Asian Cuisine: How Well do you Know Yourself?


The Ramen Marauder and I sat down for dinner the other night for a simple vermicelli noodle salad I made. I chopped the lettuce, poached the noodles, seasoned the ground pork with ground pepper, ginger, and garlic, and cooked it with a short mixture of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and garlic oil - just enough to prevent it from tasting plain, but adding no significant flavor.

I assembled our bowls with lettuce, noodles, and ground pork. The rest was laid out on the table: chopped cucumbers, chopped carrots, chopped cilantro, chopped mint, lime slices, fish sauce, hoisin, sriracha, sesame oil, cashews. As we both finished dressing our dinner bowls, I realized that this process must seem intimidating to anyone who isn't familiar with Vietnamese food.

Vietnamese Vermicelli Noodle Salad Asian Food Cooking

How many people really know what they like? I mean, really understand what they like, from sweet to salty to sour to funk? Asian food requires a sense of self that not everyone has. It can be taught, sure, but it's not something many restaurants take the time to teach, right?

Most western cuisines cook complete dishes and serve the food as it should be eaten. Any self-proclaimed food expert will tell you that you won't find salt and pepper on tables at nice restaurants because the chef has already seasoned the dish, and you're expected to eat it accordingly.

But what about Asian restaurants?

To start, so many westerners don't have the taste bud vocabulary to comprehend everything that Asian food offers. The most adventurous ingredient I've found in European cookbooks is anchovies in order to add a hint of salt and a suggestion of umami. This may be why we see chicken at Asian restaurants fried to a point beyond recognition, then slathered in a sauce that has no business being the focal point of a dinner entree. Or why Chinese cuisine looks so different from country to country, incorporating the local palette into the recipes. Maybe it's why Thai restaurants seem to lack variation, offering the same yellow, red, and green curries with your choice of protein.

Asian Food Cooking Vermicelli Noodle Salad Vietnamese

These cuisines are not simple. It would appear that restaurants assume the consumer is simple - but can you blame them? It seems that those who can't (or won't) enjoy Asian food don't have the culinary confidence to appreciate it, and restaurants don't usually have the time to teach consumers how to eat it. Asian cuisine displays a sense of otherness that many people are afraid to approach.

But the real twist here is that Asian food can be yours. It is yours. Asian restaurants create the foundation of your meal, but you are in charge. You are given the tools to make your meal great - maybe you just need to learn how to use them.

Is this something you want me to write more about? Do you have any requests or suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

Ramen Lab Eatery (Boca Raton, Florida): Broadening Horizons in a Beautiful Beach Town


I started this blog because I wanted to guide people to the oasis in the (perceived) Asian food desert of Europe. This mainly stems from the fact that I don't live in a city. It feels, well, foreign to me that Asian cuisine isn't celebrated if not prevalent in every corner of the world.

This isn't a phenomenon only in Europe though. The United States has its share of food deserts and lack of appreciation for Asian food (see: Asian buffets). So during our most recent tour of the country, I was happy to find Ramen Lab Eatery in Boca Raton, Florida.

Ramen Lab Eatery Boca Raton Florida

The restaurant scene in Boca Raton is strong, though as far as I have experienced, it is mostly comprised of Italian restaurants, Jewish bakeries, and American institutions like steakhouses, diners, and seafood shacks. The extent of the Asian food scene for a while was sushi and greasy Chinese take-out (something I’ve come to realize is what many Americans perceive to be the extent of Chinese cuisine).

Like many restaurants in the area, Ramen Lab Eatery is in a small strip of businesses facing another shopping area. The space inside felt intimate, much like many other ramen spots we've visited. Luckily it was a typically warm day in Florida, so we sat outside.

After leaving, the Ramen Marauder remarked on the number of people who seemed to be new to eating ramen. When we arrived, we walked up to the counter, ordered our food, then sat down. In contrast, a number of tables around us had sat down, and when a staff member came around, they asked about what was good and what ramen even was.

This experience speaks volumes of both the customers and the restaurant. First, the restaurant chose to open this restaurant for an audience that may not have existed in full force, but has successfully brought delicious ramen to the area. Second, people are choosing to broaden their dietary horizons and willing to ask questions.

I hear people complain about the ramen trend becoming tiresome, but I say bring it on. I'm happy to see people embrace and appreciate new flavors, especially populations of people who may be stuck in their gastronomic routines.

Ramen Lab Eatery Tonkotsu Miso Boca Raton Florida


I had the Ramen Tonkotsu, medium spice, and with corn, while the Ramen Marauder had the Miso Ramen with Korean Short Ribs. I was really happy with the creamy, rich flavor of the tonkotsu. The spice was nice added flavor without too much heat. The Korean short ribs in the miso ramen was a delicious change-up.

Whether you reside in the Boca area or are just visiting, Ramen Lab Eatery is a great stray away from the usual food scene. Go check it out!

Ramen Lab Eatery, 100 NE 2nd St, Boca Raton, FL 33432, +1 561-750-4448