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

 

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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