Ramen of My Dreams

Deluxe Red Ramen from Tokyo Street Market

If I were to ask you to think about Japanese food, what is the first food that springs to mind? Teppanyaki? Tempura? Sukiyaki?
Yeah, that’s it. You’re nodding, aren’t you? Nothing against sushi, it’s great in all its forms. But it is far from being a Japanese staple.
These days, my go to Japanese food is ramen. Not the dry noodles in packages that every university student is familiar with (my favourite is Sapporo Ichiban), but ramen served in Japanese restaurants that specialize in ramen.
In Japan, ramen has been popular for decades. There is even a museum dedicated to the noodly goodness. But in the past 20 years, there has been a ramen renaissance of sorts – a renaissance that is only hitting North American shores. There are around 21,000 ramen restaurants in the Greater Tokyo area (Japan Explained FASAQ) but only a handful in Calgary. A number that is sure to grow.
And what do I like about? Everything. It is not as simple as just noodles in soup. The broth alone can take almost a day to simmer and the heady aroma of pork, ginger and other spices makes my head spin. Good ramen restaurants make their own noodles from scratch. Some even make their own chashu: delicate slices of barbecued pork belly that break apart on your chopsticks. The rest of the toppings range from bamboo shoots, green onions, soft-boiled eggs and corn. Other restaurants get even more exotic.
I’m getting hungry just writing about this.
So if you will try a bowl, as a ramen-lover who likes more traditional soups, I suggest trying any of the following three types to start before moving on to more exotic ramen dishes:
Tonkotsu Ramen: a ramen-traditionalist’s dream. A broth made with pork-bone and other seasonings and simmered for a day to create a thick broth that sticks to the noodles. The umami in a well-made bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen cannot be overstated. It’s heaven.
Shio Ramen: Not to be confused with Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce broth base) the broth in this dish is made from salt. But it is not as simple as it sounds. The number of components in shio ramen broth alone take a day to create. The balance of salt and pork fat, if done right, will make you immediately wish for another bowl.
Miso Ramen: Miso paste was added to ramen broths in northern Japan. Maybe they thought it was a remedy for cold winters, but Miso Ramen eventually made its way down south and across the Pacific. Fantastic on cold days for an extra shot of flavour

Tsukemen: Okay, I lied. There is another type of ramen I like, but its not fair to most people reading this. So far, I can’t find this on the continent. I had to travel all the way to Hawaii to enjoy this ramen dish. Tsukemen is served with hot broth and cold ramen noodles. The broth is more concentrated. You dip the noodles into the broth and consume. Exquisite when done right and I like to think I would go back to Honolulu just to have another bowl or two.
So there you have it. If you want to try a dish that many Japanese have on a daily basis, find a local ramen restaurant and chow down. You’ll find yourself traveling to Japan, at least in your stomach.

And now, it’s your turn. Send me an e-mail and let me know if you have tried ramen and if so, what is your favourite kind.

One last thing: My next post will be up on March 22 and the 22nd of every month hereafter. This post will be a column entitled “Breathe In, Breathe Out” and will be a monthly post about my writing – where it is going and what I’m writing. So, see you in two weeks.

The Carp and the Dragon Gate

Happy New Year to you all. Welcome to the Year of the Pig (I know, I know. It was a few days ago. But I thought I should give you good wishes and fortune anyway).

And welcome to my Blog. The Blog will be published once a month on the 8th day of every month. If I get ambitious enough, I’ll try and do it twice a month, but for now, the blog will be once a month. With each entry, I plan on talking about culture – specifically Chinese and Japanese culture and folklore told from my perspective – that is of a Canadian author of Chinese and Japanese heritage. So join me on the 8th day of each and every month for more content.

So, on to the first one:

According to legend, once a year in the third month of spring, carp swim from the sea and gather at the foot of a falls. Many carp swim upstream against the river’s strong current, but few are capable or brave enough to make it to the pool. Even fewer are able to make the final leap over the waterfall. If a carp makes the jump, it is transformed into a powerful dragon, an auspicious symbol of great and benevolent, magical power. The symbol of the carp jumping over the Dragon’s Gate. “More generally, the expression is used to communicate that if a person works hard and diligently, success will one day be achieved.” [1]

For a visual representation of this tale, just look at my banner art created by the incomparable Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. I chose this piece because its a representation of who I am. Period.

First, the most obvious. I was born under the sign of Pisces and during the Year of the Dragon. But more importantly, as a writer and author, it’s the story of my life. Writing is a struggle for me. Time, especially time to write, is a scarcity, and the speed at which I write is slow. So anything I finish, is like magic for me. As I mature as a writer, it has become a bit easier, but not by much. But I eke out writing time where I can get it (as I write this, it is early in the morning while I’m on vacation while my family sleeps. Best time for me).

So when do I become a dragon? When will I say that I have leapt the dragon’s gate and become a being of auspicious power? I don’t know if I’ll ever get there. I’d like to say when I can support myself and my family with my writing, but with my circumstances, I’m not even close to this goal. I’ve published short stories and have been nominated for an Aurora Award, so I like to think I’m well on my way. Follow me and we’ll take that journey together.

And I think I’m capable and brave enough to eventually make that leap.

  1. [http://www.zengyotaku.com/carp_jump_dragon_gate.html]

V-Con Schedule

I will be appearing at V-Con this coming weekend. I will only be there on Saturday and on Saturday evening, I will be at the Aurora Awards banquet.

Here is my schedule if you wish to find me and say hello:

10:00 am

Diversity in Speculative Fiction Media :: Programming 2 (Minoru D)
Anthony Lee-Dudley, Calvin D. Jim, Tanya Lisle, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm

Saturday October 6, 2018 :: 10:00 am to 10:50 am

4:00 pm

Travel as Inspiration :: Main Programming (Britannia C)
Krista D. Ball, Patrick Bollivar, Andromeda Romano-Lax, Matthew Hughes, Calvin D. Jim, Hayden Trenholm

Saturday October 6, 2018 :: 4:00 pm to 4:50 pm

Find out more about V-Con here.

Interview with Jayne Barnard

I have had the honour to be interviewed by Jayne Barnard, the author of the incredible Maddie Hatter young adult novels, as part of her series interviewing Prix-Aurora Award nominees. The interview can be found on her website, Clockworks and Crime. Jayne Barnard’s latest novel, Maddie Hatter and the Timely Taffeta, along with the other novels in the series, can be found where all great books are sold.

Aurora Award Voting

The Prix-Aurora Award voting ends in a week, folks. Saturday, September 8, 2018 is the deadline. Still time to vote for your favorite stories in a variety of categories, including Best Short Fiction where my own story, Rose’s Arm (published by Laksa Media in the anthology entitled Where the Stars Rise), is nominated under.

For all those who nominated my story for an Aurora Award, I want to say a humble and grateful thank-you. You have no idea what this nomination means to me as an author and creator, even if it doesn’t win.

So visit the Prix Aurora Award website (linked) and vote. If you haven’t already gotten your membership to the CSFFA, do it now. It only costs $10.00 and gets you the author package which includes a multitude of nominated stories and novels. Pretty great deal for $10.00.

My Podcast Interview

I had the honour and privilege of being interviewed by Just Joshin podcaster Josh Pantellaresco in his Prix-Aurora Award nominated podcast. It is Episode 184 and it was part of his series of Aurora-nominated writers. You can hear it here on iTunes or on Podomatic.