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Soup

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Best Ramen Ever?

Hayashi in the Shibuya district of ToykoRemember when I mentioned that the eel at Hashimoto was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten?  Well, I’ve got another dish to add to that list.

Tokyo is a magical place.

I love ramen, but apparently the ramen back home is garbage, because the bowl I had at Hayashi in the Shibuya district of Toyko was life-changing.  It’s almost implausible how good it was.  Like, did that really happen?  Did I dream it?

No, I have photos.  It happened.

It’s a tiny little restaurant, and like most ramen joints in Tokyo, you order from a machine by the door and then hand your ticket to the person behind the counter.

Hayashi in the Shibuya district of Toyko

A lot of ramen places will have condiments on the counter; not here.  You don’t need them.

The stock is a combination of pork and seafood — I haven’t had anything quite like it back home.  It’s magical.  There’s a very distinct seafoody (but definitely not fishy) flavour, which is complemented perfectly by the rich pork base.  Also, this was so subtle it might have been my imagination, but there was a hint of smokiness there.

Hayashi in the Shibuya district of Toyko

It was kind of insane how flavourful and complex it was; it felt like I was discovering something new with every mouthful.

The noodles were perfect — they had the perfect springy, chewy texture, and just the right amount of thickness.

And I mean, look at that egg.  The yolk was set, but just barely, with a delightfully creamy texture.  So damn good.

The slice of pork was the bowl’s only weak point.  It was fine, but it was a bit dry, and nothing particularly special.  But the rest of the bowl was so insanely good that it really didn’t matter.

Ramen Makes Everything Better

Ramen in Tokyo, JapanI had a hell of a time getting from Narita airport to my Airbnb in Tokyo.  I’m not sure exactly where I went wrong — I had the stops for each of my transfers written down, and it all seemed straightforward enough.  But somehow it went horribly awry, and I found myself staring at the almost comically complex criss-crossing lines of the Tokyo metro, wondering where I even was, or where I needed to go.

I’m still not entirely sure that I understand what’s what, but I think there’s actually more than one company that runs trains in the Tokyo metro, which means not all maps will have all the lines, and that it’s possible to buy a ticket for the right destination but the wrong line.  It’s ridiculously confusing.

Ramen in Tokyo, Japan

But I did eventually get to my Airbnb, where I discovered that there’s a ramen shop just steps away — so of course I went and got a bowl of ramen, and it was like all of my worries evaporated into the ether.

Ramen in Tokyo, Japan

Ordering couldn’t have been easier — there’s a machine by the door, and you just pick what you want, insert your money, and you get a ticket that you hand to the guy behind the counter.  You sit at the bar, and a few minutes later, you’re handed a steaming bowl of noodlely, soupy goodness.

Ramen in Tokyo, Japan

It was amazing.  The noodles were chewy and perfect, and the broth had an amazing richness and a downright impressive depth of flavour.  It was so good that I temporarily forgot how hot it was and wound up burning my tongue pretty badly.  Totally worth it.

Plus, though I’ve never quite understood the point of the nori sheets in ramen (other than as a decoration), these ones were heartier and more flavourful than what they serve at home, and actually complemented the ramen quite well.

Souping it up in Souptown

Pork and rice soup in Busan, South KoreaOne of the specialties in Busan is a soup called dwaeji gukbap — pork and rice soup.  There’s a whole stretch of road in the Seomyeon area of town that features nothing but one restaurant after another that specializes in the dish, so yeah, it’s a big deal here.

I picked one pretty much at random (I did have a recommendation, but the signs were all in Korean, so I had no idea which was which), and went in to get my soup on.

Pork and rice soup in Busan, South Korea

They love including pictures in their menus here, which is a boon for clueless travelers like me, because I can just point to what I want to eat.

Pork and rice soup in Busan, South Korea

The soup is an elaborate affair, coming with several bowls of condiments (and the requisite kimchi, of course).  It’s a bit bland at first, but once you start adding the various pastes, vinegars, and add-ons, the soup really comes alive.

Pork and rice soup in Busan, South Korea

It’s incredibly hearty, too, with a ridiculous amount of very tender, thinly-sliced pork, and a heaping amount of rice.  It’s a really satisfying lunch.

Delicious (Not Seafood) Stew

Stew in Busan, South KoreaAfter visiting the Jagalchi Market, I was walking along the nearby vendor-festooned alley looking for something seafoody to eat.  When you visit a country’s largest fish market, you’ve pretty much gotta eat some seafood.  It would be weird if you didn’t.

I eventually found a stand with a few benches set up that had three big vats of stew they were serving up.  There were a couple of ladies eating something that looked quite hearty with noodles, so I sat down, pointed at their bowls, and I was off to the races.

Stew in Busan, South Korea

The owner of the stand got a bowl, filled it with some noodles, topped it up with stew from one of the bubbling pots, then finished off the bowl with a heaping spoonful of some kind of chili paste, and another spoonful of minced garlic.  She added a bit more broth on top, and then handed me the bowl.

Given the proximity to the Jagalchi Market, I had assumed this was going to be a seafood stew of some sort. It was not.  My disappointment quickly faded away, however, when I realized how delicious it was.

The stew was filled with huge chunks of ultra-tender beef brisket, blood cake, leeks, and the aforementioned noodles, all in an intensely flavourful, sweat-inducingly spicy broth.  It was so good.  And for only 4000 won (less than five bucks Canadian), it was a pretty amazing deal.

Pretty Much Just a Bowl of Melted Cheese

French onion soup from Au Pied de CochonNever mind what I said about the käsespätzle in Germany being the cheesiest thing I’ve ever eaten — it’s already been superseded by this insane bowl of French onion soup from Au Pied de Cochon in Paris.

This is a sentence I never thought I’d say, but this bowl of French onion soup might have been too cheesy.  I know, impossible, right?  But the layer of cheese was a solid inch thick.  It was nuts.

French onion soup from Au Pied de Cochon in Paris, France

It was so incredibly cheesy that, about halfway through, I realized that I was going to run out of soup before I ran out of cheese.  So I started eating enormous mouthfuls of pure cheese just to try to balance things out.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still quite tasty — in particular, the broth had an addictively intense flavour — but I think the phrase “too much of a good thing” probably applies here.