Imagine a place where a variety of regional ramen from around the world is served all in one night. Enter New York Slurpfest 2015, which was held Oct. 22 at Astor Center in Manhattan, featuring dishes from places as diverse as Florida, Fukuoka, Hawaii and Rhode Island—a ramen lover’s dream event.
Slurpfest, which is organized by New York-based Asian culinary event producers LuckyRice, was first held in 2013 and is expected to continue from the looks of last week’s participants, all slurping ramen with smiling faces.
“LuckyRice was founded seven years ago to bring awareness to [Asian] culture, and food is the most universal medium,” said LuckyRice founder Danielle Chang, who rhapsodized about ramen with guests throughout the evening.
“This simple staple has become this glorified chef cuisine,” she added, noting that the amount of ramen restaurants in Japan alone outnumbers every McDonald’s location on the planet.
My evening began with an intriguing dish originating from Crane Ramen in Gainesville called Gator Shio Ramen, which was made with a surprisingly refreshing salt broth topped with corn, greens, quail egg, and alligator tail chashu.
The gator chashu had an interesting taste, a cross between pork and tuna. Head chef Steve Grimes had an interesting back story as well, having only one year of experience making ramen and learning from how-to books translated from Japanese to English by his restaurant staff.
Another dish that was a hit with participants was a white truffle and parmesan cheese Dan Dan Ramen, created by Hide-Chan Ramen as a collaborative project with local oil importer Urbani Truffles. Once the ramen was placed in front of me, I could smell the strong odor of the truffle oil and the aroma of cheese. With a perfectly soft boiled egg with a creamy yolk, it had a taste reminiscent of an Italian pasta dish. Currently, Hide-Chan Ramen has no plans to mass produce it for their restaurants (which includes their sole U.S. location in New York’s Midtown East), which made it even more special to be able to sample it at this event.
After the tasting, the crowd mingled in the bar area, drinking cocktail creations courtesy of Bombay Sapphire East and sipping green tea beverages provided by Ito En, whose Matcha Love beverage has a new organic incarnation which launched earlier this year in a partnership with Whole Foods Markets.
“The [LuckyRice] events have been amazing, because ramen is such an integral part of the food culture in Japan, as is green tea for us,” said Rona Tison, senior vice president for corporate relations for Ito En’s Brooklyn-based North American branch.
“Luckyrice does things in such a nice venue…It’s great to be here at a venue where people are celebrating Japanese cooking and culture. You see people walking out with the whole cultural experience. We’re happy to be a part of it.”
Indeed, the atmosphere had an elegant feel, with participants dressing up, and even a celebrity sighting courtesy of Forest Hills resident Josh Reisner from the TV series MasterChef Junior.
By the end of the night, I felt like I was at an edible auto show looking at all kinds of prototype vehicles, gazing in awe of the latest and greatest. Here at New York Slurpfest, I caught a glimpse of the future of the ever-evolving world of ramen.
Up next for LuckyRice is the January release of its debut cookbook, which contains 100 innovative Asian recipes and stories shared by its founder.
“This was such an evolution. From the past decade we’ve been so far beyond take-out boxes…beyond boundaries, beyond ethnicity,” said Chang.
“That’s what we’re trying to capture. We want to break rules and shatter stereotypes.”
For more on LuckyRice and upcoming events, visit http://luckyrice.com.
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