I mean what is the deal?
What is so enticing about cooking soup and noodles over and over again?
Why do I allow myself to fixate on one dimension of a multi dimension dish and alllow myself to fail again and agin?
Further, why do I keep trying?
Ramen is barbecue, fish tacos, and pizza all rolled into one if we are comparing food legacies between the US and Japan. Japan’s ramen culture is so deep with such an alarming learning curve that guides are being made continuously for foreigners who want to enjoy the stuff. I can’t think of another common food that is fussed over as much as ramen. Regional styles combined with local food customs make for a scene much like Chicago pizza vs. New York pizza; Texas vs. North Carolina barbecue – and just like barbecue ramen has different starting points as far as animals are concerned.
I mean, I must be crazy, right?
Ramen as a hobby is costly. It also requires a lot of time and specialist equipment. I have never wanted to own a pressure cooker before, but here I am. Also who needs this many strainers?
As with any attempt to make restaurant quality food, failure is inevitable. Early on you might not even recognize how much of a failure until you post it on social media and then watch it become torn to pieces.
Ramen can be messy. You’ll spend some time scrubbing pots and stovetops.
As a hobby, ramen can be very fattening. I have chicken fat infused with garlic in a mason jar in my fridge. It doesn’t go down the drain but it is vanishing, that much is clear. A dollop here, a spoonful there. These calorie dense sauces go someplace – and I think I am sitting on it.
The payoff is that you ‘ll have a rare skill in life. You’ll be able to create something that many people have tried and failed. Through perseverance you will eventually craft bowls of ramen that don’t suck. Your noodles will slurp and raw up broth, your bowl will glisten with aromatic fats. You’ll be able to produce something very high level and nuanced with some hard work and repetition. You’ll be a relative expert in creating something that is desired by many.
You will likely achieve and attain other skills as well along the way or even by accident. I re-learned how to butcher chickens and fish and made more eggs in my ramen hobby than any other time in my life. I also learned how to keep a kitchen clean and scum-free with little effort. I re-examined my method making stock and sofrito. I learned how to make powdered fish, how to stack umami, and how to make homemade noodles. THese are transferrable skills in the kitchen. Through perseverance and repetition all these can be accomplished.
The payoff is when you put a handcrafted bowl of ramen in front of someone and walk away, knowing that they will enjoy the effort you have put into the bowl. It’s a bowl of love, of effort, diligence, and will.