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魂: Ramen for the Soul

Tamashii Ramen Bar, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

HONG KONG | Tuesday, 26 May 2015 | Views [111] | Scholarship Entry

The line snaked round the corner, past the neon laundromat into the alleyway beyond. In a city as hurriedly claustrophobic as the Pearl of the Orient, chancing upon this hidden gem was an accidental challenge. The shop sign loomed; bathed in a strange fluorescent glow, it drew me like a moth to a flame. “?” splashed over a faded white background in the brushstrokes of confident oriental calligraphy. Distinct Japanese greeted every eager patron entering their world. For a place barely wider than three strides, it was either sushi or ramen.
It didn’t matter.
That’s the thing about travel. Not knowing where your feet was going to take you. Or what was going to tantalise your taste buds. Forget the best laid plans, a vague idea is enough. Let life do the rest.
I stood at the back of this line before I knew it. Giving me the perfect excuse to soak in the moment of urban life. Even if the impending cuisine before me originated elsewhere, Hong Kong knew how to make foreign cuisines their own.
I don’t remember when I was finally ushered in. But a lone diner finds a seat faster than the couples and groups of friends in front of him. Especially in a shop with only 14 seats; I note as I stepped inside and took my place. From the handwritten katakana on the menu given to me, I could not resist the ‘Green Dragon’. Only 30 bowls are made every evening, I silently counted myself lucky.
I tasted the soup. A richness of flavor that bore no equal engulfed my tongue and in an instant, imagination catches up with reality. The noodles ordered neither too hard nor soft. It came perfect, complementing the soup as I slurped all of it up. The bustle around me melted away. The booth was a temple. The bowl, an offering. Leaving me, the devotee. Podded peas? Asparagus? Corn? Those alone were enough to turn me vegetarian. But the authentic crab meat, a full circle of braised pork belly, and half a runny yolk braised egg reminded me of why I should never limit my diet. Culinary innovation that could only be found elsewhere. The ramen of the gods.
I gladly placed my money into the hands of the bowing waiter and received my change with the same Japanese graciousness. Having eaten more ramen than most, I was confident that few could compare and fewer could compete. A second bowl lingered on my mind. But I had to queue again. The apologetic staff were firm about this. Fair enough, maybe another day.
Definitely, another day.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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