by Sandra Mizumoto Posey Listen: ramen everywhere

There is a story my sister tells, usually as she munches dry packages of Nissin ramen--the kind where the soup powder coats the noodles instead of being separated into their own foil packet: Once while in Japan some cousins took her to a ramen house where the noodles were made fresh each day. She drank down the cha-shu pork topped bowl with appreciative gusto but really she was thinking that the dish was somehow lacking. Raised on mom's version Sapporo Ichiban, the handmade noodles didn't quite measure up.

When I think of home, I remember wandering out to the front yard at my mom's request, sinking my fingers into soft, rich soil to uproot green onions. Off to the side my dad's cucumber vines crawled aimlessly up our chainlink fence. Inside, the water was boiling and impatiently awaiting my return. Mom would reach into the cupboard to remove bowls painted with Chinese dragons. When I came inside I would hand the onions to her; then I would pick up the discarded foil packet and push my finger in through the torn corner, dig out a few specks of residual soup powder to lick as a special treat. Mom would reach into a bag full of bean sprouts; the sound of plastic rustling hastened my anticipation.

When the soup and noodles came off the stove, she poured them into our special bowls and topped them with onions, sprouts, assorted vegetables and leftovers from the night before: fried gyoza or pieces of pork. The soup, so hot it could burn your mouth, seeped into islands of meat and vegetables, making them soggy but flavorful. We sat at the kitchen table and I chattered on about school. The t.v. hummed in the background with the sound of Japanese news reports. We sipped our soup noisily, from the bowl, without a spoon. The steam coated our faces and we drank until we were full and content.

In retrospect, there were several reasons mom's ramen was so good. One was simply that each serving of Sapporo Ichiban brand ramen contains 22 grams of fat and that's not counting anything you put on top of it. It's hard to make anything taste bad with that much sin in it. But the other reason is this: ramen isn't just a bowl of soup, it's a place. In the end it doesn't matter whether the noodles were fresh or reconstituted. The result is the same; food is part of how we define ourselves and our sense of home.

the recipe


  • One package of Sapporo Ichiban ramen, original flavor (no, Top Ramen simply will not do)
  • Some Kikkoman soy sauce
  • Green onions, fresh from your garden, pulled from the soil with anticipation and chopped with care
  • Bean sprouts, creamy white, crisp and juicy
  • Other vegetables if you have them, chopped with a big ol' knife
  • A few leftovers: something that holds the memory of last night, good conversation and family


Saute a few vegetables and sprouts. Prepare ramen according to package directions. You needn't measure the water. You just know somehow how much will make the soup perfect. Pour the noodles and soup into a bowl. It should have fading Chinese dragons painted on it. Sprinkle with onions and adorn with veggies liberally. Place leftovers on top just so. Add a dash of soy sauce to taste. Drink loudly and talk to your mother. If she's not around, pop Tampopo into the VCR. Sure, it's about restaurant ramen, but you and I know that the kind in plastic packages is just as good.

back to the kitchen - back to american folk

October 4, 1997