What’s The Big Deal About Ramen?


Crowds gather early outside Totto Ramen in New York and by the time I took that picture I imagine the wait was an hour or longer. I like ramen as much as the next guy but I wouldn’t wait an hour for it. It’s a big bowl of soup with meat floating in it and noodles. I imagine a large majority of you shrinking back in horror at that sentence: “A big bowl of soup? With meat floating in it? And noodles? That’s like calling the Mona Lisa a bunch of oil paint slathered on a canvas!” Perhaps, but I understand why people line up to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, I don’t understand why people line up for ramen.

[Roboto Jinya ramen in L.A.]

Have things always been this way? Or did this start when David Chang (who just won another James Beard award) opened Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004? I remember going there back when it opened and feeling like I discovered something totally new. As a nice Jewish boy who grew up eating chicken soup, I found pork broth to be more decadent and rich and flavorful (don’t tell grandma). It was a fun thing to eat when the craving struck especially when it was cold outside.

[Ramen Jinya ramen also in L.A.]

When I moved to L.A. I enjoyed ramen less often, but certainly as a cure-all when I got sick. The potency of the broth does pack a punch though it still loses the Battle Cold Cure to Tom Kha Gai.

Last week, in New York, I joined my friends Kenny and Brendan for dinner at Minca Ramen Factory in New York.


Even at a late hour on a Wednesday night, the place was packed. Looking at my ramen (a simple pork ramen with soy sauce) I can see why people get excited about it:


Lots of variety, sweet salty flavors, the rich thick slices of pork belly. Each bite brings something new. Plus, at $10.50, it’s a real bargain for all that food.

So I guess I see what the big deal is after all. But wait an hour for it? Sorry, ramen, I’m getting a cheeseburger.