Is it possible to actually experience a physical high from pork fat? Or maybe from alkaline-based noodles like ramen? Because I’ve now been high twice from ramen. No, wait, three times. The first time I had the ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City I think I experienced this also. That was a chicken ramen.
What they serve at Yume wo Katare (“Talk About Your Dreams”) is not. It is the essence of pig distilled into one giant bowl of goodness. Have you ever had whole roast suckling pig, what in the Philippines is known as “lechon”? Under the crackling skin of the lechon there is a gorgeous fatty pig. Now imagine that pig was the size of a piggy bank. Two slices of that piggy-bank sized pig is what you’ll get on your bowl of ramen at Yume wo Katare, along with a healthy (is that the right word?) serving of pork fat in the broth.
Photos and more description under the cut!
My love affair with ramen started with the packaged kind, with Maruchan brand “brick” ramen, which I learned to cook for myself when I was about ten years old. In those days the packages pretty much came in only a few flavors, chicken, shrimp, beef, or the ever mysterious “Oriental” flavor (my favorite). I ate it every day for breakfast before going to school when I was a teenager (except on days when I ate Chunky soup).
More recently, I’ve had ramen at various shops in cities around the world, including Sapporo-Ya, which is just a few blocks from my house and which has a very intense chicken ramen. One of my favorite anime is Hikaru no Go, and the main character Hikaru is practically addicted to ramen. Then I started reading about Korean-American chef David Chang, who was so devoted to ramen that he went to Japan to try to learn to make it (and through various mishaps ended up working for a soba chef… read it in his Momofuku cookbook for the whole story) and eventually got going with Momofuku in NYC which launched Chang’s entire culinary empire, now spanning multiple countries (well, at least two, as I just ate at his brand new restaurant in Toronto) and media (Lucky Peach magazine, podcast, app, etc…) I’ve also been following the adventures online of an intrepid group of food adventurers known as HapaRamen, now serving at pop-ups around San Francisco. I’ve never managed to be in San Fran at the right time to catch a Haparamen pop-up. Yet.
Anyway, ramen has become hip and a thing. Although the long lines of people waiting 90 minutes to two hours to get into Yume wo Katare are not made up of hipsters. They seem to be mostly Japanese and Japanese-Americans.
My first trip to Yume wo Katare I went by myself. corwin had other plans and so I got in line on a Friday night around 7:30pm about two weeks ago. It was cold. I was bundled up for the wait and had an ebook to read on my phone, so I was content. The line was back to the second window of the Dunkin Donuts. It was a full hour before I reached the front of the line, and 90 minutes before I was seated with my ramen, but it was worth the wait.
They serve only two things here:
1) Ramen with two slices of pork. ($12)
2) Ramen with five slices of pork. ($14)
I feel “slice” is a mistranslation. “SLAB” is a better term. The two-slice bowl is PLENTY. I ordered the five-slice bowl, and after the third slice began to wonder if I had erred. As it turned out, I hadn’t eaten at all that day (too busy) and after a brief breather, I polished off all five slices and the entire heaping bowl of ramen and vegetables without too much trouble. But I am a champion high-volume eater when I want to be. I would NOT recommend the five-slice bowl for anyone who normally eats lightly.
I went back for a second trip to Yume wo Katare tonight, with corwin. We went at 5:30, since they open at 6pm and we figured maybe the line wouldn’t be too long yet, and if we could get in that first group of 14-16 people we might make it in at 6. As it turned out, they started letting people in at 5:30, two at a time, and beginning to serve them. We just missed being in the first seating, but at 6pm we entered the place where there are a a few “jump seats” for people who are next in line.
When you go in, you pay at the cash register and say which you want, the two or five slices, and this is also your chance to buy bottled water or bottled tea (or Red Bull…?). They have also added hot green tea for $2. But there is regular water in pitchers on the tables. They take CASH ONLY, pay the person at the cash register, and then you wait to be directed to a chair.
Inside, you can see the many empty frames that represent unfulfilled dreams. If you have a dream, for $10 you can write it on a piece of paper and display it for all to see for a month. For more money your dream can be up for longer. Apparently if your dream is fulfilled you can go back and get a free bowl of ramen? I’m unclear on how it works but it’s fun to read what previous customers have written (at least, the ones in English that I can read).
corwin normally eats more than I do, but tonight we both got the two-slice bowl and he said it was more than enough for him. In fact, when he was down to half a slice, I mean slab, left, he started to wonder if he could finish it. Then he got a second wind and packed it away.
He, too, experienced the ramen-high that I did, as we walked home, unable to feel the cold after eating the hot soup. The broth alone seems like you could live on it, it’s so rich with meaty goodness. I saw a Yelp commenter describe it as a “porky haze.” Yep. They do not allow takeout: ramen is considered ruined if it gets soggy, from what I hear. It must be eaten fresh, right from the chef, while chewy and robust. The one thing you can take out is you can buy the pork loin (fatty version or unfatty version) for $15. I’m totally doing that one of these days.
There’s more information about Yume wo Katare on some local blogs:
Japanese American in Boston: http://japaneseamericaninboston.blogspot.com/2012/10/everything-you-need-to-know-about-yume.html
My photo gallery of my first meal at Yume wo Katare: