Part 6: Osaka’s Auntie Meets Kyoto Lady
Chapter 28: Ramen with Gyoza
Translated by Gumihou
Gumihou had a lot of fun with this chapter because Gumihou loves ramen! She is very picky when it comes to ramen, lol!
“I’m making Ramen with Gyoza.”
“As expected, more things I’ve never heard of before…”
“It’d be nice to make fried rice too, but I don’t have rice, na.”
With that, while chatting Haruna had already expertly folded two rows of gyoza.
“I’ve managed to prepare this while testing out recipes back at Old Saxon.” The next thing Natalia knew, Haruna had taken out a hunk of dark red pork. “It’s charsiu , ya. Do you want to try it? Just think of it as something like ham.”
She cut a thin slice off one end and passed it over to Natalia.
Natalia closed her lips over a small corner of the sliced meat and sucked hesitantly at it. Then, she bit off a slightly bigger piece and chewed thoughtfully.
Immediately, a multitude of flavours flooded through her entire mouth!
“The first thing that hits you is the caramelized sweetness of the surface, followed by the thick flavour of melted fat soaked with the flavours of the savoury broth, the chewiness of the lean meat cuts through the greasiness of the fat balancing out the textures perfectly! I’ve only taken a small bite, but the impact is incredible!”
“Isn’t it? Ramen must be topped with sliced charsiu, finely sliced spring onions and this, ya.”
‘This’ turned out to be an egg, a peeled, tea-coloured egg.
“What a curious colour, has it been smoked?”
“It’s the ramen egg . Here, I have another one, you can eat this one.”
The middle of the egg was just slightly underdone and the rich, mellow umami of the yolk melted across Natalia’s tongue like cream. Normally, boiled eggs are rather dry and a pain to eat, but this egg was moist, tender and bursting with the savoury-sweet flavour she was in danger of getting addicted to.
“It tasted like pure nutrition, but yet small enough to fit my hand. If you sell this egg in the dungeon, I’m sure it will be a great hit!”
“Of course we must sell this ramen egg in the dungeon, na. Now let’s slice up some spring onions and now all the toppings are done, ya.”
Haruna tackled the Gyoza next. On a well-oiled pan, the gyozas were placed in a circular pattern, followed by a little water. Once the cover was placed on the pan, she steamed/panfry the Gyoza over high heat.
Aside from soup, the other most important ingredient in a Ramen is the ‘tare’ or thick sauce.
In a bowl, Haruna  placed some of her trusty Okonomiyaki sauce into the bottom of the bowl. The chicken broth had been boiled until milky white, with a layer of oil shimmering on top. Haruna mercilessly scooped up the oily broth and poured it into the bowl from a good height, causing the sauce and soup to rapidly mix. The thick noodles were blanched in hot water before shaken in a sieve to get all excess water out and poured into the tea-coloured broth. A pair of thongs were used to pull the noodles up, then laid back down into the broth so that the strands of noodles looked like it was all pointing towards one direction. 
“Heh, when one thinks of Kyoto style Ramen –“
Spring onions were piled on generously. The topping of choice in Kyoto has to be spring onions, especially the famous dark green Kujo negi . It is so popular that most ramen shops either make a picture-perfect little green mountain on your ramen or let you serve yourself from an all-you-can-take seasoning container.
“Yes! It’s done, ya!”
They immediately hustled over to Karen with their Ramen and Gyoza set. After all, these were the kinds of food that were best eaten hot. Nobody liked cold soggy ramen, after all.
“Saa, it’s ready!”
“Good grief, I’m getting really tired of waiting, wa – what!”
Karen looked very shocked.
“Su- such a remarkable amount of greasy food, waa…”
“Saa, go ahead and eat it. Miss Noble Aristocrat.”
“B-but how? I’d burn myself if I eat it with a fork, ya wa.”
Certainly, in a world without chopsticks, it would be quite difficult to fully enjoy a piping hot noodle dish like Ramen.
“Well, pick out some onto a small dish and eat that first , wa.”
A small bowl was brought in by a servant, and Haruna portioned out noodles, soup and a bit of each of the topping, making a mini ramen. It was vastly easier to eat ramen this way when you have no proper utensils.
Ah, but now that she thought about it, this Ramen might be too advanced for locals to properly enjoy. In the first place, certain types of tableware would be needed, moreover, the ingredients needed to make the stock and topping would make it difficult to be mass-produced.
However, for the moment, the only issue now was what Miss Karen thinks of this dish.
“Why don’t you try the soup first? I’m sure you’ll be amazed.”
“I- I can’t, it’s too greasy. There’s oil floating on top of this hideous brown soup… H-however, I can’t make a decision if I don’t drink it…”
Karen bravely scooped up some of the soup with a large soup spoon and took a sip of the Ramen soup.
“Na-! Wha- what’s this!”
Having forgotten all she had learned about table manners and about not making a noise when eating, Karen began to slurp up the soup as though her life depended on it.
From here on, not a single sound from was heard from Karen aside from the loud slurping and desperate gulping. When the little mini ramen bowl was empty, she attacked the Gyoza with her fork. One by one, each Gyoza was stabbed and thrown into her mouth. Then she ladled more ramen into her small bowl and repeated the whole thing again. 
How was it that though both Gyoza and Ramen were incredibly oily and greasy, they were able to convince someone who prefered light dishes like Karen to gobble them down?
One has to admit that Karen’s way of eating was quite incredible. Kind of like an Adventurer who just returned to the surface world for proper food after being stuck in the dungeon for two whole days with nothing but dry tasteless rations.
Once the food was gone, Karen returned to her original modest and serious countenance.
As an aristocrat, the very minimum of elegance and grace must be maintained even when she faced off against the food that had just defeated her.
Perhaps this was her way of showing her politeness to the food?
As for Natalia, she was still curious about what this noble young miss would say about the food, though she was not entirely sure whether she would understand the complicated aristocratic wordplay that these people seemed to enjoy.
However, it looked like Karen had no intention of wasting her breath on trivialities. After all, the Ramen was eaten, the soup drunk, the Gyoza gone. The empty bowls and plates were statement enough on their own.
“Thank you for the food!” Karen called out spiritedly. Then, her cheeks reddened, ruining her noble countenance.
That’s right, in this world, there was no habit of saying anything in particular after a meal was done. Karen had just displayed a different world custom that was typical to Japan. When her eyes met Haruna’s, her cheeks reddened even further. There was a rather regretful look on her face.
“Sa-, how was the meal?”
Karen lowered her head and mumbled, “A marvellously delicious fare, wa… it is my… my complete loss, ya wa…”
“It does look like it, na.” Haruna’s smirk of victory was completely deserving. Looks like it had been a good idea to experiment with test dishes other than the ubiquitous Okonomiyaki.
However, the contradictory nature of the battle continued to baffle Natalia.
“Um, young miss. It’s actually a very heavy and greasy dish. Two very heavy and greasy dishes in fact, why do you find it delicious…?”
According to common sense, nobles of the Imperial Capital who preferred lightly seasoned cuisines should reject Haruna’s cooking outright.
“Natalia, human beings cannot be satisfied with just lightly seasoned dishes.” Haruna was the one who replied. “Besides, Kyoto is a city where Ramen and Gyoza are eaten in excess, ya! Moreover, the lineages of the Ramen and Gyoza served there are not of the lightly seasoned kinds. They are thick, rich and strong! In fact, Tenka Ippin  and Gyoza no Osho  originated from snobby Kyoto, ya!”
Tenka Ippin is a ramen chain that typifies what ramen is like for the rest of the world with its thick white soup, ramen egg, sliced charsiu and medium-thick noodles. Every year, on Tenka Ippin Day , ramen fans would queue up at their local Tenka Ippin shops in support of their favourite ramen chain.
Of course, there are plenty of other powerful ramen chains vying for power in Japan. The main battleground for all ramen shops in Kyoto is located in the northern part of the Kyoto Market area. The Ichijoji Ramen street is where over a dozen ramen shops do battle against each other every day to become the best ramen shop in the world.
Gyoza no Oshi is a famous Gyoza chain store in Japan. Its main feature is its signboard, a huge plate of Gyoza hung in front of all Gyoza no Oshi’s chain shop.
While consumption of Gyoza in Kyoto City is quite high, it still lost to places like Hamamatsu and Utsunomiya. Nevertheless, it still has a great presence in the gyoza world.
If Karen’s soul really was a genuine Kyoto-ite, you could silence her with the power of Ramen and Gyoza.
Yes, this was what Haruna had concluded.
“While Kyoto is known as a world-famous tourist destination with more than its share of tourist only restaurants, one must always remember that within Kyoto City itself, more than a million local people live there. Do you really think that the local people would frequent those expensive restaurants serving ridiculously priced ‘Kyoto Specialities’ every day? Of course not! Those things could only be eaten occasionally, ya!”
When Haruna visited Kyoto, she saw a great number of shops selling yudofu  or boiled tofu for 3,000 to 4,000 yen (For reference, a regular bowl of Ramen is about 780 to 850 yen, a Ramen and Gyoza Set usually cost about 1,100 to 1,200 yen). Of course, there must be plenty of tourists who were happy to enter such restaurants, otherwise these kinds of businesses would not exist.
However, consider this.
Do you really think local people would patronize such stores?
“For humans, eating is done every day! Moreover, Kyoto is also densely packed with college and university students! Do you think those swarms of university students could stand eating expensive, lightly seasoned dishes every day? Shops catered to the local Kyoto people are mostly Ramen and Gyoza shops, ya! Anyone who bothered to walk beyond tourist streets would find themselves passing by Ramen and Gyoza shops, wa!”
This is actually true.
“Moreover, the culture of eating chicken had always been with Kyoto for generations. Therefore, there are many famous shops which attach great importance to soup-based made from chicken bones and carcasses. Also, Kujo Negi, or the Kujo Spring Onions are a local speciality that is synonymous to Kyoto. Which is why I used lots of spring onions, a true Kyoto-ite could never resist this flavour!”
“Uuu… it’s bad for the body to drink up all the ramen soup… I understand this, but, but my body could not resist… it’s too delicious, waa….” Karen said with tears in her eyes.
“Haruna-han! It’s your win, wa!”
It was the moment that Karen gave up.
“However, I won’t lose next time, na!”
“Aah, I’ll be happy to do battle with you on any time, wa!”
Beside them, Natalia who was busy listening thought: Just what is this burning atmosphere between those two…
[Gumihou: Kyaaa, I want Ramen now, uwu…]
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 Charsiu – is nothing like the Hong Kong style roasted charsiu that I am more familiar with. The Japanese charsiu is often made of pork belly or pork should that is rolled up and tied with strings before it is boiled in strongly flavoured broth made with soy sauce, lots of sugar, garlic, onions and other secret ingredients.
 ajitsuke tamago – ramen eggs
 Haruna’s instructions of putting the ramen together are rather mixed up, so I just adjusted it. Follow Sho’s recipe for Chicken paitan broth ramen! It’s time-consuming but very delicious!
 Kujo Negi – Kujo spring onions, a speciality product of Kyoto
 Eating ramen with a fork and small bowl. – Actually, that’s how little kids would eat ramen, lol
 Tenka Ippin – literally No.1 under the Heaven is a popular ramen chain in Japan
 Gyoza no Osho – Gyoza King – Their gyoza could not be eaten in one bite by normal people.
 Tenka Ippin Day is on October the 1st. I guess they like the 01/10/yy date.
 Ichijoji Ramen Street – The battleground of Ramen
Here are the Top 15 Ramen Shops at Ichijoji as voted by the locals
 Yudofu – is literally boiled tofu…
 Okay, I took creative license with the story and fill in some blanks…