Oishinbo: Ramen & Gyōza by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki

Oishinbo (美味しんぼ, lit. “The Gourmet”) is a long-running cooking manga published between 1983 and 2008, but only in 2009 it is published in English in thematic compilation volumes, which includes: Japanese Cuisine, Sake, Ramen & Gyôza, Fish, Sushi & Sashimi, Vegetables, The Joy of Rice, and Izakaya: Pub Food (7 volumes so far). Thematic compilation means it contains “best of the best” and does not follow the original manga chronological order. There are a few minor storylines that jump forward and back. But I guess in the big picture of things, it does not matter that much, because the food is really the central of excitement here!

I saw some of the volumes at Sydney Japan Foundation Library and picked the Ramen volume out of whim, since I LOVE Ramen.

If you think you don’t like ramen, well, let me tell you, you just have not eaten the good one. Believe me, I know! I used to think I only liked dry or fried noodle, not soup noodle. But then one day, I tasted the BEST RAMEN EVER (I absolutely do not exaggerate). With one sip of the soup, I could hear the birds chirping and see the sun rise in dramatic scene.

It was divine.

The broth, the noodle, the soya egg, the roast pork. Cooked to perfection.

I never look back ever since. It is my mission in life to constantly look for a perfect ramen.

In this volume of Oishinbo, you’d find many people go very serious over a bowl of ramen. Who could blame them?

ramen

Look at the soupy goodness.

(Photo from actual ramen that I ate)

Apart from ramen, there are also gyōza (dumpling) episodes. Being a huge foodie that I am, it was fascinating to learn so much from a manga. There are many comparisons to Chinese food (chūka ryori), since many Japanese food are originated from Chinese food. There are history of Japan and China relationship, making of noodles, miso, bonito, kurobuta (black pig), the sauces, and more.

The food names are all in Japanese and there are notes at the back of the book that explain everything, which is exactly the way I like it (notes at the bottom of the pages would be more convenient, but some of them are obviously too long). I hate it when they translate food items to English. Not only on food, the notes also explain cultural elements that may not be obvious to foreigners, for example sempai-kōhai (senior-junior) relationship.

One interesting note is about how the word used for the title is not “ramen” in Japanese, but rather chūka soba, or Chinese noodles. Although the term chūka soba can be used interchangeably as a name for ramen, it also refers specifically to the noodles themselves, which are Chinese in origin. Because “ramen” is the name by which almost all Westerners know the dish, that’s what they’ve decided to use in Oishinbo.

I have fallen in love with the series, so I’ll continue reading the others. Highly recommended if you’re interested to learn more about Japanese food and culture, in a fun way at that.

4.5 stars
2009, 272 pp

Challenges
Japanese Literature 3 (book #4), Graphic Novels 2010 (book #1)

I love Japanese cooking shows. They make everything so dramatic. Have you watched Iron Chef? You should watch Iron Chef. It’s the most exciting cooking show ever. The Japanese one, not the US remake one (though the latter is not so bad). For anime, Yakitake!! Japan is very fun series about a boy whose dream is to become a bread master. I kept wanting to eat bread the whole time I watched it. When I was small, I used to watch Cooking Master Boy (or I think that’s what it was). I love to watch the reactions of the people eating the food. I think that’s how I learned to be excited about food.

This is my last book for Japanese Literature Challenge 3, which ends today. I’m going to post my wrap-up tomorrow. So see you then!

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19 thoughts on “Oishinbo: Ramen & Gyōza by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki”

  1. I think when people say they don’t like ramen they mean the instant noodle packages that come with flavor packages and cost ten cents. When I picture ramen, it doesn’t look anything like your picture! That looks AMAZING. It seems like a combination of Pho and curry, which would pretty much equal deliciousness. I wonder where I can get my hands on some real ramen…
    .-= [Lu´s last blog: Poetry Wednesday – Sherman Alexie] =-.

    1. What?! What costs 10 cents these days? I do like the instant noodles, but of course they don’t compare to the real deal! Good ramen broth is thick, but it’s not curry (though I like Pho and curry too :). See, that’s the thing about good ramen. You have to look for them, because there are a lot of bad ones out there. Try to go to the ones where a lot of Asian faces eating in. That’s usually a good indication. Good ramen shops are not usually high class restaurants too. Hope you can find a great one someday! ;)

  2. Haha! I had to smile at the reference to Iron Chef and Cooking Master Boy, because I used to watch them as well! Especially Iron Chef. That was just an awesome series!

    And I definitely know what you mean about being very serious about a bowl of ramen. I’ve seen people actually make the ramen in front of my very own eyes, and it’s like, the ramen is their life!

    1. Also, in those Japanese shows, people are always very serious about their cooking and food, like their whole life depends on the piece of dish they’re making, or that one bite. It’s so fun! Lol.

      When you said you’ve seen people make ramen in front of you, did you mean the noodles? There used to be one Japanese restaurant that I passed by very often where they put one guy to make noodles behind a glass window so passersby could see. I often stopped for a bit and had a look. There was a time that I watched for more than half hours. I was so fascinated to see the whole noodle-making activity.

  3. Beautiful soup photo! I like the idea of cooking Manga.

    Funny thing you should post this today–I made my own ramen for lunch today with salmon and mushrooms, and I even thought about posting some ramen ideas/recipes on one of my blogs. : )
    .-= [Suko´s last blog: Shanghai Girls Giveaway Winners] =-.

    1. Would love to know your recipes Suko! I cook ramen too sometimes. The broth is not the rich slow-cooked bone like real ramen shops, but it’s quick to cook and quite tasty :)

    1. Sakura– It’s difficult to find good proper ramen in Sydney too! Luckily I found one that is quite decent recently, but it’s nothing like the best ramen ever that I tasted in Singapore. I just borrowed the Japanese Cuisine volume and look forward to reading that. I couldn’t find Curry volume though and Wiki doesn’t mention it. Are you sure it’s called Curry volume?! I love curry too so I’d love to read that!

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