After the layover in Dubai I was off to take my first steps in the continent of Africa. Long overdue.

Let me introduce you to the Kingdom of Morocco. Alright, so maybe it's Africa 101 to the hardcore globetrotters but for me this North African country of 33 million was the proper entryway into this massive continent of intrigue and unknown. Once I earn my passing grade I'll have no problem signing up for the upper division Sub-Saharan curriculum. So Morocco; a little dusty, a little gruff, a whole lotta new. Lets get dirty.

Wake up. A hot cup of joe with plenty of rectangular sucrose cubes and a warm slice of pan griddled semolina cake known as harcha. Dense, filling and best eaten warm with a drizzle of local honey. When cold these cakes are more effective as paper weights than breakfast items. Get yours while the gettings good.

Snail Soup. Virility is overrated. This bowl was vile.

What I found both surprising and discouraging about dining in Morocco was the lack of an 'eating-out' culture. In Asia you're clearly spoiled for choices, and anyone who has stepped foot in that part of the world knows noodles and grilled meat and steamed surprises beckon on every corner. Even in the poorer areas there are cheap roadside stalls set up to feed the working class. In Morocco I found myself asking 'WHERE IS EVERYONE EATING? AND WHAT?' All the cities and towns were full of cafes serving Whiskey Morocaine (ultra-sweet mint tea- booze free) and coffee- but I didn't see anyone EATING anything. Just 100% dudes 100% of the time 100% kickin it with some cigarettes and a coffee. Paul Thomas Anderson would approve. It wasn't until after several conversations with locals that I found out most everyone cooks and eats their meals at home. Hows about an invite? Alright, until then I'll have to settle for food you actually have to pay for. Shit.

You can divide eating out in Morocco into three general categories-

     *Formal Restaurants are a relatively new phenomenon brought about by tourism and recent wealth. These places are geared towards tourists and almost all have the same regurgitated menu of tagines, cous cous and salad marocaineThe food ranges from passable to downright embarrassing. Steer clear. But you know this.

     *Local Food Stalls which usually specialize in a couple dishes. Maybe it's a lamb carcass hanging by hooks, ready for the grill [see below] or perhaps a place that sells one or two varieties of simmering tagines. Humble shacks with merguez sausage sandwiches and the like are also found throughout the country. The prices are more reasonable at these local eateries- but I've found the quality still varied widely. You're not guaranteed a good meal but the ambiance is exponentially more raw than you'd find in any restaurant. BYO pepto.

     *Street Food- Morocco is no Asia when it comes to strictly street food eating options. No, No, No. Perhaps some donuts, fresh squeezed juice or charmoula stuffed sardines- but don't expect much in the way of push-cart dining.

I can't think of a country in which I had more difficulty finding good grub. Bold words, but frustrating it most definitely was. I came to realize that for all the romance and exoticism people equate with Moroccan cuisine, the reality was quite different. A stockpile of aromatic spices and incredible olive oils doesn't add up to a delicious meal if you can't put those ingredients together properly. But who am I to focus on the subpar in life? Let's highlight what kind of incredible you can wrap your lips around in Morocco.

One of the best dishes from the trip. Folks, they call this the berber omelet. Fry some diced tomatoes in buttery olive oil and crack a couple eggs in the pan. Top with olives, cilantro, chilis, preserved lemon and a heavy handful of cumin. Fragrant and spicy with fantastic fruity notes from the olive oil. Mop up all that goodness with a baguette, and don't you dare forget those crusty bits.

Some of the most memorable dining experiences are those that come completely unexpected. On a ride from Chefchaouen to Marrakech the bus stopped at a road-side grill serving one thing- lamb. Lamb is fantastic. I've always said it's beef to the power of 2. The problem is most places fuck it up. Either too tough or too dry or too pungent. A real shame. Give lamb the respect it deserves. Back to the story. Most pit-stop eateries on bus routes are mediocre and uninspiring- shoveling out average food to the masses. I wasn't planning on snacking here until I hopped off the bus and peeped the scene. Was I back in the cuts of Hanoi? Nah, but I'm liking what I'm seeing.

C'mon, at the very least this has to be good. Better than most of the watery, insipid tagines I was becoming used to. Let's order some and see what happens. I walked over to a man who seemed to be the master of the entire operation [blood stained shirt and handfuls of cash] and ordered a couple hundred grams of the good stuff. Behind him stood an enormous meat grinder overloaded with shallots, cilantro and chunks of meat. Ground fresh. Always a good sign. I paid for my lamb and brought it over to the Moroccan pit master for a proper kiss over hardwood. The rest is history.

I got hooked on this stellar dish of roast chicken during my time in the charming coastal town of Mohammedia. Little birds are rubbed with turmeric, ginger and garlic then spit roasted. The drippings are mixed with onions, herbs and olives then spooned right on top. I appreciate any establishment that properly utilizes rendered animal fat. Moroccan roast chicken shops are no exception. Be sure to ask for a side of fries with the spicy mustard-mayo dip. Brings that tingle straight to the nasal.

Lunch Time. Bread is served with almost every meal, so get used to it. The bean dish up top is Lubia, white beans stewed in a cumin-laced tomato sauce. Giddyup.

 The f*cking French. They're never wrong, and have superior everything, but they're responsible for the birth of Bánh Mì in Vietnam so I give em a pass.  These are 'Beignets' in Mohammedia. Chewy, eggy and quite stupendous. These fried rings became my go-to breakfast choice during the latter portion of my trip. 

Stay Global.

GLOBAL LAP 2014 (Changes)

It couldn't have been more of a cultural slap in the face flying from Japan into Abu Dhabi to spend a day in Dubai. Gone were the giggling girls with pony tails and knee high socks, reading their cartoons on the subway. Turbans replace 'Chicago Bulls' caps and the 'arigatougozaimas' hymn [so commonplace in Japan I'd nominate it for national anthem status] was also long gone. In Japan respect is everything. It's one of the many incredible aspects of the country to observe from an outside perspective. I was continually amazed at what lengths strangers would go to assist you without ever asking a thing in return.

I read somewhere that Dubai is separated into two classes, the have-nots and the have yachts. Agreed. Gucci clad young money boys peel around town in their Aston martons or range rovers, guzzling the same oil that has provided them with their seemingly limitless wealth. It seems a bit unfair to generalize given I was only in Dubai for less than 24 hours, but I got feeling that if you didn't have anything in this city, you're nobody. Throughout the day I witnessed multiple acts of inconsideration that would make most onlookers uncomfortable, but in Dubai the pecking order has been established- and accepted.

At the top sit the Arabs and UAE locals, flush with cash and material wealth to flaunt. While someone had to have worked to acquire all this money, I'd be surprised if the younger generation lifts more than a finger on their busiest of days. The Filipinos are there to wash their dishes and do the laundry (there are 450,000 Filipino workers in Dubai- over 20 percent of the population) and the Indians build their mansions and sweep the leaves off their driveways. Social pecking order isn't something exclusive to the Middle East, but I was extra sensitive to the change coming from Japan. After walking around the dubai mall (one of the main tourist attractions of the city) and witnessing all the wrongs that these consumption dens represent- corporations without individuality and a reliance on the importance of an external image- I had seen enough.

I remembered reading about an Indian bazaar on the north side of the city near the Dubai creek so I hopped on the metro with hopes of inspiration. The fact that I was surrounded by pungent bodily odors instead of Georgio Armani's latest fragrance was an encouraging sign. I followed this car full of south Asians to what I eyeballed as the closest stop to the Bazaar. When I walked out of the station and saw hundreds of men and women sitting cross-legged on the grass engaging in real conversations, I immediately felt at ease. I could actually breath again. When I looked across the street and saw a Bollywood theatre with all the latest hits, I knew I had made the right choice. Time to wander.

Groups of 20 something year old men with their uniquely Indian plaid button-up shirts strolled through the streets, arm in arm or sometimes hand in hand. There's something so approachable and genuine about the demeanor of a native Indian fellow. Those sparkling, inquisitive eyes. Always curious yet rarely aggressive. I strolled around the block in search of an iPhone charger. It took about 45 seconds to find a small electronic shop pedaling new and used wares manufactured solely in the republic of China- obviously for a fraction of what they were charging in the aforementioned Dubai mall. I agreed to the first price the man offered for the charger- something unheard of in India or Southeast Asia. I was feeling good. Outside I grabbed a piping hot cup of 30 cent Chai. Aromatic and delicious. I was off to find this dosa restaurant the shop owner had recommended.

The streets were lined with sweet shops displaying various fried and syrup-doused treats, kitschy clothing stores and their $6 trousers, pint-sized barber shops where lightning-speed scissors turned out the latest hairstyle of the subcontinent and of course the ubiquitous neon flashing lights advertising any and everything to the casual passerby. Almost like the real India, minus the roaming cows snacking on piles of fermenting trash. After a few loops around the neighborhood I made it to the restaurant to eat the dish I had been craving. The cafeteria style eatery smelled sublime upon entering, and nary a fork or knife was to be found at any of the tables. Score. I ordered my dosa. The waiter wagged his head. A few minutes later my lentil crepe arrived with a trio of sweet and savory chutneys. The dosa was on par with many of the South Asian renditions I sampled during my trip to India. If downtown is the skin then my subway ride took me to the heart of Dubai, where blue collar workers spent their well-deserved time off from building this billionaire city to live, laugh, and breathe.

Stay Global.

GLOBAL LAP 2014 (The Grain)

After settling back into the groove of American life and having time to reflect I can undoubtedly say that my time in Japan was the most unique and memorable part of my round the world journey. I can still remember individual spoonfuls of shio ramen broth, the miso and sake braised mackerel on Tanegashima island or the way that expertly sliced aji dissolved in my mouth during one of the finest dining experiences of my life in Tokyo.

As I mentioned in my previous entry, the pursuit of perfection makes for incredible cuisine. Their pride and dedication to excelling in their field is and should be an inspiration for both chefs and avid home cooks (such as myself). Don't ever let yourself settle for good. Always continue to improve and build upon what you know. All the great chefs of the world are constantly thinking how to make their food BETTER. It's a constant, tiring and endless process- but the results speak for themselves. Of the 33 countries I've had the pleasure to visit- Japan takes top honors in care put into the craft. This isn't to say everything I ate was great- but it was never due to lack of effort. The gastronomic culture of Japan will resonate with me as I continue to develop my cooking skills.

Here are a handful of dishes that represent all that is satisfying about eating in the country of Japan.

I had landed the previous night so this was my first solo meal in Japan. A common breakfast in Tokyo for business types are 'standing soba noodles'- little shops specializing in slippery buckwheat strands swimming in a soy-seasoned dashi broth. Quick, cheap, warming and wholesome.

It was a frigid February morning so I was grateful the shop was only 200 meters or so from Abram's apartment. I stepped inside the shop and was immediately greeted by the soba chef and an older lady washing bowls and utensils. Knowing absolutely zero Japanese I gave the lady that curious yet helpless look and she scooted over to assist me with that intimidating big button machine. 'Tempura Soba' I announced.


I inserted a bill and she clicked the appropriate button for me.


As with Ramen shops I handed the ticket to the chef.


I stood there in silence surrounded by salary men slurping their soba. As I watched the chef deftly boil soba noodles, fry vegetable tempura and crack raw eggs into steaming broth I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be. Yeah, I'm gonna like it here.

Kyushu is famous for it's Kurobuta pig. Damn I love pork. Clearly it would be of the utmost importance to eat all things porcine in this southern province. One of those being Tonkatsu- a simple panko-crusted fried pork cutlet served with shredded cabbage. On this instance I was actually looking for a hotel for the evening when I randomly eyed this restaurant. It looked inviting from the outside and the interior was even cozier. The menu wasn't going to do me any good so I ordered some 'tonkatsu' and prayed to the gods I don't believe in. 10 minutes later arrived this gorgeous set equipped with all the Japanese fixins- white rice, miso soup, shaved cabbage, grated daikon in soy and a runny egg. The pork was crisp, seasoned well, and incredibly juicy- with a rich, clean flavor unlike that of American swine. The crunchy cabbage cuts the richness of the tonkatsu- and you get unlimited refills of this shaved green brassica. For free. The rice and miso soup were flawless. Naturally.

'I've got a shop you're gonna love.' Abram tells me one morning. 'They do tempura. Only tempura.'

Saddle up.

We hop aboard a couple subways and make the 45 minute journey across the city, arriving at our destination after a few lefts and rights through some smaller side streets. Though my stomach was empty, my mind was full of visions of crispy-fried delights. The inside of the restaurant was mostly taken up by a large U-shaped bar surrounding an elderly couple and what I can only assume was their son. The husband was frying tempura in a hot-tub sized wok while the wife was busy pouring bowls of miso soup and scraping portions of rice out of the bamboo steamer. For 650 Yen you get a decent portion of mixed seafood and vegetable tempura, miso soup and rice. An excellent value. The tempura was light, with a crunchy coating that wasn't too think. Some of the best I've had. Interestingly enough it was the rice from the meal that is still etched in my memory. For the casual observer it looks like a bowl of white rice- similar to the millions (billions) of bowls taken in every day around the world. Japanese rice is mostly short-grain, meaning it's 'stickier' than Indian Basmati or Thai Jasmine long-grain varietals. Not mushy, sticky. This makes it a pleasure to eat with your chopsticks, as you can easily grab yourself a chunk even if your stick game is less than satisfactory.

In Vietnam rice was always around. You might be able to skip out on rice for a meal or two but there was no avoiding this grain. The steamed rice served at street side lunch stalls was fine- but by no means memorable. The savory coconut juice braised pork belly and crispy fried mackerel were what brought your back. In Japan it's different. Rice is a meal.

This rice at this tempura shop was unreal. It was toothsome. It had chew. There was fragrance. Each individual grain was its own, yet they hugged and clung to each other like eskimos huddling together for warm in the arctic.

This rice is incredible!

I know, right? It's Japan.

Rice, please accept my sincere apologies. I never knew your potential. Now that I do I'll never take you for granted. Respect the grain.

Stay Tireless.

Global Lap 2014 (The Ramen Experience)

 It gets me fired up when I see people going all out to be their best, and that's a common sight in Japanese kitchens. Each and every time you step into a restaurant you can expect at the very least well-prepared, visually pleasing food. At best you can expect your fu*king mind to be blown. Lemme take you through what it's like to eat a bowl of ramen in Japan.

Waiting in line for Miso Ramen in Hokkaido. Some folks queue 90 minutes or more. Sounds absurd until you take your first spoonful.

Once you've decided on and arrived at your ramen destination, step inside and look out for the vending machine. Here you'll find a mess of 20-30 square plastic buttons with the different bowls and side dishes on offer. Abram usually translated for me, but if you're solo and struggling just howl and someone will magically scurry over from the shadows to provide you with assistance. Or just play ramen roulette. I hear the top left button is a pretty good bet.  Make your selection, insert Yen (usually between 600-900 [$6-$9]), take your ticket and bring it over to the counter. From there the chef will pick it up and get to work on your order. Patience.

Eating out in Japan is actually a better value than many believe. There's absolutely no tipping, no tax and no 4% healthy S.F. surcharge! Plus you don't have to deal with annoying servers trying to push that second bottle of Barolo on your table. They let you be.

Most ramen bowls start with a chicken and/or pork bone base. This is the structure. The foundation. The soul of the bowl. These bones simmer with various aromatics for hours and hours until the flavor is lovingly extracted from the animal carcasses. A variation on the basic ramen broth is Tonkotsu, which gets it's opaque, milky appearance due to vigorous boiling of pork bones on high heat for several hours until the insides are liquified.

 South in Kyushu where the famed Kurobuta (black pig) is farmed, you'll find rich bowls of Tonkotsu. Kurobuta pigs live off sweet potatoes, so the meat is incredibly clean and tender.

So far we've made ourselves chicken soup, or brodo or caldo or whatever you may call it. Delicious, but we can't call it ramen broth. The distinctly Japanese stamp comes from all the other oceanic goodies chefs use to infuse the broth. Kombu (edible kelp), katsuoboshi (dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna), niboshi (dried baby sardines) and dried horse mackerel are a few of the most common flavorings. You're essentially combining the fishy, briny, slightly smokey flavors of dashi with a robust bone stock to create fantastic depth. From there the soups can go in many directions; add a soy and mirin sauce called tare for shoyu ramen, sea salt for shio ramen or miso paste for a Sapporo style bowl. These final additions are usually added to each bowl to order, customizing a large pot of broth into several tantalizing varieties.

 When the ingredients from China's Sichuan province are placed in the hands of Japanese ramen chefs you get Tan Tan Mian. To me it's the best of both worlds. Highly addictive tingle from the sichuan peppercorns, creaminess from the sesame base but with a firmer noodle and distinctly Japanese presentation.

Abram stressed that ramen is one of the few Japanese food where there is no wrong. While sushi, tempura and tonkatsu have typical preparation techniques and ingredients, ramen is a relatively new phenomenon in Japan so there's no established protocol for construction. That 8 inch bowl is the personal playground for these young chefs, and they are free to do as they please within these ceramic confines. With ramen, like all great soups of the world, it's really about putting tons of love into your base broth. No matter how spectacular your toppings and noodles are, if your broth is watery or lacking that punch- customers will not return. Survival of the fittest.

Pots for heating up individual servings of ramen broth. This particular shop used a tonkotsu and mackerel bone base. Most exquisite.

There's something truly entertaining about sitting in front of an open kitchen and watching food preparation. If there's a spot at the bar, I'm there. In foreign countries it's that much more interesting because there's that extra element of intrigue due to unidentifiable ingredients and the inevitable language barrier. I'm a firm believer food tastes better when you're spoken to in a language you don't understand. There are no expectations. No yelp! hype. Usually you know little of the specifics of what you're about to eat, but as you look around to see a restaurant full of satisfied faces quietly mowing down their tsukemen, you realize it really doesn't matter.

In Sapporo, Miso ramen is what you'll be eating. I love the mouthfeel and umami miso provides. This bowl got a little grating of ginger on top for some pop.

In America, ramen shops aren't as ubiquitous as Japan so the places are usually newer and more formal. You go out for ramen as a part of a meal. In Japan ramen is a fast food, and while many obsessive freaks set aside a large portion of their day to wait in line for something incredible, it's also something to grab on a quick lunch break or before heading out for a night of brews and karaoke. From placing your order in the ticket vending machine to downing your last mouthful of broth it's usually a 10-15 minute affair (line pending of course!). There isn't much lingering or chatting or texting or dillydallying or cappuccino sipping. Receive your bowl, snap photo, and get after it. Once you're done you get your ass out, as there's usually a hungry patron waiting to grab your seat.

Rolled pork bellies (chasu) simmering in Tare. This is one of the most common toppings for a bowl of ramen.

While the broth almost always leaves the biggest impact, noodles and toppings need to hold their own. Traditionally, ramen noodles are made with kansui, an alkaline solution (containing sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate) that give them their signature 'al dente' firm texture. A soft noodle in Japan is a deal breaker. Try to order ramen 'to go' and tell me what type of look the chef gives you. Toppings can vary widely but regularly include some sort of pork product. Chashu is rolled pork belly thats been simmered for a good while until it breaks down a bit but still retains it's shape. One of my favorite ramen shops took the tender slices of fatty pork and charred them a mini grill before laying them on top of the noodles. Even after all these years you know I love me some char.

One classic, please.

Even with all the exciting contemporary ramen permutations there's still something to be said for old school Tokyo Ramen. It's a Shoyu base with a couple tender slices of chashu, bamboo shoots, a boiled marinated egg, spinach and seaweed. Straightforward honest flavors, and a broth that's light enough for you to finish without heart palpitations.

"Bowls of Ramen are like snowflakes."

-Ramen Beast

Stay Experimental.

Global Lap 2014 (Words with the Ramen Beast)

Over my 2 1/2 years in Vietnam I grew accustomed to incredible 75 cent lunches and $5 hotel rooms. Icy beers at street side restaurants were 50 cents and a full service haircut with a straight edge shave wouldn't even take $1 from your pocket. I knew all the prices. I bargained for pennies. Even trips throughout Southeast Asia could be done cheap as chips with Air Asia and Cebu Pacific. The thought of spending in one evening as much as I'd ration for a week in Southeast Asia seemed crazy. I think differently now. While this guy still appreciates a good value and hates nothing more than getting taken- certain experiences comes with a price. The Japan experience certainly isn't one for shoestringers, but as an avid enthusiast of Asian cuisine I had absolutely no excuse. It was time.

Yakitori. Deceptively simple. Yet so much more.

Slivers of mysterious fish drape themselves over perfectly cooked grains of rice that force you to reconsider your opinion on the humble grain. Kurobuta pork chops laced with silky fat that dissolves on the tongue. A level of customer service so above and beyond any other destination in the world it's almost difficult to comprehend. The well known quest for perfection by the Japanese leads to some transcendent bites. Flavors and freshness you wouldn't believe until you tasted. Chefs leave their restaurant to bow to you after a meal. Hotel managers walk through winter's bitter bite in order to personally escort you to your destination. It's truly another world.

There's much more than much to talk about, so let's kick off Japan with an interview with the Ramen Beast, Abram Plaut (Instragram: eiburamu). This Bay Area native has been living in Tokyo for over ten years and I was lucky enough to stay with him and snack on everything the city has on offer. The guy eats absolutely everything- from lamb brains to fugu sperm sac to late night convenience store miso clam soup (top-notch hangover prevention) so we're a natural pairing for eating explorations. He's also a bit of a local food celebrity, with a weekly column in Japanese Playboy and regular appearances on television.

While Abram is game to take down most any land or sea creature, without a doubt his area of expertise and extreme dedication is ramen. Hold up. Just so we're clear- not the ramen you find sealed in plastic with dehydrated spices for 79 cents at Foods Co. Real Japanese Ramen.  We're talking about fresh, springy alkaline noodles. 15 hour broths. Tare simmered pork belly. Char-grilled spring onions. Layers upon layers of flavor. Japan's fast food and like nothing else on this planet.

Talk to me Ramen Beast.

What are the core elements of ramen?

There are basically three elements; soup, noodles and topping, although the variations are endless within. I think with traditional Chinese ramen, it's usually a simple one dimensional soup. It's a cheap food, and I don't think they've ever taken it to the level they do in Japan. You have miso, shoyu, shio and tonkotsu broth bases to start. Then theres tsukemen [dry ramen noodles with a concentrated broth on the side for dipping] which adds a totally new dimension. Then theres all the combinations of noodles and toppings. Even with the eggs it's a carefully calculated science; how long to cook them, cool them and marinate them. These are just the eggs! Japanese people are obsessed with perfection and I think it's that which has elevated the ramen in Japan more so than anywhere else in the world.

 A bowl of Kagoshima style Tonkotsu Ramen with crispy garlic. This bowl started off with a ladle of rendered animal fat before the broth and noodles were added. Vegetarians, go away.

Do you remember the bowl that started it for you?

I was studying abroad in Tokyo the summer between my junior and senior year in college. It also happened to be the year of the world cup in Japan! The very first ramen shop I went to was right next to my dorm. It was a miso ramen shop and it was fucking awesome and the gyoza was awesome. I must have eaten there 10 times in the 3 weeks I stayed at the dorm. Even years later I come back and I still think it's great. I think I lucked out, because if my first bowl wasn't legit like it was I might not be into ramen crazy like I am now. Also, after the summer semester finished I had a homestay with a Japanese man from Arizona. He showed me a late night spot serving Ramen until 5 am. Tonkotsu shoyu. You get your bowl and eat it on the street. After that I knew I wanted to live in Japan, I just didn't know 2 years would turn into 10.

What makes a good bowl of ramen great?

Impact. It's all about impact. Something that pops. For me the most important part of the bowl is the broth- the soup. It's the very first thing I taste. When you sip it, and it gives you that 'OH! Wasn't expecting that!'- that's what I'm talking about. My favorite bowls are the ones where you eat all the noodles and all the toppings, and there's still some soup left and you cant help yourself to finish the whole bowl and just crush it. A lot of ramen bowls aren't meant for you to drink all the broth, but my favorite bowls beg for you to finish.

Biggest ramen shop no-no?

Theres two main things. I don't give a fuck about decor or how the restaurant looks, as long as they put care into the soup and what they're doing. Maybe the guy is handling cash and handling noodles. Not ideal but I can live with that. As long as they are dedicated to their craft. When I walk into a place and it looks and feels like the staff is only working a part time job, going through the motions, and you can tell that the chef is just getting paid a salary and isn't the owner- these are all bad signs. In any of the chain shops that is gonna be the case. The ramen shops that have just one outlet, it's gonna be the main guy running the show. I cringe a little bit when I ask someone their favorite ramen shop and they tell me a chain shop.

How many bowls of ramen did you take down in 2013?


Prediction for 2014?

Depends on how much time I spend in this country (Abram travels quite a bit). If I'm in Japan I'm dedicated. I'm definitely planning on crushing 150 minimum- maybe 200.

Side of tender Chashu with bean sprouts and negi.

What's the craziest ramen you've had?

Probably pineapple ramen. Shop name is pa pa pa pa pine! It's a pineapple-themed ramen shop. One location serving hot shoyu ramen or a chilled alternative.

Do you feel your ramen knowledge and experience is both a blessing and a curse?

It's a curse in the sense that now I can't enjoy bowls that I definitely would have enjoyed a long time ago. If it isn't a cut above the rest it's one and done. No need to come back. It's a little cruel, a little harsh. I'm like a fucking snob, honestly. Theres so many shops I need to get to. But ya know, it's kinda fun cause the search is a lot of what makes it cause the search never ends. It's a curse but it's great to always be able to try new ramen.

What's the main problem with ramen outside of Japan?

I feel it's a combination of many things. The number one problem is outsourcing and ingredient availability. There's a few important components for noodles. The water is different abroad. It's hard to duplicate the noodles. It's difficult to get the best niboshi (dried anchovies) in the States. Also, there haven't been any pros who've tried to do their thing abroad. It's only gotten competitive recently. Up until now the demand has been higher than the supply. It's inevitable the ramen quality will go up. Ramen shops are opening quickly, the good ones will weed out the bad ones.

もつ そば- Wagyu Intestine Tsukemen in Kyoto. With Tsukemen you can expect a bowl of room temperature noodles with a separate bowl of broth- usually much saltier and more concentrated in flavor than typical ramen broth. Supreme indulgence.

Talk about current Ramen trends in Tokyo.

Five years ago it was tonkotsu and fish based broths. Then tsukemen started to blow up. Trends are constantly changing, especially in a city like Tokyo with endless ramen options. In my opinion though, when you're looking for the next rush, that extra kick- tsukemen is the new ramen. For the hardcore ramen junkies, it's the next level.

Last supper ramen

The soup at Oyaji Ramen (Machida) is my #1 Miso Ramen soup in Japan.  Maybe there are a couple of bowls that I would say from top to bottom are better but something about that soup at Oyaji is just incredible to me.  The noodles are pretty good, the toppings average, but the soup brings me back again and again.

If you were a bowl of ramen what would you be? 

Something memorable and unique and great.

Stay Beastly.


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