After I returned from a year in Japan in 1994, I used to have to go to San Francisco’s Japantown for ramen. Sure, I could make it at home, and I often did. One of the mainstays of my college years was Sapporo Ichiban ramen, original flavor, which was fine for the gourmet because it was about double the cost of the cup-o-noodles you could buy at Safeway. I’d take my poison doctored with spices and topped by vegetables. My favorite? Diced okra, Brussels sprouts, and tofu. Good times.
Sadly, the chewy noodles and traditional toppings ubiquitous in Japan were, unlike soba or udon, hard to find.
You can now buy ramen in all manner of places, including Toshi’s Ramen in Eugene, and in the high-concept izakaya in Portland, like Biwa. I credit the popularity lately in no small part to Lucky Peach magazine, which tackled ramen for its first hipper-than-thou, swaggery, Bourdain-infused issue (next one out any day now, can’t wait).
But there’s providing delicious ramen to the American masses, and then there’s jumping the shark.