The ramen shop is perfect for these times

It’s late, or early, depending on how you look at it. And we need noodles. We step off the street and pass through a deserted lobby. A flight of red stairs and a quick bend, and we’re passing under the hanging red fabric marking the entrance.


The staff are heard, but not seen.

We find ourselves in a room, not more than 500 square feet. What jumps out immediately is the absence of tables. And people.

Instead, straight out of a credit union or DMV. A series of small cubicles, each wide enough for one customer, partitioned by thick wood barriers, perfectly designed for social distance. Each cube backed against a hanging curtain of bamboo, separating customer from server.

We sit at two adjacent slots. For a moment we’re not sure what to do. That’s when the curtain slides up and a faceless arm attached to a faceless torso slides over a small slip of paper.

And that’s when the fun begins.

Order sheet

Circle your preference

Dashi (seasoning stock): light, medium, strong

Richness: none, light, medium, rich, extra rich

Garlic: none, drop, medium, half clove, 1 clove

Green Onion: without, with

Original Spicy Red Sauce: none, mild, medium, spicy, 3~10x

Noodle texture: extra firm, firm, medium, soft, extra soft

There is nothing on this sheet that is not my preference.

So I stick with the chef’s recommendations, but ramp up the garlic and spice.

For immunity, natch.

I complete the order, present it to the faceless torso.

He returns minutes later. The steam bounces, Original Spicy Red Sauce lays in wait atop a bed of medium-firm noodles, green onions floating at the ready.

I pause. Mix. Inhale.

And bring the first taste of noodles to my lips.

Published by Radutti

Teaching in Ha Noi, screwing things up daily but surviving to write about it. ...everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

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