Category Archives: writing

East to West Side Story: LA Welcomes Ramen Burger

Ramen Burger from bibberche.com

I don’t like standing in lines. Not for a premiere movie tickets, not for the newest techie gadget, not for the sales on Friday after Thanksgiving. (Having to spend hours away from classes while waiting in never-ending lines, depending on mercy of the office harpies at the University of Belgrade just to be issued a monthly bus pass clearly does not count. That I endured this at the age before smart phones were invented, makes the experience even more traumatic).

So when I learned that Keizo Shimamoto would be serving 500 ramen burgers last Saturday at 11:00 am at Mitsuwa Market, a Japanese  chain store in my neighboring Torrance, I deliberately failed to set the alarm. Yes, I was determined to go, as I was curious about the concept, but I knew that I am not that hard-core to camp in front of a store for a food item, no matter how highly recommended and hyped.

Ramen Burger lines from bibberche.com

The recovering journalist in me woke up and nudged me to get up just in time to make it close to the end of the line at 10:30. I felt empowered by finding a decent parking place and exercised my patience for a while, relieved when more and more people queued up behind me. But when they announced that I probably would not get to be the one of the chosen 500 to sample the $8.00 ramen burger, along with a few dozen of my crestfallen neighbors who stood in line behind the coveted corner, I had to rethink my strategy.

I stayed in place for a few minutes, thinking that there might be some vegetarians ahead who might forfeit their burgers. The logic prevailed, though, and I decided to head to the store and be the journalist, experiencing the event vicariously and taking testimonies, resigned that it was not in my cards that day to taste the trendy fusion burger.

Ramen Burger assembly line from bibberche.com

I positioned myself in front of the stall hosting Ramen Burger crew and started taking photos of busy hands assembling the burgers, minutes before the hungry hordes were allowed to enter. Ramen noodles, already cooked and shaped into sturdy disks, were placed onto a griddle until golden brown and crispy. A charbroiled hamburger patty fit perfectly on top of one of the rounds, followed by a secret shoyu sauce, a few leaves of arugula, chopped scallions, and another ramen round. It was neatly folded in a pleated paper wrapper constructed specifically to prevent the juices and sauce from seeping out.

Ramen Burger experience from bibberche.com

I happened to be at the right place and the right time to see Keizo Shimamoto, the guy behind the the ramen burger fame, pass one of the burgers to his mother, who declared that she had never tasted one of her son’s inventions before. Even better, I stood next to the CBS News cameraman who passed his burger to me, as he was on a diet. I figured it was research combined with a good deed and bit into it.

I expected the ramen bun to fall apart at the first attack, but it was surprisingly sturdy. According to Keizo, this is not your usual instant ramen, but rather custom made by respectable Sun Noodle company in New Jersey. It took me much longer to finish this burger, and it kept me full for quite some time. It was an unusual combination of flavors and textures, which is typical for fusion cooking, and while I still prefer a classic hamburger, I would not mind breaking the routine with this umami-rich newest food sensation.

Keizo Shimamoto from bibberche.com

Keizo’s story is an inspiring one. Born, raised, and educated in southern California, he entered the work force as a computer programmer, only to depart to Japan to study ramen, in pursuit of his dream. After four years he returned with an idea of a ramen burger which combines his two culinary loves, and almost overnight became a frenzied success. It seems that things are moving incredibly fast for this one-man enterprise, as the demands are clearly going through the roof. He is riding the wave with a smile, knowing that all his work has finally paid off and his dream became a reality. He and his ramen burger are here to stay, and I would not be surprised to see Keizo more frequently back on the West coast.

A few hundred photos and a full belly later, I slowly made my way out of the store, where the line was shorter, but still winding around a couple of corners. Keizo’s ramen burger was satisfying, but did not convince me that anything is worth waiting in line for hours in midday southern California sun.

 

Summer Fun: Chili at the Beach

  Last Saturday morning, I grabbed my camera and shades, and drove south on PCH towards Huntington Beach and their 6th Annual Chili and Salsa cook-off. With the windows down, the wind tussling my hair, infinite blue sky above, and the Pacific on my right, I had a real Cinderella moment: Freida’s old hunter-green BonnevilleContinue Reading

When Memories Come Alive: Butter Cookies

Ever since I started elementary school, my family spent two weeks of winter break in the mountains, where we had an adorable, miniature, and very rustic cabin. Everything we needed, we had to pack into the trunk of Father’s Fiat 1300; there were no stores and the narrow, mountain road was often buried under theContinue Reading

Father Knows Best: Recycling Is a Beautiful Thing

When I was a child, recycling had more to do with saving money than protecting the environment. Mother thoroughly washed every single glass jar and stored it in the pantry to be reused for preserves. We returned the glass bottles that held milk and yogurt to the small neighborhood grocery store knowing they would beContinue Reading

California Sunshine – Luxury No More: Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

  I am standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. A coffee maker is gurgling just to the right, and a few feet behind me there is a skillet with onions and potatoes cut in small cubes, destined to become a diner-worthy accompaniment to the eggs and toast. It’s cold in our small 70s kitchenContinue Reading

An Interview with Faith: An Edible Mosaic Cookbook Tour

It’s been several weeks since Casey of Kitchen Play instigated Cookbook Tour to promote An Edible Mosaic, a brand new book by one of our own, Faith Gorsky Safarini. The six of us embarked on this exciting ride, trying to approach the task from various angles. We wrote a review of the book; we cooked oneContinue Reading

An Impending Trip To the Middle East: An Edible Mosaic

  My parents were avid collectors of books. A few times a month a large cardboard box would appear at the door, and I could not wait for Mother to cut into it and retract the treasures I knew lurked inside. I would bury my nose in the middle of the book and inhale theContinue Reading

The Other Side of Food: PMA’s Fresh Summit, 2012

I had a chance to visit Product Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit which took place the last weekend of October in Anaheim, California. It was the biggest fresh produce expo in history with about 21,000 attendees from more than 60 countries sharing the imposing 247,000 square feet of the exhibit hall. Food industry professionals gathered here to present their bestContinue Reading

Do You Want to Know Where Your Food Comes From? Visit Lazy Acres Market in Long Beach

Lazy Acres Market opened this week in Long Beach. Some of you might shrug your shoulders and move on to the story of the Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez break-up (do not ask me how I know this; it is not because I have two teenage daughters under my roof, but despite of the fact).Continue Reading

Of Cheese

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” ~~G.K. Chesterton Djurdja admits that she is at least 80 years old, but I believe that she is somewhat conservative. She complains constantly of her back pains, leg pains, head pains. She wobbles when she walks, but when no one is looking she straightens upContinue Reading