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

 

My Quest for Banana Ketchup

“Shake and shake the catsup bottle. None will come, and then a lot’ll.”
― Richard Armour

Banana Ketchup/Sauce on the shelves at H Mart, Plano, Texas

I’m not sure where, but as I was wasting my precious life surfing the web, I came across a recommendation and link for a condiment I had never heard of before, Sinclair’s Hot Banana Ketchup. I wanted some. I am always up for a new condiment. I like Hot. I like Bananas.

It’s a gourmet craft condiment from the UK, so I was pretty sure I was not going to find any near me. Before ordering any online I did some research and discovered that Banana Ketchup is a thing. It is popular in the Philippines and the story is that it was developed just prior to the second world war due to a shortage of tomatoes.

Oh hell yes… I had to have me some banana ketchup and I had to actually buy it in a store. Because. I was on a quest.

There is a plethora of various ethnic grocery stores in my ‘hood and I set out on my bicycle on a route that included as many as I could. I was sure I would be returning with some Jufram Banana Ketchup in my pannier.

My commuter/cargo bike along the Duck Creek Trail. Taking a break while riding a circuit of grocery stores, looking for Banana Ketchup.

I was shocked when my search came up empty. Internet searching showed there was Kabayan – a Filipino grocery store – in the metroplex. It would have what I wanted, surely, but it is in Lewisville, which is a bit of a drive from me and too far for a casual bike ride. I’ll figure out a reason to visit that part of town, but in the meantime there was one more place I wanted to check.

H-Mart, in Plano, is a fantastic cornucopia of an Asian Grocery Store. It is strongest in Korean fare, but of such a size that it has a lot of different food. I stopped by and, after a bit of a search, found a selection of various Banana Ketchup varieties – at least three brands and a handful of different flavors. I chose two brands of “spicy” – Jufran Hot & Spicy Banana Sauce, and UFC Tamis Anghang Banana Sauce… also tagged Hot & Spicy.

So how does it taste?

I’m afraid it doesn’t taste much different that regular American Tomato Ketchup. Maybe a little sweeter, but not much. Sugar and vinegar are the key taste in ketchup anyway…. The two I bought are definitely Hot and Spicy – next time I’ll try some of the regular style. The only difference really, is that the banana version is more thixotropic even than traditional. It can really vary from thick to watery depending on how much you shake it. It is laden with red food coloring, so it doesn’t look like bananas. One other good thing – it’s cheap.

All in all, it’s good, if not anything special. When I finish what I have I’ll pick up some other flavors, for the hell of it. Oh, and then – maybe I’ll make some of my own.

I’ll leave out the red food coloring.

Crawfish Boil

It’s spring and that means it’s crawfish season. Time to get a bunch of folks over and boil the little bastards alive.

When you pick a mudbug up - he'll spread his claws out and try to look as big and as mean as he can. He still looks delicious - no matter how hard he tries.

The equipment used in a crawfish boil. A good crawfish cooker makes a sound like a jet engine on idle.

There are plenty of things that go good with crawfish. A plate of good, briny, small oysters on the half shell is one of the best.

There are always a few that try to make an escape from the impending immolation.

You pour the cooked crawfish out onto a table covered in newsprint or brown paper (if you feel like bein' fancypants).

There's lots you can cook up with the crawfish. Corn, crabs - or here, sausage, garlic heads, and taters. It all takes the spice and the flavor of the crawfish.

And then it is time to chow down.