Noodles and Salt and Vinegar

My friend L once said that sometimes you wake up in the morning with a craving for ramen noodles, the kind with a dangerously high level of salt, combined with the flavor of scallion and dried seaweed. I’ve never had such an urge like L, who’s so good at cooking that she could serve as a chef in any Asian restaurant at least in New Jersey area. Years ago, in one of our gatherings, one lady suddenly said that she’s a vegetarian and can’t find anything to eat among all the meat dishes. I had not realized the scarcity of veggies until the lady pointed it out. L heard of it and started to make impromptu egg and chive dumplings. A while later–I can’t remember how long but it was not that long–the lady was happily munching the boiled vegetarian dumpling L made. I tasted one, and it’s delicious.

I thought about L’s comments on ramen when I was in Trader Joe’s. I shouldn’t be there since I’ve already been there Thursday night and there’s no cause to go there twice a week. However this morning was so cool and cloudy. The outdoor was practically inviting me. Still I didn’t feel like going for a walk. The temperature has to dip to somewhere around 60s to allow that kind of desire to surface. I went out to throw garbage away and the next thing I knew, I was driving towards the Trader Joe’s in North Brunswick. How did that happen? I didn’t even know what I would get. There’s no need for anything since everything I should get I’d already gotten on the Thursday’s trip. Is this called “obsessive” behavior when one doesn’t know why one’s doing something and the only explanation is some kind of psychological abnormality?

I had not known the store has ramen before, but I saw it and bought it this time. I probably will never experience L’s morning urge and may not eat this bowl of ramen. Still it is good to try new items. I am a little wary of ramen, mainly because of its salt content. And why it has to have so many salt in it is beyond me. Probably the unique taste of it demands the presence of salt and a lot of it.

I grew up in a place that’s known for its production of vinegar. I still remember the distinct pungent flavor of the vinegar of my province. And the best vinegar is not from a store, but rather from a farmer’s house. Every farmer ferments his own vinegar, which tastes so good that many of my peers at my primary school drink diluted vinegar plus water during summer times as beverages.

None of my friends share my enthusiasm for vinegar here in the States. Once we visited Lehigh Valley and discovered a specialty store selling olive oil and vinegar. I bought two bottles of vinegar, each around 15 dollars. My friends considered me mad. They don’t believe in vinegar, even if they tasted the bread and the vinegar sample at the store. They don’t understand why people make such a fuss about vinegar. Specialty stores for chocolate, ice cream make sense to them since they are used to it, but a specialty store for vinegar? That’s just too much to them. I guess one has to grow up with good vinegar in order to appreciate its merit.

Trader Joe’s sells several different vinegar and I bought a small bottle for 5.99 a while ago. Now it’s gone and I have to buy another one. It adds so much flavor to a dish that I almost add vinegar to everything. My friends would laugh at me. “You add vinegar to everything.” That’s true. Vinegar should be add more often than sugar, more quantity than salt, more vigorously than garlic and white pepper combined, in my opinion.

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