Movie Bites: Noodle Soup
Tampopo: Noodle Soup
Juzo Itami’s 1985 Japanese cult comedy Tampopo was billed as a Ramen Western and tells the story of truck-driving ramen connoisseurs Gono (Tsutomo Yamazaki) and Gun (Ken Watanabe) and the noodle novice Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamato). Tampopo is a young widowed mother who finds herself in charge of a roadside ramen bar. Gono and Gun, having tasted her noodles, realise she is in trouble and agree to stay to teach her all they know about noodles. Cue Rocky-esque montages of the trio as they work to save Tampopo’s business by helping her put a bit of soul into her ramen bowls. This key storyline are interspersed with seemingly random scenes of food obsession happening in and around our main characters that are often hilarious but occasionally make no sense at all.
The film opens with a noodle- centred scene where one of our heros shares a bowl of ramen with a wizened noodle-eating master. The old man delicately explains the ways of ramen and how one must approach a dish of it. It’s not just a bowl of noodles, meat and broth – it’s a ritual to be respected and devoured with a particular ceremony.
Our noodle soup isn’t exactly to Japanese tradition but it’s a heart-warming bowl all the same. We like to make the best of our Sunday roast dinner by making our noodle soup with its leftovers. This recipe works brilliantly with leftover roast chicken or pork but you can also cook a few chicken breasts if you want to make it all in one go. You can easily make it vegetarian by using tofu, vegetable stock and leaving out the fish sauce and bonito flakes.
1 tablespoon of grated ginger
1 tablespoon of grated garlic
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of bonito flakes (these dried and fermented fish flakes are entirely optional)
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
Slices of roasted pork or chicken (pre-cooked)
2 spring onions, finely sliced
Dried seaweed sheets, finely sliced
1 red chilli, sliced
Start by heating some sesame oil in in a good, deep saucepan. Sesame oil adds a wonderful nutty flavour. Fry the grated ginger and garlic for about a minute, until just starting to brown. Pour in the chicken stock, fish sauce, soy sauce and the bonito flakes and simmer for five minutes or so.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a second saucepan according to the packet instructions – usually boiling for three minutes or so. It’s good not to cook the noodles in the broth as they can release a bit of starch making your broth less delicious.
Drain the noodles and divide between two serving bowls. Add the pork slices. Ladle in the broth. Top with chopped spring onions, seaweed slices, and chilli slices.
Serve in front of the telly with chopsticks – the traditional way to eat ramen is to sip the soup so spoons are entirely optional.