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I’ve been craving a genuine Japanese udon bowl for some time. The last really good one I had was in a tiny little place in Nara in 2018 where all the staff were shouting away… orders to the kitchen, responses from the kitchen… amazing atmosphere and amazing noodles.
Today I was in Birmingham and couldn’t find anywhere that really seemed to hit the spot so I jumped on the train back home. Changing at Leicester and with a thirty-five minute wait for my connection I figured I’d head out of the station and see if I could find some semi-authentic food.
Leicester is probably one of the most diverse cities in the UK.
So I formed a plan not to return to the station, but to continue through the city afterwards to the bus station for an alternative means to get home. That meant I had all the time in the world…
As I walked along the main strip I realised that it wasn’t going to work for me… it was all Oodles and German Donner Kebab and Taco Bell and other chains.
But then I realised that the market was one street off to my left. So I turned left and was immediately faced with Kung Fu Ramen. A quick glance at the menus in the window and I figured I had found what I was looking for.
A big bowl of delicious hot broth with noodles hand-made on the spot, topped with whatever you fancy. Yes. this was the place for me.
As I slurped away I noticed that around half of the clientele was Chinese. There was a table with a large South Asian group (I’m going to guess Bangladesh) and a table with an Afro-Carribean guy. I was the only Caucasian there.
And as I continued to slurp I thought about all those people who would never touch a meal like this. “Foreign muck”, they would say. And the people who wouldn’t set foot in here due to their hugely limited comfort zone. And I got to thinking about how so many people fear foreigners and that fear gets turned to hate (especially by right-wing influences who stir up polarisation to distract from their own shortcomings).
And I realised how much they’re missing out on. The delicious flavour. Hearing all those different languages around them. Watching how the different cultures talk to the staff, how they deal with the ornament they accidentally knocked off the Christmas tree, how they deftly use or battle with chopsticks depending on their heritage.
And I relished the experience, glad that I’m not a racist asshole and am perfectly comfortable with the slight discomfort of going into such a place, not quite knowing what you’re going to find there.
Humanity is so wonderful. People are amazing. Most of them are just getting along with their lives, and that is beautiful.
I wonder if racial hatred will ever stop getting stirred up. I hope so. But I won’t hold my breath.
I will, however, be the change I want to see in the world.
And I will be back for some more home-thrown noodles in the future. They were exquisite.
Tags: Food, Musings, Travel
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