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Posted Friday, 03 March 2017 at 07:34PM under IRLSydney 2017.

Let's talk about ramen

Hi guys! So a proper Sydney post is in the works. First, though: let's talk ramen.

four steaming bowls of delicious ramen

I've been in Sydney four days, and I've finished each of those days off with a bowl of ramen.

The first thing about ramen here is that there's more of it. It's much easier to find places that specialise in it, and if what I've experienced so far is anything to go by, most of it is pretty dang good.

I feel like this is a much more traditional approach to ramen than what I've had before. It's certainly less elaborate. It's often much thicker broth, almost more like gravy in consistency - and actually surprisingly like gravy in flavour. You can actually tell, really tell, that it's made from reduced bone. It's almost literally gelatinous. And in a couple of places, unless you specifically order the soy or miso flavouring, you just get plain tonkotsu broth.

This kind of makes me want to renounce ever cooking ramen on my own again. I figured my recipe was an approximation. It's not. It's a travesty. The richness of this broth isn't just a base for flavour, it's a soul. My ramen approximant has no soul. It is a ramen golem.

So anyway, yeah, the ramen is pretty good.

The real question is why.

Why four nights in a row? Because I've been asking myself that question a lot too, and I think it comes down to this.

The first night, it's a bit of a tradition. A tradition with a precedent of one, but a tradition nonetheless. Ramen is kind of comfort food. It's rich and warming, and the two times I've arrived in a city all on my own, I've needed a bit of that.

The second night was for a bit of adventure. I'd settled in a bit better, had my first day at work, and I was in the mood for a bit of adventure. And as I've written before, I think following a computer-generated track through cities to claim a prize of food is a great excuse to find your way around.

The third night I did just to see if I could. I did it for the bragging rights, for the quality social media post it would make (hi, readers!) - but also because, well, here I am. I'm alone. I've got nobody else but me to take into account. I've got no strong aversion to paying for dinner out, and no strong desire to cook in a mildly grotty hostel kitchen. Why not?

But it was the fourth night, tonight, that I figured out the last reason I've been eating in ramen places. It's nothing to do with the broth, and everything to do with the culture. In ramen places, it's okay to eat alone. Some of them, in fact, seem to encourage it, seating everyone along a bar, facing the kitchen and not each other even if they are a group.

And that's not something you can say for many places, especially ones that serve real food rather than fast food.

And lo, having understood his situation for what it was, our protagonist was freed to explore deeper the culinary delights of his temporary home.

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