Another month has flown by, and we were back at the Edgewater Mitsuwa for the Umaimono Food Fair. The featured ramen guest was Nakamuraya, from Ebina in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Chef Sean Nakamura is also the force behind Ramen California in Torrance and just opened Ikemen, a tsukemen (dipping ramen) shop in Los Angeles.

As we were a bit early out of the gate, we perused the other goodies up for offer while we waited for the ramen to open for orders. Here are some sort of griddle cakes made from rice dough, with red bean filling.

Konnyaku cake

Croquettes

Onigiri (rice balls)

Onigiri building station

Sweets

We tried a new tactic this time: getting in line early, before the window opens.

Good thing we did! This was the last day of the fair, and Nakamuraya posted a note saying there was only enough material left for 200 bowls.

For the fair, Nakamuraya served up an unadulterated shio (salt flavor) ramen.  The broth was remarkably deep, with layers of fish and seaweed flavor riding under the chicken bones and salt. The toppings were (for a mass event like this) generous and lovingly prepared. The juicy grilled chashu and seasoned hanjuku egg were better than I’ve had at many local places!

One of my first orders of business when I traveled to Japan for the first time was to experience true (not freeze dried brick form) ramen. The neophyte I was at the time, I initially gravitated to food which more closely resembled my western expectations. In this case, shio ramen came across like an exotic version of chicken noodle soup. I’d later get more adventurous and branch out to shoyu (soy sauce) ramen (the dominant flavor in Tokyo), tonkotsu (heavy, pork bone based broth), and other, less prevalent sub-styles and niches. No matter how far afield I go, though, I still enjoy a simple shio. Decadent, heavy flavored ramen packs punches with endless combinations of fats, flavors, and aromatics. In that realm, the creativity of the chef is the only limit to what’s possible. But I also think that working within a few constraints and being able to make a great, unassuming chicken noodle soup (in Japan or elsewhere) is a sign of a chef worth his salt.

Previous Mitsuwa festivals:

Hokkaido Food Fair Fall 2011

Umaimono Food Fair Spring 2011

Umaimono Food Fair Fall 2010

Hokkaido Food Fair Fall 2010