Back when I was younger, Naruto used to play on Cartoon Network. Every Monday and Tuesday night, I’d watch the show, obsessed with the ninjas’ many powers. I think Naruto started my ninja phase — the show made being a ninja look so fun! I think I hit my ninja peak in second or third grade, with my Halloween costume being a ninja for two years in a row.
Naruto, a twelve-year-old ninja and star of the show, had one recurring obsession: ramen. Especially in the earlier episodes, Naruto would be taken to a ramen-ya very frequently by one of his ninja instructors. I’d watch them sit in the ramen shop, slurping down their ramen as Naruto would keep going on about how good it tasted.
Whenever I saw them do that on TV, I’d suddenly want to have ramen too. I had no idea what ramen tasted like — was it salty? Sweet? Did it taste like udon noodles, or was it closer to a chicken noodle soup? By seventh grade, I was buying instant ramen from a Japanese specialty store. The ramen helped my reputation as the kid who brings foreign (i.e. non-American) lunches all the time. Even though I was eating “ramen,” it didn’t feel the same.
I had my first bowl of ramen at Orochon in Los Angeles, although it wasn’t truly authentic. I regret not having authentic ramen in Tokyo—like how I regret not eating Chinese food in Hong Kong—but it’s too late now, I was young and unaware of the opportunity I was given (and I at least have an excuse to visit again). Today, I’m still not the most open eater, but I see my shortcomings and continually try to change it.
Our first dinner in New York was at Momofuku. After meeting up with my uncle and his girlfriend and seeing where they work, we all made our way down to the Momofuku Noodle Bar on First Avenue.
Momofuku was super crowded and there was a wait, but thankfully, they gave us water as we waited for a table. After a little while, they moved us to a table and gave us a menu. The seating was definitely cramped, mostly because the restaurant was packed with people. Also, the menu seems to change every day, which I thought was kind of cool.
The first things my mom and I ordered were pork buns and brisket buns.
The look of the buns weren’t exactly what I was expecting — I expected something similar to a char siu bao — but hey, change is good! The pork buns were a little hard to pick up, but they melted in your mouth. I wasn’t that impressed with the brisket buns since it was a little tougher.
Then came what I was waiting for: Momofuku Ramen.
Momofuku Ramen has pork belly, pork shoulder, and poached egg in the ramen, and it tasted delicious! The somewhat salty broth mixed beautifully with the egg — I wish I could have more egg but that would probably be overdoing it. Unlike Orochon, which was less authentic, Momofuku felt like something more Japanese. I loved the kamakobo in the ramen, just because its swirled pink pattern makes it look cooler.
After the ramen, we all left the restaurant and parted ways in the pouring rain. My uncle hailed a cab for my mom and I so we wouldn’t have to run down the streets getting soaked, and we eventually made it back to our hotel room.
Momofuku was definitely a place I enjoyed. Would I go back there again? Probably. I mean, Momofuku made me love ramen! If you’re in New York and you need to soothe your ramen fix (don’t lie, I know you have one), then Momofuku is the place for you! Its ramen would make Naruto proud.