SLURP A Social and Culinary History of Ramen – Barak Kushner

Japan’s noodle dishes have in the last half-century come to represent “Japan” in the world market. For noodle eaters globally, the word “ramen” often evokes Japan, even though some foreigners and many Japanese believe that ramen has long historical roots in China that were mysteriously transformed in Japan. We need to look at food history, particularly the development of ramen, to understand contemporary Japan and its transformation into a food-obsessed nation, far different from what its cultural origins suggest. By charting the development of ramen we can see how the Japanese acquired, adopted and invented new tastes and dishes – in contrast to what is usually touted as Japanese traditional cuisine. The long evolution of ramen helps us enter the even longer and fascinating history of cuisine in Japan, charting how food and politics combined as a force within Sino-Japan relations. Cuisine in East Asia plays a significant political role, at times also philosophical, economic, and social. The main point is that ramen is a symbol of the relationship between the two major forces in East Asia – what started as a Chinese food product ended up almost 1,000 years later as the emblem of modern Japanese cuisine. How did that happen and what does it signify?

After the talk bowls of fresh ramen noodle soup from the Tonkotsu Restaurant will be served. Japanese shochu (Japanese alcohol) from the Akashi brewing company will be poured as a delicious complement to the noodles, a traditional treat from Western Japan.

Friday 5 October 2012, 6.00pm
Daiwa Foundation Japan House, 13/14 Cornwall Terrace, Outer Circle, London NW1 4QP

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