When someone tells me something’s really spicy, I take it as a challenge.
(I know, you say dryly when we’re Facetiming later and I’m telling you about my day. You take it really personally. I never got it, and I still don’t, but I love you anyway.)
This spicy pork ramen is a special when I go to Momofuku Noodle Bar with my cousin, and we’re coming in from the Alamo in Brooklyn where we’ve just seen Captain Marvel (and eaten truffle popcorn — that’s the secret to getting me to see a movie, truffle popcorn). I ask the server how spicy it actually is, and she says really quite spicy, that it’s honestly too spicy for her, which I take as encouragement that I should go for it, I’m always on the hunt for dishes that are actually as spicy as promised.
We’re seated at the counter, which means we get to watch as the line cooks (of whom, out of four, one is a woman) prepare plates and bowls. When it comes to the spicy pork ramen, they reach for a container of an orange sauce, taking a generous ladle and pouring it onto the bottom of a bowl before adding the broth and mixing it all together. Noodles (now made of barley) are added. The pork belly is chopped into bite-sized pieces, then tossed in a different spicy mixture, this one more red than orange, before being placed on the noodles. A generous handful of shredded scallions finishes off the bowl.
I get an egg yolk with my ramen, and the yolk comes in a duck spoon on its own plate. I won’t add the yolk in until much later, until most of my noodles and pork are gone, when I want some relief from the spiciness of the bowl because it is spicy, not in the way that simply burns up your tongue so you can’t taste anything but in a way that actually has flavor and depth. It’s satisfying, and I love it, even though I wish I could eat more of the broth. On another day, I might have. My priority at Momofuku is never the broth, though, but the noodles — I haven’t had these barley ramen noodles before, but they’re just as perfect as Momofuku noodles are, with just the right thickness, the right springiness, the right chewiness you want from ramen noodles.