Monday, 12 July 2010

Thumbless Ramen

Some nights, and especially in the summer, a man sets up a ramen stall by the river beside my apartment building. In my three long years here I had never been to this place; partly because I have a habit of not taking advantage of things nearby, and partly because I never really crave ramen. It is, after all, oily soup with noodles and highly suspect meat.

A while back, after finding out where I live, one of my tattoo men told me that the ramen place near my apartment was supposed to be pretty good. However, he added gingerly, it was said that the man would often have his thumb submerged in the soup when he handed it over. This in a country that is particularly anal about sanitation, especially when it comes to food, would surely be unthinkable, even from a street vendor.

Anyway, at some point I mentioned this to fellow Tokushima City-ite Mario, who is somewhat of a ramen connoisseur, and we agreed to go at some point. This was probably two months ago at least. Finally, last week, realising that neither of us have much time left here, I suggested we try to go on Friday, if he was open for business.

Mario contacted me from work at around 6 - his clocking-off time, to ask if the man had shown up yet. He had not. Mario thus decided to first go home and change. After doing so, at around 6.30, he contacted me again. I checked the street from my balcony and could see that his van was there, but he was not yet open for business. Mario came over a little later and I played games badly on his iphone until the trademark 中華そば (Chinese soba noodles) lantern was illuminated, then we headed outside.
Here's the van.

We each ordered a small regular ramen (no extra meat) and waited in anticipation of thumb action.
Disappointingly, no thumbs were forthcoming. When the man brought us our ramen in little styrofoam bowls, his thumbs were at a safe distance above the soup line.

Most ramen tastes more or less the same to me, but it met with Mario's approval, so it must have been above average. This is what Mario's approval looks like:
 The ramen itself was Tokushima ramen, which Mario reliably informs me is a mix of traditional ramen bases pork bone and soy sauce.
My finely-honed aversion to seafood is bad enough that when the aonori (seaweed) disintegrated, I couldn't finish the soup for the taste of it. I should have extracted it at the start and thrown it in the river.

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