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Museums put ramen on a culinary pedestal

( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-03-30 08:07:32

Museums put ramen on a culinary pedestal

A variety of instant ramen soup packages are on display at the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama. [Photo/Agencies]

There are two kinds of ramen in this world. There's the packaged staple of dorm-room cuisine, one of the most processed, industrialized foods ever invented. And then there's the trendy, artisanal, handmade soup that fans line up for hours to try.

But in Japan, ramen isn't just for eating: There are entire museums devoted to it. Yokohama, a short train ride from Tokyo, has one museum for instant ramen and another for handmade ramen, and both offer samples to taste or take home.

At the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum (the extra u gives the word a retro feel), you'll find nine shops showcasing different styles of ramen. The English brochure helpfully describes the soup at each, noting whether the noodles are straight, curly or wrinkled, and how thick they are on a five-point scale. The richness of the broth is also rated on a five-point scale.

At each shop, you order and pay for your ramen in an old-fashioned way, via a ticket-vending machine in front with photos on the buttons. Some varieties are offered in small portions so you can try more than one type, although for some visitors, one small portion will be enough. If you can't tell, ask the staff which button is mini-ramen.

A bit overwhelmed, my friend and I chose the nearest shop that didn't have a line, selling ramen from a replica of a shop in Kyushu (in the south of Japan) founded in 1954. The broth was delicious as were the crumbles of roasted garlic sprinkled on top. Straight noodles the exact thickness of spaghetti made a less exotic impression than I'd hoped for, so pay attention to that helpful brochure.

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