First, Observe the Whole Bowl

Student of ramen eating:
[voiceover] One fine day… I went out with an old man. He’s studied noodles for 40 years. He was showing me the right way to eat them.

Student of ramen eating:
Master… soup first or noodles first?

Old gentleman:
First, observe the whole bowl.

Student of ramen eating:
Yes, sir.

Old gentleman:
Appreciate its gestalt. Savor the aromas. Jewels of fat glittering on the surface. Shinachiku roots shining. Seaweed slowly sinking. Spring onions floating. Concentrate on the three pork slices. They play the key role, but stay modestly hidden. First caress the surface with the chopstick tips.

Student of ramen eating:
What for?

Old gentleman:
To express affection.

Student of ramen eating:
I see.

Old gentleman:
Then poke the pork.

Student of ramen eating:
Eat the pork first?

Old gentleman:
No. Just touch it. Caress it with the chopstick tips. Gently pick it up and dip it into the soup on the right of the bowl. What’s important here is to apologize to the pork by saying “see you soon.” Finally, start eating-the noodles first. Oh, at this time, while slurping the noodles, look at the pork.

Student of ramen eating:
Yes.

Old gentleman:
Eye it affectionately.

Student of ramen eating:
[voiceover] The old man bit some shinachiku root and chewed it awhile. Then he took some noodles. Still chewing noodles, he took some more shinachiku. Then he sipped some soup. Three times. He sat up, sighed, picked up one slice of pork-as if making a major decision in life-and lightly tapped it on the side of the bowl.

Student of ramen eating:
What for?

Old gentleman:
To drain it. That’s all.

—- Tampopo

Spicy Tonkotsu from Agu Ramen, Dallas, Texas

My son, Nick, and I have been on the hunt for noodles lately. Not too long ago we had Laotian food at the Khao Noodle Shop and it was good.

The other weekend I was riding my bike around Mockingbird Station and texted him to see if he wanted to eat some Ramen for lunch. We met at Agu Ramen. It’s a chain with locations in Houston, Hawaii, and Korea – I usually avoid chains – but this isn’t exactly McDonalds. We both ordered the Spicy Tonkotsu. After thinking about the spice level, I settled on three, which turned out to be plenty spicy.

The food was good – I think I’ll stop by again – although there are so many other noodle places out there (and so little time).

There was a cool poster on the wall – a graphic novel hero The Immortal Red Fox gulping noodles. It’s called Ramen Crusher and I’d buy one, but they are a little too pricey for me.

Ramen Crusher – The Immortal Red Fox from Agu Ramen, Dallas, Texas

 

Khao Noodle Shop

When I was a student in Vientiane, street food was a huge part of my daily life. There was always a woman at a stand under a tree selling different delicious foods; Kua Mee, stir-fried noodles with pork and egg, was one of them.

She would sell it on banana leaves or newspaper. I would order one and eat it with my hands while walking home.

Even after all these years traveling back to Laos, I still find it on the streets; perfectly cooked and served traditionally.

—- Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown

Diners at Khao Noodle Shop, Dallas, Texas

I was wasting some time staring at my computer when a notice came across the interwebs of a Dallas Observer review of a new Laotian Noodle restaurant in East Dallas. The article caught my eye. It said things like:

A Laotian Noodle Shop in East Dallas Is One of Texas’ Best New Restaurants

It feels irresponsible to hype a restaurant as small as Khao Noodle Shop. With just four tables and a counter, this isn’t a dining room meant to handle legions of fans, and the pint-sized kitchen isn’t meant to attract national attention. But national attention is coming, and Khao — with its modest strip-mall space in Old East Dallas, just across the street from Jimmy’s Food Store — is a new milestone in Dallas’ culinary history.

Few restaurants cultivate such an intimate connection between the food on the plate and the broader context in which it is served. Go ahead, take a bite of Khao’s Laotian noodles and snacks — and pair that bite with a side of Dallas cultural history.

Bold words….

I know that neighborhood (though I get hopelessly lost every time I go there… the streets are all on these crazy diagonals) – I’ve written about Jimmy’s Food Store (seven years ago!) and only a few blocks away is another set of excellent restaurants that we visited only a short time ago. The area is becoming a hotbed of Laotian food and culture. And now this Khao Noodle Shop – one of Texas’ best new places – have to give it a try.

I texted my son Nick – “Noodles!” and I drove by, picked him up, and wandered the streets (lost, as always) until we found the Khao Noodle Shop. It was full at one o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, but there were a couple spots at one of the six-tops. It is small – it looked like there were as many cooks and waiters scurrying behind a glass partition as there were customers. I had read the review and knew what to expect as the waitress handed out menus. The idea is to order a number of small bowls of noodles and shareable appetizer plates.

Menu at Khao Noodle Shop, Dallas, Texas

We were in the mood for noodles – so we ordered four bowls and only one appetizer. The food was fantastic.

Boat Noodles from Khao Noodle Shop, Dallas, Texas

 

These were our favorites – the Mee Katee, rice noodles with coconut curry, pork, egg

Especially wonderful were the Sakoo – tapioca dumplings. They had an amazing texture – gooey, yet firm, with bits of radish inside to add some crunch.

Sakoo dumplings from the Khao Noodle Shop, Dallas, Texas. The waitress told us to remove the red rings if we didn’t want spicy. We, of course, left them on.

Making the noodles disappear, Khao Noodle Shop, Dallas, Texas.

We could have ordered a lot more. We asked the waitress what was the record for noodle bowls at a six top table. She said, “Forty or Forty One.” Nick and I and four friends? We could do forty without trying. No problem.

That sounds like a plan.

A small unassuming place on the outside – but deliciousness is hiding within.

What I learned this week, May 07, 2017

Meet the device that could bring back cassettes

This is the coolest shit thing I’ve seen in a long time.


The Serious Eats Guide to Shopping for Asian Noodles

I have just discovered frozen Udon – a new staple.


Beyond “Sissy” Resilience: On Becoming Antifragile


Solargraphy – Sun Trails and Long Exposures Like You Have NEVER Seen

Pinhole camera photographs with exposure times of several months. Oh yeah!

 


Just in case you haven’t already seen this:

I’ve always wondered what is the ultimate use of the internet. This is it.

They did the whole fracking album. The whole thing.

Now I’m going to have to go listen to Sgt. Peppers a few times.

You Insolent Demon, How Blind You Are!

You insolent demon, how blind you are! You may think I’m small, but I can grow easily enough. You may think I’m unarmed, but I could pull the moon down from the sky with my two hands. Don’t worry, old Sun WuKong will sock you one.
—- Sun WuKong, The Monkey King

I love noodles! Because of that, I was excited when, about a year ago, I read of the opening of a new place in Deep Ellum – The Monkey King Noodle Company.

Restaurant review: Monkey King Noodle Co. is a Chinese noodle soup lover’s paradise

All Hail The Monkey King

There had been this two-story taco joint on Main Street. I don’t think I had ever actually eaten there – but it was colorful and smelled delicious and I was unhappy when I saw it closed down. But it wasn’t long before construction started up. When I found out it was going to be a noodle spot – greatness.

Monkey King promised fresh hand-pulled noodles and authentic Chinese street food recipies. That sounded right up my alley – but I was never able to work out a visit. They were closed every time I stopped by.

Finally I was riding my bike down Main and saw someone out cleaning at Monkey King. I checked my phone and saw they would be opening at six – which was a half hour or so away. I rode on down to The Cold Beer Company and had a Temptress, then came back a few minutes after six.

The line was already halfway down the block but I had time so I locked up my bike and joined the queue. The guy in front of me said he lived nearby and was a huge fan of the Soup Dumplings – but since this was my first time there I went ahead and ordered the top of the menu, The Spicy Beef Noodle Soup.

And it was good. The hand thrown noodles are thick, chewy, and… well, perfect. The broth was as spicy as promised and the hunks of beef surprisingly hearty.

The small Monkey King building has a scary steel spiral staircase up to a patio on the roof. I really enjoyed chatting with the folks up there, eating our food while the sun set behind the crystal spires of downtown.

Now I have to go back and try those Soup Dumplings.

Monkey King Noodle Company, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas With cool covered patio on the roof.

Monkey King Noodle Company, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas
With cool covered patio on the roof.

Spicy Beef Noodles from Monkey King Noodle Company

Spicy Beef Noodles from Monkey King Noodle Company

What I learned this week, November 22, 2013


5 city bikes that roll you through town in style
The latest in steel-framed, fender-clad, and leather-saddled bikes at a variety of price points.

Some of the ones that caught my eye:

Shinola Runwell

Purefix Bourbon

Public V7

If I could afford a new bike – this is what I would buy right now:
Xootr Swift



I love reading (and writing) short stories. Apparently, I’m not alone.

2013: The Year of the Short Story


In Dallas, a deafening slurping noise as the town goes crazy for Asian noodles


I’m going to have to go visit Sulphur Springs and use the public restrooms.


The Ten Sexiest Riffs in Music


You’ve probably already seen this – but it is the coolest music video I’ve ever seen. Be sure and check out all the channels.

Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone – Official Video

For some reason, I really like “The Price is Right” channel… maybe it’s just Drew Carey lip-syncing Dylan.


A cow-orker is retiring at the end of the year (an awful lot are) and he stopped by my office for my help on getting his replacement up and going. I asked the innocent question, “Do you have any plans for retirement.”

He got all excited and launched into a long lecture on kayak fishing and, especially, about the particular kayak he is getting ready to buy – the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14. I have to admit – the thing is pretty cool.

The most amazing (to me) feature are the foot powered propulsion fins. Two flexible extensions underwater are moved by pedals to propel the kayak forward. Pretty cool… but not cheap.

What I learned this week, March 22, 2013


Burgers and Beer

Smashburger and Deep Ellum Brewing Co Pairing Menu


Turandot at the Death Star


Creates Device that Harvests Energy From Air



The 8 Most Incredible Stop-Motion Animation Music Videos From The Past Decade


A Dictionary of Similes


Crunchiness

Crunchiness brings wealth. Wealth leads to sogginess. Sogginess brings poverty. Poverty creates crunchiness. From this immutable cycle we know that to hang on to wealth, you must keep things crunchy.


 

Video: Making a 10,000-Year Clock

Tampopo

Do you have a recipe that requires egg yolks? This provocative scene from Tampopo is one hell of a way to separate an egg.

It was early afternoon and I was down in East Dallas, overheated and very hungry. As I contemplated the twists of neighborhood streets and grids of avenues I tried to think of someplace to get something to eat… something good, quick, cheap, interesting, on the way home, and, preferably, someplace I’ve never been to before.

One word popped into my dehydrated and sun-frazzled brain – Tampopo.

Tampopo, on Greenville Avenue in Dallas

Tampopo is a bright humble-looking little Japanese café on Greenville Avenue – just south of Northwest Highway (on my way home). I had heard of it, driven by it, but never actually stopped there. Its name (Japanese for Dandelion) has always fascinated me, because it is also the name of one of my absolute favorite films.

Tampopo (the movie) is an odd lark of a film, a Japanese comedy loosely modeled after a Clint Eastwood Western yet set in a Ramen Shop run by a young widow named Tampopo. It is a wondrous wandering mess of a movie – jumping around in tone and sliding sideways into odd set pieces that have very little to do with the main story….

Except they are all about food. Tampopo is struggling with her third-rate Ramen shop until a macho truck driver and his sidekick come along and end up devoting their skill and energy into creating the perfect ramen. It is greatness.

The movie is very difficult to see in the United States. I had to jump through some hoops to get a copy of a DVD and it is one of my prized possessions.

So, I stopped in at Tampopo (the restaurant) and ordered some Beef Udon soup. I was a little disappointed they didn’t offer Ramen – but I’m a bit of an Udon man myself anyway. It was good and a nice treat on a hot day.

My Beef Udon Soup. Unfortunately, I had a telephoto and couldn’t get the soup in focus… but you get the idea.


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