A Little History Lesson About Ramen

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Another stop in my culinary adventures has brought me to the Tokyo-based Kizuki Ramen and Izakaya in the Crossroads area of Bellevue.

Ramen has the same sort of fierce loyalty and passionate devotees that Pho does for those that love Vietnamese food. EVERYONE has an opinion of who does it best, how it should be served, and who makes it the most “authentically.” There are whole blogs devoted to the dish.

Ramen – A History in Two Paragraphs

Ramen appears to have originated in China and was slightly different from what we would now recognize.  Ramen, as we know it today really became something post World War 2. As the US was helping “rebuild” Japan, the US government forced the Japanese to import US wheat. With ample supply, wouldn’t you know it, the Japanese took the wheat and using their traditional noodle-making methods, they developed ramen, a wheat-based noodle to go along with the roasted-then-boiled meat bone and soy/miso-based broth. They would include a vegetable, possibly mushroom or other umami power food, and usually a cheap but tasty cut of meat, served with a hard-boiled egg. This dish has reshaped what comfort food is for the Japanese.

Over time, ramen went from becoming a “poor man’s” meal to becoming a dish that has defined some of the food scene in the last 50 years in the ancient country.  It has been said that in the 1990’s, ramen houses were popping up all over Japan and quickly became must-go destinations for the commuter and the traveller alike. Ramen is now clearly an international dish with cult-like followers. *

I am not exactly sure why Kizuki chose the Crossroads neighborhood of Bellevue as their first stateside location (now there are several throughout the Seattle area and the US) but this one in Bellevue always seems to be busy and seems to have a nice mix of neighborhood locals and tech employees getting away from the office for a bowl of the savory soup.

There are several ramen bowls to choose from at Kizuki and I loved them all. The packed-with-flavor succulent pork, the rich and dense hard boiled egg, the slivery and perfectly cooked noodles and of course, the savory, fatty, deeply satisfying broth. Throw in some greens, and maybe a garnish or two, and you have a perfectly balanced and delicious meal.  The Garlic Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen and Yuzu Shio Ramen are top sellers and fantastic. I typically go for the Garlic Tonkotsu.

I have also ordered the vegetable tempura and even have had a side of takoyaki, which are battered balls of octopus dusted with bonito flakes (dried and smoked fish skin) and dried seaweed. These were full of flavor, surprisingly light, soft and chewy, a touch creamy, and definitely unique.

If you are in the mood for a fantastic Asian soup, and you are ready to move outside of Pho, or miso, or egg flower, or sweet and sour, or won ton soup, then you should absolutely jump in whole-heartedly into ramen.

When You Go: Kizuki Ramen and Izakaya

Locations in Seattle area include Bellevue (Crossroads and Bellevue Square), Northgate, Capitol HIill, West Seattle (Seattle), Olympia, Southcenter, and Renton.

* Brief history taken from The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze

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