One of the simpler foods that I really enjoy is a good ramen noodle shop (indeed, I’ve reviewed rather a lot of them). It’s been one of the upcoming trendy foods, with ramen shops opening up all over the place, some more Japanese-inspired, some more Korean-inspired. But they are almost always tasty. But it’s also one of those trends that hasn’t really made inroads into New Hampshire yet. But it’s almost here, indeed, a recent trip to Portsmouth had us crossing over to Kittery in search of dinner, and we ended up finding Anju Noodle Bar just over the river from Portsmouth, in scenic downtown Kittery (right across from one of the entrances to the shipyard).
While I’ve talked about many of the dishes that demonstrate the ethnic fusion of Hawaii, few of them embody the multicultural fusion of Hawaiian cuisine as much as “saimin”. Saimin is basically a noodle dish that is a mild fusion of elements taken from each the major cultures of Hawaii’s plantation era: Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Hawaiian, and Portuguese. The resulting dish is a noodle soup that bears a lot of resemblance to Chinese “mein” and Japanese “ramen”, usually with some other ethnicities adding ingredients, such as Spam, gyoza, udon, or wontons. In any case, much of the Kahili neighborhood had Saimin joints popping up during the middle of the 20th century, usually run by recent Okinawan families. And pretty much everyone I know that grew up in Hawaii has told me stories about how much saimin they ate as a kid, either as soup, or as the related “fried min” (pan-fried noodles with the same sorts of toppings). Oahu has dozen of Saimin places, and one of the older, more classic, and, quite frankly, no-frills places is Palace Saimin.
For me, one of the great enjoyments I have with Asian cooking is when I can find a place with hand-pulled noodles. Unfortunately, these aren’t terribly common, especially in the hinterlands of Northern New England (indeed, I’m not sure we have any places that do this, although I’d be delighted to be proven wrong). A good bowl of hand-pulled noodles, especially in a rich, flavorful soup, is a wonderful combination of tastes and textures. Luckily, Montreal has more than a few noodle shops, and one of the newer ones in Chinatown, Nu-do, is another branch of the already well-regarded Nu-do of Eaton Center, and the related Yuki Ramen in Faubourg Ste-Catherine (is there anything decent but Yuki still left in the Faubourg, now that Faubourg Bagels has departed?). So when we were looking for an interesting dinner, we grabbed Rick, Sarah, and Nancy, and walked down to Chinatown. Nu-do is the exact sort of place. It’s been around a while, but they still haven’t invested in permanent signage; the restaurant is labeled with a simple reinforced nylon banner labeling the place as “Restaurant Nudo”, with the “Nudo” obscured by the unsecured corner of the banner. But don’t let the dubious signage discourage you: after heading down a short staircase, you find yourself in a fairly spacious dining room, with a glass wall looking into the noodle cooking station, with the noodle-puller hard at work pulling ribbons of noodle for each order as they come in.
Our last full day in Iceland was mostly spent tooling around Reykjavik. In the morning, we spent most of our time in Reykjavik’s heated pool, Laugardalslaug, which was nice (but wasn’t conducive to cameras…) Afterward, we wandered around downtown again. One place we really wanted to check out was Noodle Station. Noodle Station is one of those places I didn’t find from reviews, or from people waiting in long lines, or from signage. Noodle Station is one of those places that we found purely from the smell. Located on Skolavordustigur just down from Hallgrimskirkja, we couldn’t miss Noodle Station on our first day in Reykjavik; they were prepping for the day, and the entire place smelled of star anise and wonderful soup broth. But that first day, we were never in that part of town when they were open. But now that we were back in Reykjavik, and it was lunchtime, we decided that this time we’d check out Noodle Station.