble past. Something in my gut stirred. I decided we must reconnect. Imagine my surprise when I found deep rich flavors in a broth boiled for hours on end, your noodles toned to a perfect chewy texture. Oh, the years had been surprisingly good to you. The extras you wielded-from fall-apart pork belly to corn, seaweed, wild mushrooms-were bliss. And that soft-boiled egg with a custardlike yolk and a gelatinous white! I sought you out again and again. We rendezvoused in New York, Chicago, L.A., where you savored the limelight Then to my surprise, here you were! You’d come to me in my own backyard at places like Oka and Rooster’s House of Ramen. You’ve even been popping up at The Broadmoor’s Natural Epicurean. I know I can never solely possess your secrets. I’ve accepted that I must always share you with other admirers. But our journey will continue, bowl after delectable bowl.
A Brief History of Ramen
2,000 B.C.: Noodles are developed in China.
Late 1800s: Wheat-based ramen noodles are brought to Japanese ports, such as Yokohama and Nagasaki, by Chinese tradesmen.
1910: Rai-Rai Ken opens in Tokyo, the first Japanese- owned restaurant to serve and adapt Chinese cuisine to Japanese tastes. Its alkali-infused Chinese noodles were yellowish and more elastic than Japanese noodles.
1910-1920s: Ramen pushcarts grow popular in the streets of Tokyo and Yokohama, fueling Japan’s growing industrial workforce.
1945: The U.S. supplies war-torn Japan with wheat and lard, building blocks for ramen and sustenance as Japan rebuilds.
1958: Spurred by Japanese food shortages following World War II, Momofuku Ando invents instant ramen in a backyard shed.
1972: Ando’s Nissin company releases Top Ramen instant noodles in the U.S.
1994: Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum opens in Yokohama, Japan.
2004: David Chang opens Momofuku Noodle Bar in N.Y.C., placing ramen at the center of the American food scene.
2015: David Chang declares ramen dead, ruined by the Internet’s spread of homogeneity. Ramen shops continue to propagate.