enter the ramen [UPDATED]

ah, the humble ramen.  when people hear “ramen”,  they likely think of this:

while the cup noodles is a form of ramen, the actual thing is a thousand miles away from this humble variation.

ramen is a dish originated in china; the word means hand-pulled noodles.  but after years of mutation, the modern japanese ramen bears no resemblance to the original.  so what is ramen?  is it a beef noodle dish?  chicken?  pork?  does it contain pork slices?  bamboo shoots?  tomato?  corn?  the answer is that it depends on who you ask.  based on my meager understanding, here’s my take on what ramen is.

ramen, in its purest form, has no purest form.  the modern ramen contains as much (or as little) ingredients as the chef would care to use.  the basic link between different ramen styles, as far as i can tell, is that they contain soup and noodles.  while the type of noodles used in the ramen seems very similar from shop to shop (a wheat flour noodle), the soups are as different as the chefs who make them.  the toppings are even more varied than the soup.  like i said, there is no set of rules that govern what a bowl of ramen should look or taste like; the chef decides what the ramen will be.  having said that, there are some fairly common ingredients for the ramen.

noodles: the typical ramen noodles are made with wheat flour.  i think most shops will get this from the local factory, though some may ask the noodle shop to make it to their specifications.  there may also be shops that make their own noodles, but i haven’t been to a ramen shop that hardcore.

chashu: the pork slices you see on your ramen is the chashu.  this is found on a majority of ramen, but not always.

bean sprouts: some shops love to use this while other shops avoid them.  these are typically blanched then placed on top of the ramen.

menma: this is the dried bamboo shoots.  these are typically boiled then served as a topping.

black fungus: you may know them as wood ear fungus.  some shops like them while others don’t.

nori: seaweed.  usually served as a small sheet on top of the ramen.  depending on the style of ramen, you may see this in your bowl.

green onion (negi): normally a garnish, although some shops use this as a main ingredient and make what’s called negi ramen (green onion ramen).  you typically get a huge load of green onions (a big handful or two) in the ramen if you order that.

hanjuku egg (hanjuku tamago): some ramen shops will serve this boiled egg with soft yolk.  they are delicious.

hard-boiled egg: if the shop doesn’t want to bother, they’ll serve the hard-boiled egg instead.  lazy bastards.

since pictures are always better, here’s a simple diagram.  click on the pic for Konishiki version.

rest assured that your favorite shop will serve something completely different from this pic.  in fact, if you watched the hokkaido episode of anthony bourdain’s no reservations, you’ll see the hokkaido variant with crab legs, scallops, corn, and BUTTER.

(fast forward to 1:21 to skip to the ramen scene.  i apologize, but the skip code in the video link doesn’t work for some reason.)

as you can see, there are almost no rules for ramen.  if a chef can make something tasty, it is a successful bowl of ramen, corn and all.

here in L.A., the most prevalent form of ramen seems to be the pork bomb variety––by that i mean the shop will violently boil the pork bones to extract every ounce of marrow, fat, and whatever porky essence to make the stock.  as a result, the soup is typically very thick and rich, with a layer of oil floating on top of the soup.  some may think that sounds disgusting, but that’s how you get that porky flavor.  there are many other styles of soup, but in L.A. the pork bombs seem to rule the landscape for now.  you will find ramen shops that specialize in chicken or shoyu (soy sauce) broth, but that takes some digging in the city of angels.  to me, if a shop makes tasty ramen, i’ll try it.  now who makes a hokkaido-style ramen around here . . .

besides ramen, i’ve also had a chance to try the filipino crispy pork, also known as lechon kawali.

i know nothing about filipino food so i’ll have to compare this to other dishes i’ve heard of.  i think lechon kawali is similar to chitlings: pork belly pieces slowly deep-fried until crispy and delicious.  the ones i ate came with a sweet sauce for dipping and was quite tasty.  still, this is not a dish you wanna eat everyday; it’s extremely fatty and i presume not good for you at all.  but once in a while, you can satisfy your grease quotient with this dish.  it’s fattylicious.

on the pool accessory front, predator is entering the chalk fray and selling their new octagonal chalk.

the new predator chalk is supposed to be comparable to blue diamond, but we’ll see what happens.  i’ve been using blue diamond and i’m quite happy with the results.  if the predator chalk works like bd and cheaper, i’d definitely try it.  for those that use a chalk holder, the octagonal shape may be a problem; time will tell.

in other news, the iphone launch is THE biggest tech story right now.  not far behind is the new iOS 6 and the impact it’ll have on iphones.  since i’m poor i’m not buying the new iphone right now; kind donations of $570 toward the new iphone will be greatly appreciated if you’re so inclined.  😛  with the new iOS 6, the biggest problem seems to be the new maps application.  now that apple has broke away from google maps, there have been a number of complaints about inaccuracies of the new map.  some users even reported that the new map gives wrong directions.  due to this reason, some owners of previous generation iphones are reluctant to upgrade the OS.  apple stated that as more users use the new map, the more accurate it will get.  (read: early adopters will become guinea pigs.)  i kept wondering if apple would ever team up with thomas guide to boost the usefulness of the new map; after all, thomas guide sits on a mountain of geographical data that would no doubt help apple’s cause.  just a thought.  on the plus side, the new maps app uses vector based graphics to render the streets, so we get a bump in speed while zooming in or out.  (click here for an explanation of vector graphics, and here for a comparison between vector based graphics and pixel based graphics.)

i’m a latecomer to gordon ramsay’s kitchen nightmares.  started in UK in 2004, ramsay’s kitchen nightmares became very popular and now has spin-offs in five countries, including the US.  (the original UK series ended in 2007.)  i’ve watched both the US and UK version, and i think the UK version is much better in terms of storytelling.  it’s really neat to look at restaurants through the eyes of a chef, and through what perspective he finds strengths and weaknesses in a restaurant.  currently the UK reruns are shown on BBC America; if you haven’t seen the show it’s a fun ride.

sorry about my aimless rambling, gentle readers; i’ll try to write in a more coherent manner next time.  toodles.

[update sept. 24, 2012]  thanks to longtime reader q&b, i realized that i forgot to include a video.  below is a cooking video for yakibuta ramen (roasted pork ramen).  you’ll notice that the ramen is not the pork bomb variety i described previously.  rather, the broth is clear and (probably) a lot gentler than the pork bombs.  the video is quite informative and (i think) very adorable.

btw, the end of the video included an announcement that the chef was injured and hospitalized.  i think she was riding a bicycle and got into an accident; according to the internet, she has since recovered and is now back to cooking and shooting videos, so panic not.

i will also include another sample of ramen.  this is the shio ramen (salt ramen); i believe the pork broth is seasoned with salt instead of soy sauce, hence the name.  again, click on the pic to Konishikirize.

enjoy!  ’til next time.


hee hee . . . new product alert

i think i found a product that could be of help.

the gripe water may be perfect for players who are prone to sudden and uncontrollable whining, as well as an excessive need to complain to others about their misfortunes at the table.  😀

since i was curious about the balabushka chalk, i did some more digging online.  according to the balabushka cues website,

 . . . David Forman, founder of Adam Custom Cues, licensed the name Balabushka from George’s family and now manufactures a line of cues under the Balabushka name as a memorial to one of the greatest figures in modern billiards.  (found in the company’s history page)

it is the balabushka cues company that is manufacturing the balabushka performance chalk (msrp $8/box of three).  as far as i can tell, the company is based in the US, so the bala chalk is an American product.  i can’t tell if the chalk is made in the US or elsewhere, but it doesn’t look like the bala chalk is made by longoni.  (incidentally, blue diamond chalks are made in the US with longoni’s formula, in case you didn’t know.)  however, i can’t be certain if the balabushka cues company is owned or affiliated with adam cues or adam cues japan.  in any case, i didn’t find a link between the balabushka chalk and longoni, so i can safely assume that the balabushka chalk is an independent creation.

my search result seemed to coincide with the information i got from the sales rep i talked to previously, so now i have some idea about the balabushka chalk.  based on what i found, i am not going to try the chalk since i didn’t get a rave review from the sales rep i talked to.  when i’ve done repeated businesses with a vendor and i trust the company, i tend to take the company’s advice seriously.  for now, blue diamond it is.  there are other exotic and hard-to-get chalks out there that i’d love to try, but it takes too much effort and money to track them down, so i won’t even start.  although kamui chalk still sounds cool, i remain unconvinced that i should spend $30 for one cube.  for those fortunate enough to get a free sample, i’m happy for you and i say this without sarcasm or irony.  honestly though, i don’t think i’d get it even if i win a 50-million-dollar lotto.  just the cheapskate in me, that’s all.  your mileage may vary.

oh, i went to a concert a while ago and never got around to post it here.  some pictures.

the first of the three bands that played that night.

nowadays all you need to make music is GarageBand and some buddies.  🙂

second band.

third band.

anyway, i had a lot of fun that night.

if you’ve read my recent posts, you’d realize that this post isn’t complete without a food pic.  my friendishes and i found a giant boba that we had to try.  behold, the pre-carnage.

the post-carnage is too gruesome for human eyes, so i will spare you, gentle readers.  this boba is a whopping 32 ounces with about five pounds of sugar; i managed to finish about half.  not doing this boba again.

also, if you’re a bingo fan, consider using this alternate board.

this drawing is done by the comic artist grant snider.  for the japanese version of the board, click here.

♦     ♦     ♦

i haven’t done phrases in some time, so we will look at the idiom “beyond the pale”.  according to the phrase finder, the word “pale” means a stake or a pointed piece of wood back in the day; we see this usage in the word “impale”, a word meaning to pierce with something pointed.  like a pointed piece of wood.  in the old days (and even now), it was common practice to construct fences out of pales for various purposes, e.g., marking your territory, protection against pests and varmints, etc.  in our present day we can buy premade boards from home depot to make fences, but the idea is the same.

using this (now obsolete) definition, “beyond the pale” basically means beyond the fence, or beyond the border.  we can think of it as going out of bounds, being out of line, or doing/saying inappropriate things.  conversely, when you hear a pool player “riding within his/her fence”, it means the player doesn’t do anything outside his or her ability; in other words, a smart, risk-averse, and percentage-oriented player.  🙂  catch you guys later.

ugghh. f~*ing pool forums.

recently i heard about this chalk by balabushka, the same balabushka name of the legendary cues.  it is marketed as a premium chalk and priced around the level of blue diamonds and NIR super professionals (i reviewed both NIR and the blue diamonds some time ago), but not anywhere near the kamui’s stratospheric range.  (the kamui is still at $30/cube, but time will tell if the company will shoot it to $50.  as a side note, i hear the kamui 0.98 makes a heck of a mess, a problem supposedly addressed by the kamui 1.21.  if it’s anywhere near the NIR’s messiness, i’d pass.)

but what is this chalk?  i decided to take it to the intarwebs and get some answers. first, i found some pictures.

apparently there are two versions of balabushka chalk.  the picture above shows the old stuff.

this pic shows the new stuff.  the new one is the chalk i’ve been hearing about.  just by looking at the two pictures, i can see the two chalks have different consistencies.  mr. google gave me some more links and off i went.

my first query led me to the above post.  someone on the azb forum said that the balabushka chalk is actually a blue diamond covered with a balabushka label.  if that’s true, the bala would be a mini bargain since they’re overall cheaper than the blue diamonds.  (the balas cost a little bit more, but you get three chalks vs. the bd’s two, making the balas a bit less per chalk.)  hmm.  intriguing.

the second post i found concurred with the first.  seems like the balas are private label bds.

the third post went further, stating the balas may be better than the bds.  wow!  this is looking better and better.

huh?  now i get a totally different answer.  “i know for a fact that the chalk is made in their own factory.”  this means the balas are NOT made by bd’s company, which is longoni.  however, the post did say that the balas are slightly better than bds.

unfortunately, further web searches yielded more conflicting answers, so i decided to make things easy and called one of the companies that sell the bala chalks.  according to the sales rep, the balabushka chalks are NOT made by bd, and are slightly less sticky than the blue diamonds.  the rep said that although the balas worked fine, he personally liked the bds better.  bottom line: stick with the original.

again, my search reinforced my dislike of pool forums.  you get one person saying a product is such-and-such without a shred of proof, then someone else repeats it verbatim.  pretty soon, it becomes truth and people will make decisions based on faulty information.  who knows?  maybe the person who perpetrated the false info is getting a nice kickback from the company, or maybe the person is a paid rep to feed bad info to the web to increase sales.  you just can’t tell for certain.  sure, there are some nice people on the forum boards, but many are reprobates, suck-ups, turncoats, or know-it-alls who are completely useless in your quest for higher pool knowledge.  based on my experience, when you see a post on a pool forum, always look for evidence that backs up a claim, be it pictures, videos, or math equations.  there is just too much bulls~* out there.  as far as the balabushka chalk, i’ll have to try it out myself to see how it works.  at $8 – $10 a box, it won’t break the bank.  if it does work for you, you’d have gained a small edge in this very complex game.  in that case, do leave a comment here on your experience with the balabushka chalk.