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Ramen, I Love You

Freshly made ramen noodles

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I live in Manhattan, on the fourth floor of a brick-and-stone building that was constructed in the 1920’s. My apartment has hardwood floors, crown molding, and great views of our tree-lined street (and neighbor’s bedroom–buy some blinds!). By New York’s standards, it’s pretty nice. By my standards, it has a major flaw. In fact, every apartment I’ve lived in–from Brooklyn to Manhattan to across the river in New Jersey–has had the same problem: No noodle bar below.

Walk through the Lower East Side, the West Village, or much of Brooklyn, and you’ll see apartment after apartment atop pizza parlors, take-out Thai joints, and bodegas. Every once in awhile, you’ll see the lone jewel: A brownstone apartment building with a ramen place (like Totto Ramen on West 52nd) sequestered below. I want that.

I love ramen. I crave the tangled, chewy noodles, the warm pork- or chicken-flavored broth, and all the possible adornments: chopped scallions, a delicate sheet of nori, slivered snow peas, a dollop of miso paste, bamboo shoots, a poached or hard-boiled egg, rich pieces of pork belly lined with satiny fat. These bowls of noodles are satisfying and fun to eat, each bite a combination of new textures and flavors. 

Living on the northern tip of Manhattan, I’ve relied on subway rides downtown for my ramen fixes; there are no noodles places in my neighborhood (let alone in my building). After spotting this homemade ramen noodle recipe on Marc Matsumoto’s blog, No Recipes, though, I might have found another way to satisfy my cravings: Make ramen at home. The noodle recipe featured is straightforward enough–though I’ll have to hunt down kansui, an ingredient that toughens the noodles and gives them their characteristic chew. Once I’ve nailed the noodles, I’ll have to play around with the other components (the broth and all the garnishes), but I’ll have one of the most crucial components down. It’s a good start. Not quite the same as having a noodle bar downstairs, but I’ll take it.

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