Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Chicken Noodle Ramen for the Sick

I swear, I have the immune system of a SCID mouse. Yup, that's SCID as in severe combined immunodeficinecy. I can't believe it myself, but I am sick AGAIN!

This time, I have a sore throat, a mild headache, a runny nose, and a cough that would scare even the heaviest smokers. The thing about my cold this time around is that it really came suddenly out of nowhere... One evening, I was fine, and the next morning, I was on my dying leg! But down deep, I know there must've been an inkling of sickness earlier last week when a craving so strong I couldn't fight drove me to Himawari Ramen in San Mateo twice in one week.

You see, San Mateo is quite far from my house, especially considering the fact that the object of my travels is a mere bowl of ramen. But the bowl of ramen at Himawari is not a 'mere bowl of ramen'.

The broth is savory with enough salt and oil to be addictive as the juices of ambrosia for a soon-to-be-sick girl. The faint sweetness of the broth is highlighted by the complex blend of animal broths and marine umami. The noodles are firm with enough resistance to make me salivate but gently and seductively give to my bite. The pork cha-shu (char siu) is so tender, it flakes and melts in my mouth. And oh! That egg of theirs! Soft, moist, and warm with deliciously oozy yolk squirting out when bitten, the egg is a precious and indispensable component of the Himawari ramen experience.

The thing I love about Himawari's ramen is that it is light without being wimpy. The soup is almost clear without much fat or overbearing presence of the pork. The soup is maternal in nature - kind, nourishing, and gentle. Compared to some of the other prominent Bay Area ramen shops where pork essence carries the broth and consequently the ramen, the broth at Himawari is the guilt-free version with umami itself promoting the flavors with little help directly from the sweetness of fat and lard.

The noodles keep getting better too. I was always a fan of the Himawari broths (both shoyu and salt flavors) and less so of the noodles. This time around, I noticed how satisfyingly full of texture the noodles had become. Twice in a row, the noodles came out perfectly cooked, soaking up the broth while staying chewy and full of life during the entire meal. Himawari has outdone itself this time around - noodles and broth, they are now my favorite ramen spot in the Bay Area.

Although I absolutely adore their shoyu (soy sauce) ramen, I find it difficult to drive 45 min, crossing a bridge in the process, to get my butt over to Himawari on a regular basis. However, this last week, I made every excuse I could find to sneak a bowl of their shoyu ramen into my system. I craved it so much, I took a nap infront of the store, waiting for them to open on my second visit.

Perhaps my sickness explains why I had such a dire craving. The ramen chef at Himawari told me that they really aim to play up the chicken in their shoyu ramen. Maybe it was the chicken noodle effect that my body was gravitating to, and the chicken in the shoyu ramen soup beckoned me back, knowing that I was coming down with something soon. Or maybe I just like ramen a lot and having a three-day weekend was the perfect excuse to fit yet another trip to San Mateo just to have a yummy bowl of soupy noodles!


Anonymous said...

Hi Alice, I was at Himawari on Monday. I think I like Santa (just like a block away) better, but they had run out of noodles. But still very great!


The Papa Bear said...

Yep, their noodles are much better than before. With your recommendation, I tried their salt flavor broth and found that I liked it very much. It's kinda far, though....

Anonymous said...

Alice -- Sounds like I got the same flu/cold. I was fine one night and the next morning I couldnt get out of bed! My entire body ached, fever, head ache, etc.. I'm still struggling to recover and its been 1 week! Hope you feel better soon.

Alice said...

Hi, Dan,

I am not a huge fan of the extra-porky, pork fatty broth, so I prefer Himawari, but Santa sure gets great business!


And sleeping infront of the store waiting for it to open was a little much, even for me!


Yes! It does sound like we have the same (bird) flu! I hope you feel better!!!!!

The Papa Bear said...

It must be the "turkey" flu. Speaking of turkey, it was scary to hear them this morning. They were loud!!!