July 4, 2009

The Art of Slurping

It's the Fourth of July, and we know that we should be thinking of hamburgers and Coney Island hot dog eating contests, but lately we've got Asian noodles on our mind. Here in New York, even the most unsophisticated eaters have an opportunity to graduate from a simple wonton noodle soupchow mein or pad thai to a Filipino pansit, Vietnamese pho, or the delicious Malaysian char kway teow.

Of course, this love affair started when we were much younger. Beginning in the 1970s, Americans were first introduced to dry instant noodle brands such as Cup Noodles or Top Ramen by the Nissin Foods Company. Strangely, the famous Doll brand noodles or Demae Itcho brand noodles sold in Asia always came with better tasting spices and much better looking packaging than their American counterparts. 

Aesthetics aside, we can vouch for a fact that when we were penniless college art students, those funky Maruchan brand noodles (sometimes 7 for a dollar!) got us through some very tough times. Thankfully the taste for noodles never leaves you, and when living in Hawaii years later, we were so happy to discover saimin noodles and the award-winning Hamura's Saimin Stand on Kauai. Lately, we've been taste-testing the very spicy Shin Ramyun and Neoguri packaged noodles produced by the Korean company Nong Shim. Poor college art students take note: look for these better brands at your Asian grocer and we think you'll agree that instant noodles have indeed stepped it up a couple of notches!  

We do want to thank the designer Joshua Distler for introducing us to Soba-ya in the East Village this past week, and Darren Namaye of Ideas On Purpose for pointing us in the direction of Hakata Ippudo NY recently. It seems like noodles, especially freshly made ramen noodle soups, are enjoying a big renaissance moment here in Manhattan. Everywhere you turn, newspapers, blogs, and foodies are talking about the delicious and life-affirming noodle and broth concoctions at local restaurants such as Momofuku, Ramen Setagaya, Rai Rai Ken, Minca Ramen Factory and Ippudo NY

YouTube video posted by foodhoe

And so it is we bring to your attention the classic 1985 Japanese comedy film Tampopo, starring Nobuko Miyamoto, Ken Watanabe, and Koji Yakusho. Talk about a love affair with food and noodles, this art house favorite religiously worships everything ramen. As the Ramen Master suggests in the film, "Appreciate its gestalt." 

Hopefully, his experience and advice will help you on your way to finding inner peace and the best darn bowl of noodles in the city. Who knows, we may even cross paths one day as you can often find us hunkered down at Sapporo East's bar (East 10th Street) slurping dreamily away at our heavenly tempura udon. Please save our seats for us!     

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