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In doing research yesterday on my next Young & Hungry column, this one on ramen, two people asked if I had ever seen Tampopo. I had to confess that I had not.
Until last night, that is, when I sat transfixed for nearly two hours by writer-director Juzo Itami‘s free-association comedy about one noodle-maker’s search for the perfect ramen.
The sex! The violence! The sex with violently thrashing shrimp! How could I have missed this masterpiece for so many years?!
Among Tampopo‘s many iconic scenes is this one between a ramen “master” and an eager apprentice who wants to learn to eat the soup the “right way.” The master’s reverence for the ceremony of consuming ramen seems absurd, particularly when you consider what chef Kaz Okochi, a Japanese native and serious ramen slurper, told me yesterday about noodle houses back in his home country:
“They have to do volume” business to survive, he says. Customers “go there, eat quickly, and leave.”
Besides, Okochi adds, if you don’t eat your noodles quickly, they absorb too much broth and become soggy. No self-respecting Japanese wants to eat soggy noodles, so they suck them down insanely fast, with a loud and lusty slurping sound.
So how quickly does Okochi slurp his noodles?
He can finish ’em in five minutes, he told me.