Ramen Heads Directed by Koki Shigeno
Ramen shops are all over LA, with both local and Japanese chefs offering a classic or artisanal noodle experience. So, just maybe the fine residents of our city will be interested in the new film Ramen Heads. This feature-length documentary explores the cultural phenomenon of ramen in Japan.
Chef Osamu Tomita in Ramen Heads
Described as resembling the warm memory of a lover, the infatuation with ramen in Japan has created legions of chefs seeking to imprint their personal stamp on the soup. The film profiles many of these chefs. Yet it focuses primarily on Chef Osamu Tomita. Chef Tomita has won the title of best ramen chef for multiple years in Japan.
For the uninitiated or those who are only familiar with packaged ramen noodles, traditional ramen soup begins of a broth made generally with pork, chicken or fish stock. The broth is poured into individual bowls to which are added long noodles (often handmade). It is most commonly garnished with items such as soft-boiled egg, seaweed, and bamboo shoots.
Ramen Heads follows Chef Tomita’s dedication to tweaking his signature broth, and preparing the subtle ingredients garnishing each dish. He plates each bowl in his shop himself, six days a week. According to Chef Tomita, the emphasis has to be on “slurp-ability.” So he makes his award-winning noodles longer, thicker, and smoother than many other shops.
They say that all famous ramen shops are “absolutely tiny.” It is amazing to watch the various chefs (mostly male) throughout Japan create their own identity within a soup bowl in their kitchens. They make “art that exists in the moment, then disappears.”
History of Ramen in Ramen Heads
The film also provides a history of ramen in Japan, which surprisingly only goes back to 1910. Packaged dried ramen noodles were invented in 1958. This made ramen accessible to the economically suffering post-war Japanese. Eventually generations of American college students were introduced to the cheap, filling meal. Now, it’s time to for all of us to be reintroduced to the handmade gourmet and craft versions of ramen.
For more information about screenings in LA, Santa Barbara, and nationwide, visit the film’s screening page.
Karen Henry is an Associate Editor at LA YOGA who volunteers in a variety of capacities for nonprofit organizations and artists around Los Angeles. She practices yoga as a counterbalance to her daily impact sports and is a mother of four grown children who also practice yoga . Now, she’s working on teaching yoga and joy of life to the grandkids!