The way of the Samurai is honor, duty, and loyalty. The code of ethics a Samurai lives by is so pure, it is unattainable for most. And in the end the only real response is to either leave a path of annihilation behind you, or to die by seppuku.
The way of the Noodle is to nourish and sustain. And to dominate the world. Noodles have been feeding people for millennia. La mian, ramen, spaghetti, spaetzle, erişte, and dozens of other incarnations have touched our plates and our lips.
The way of Date Night is to mash them together in gory, delicious bliss.
A and I spend time together in a variety of different ways, but one that became an instant tradition was Samurai Noodle Bowl Night. It’s hard to say what takes longer, cooking the food, or picking the movie. We delight in both tasks. On the movie side of things, we vacillate between the absurd and the haunting.
The recipe changes, too. We’re experimental kinds of folk, ya see, but here’s the basic gist:
I’m in charge of the broth. I take scraps of all kinds (mushroom stems, onion, garlic and carrot bits, serrano chili nubs, cabbage cores, chunks of ginger) and simmer them in water with soy sauce (or liquid amino acids) for as long as we can stand it. We add other things along the way, adjusting the flavor until we’re both satisfied.
We both take on chopping, and a good noodle bowl is completely encumbered, practically overflowing, with veggies. So, that’s a lot of chopping. Every once in a while, I fixate on how the pea pods look like rice paddies, with the way they’re stacked together.
The flesh of a bell pepper is equally intriguing. The internal striations reveal the shape of water-packed cells. I love how crispy it is, and how a fresh piece bursts when you bite into it.
Usually I get regular carrots. Every once in a while I’ll go crazy and splurge on the exotic rainbow carrots. Of these, the purple carrot is the most intriguing. The first time I cut into one, I was mystified and delighted. It resembles a jeweled kaleidoscope, an exploding star, a dragon’s eye.
And the tofu seems a invading army, ready to storm the pan.
A is soundly in charge of all things fire. He mans the fire pit, barbecue grill and stovetop. Which is probably for the best, considering how accident prone I tend to be. The sauté is a parade of ingredients. Each vegetable has its own distinct aroma, which erupts as soon as it hits the surface of the pan.
A can also flip. This would totally backfire on me. As in food would be stuck to the countertops, cabinets, ceiling, and floors.
I love really intense flavoring in my noodle bowls. One of my go-to mixes is liquid amino acids, sriracha, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. A healthy dose of the pungent aromatics, ginger and garlic, don’t hurt either.
We put in the noodles first (this time udon), then the stir fry goodness and broth. Toppings vary, but there’s something really satisfying about the spicy crunch of fresh green onions over the top.
And one must not miss an extra dose or two of Srirachi. For A, a dap of Reaper hot sauce does quite nicely as well.
On the surface, date night is hanging out with the most important person in my life. (ASIDE: Date night is not just for romantic partners. I believe in date nights with friends and family, too.) But there’s more. We get to craft this temporary world of flavor together. We’re not only connecting, we’re also collaborating and creating. Which is to say nothing of how we interact with the movie, and discuss motifs, themes, direction, and more.
Rituals are repetitive acts imbued with meaning. They are built around a time or place, and ingrain memories stitched together with feelings (think of any holiday spent with your family; it’s gonna conjure something). Samurai Noodle Bowl night is an intentional ritual. It is elaborate, and it’s creating a rich matrix of shared history. May the Noodle Bowl be with you and your loved ones.
- The Japanese swashbuckler: The Japanese refer to the samurai movie genre as Chanbara, which signifies “sword-fighting”.
- Buddhism and Zen philosophy heavily influenced samurai culture and training.
- The oldest bowl of noodles was found in China and dates back 4,000 years.
- Akiro Kurosawa’s Ran is based on Shakespeare’s King Lear. (Aside: this movie is an excellently staged tragedy. The cinematography (lighting, camera angles, set design) is so beautiful and poignant.)
- La Mian is the OG. That’s right. Archeological evidence supports this type of noodle as being the oldest known preparation. Slurp it up.
- The first Samurai movie, “Orochi”, was produced in 1925. The full-length film is available here.
- Orochi is a mythical serpent said to have eight-heads and eight-tails, with a body long enough to sprawl over eight peaks and valleys. Need to do battle with one? Get its heads drunk.
- Eight was considered to be a holy number in ancient Japan. Scribes also used it to signify a grip load (many, multitudinous, millions).
- Samurai follow Bushidō, “the Way of the Warrior”.