Over the last year, Houstonians have joined in on the ramen craze that's sweeping America. Although Houston only has two dedicated ramen joints, Tiger Den and Ramen Jin (for now), diners have flocked to them and also to Japanese restaurants like Soma and Kata Robata that serve ramen as part of a larger menu.
Considering that Houston is home to dozens of restaurants that serve pho and dozens more that serve sushi, the attention being paid to ramen vastly dwarfs the reality of its presence here, but one Houstonian sees that as an opportunity to set the record straight on what separates good ramen from the best ramen.
"Although thousands of people are hopping on the 'ramen bandwagon,' very few people know what to look for (when it comes to quality ramen)," Rosa explains.
Carl Rosa, the head of two groups that are advocates for traditional preparations of Japanese food: The Sushi Club of Houston and Ramen in Common, wants to educate diners about ramen, and he's filming a movie called Spilled – a Documentary about Real Ramen to further that process.
Although Rosa begins the movie in Houston, he travels to Austin, New York, Los Angeles and Japan to interview chefs and document how they prepare ramen. At an expected running time of between 60 and 90 minutes, the movie will be a deep dive into a topic that many people enjoy a bowl at a time but relatively few have studied systematically.
Rosa explains that his goal for the project is simple. "Although thousands of people are hopping on the 'ramen bandwagon,' very few people know what to look for (when it comes to quality ramen)," he explains. "And I feared that if I waited a few years to make the documentary, I'd have to help re-reducate. Now was the time; to clear up the misconceptions and listen to the masters before the wrong assumptions were made by the consumers."
While making "wrong assumptions" about something as simple as noodle soup doesn't seem that terrible, Rosa envisions Spilled as a way to highlight the work of chefs who've devoted their careers to perfecting their craft.
"The movie will provide a glimpse into 'what to look for,' 'why it is prepared a certain way,' and 'what the chefs recommend," Rosa writes. "The downside is that the hardest working ramen shops who pursue the purest of intentions can be easily overlooked if the consumers don't know how to hit the target in the first place. This movie will 'spill' the truth."
Finally, asked for the most surprising thing he's learned about ramen during the filming, Rosa relates an experience at Austin's celebrated Ramen Tatsu-Ya.
"They prepared a bowl of ramen and wanted my opinion on the flavor . . . I pulled out my camera and took three photos within 10 seconds. They walked back to the table, took the ramen back and said, 'we're going to make you a fresh bowl. You've waited too long to eat it. It's not the same now.' No more than 10 seconds. When they came back with a fresh new bowl of ramen, I devoured it right away. And the flavor was amazing. They were right; 30 seconds into the bowl, I noticed the flavor ever-so-slightly depreciating."
Learn these and other lessons when Spilled makes it debut in November.