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Monday, January 21, 2019

Ramen Heaven in Tokyo Station

A couple of days ago I need to run an errand in Marunouchi.  Tokyo station is there, and it's huge.  Besides being a transportation hub -- and not really a nightmare because it's very well organized, just enormous -- it is in the middle of a skyscraper business district to which tens of thousands of workers flock each day, on every single train or subway line that passes through.
That's in addition to the million or so travelers who pass through on their ways from here to there every single day.
So what's Japan, and specifically Tokyo, to do?
Make Tokyo Station a destination of its own, of course!  Let's fill it with giant department stores, fashionable mini-malls, specialty shops, omiyage (souvenir) shops every hundred yards so you can't forget the all-important seasonal or location specific gift for your family, friends or co-workers, even if you actually did!
And of great importance to all, always, myriad places to eat!
Ramen is the hot food trend of the last couple of years.  This isn't the 5 for a dollar starving student special, however.  Ramen is fast food, true, with noodles quick-boiled then drenched in broth and topped with a variety of savory toppings, but the real thing is hand made, fresh and superbly delicious.
Unfortunately, it is almost never vegetarian.
If you are a ramen connoisseur, you know that the noodles must be perfectly made of the finest ingredients and cooked just to the perfect al-dente point.  You know that the additions of meat, vegetables, fish cake, hard cooked egg, garlic chips and more that sit on the top must also be perfect examples of their kind.
Most of all, though, the broth, the soup stock, must be a work of art.
Stocks are nurtured in Japan much as they are in France.  They sit on the back of the stove, simmering happily, with liquid added as needed and flavor basics, whether bones, onions, carrots, garlic, skin, organ meats or whatever else the chef deems necessary or desirable for soup perfection added as ingredients become available, as they become seasonal, or as the chef's palate thinks appropriate.  I have heard of stocks that have been simmering away for more than a century.
I can't very well go into a ramen restaurant and say "Yes, I'd like some ramen, please, but I'm a vegetarian, so I can't eat your great-grandfather's 123 year old pork stock, or your great-grand-mother's 108 year old fish stock.  Just some instant seaweed soup will be fine."  Nope.  Can't do that.  Not unless I want to be deported for culinary crimes against the nation.
So it was with great delight that I heard there were TWO ramen restaurants on Tokyo Ramen Street in the lower level of Tokyo station that actually served vegetarian ramen.  I was able to locate one of them -- I don't know what happened to the other; I looked for both -- stuck my bill in the menu coupon machine and was able to select from no less than two kinds of vegetarian ramen (eggs) and one kind of vegan ramen (no egg.)  Three choices.  That's almost unheard of in any restaurant when you're veg.
It was every bit as good as good ramen is supposed to be, only I could eat it.  There was a schmeer of yuzu and chili paste on the side of the bowl that demanded to be mixed in.  Garlic chips, hot red and black pepper and salt were on the side to add as you liked.  Fried lotus root, pumpkin and goodness knows what all floated on top of a nest of perfect noodles cooked to a perfect bite.  Then there was the broth.  Oh, my, the broth.  I couldn't even tell what was in it exactly, as it had simmered long enough to create a perfect marriage, but it was definitely veg.  There were chili peppers in it.  Maybe some tomatoes.  Konbu kelp, perhaps.  Shiso?  All I can tell you is that it was just a little sweet and the pinnacle of vegetarian perfection.
There was so much I couldn't finish it all, which was a shame, because it was so darned good.

In Tokyo station, go downstairs and find Tokyo Ramen Street.  You don't need a ticket to get there.    Signs in a variety of languages will direct you there as will a handy booklet, also in many languages.

You're looking for Soranoiro Nippon, in Location 2.  There's a ticket machine outside.  There will also be a nice staff member right there who can tell you which items are veg. (They had a light green background when I was there, and the picture will detail ingredients.  They have pork and fish stock based ramen, too, if you like, and I'm sure those are just as delicious.
Insert your money, take your ticket and you'll be directed inside where you can take a seat.
In minutes, you'll be in Ramen Heaven.  Definitely worth the trip.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Happy New Year/ Demons of the Internet

In what seems to be an annual event, the Demons of the Internet have decided I must change every single password I have.  Each single account requires that I take twenty minutes I don't have to create a new password.  Safari now wants to impose 87 character long passwords on me and store them in my computer where I can never, ever, ever find them and have no way to retrieve them because I cannot possibly write them down with any conceivable degree of accuracy.
Furthermore, these evil demons also insist on sending codes to me through my phone, which is NOT grafted to my body and is therefore in another room, so I have to get up, go find it and bring it to where I am using my computer or other device so I can enter this code.  Sometimes more than ONE code is required.  I WANT my phone in another room, Demons.  I want to NOT BE INTERRUPTED WHEN I AM WRITING.
And they wonder why I steadfastly resist "dual factor authentication," that would require me to do this every single time I use my computer for anything at all?  For every single task?  To constantly carry two devices?
Oh, freaking PLEASE.  Not gonna happen.
And now that I have at least assured I can access this account until the next time the Demons of the Internet decide I must change all my passwords AGAIN, I have no more time to post as this has taken over half an hour.
Book 6 is going but I am behind.  It WILL BE GOOD, and it will come out on time, if I don't have to change all my passwords again.  And again. And AGAIN
DEMONS BEGONE.

And happy new year to you!