Years and years of training might seem a tad excessive for what’s basically a bowl of super noodles.
No, no, no.
Ramen – bowls of noodles in broth – are Japan’s national food obsession, from supermarket dollar-a-pack instants, to Michelin-starred a hundred-dollar-a- bowl in restaurants.
It’s not just the ingredients but also the love, and painstaking detail that goes into putting together this seemingly-simple dish.
Nearly every region in Japan has its own variation of ramen – such as tonkotsu, the pork bone broth ramen of Kyushu, and the miso ramen of Hokkaido. Whilst chains around the world such as Wagamama have tapped into our new-found love for the dish.
But what’s really insane – but probably not a surprise in a nation that takes it’s obsessions seriously – is that true ramen ‘Masters’ can train for up to six years.
To become a Master, you have to demonstrate soup making skill to a restaurant owner/founder of the ramen you care to specialise in, and only after he offers his seal of approval, are you allowed to take charge of a restaurant, oversee the soup-making and become an executive chef.
It takes time and requires devotion, but the outcome can be perfection in a bowl.
Ramen combines influences that have been collected over years, and from many different sources – yes there are ‘traditional’ ingredients and ‘rules’ are applied, but it’s the cooking process, the skill and dedication that Master’s add, that make them all unique – quite the opposite of say fine wine, which depends on the terroir of a region or the grape which is key.
There’s even a name for those who dedicate their whole lives to creating the perfect bowl of noodles…. ‘ramen baka’
Which delightfully translates as …. Ramen idiots.
But if you haven’t got a spare 5 years to train to become a Master, then how about 5 hours? Masterclasses in ramen perfection are springing up all over the world and are proving immensely popular. An afternoon well spent, if you want to wow your friends at your next dinner party.
And it’s surely only a matter of time before a TV executive commissions ‘Ramen Masters’ – move over Masterchef, there’s a new Master coming to town!