Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spit-up Ramen and a Pissed-off Man

There is this amazing ramen place called Miso-ya on the west side of the station. It's essentially the equivalent of going to Hodads in OB when you want an amazing burger. This place, like the best burger place in San Diego, has two things on its menu: a bowl of ramen, and a bigger bowl of ramen. They fry up tender slices of pork, sprinkle in an unhealty amount of green onions, and load the bowl with the best damned noodles your tongue has ever had the experience of salivating all over.

But Ramen wouldn't be complete without making it spicy and hot as hell itself. In front of you is a pepper shaker type object which has a special spicy blend of peppers only available in Nagano. To the left of this spicy pepper is a jar filled with a red spicy-paste, equally delicious as it is scorching. Once you put in the red pepper-type stuff and the red hot paste, the bowl isn't only as hot as hell, it starts to look like it. The broth turns a surly shade of red, in turn tinting the color of noodles as well. You don't have to use any of these spices, of course, but that's like eating Mexican food without drenching it in hot sauce - it just isn't done.

I ventured to Miso-ya a few hours ago, looking forward to the spicy-red deliciousness that was about to ensue. The inside of the tiny place is one long bar that wraps around the kitchen; there are about 15 bar stools fixed in place, only about a foot from each other. You are pretty much elbow to elbow with the other sadists cramming all that spicy stuff into their mouths. I took a seat at one of the stools and placed my order.

As soon as my food arrived, a middle-aged Japanese guy in a suit sat to the right of me. He placed his order and I took the first bite of my ramen. Deliciousness swirled around my mouth, and tears came to my eyes; out of pure happiness or because I knew I'd be sitting on the toilet shedding real tears in 6 or so hours, I'm not sure, but it was a joyous moment. The ramen being also hot in temperature make it difficult to simply 'eat' the noodles; you have to half inhale them so they are cooled down by the time they enter your mouth. Luckily in Japan making slurping sounds is the norm. Japanese have had years upon years of perfecting the art of sucking in food while making sure it goes down the right pipe; I've only had about 8 or so months at establishing this new art.

During the second slurp, I felt a chunk of hot-paste enter the back of my throat. I've had this happen before, and I can usually control it well enough so that I can finish swallowing my current mouthful of hell and then wash down the stuff in my windpipe with a few gulps of water. Unfortunately this was too much for my inexperienced throat to handle; I started uncontrollably coughing. I tried keeping my mouth shut as well as I could but a noodle creeped out of the corner of my mouth, and a good amount of broth sprayed back into my bowl. To be fair, I did keep my head down as to not spew on anybody else.

Unforunately for the Japanese suit, the sight of a foreigner hacking up bits and pieces of ramen back into his bowl, then continuting to eat out of the same bowl was too much for him. He picked up his briefcase and hastily moved to the far corner of the bar.

Sorry guy, but once I reach your level of noodle-slurping expertise I'll try my best not to gross out the Japanese population with my eating habits any more.