Savory, chewy, and, above all, slurp-able, a delicious bowl of ramen is one of the triumphs of Japanese cuisine. That's also a bit odd, because, for most of Japanese history, heavy, meaty, wheaty noodle soup would have had no place in the archipelago's otherwise bland and mostly pescatarian cuisine. This episode, we bust ramen myths and reveal ramen secrets, with the story of how Chinese influencers, U.S. food aid, and an economic boom built the quintessential Japanese soup—and how ramen was transformed from a quick street-food bite for workers to both the three-minute staple of students everywhere and the craft ramen that has people standing in lines for hours. Plus: how ramen noodles helped prevent a prison riot, and Cynthia and Nicky go head-to-head in an epic (failure of a) slurp-off.
Barak Kushner is a professor of East Asian history at the University of Cambridge, and the author of Slurp! A Social and Culinary History of Ramen: Japan's Favorite Noodle Soup.
Gustavo "Goose" Alvarez is the co-author of Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars.
Food consultant Mark Hoshi is a former ramen shop worker and today runs the Ramen Culture website.
Our thanks to Rayneil De Guzman, Sam White, and the team at Ramen Shop in Oakland for hosting us! If you're in the neighborhood, do yourself an enormous favor and treat yourself to a bowl of their heavenly ramen.