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December 26th, 2016
Ramen is an essential part of my diet, especially in the winter. I’m not talking Cup Noodles or any kind of instant ramen. I’m talking about broth with deep flavor, bamboo shoots, a boiled egg, the works. Good ramen. Real ramen. For me, this is comfort food. This is the food that heals me of my ailments, from a common cold to melancholy.
And surprisingly, it is hard to find good ramen. In general. Even in a big city like Philadelphia. I’ve been disappointed by how many times I’ve had ramen and it turned out to be instant ramen, Shin specifically, decorated with some fresh ingredients. Often times, they add too much water, too, drowning out any flavor. But good ramen exists, and it even exists here in Philadelphia.
Here are my favorite, vouch-worthy ramen shops in Philadelphia:
Nom Nom Ramen
Specializing in Hakata ramen, which has a rich, milky, pork-boner broth and thin, non-curly noodles. The broth is absolutely delicious, taking over 24 hours to make.
Shio ramen, Nom Nom’s original ramen, is very comforting and delicious and a noted crowd-pleaser. It’s the People’s favorite. I’d argue, though, that Miso ramen is just as comforting and even more delicious, but that’s just my humble opinion.
There’s something very healing about the Miso flavor for me. I often had a bowl of miso soup for breakfast growing up, especially when the weather was cold. It prepared me to trek through the snow to get to school. I’d often put some hard, leftover rice in the bowl for some substance.
So I’ll get this out of the way: I will almost always prefer Miso ramen over all the other flavors if it is offered, especially if there’s a spicy miso offered. To me, this is the pinnacle of culinary genius.
So I have to first recommend their Karai Miso (spicy Miso) bowl, which has Nom Nom’s signature black garlic sauce drizzled in. It’s recommended by both Nom Nom and myself to add a soft boiled egg. Because… why wouldn’t you?
Chinese-style pork buns are also an option, and a very good one at that. Spicy-lovers and those addicted to heat will appreciate the spicy sauce on the buns.
20 S 18th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
3401 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Cheu Noodle Bar
Aesthetically, Cheu Noodle Bar does everything right. A bit smaller, true to the style of Japanese ramen shops, but with fun, poppy decor that isn’t overwhelming or distracting. It may difficult to come here with a bigger group, especially in their busier hours, because of its size, but its always worth the trip.
Cheu does ramen well, really well, even, but their small plates are just as good, with black garlic wings and sweet & sour (kimchi-flavored) brussel sprouts reigning supreme. The portion of brussel sprouts served is quite big and totally worth the $8.
Their happy hour deals for food are pretty great, too. Beef dumplings, squash ragoon, wings, or beet and feta salad? For $5? Brilliant.
Among their ramens, I have to say their Miso Ramen is my favorite, of course, with pork shoulder, egg, black garlic, and mushrooms. I like to add an extra soy-marinated egg and kimchi, and sometimes if I have enough broth, I’ll ask for extra noodles for only $2.
This place may not be the most “authentic” ramen place, and never do they claim that this is the case. Cheu’s spin on the ramen shop is unpretentious, relatively simple, even with its decor and aesthetic, and fun. Cheu truly has a unique role among Philly’s ramen joints.
255 S 10th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
With two locations in University, nearby both Drexel and University of Pennsylvania, Ramen Bar is perhaps the most well-known ramen place in Philadelphia. With a very full menu, lots of ramen topping options, and two roomy locations with plenty of seating, this is where I most often go for my ramen-fix.
Their miso ramen (which can also be spicy) has “wavy noodles” and “marinated chashu pork, menma, red pickled ginger, naruto, corn, butter, sesame and scallions.” Butter in ramen? Just a little bit, and it’s actually a transformative ingredient, making the bowl richer and deeper in flavor, highlighting the glory of its Umami. As a topping, I recommend including what I believe is Philly’s best marinated egg; a perfect add-on for this basically-perfect ramen.
They have a lot of appetizers, some better than others. I cannot recommend the Agedashi Tofu, which is a bit heavy on the fish flakes, tasting and feeling a little too reminiscent of fish food. I can vouch for the Tori Kara-age, though, a “juicy Japanese-style fried chicken thigh.” Who doesn’t love good fried chicken?
At Ramen Bar, you can also purchase a Ramune soda. This soda tastes similar Sprite, though there are plenty of different flavors. The fun of the Ramune soda is the bottle, which is why it is sometimes referred to as “marble soda”. It has a codd-neck, with a marble sealing in the carbonation. How do you open it? Just watch:
4040 Locust St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
3438-3448 Lancaster Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Hands down the best ramen in Philadelphia. Located in China Town, with another location in New York City, Terakawa is Philly’s most authentic ramen shop.
They don’t give into the trend among Japanese restaurants to serve sushi as well, focusing in on Japanese comfort foods like ramen, curry platters, and donburi.
The only dessert offered just so happens to be one of my favorite things: Mochi Ice Cream. There’s a variety of flavors offered, but I tend to stick to Red Bean and Green Tea flavored Mochi Ice Cream. The other ice cream flavors are just as delicious, but strawberry, vanilla, etc., don’t exactly complement the rich flavors of ramen. Again, this is my very humble opinion.
The Mayu Ramen is exceptional. The broth, a Natural Heritage Berkshire Pork bone soup, is everything needed in the winter. Salty, layered in flavor by two days of boiling, the Mayu oil (dark roasted leek with crushed garlic oil) is the perfect touch to this broth, drawing out its savor for all that it is.
Though I love their Miso ramen, and endorse it for all that it is, their bowl of Mayu is always deeply satisfying and is pretty universally seen as their best ramen.
This hole-in-the-wall is one of the best things about Chinatown. Affordable, authentic, and really delicious.
204 N 9th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
December 16th, 2016
A few years ago, with several friends I count as fellow spiritual sojourners, we made our way from the US to France. This was my first pilgrimage, and it was to Taizé in eastern France. In this village there is a profound and beautiful spiritual community. We knew about this community, run by an ecumenical monastic order, because of the music they produced.
The worship of Taizé is reflective and moody in the most heart-pleasing way. It embodies the ecumenical, interdenominational nature of this community, where people from all kinds of religious backgrounds come together for prayer and worship. Not quite chanting, not quite singing, not quite hymns, and not quite the evangelical “praise music.” Contemplative, reverent, and deeply emotional.
This video is a glimpse into the worship of the community.
It was in this village that I met teenagers and young adults from all over seeking inner-peace, seeking hope, seeking a vibrant faith, seeking justice in this world, seeking God. Hundreds of people travel to this community weekly from throughout Europe and the world. And the music is constant, making its way into the free time, into the moments without programming. Somebody would pop up with a guitar and strum “O Lord, hear my prayer”, a classic, and people around would just begin singing along.
Reverence made its way into every part of my life for that week in France.
I couldn’t stop thinking about God’s love, about the preciousness of every human in that village, and that followed me as I left France and this place where unity and love is nurtured, constantly. I’ve found myself changed. I cannot say the sanctification I’ve experienced is blatant and obvious outwardly at all times, but how I think and how I love has been stretched. I find my mind leaning into my heart, listening to whatever leadings of the Holy Spirit are in me, about how to be laid down for the sake of others, and how to walk in justice and humility in my daily life.
Often, I think about that beautiful village that manages to host hundreds, thousands, of pilgrims a week. I think about the Catholics, the Presbyterians, the Pentecostals, and the spiritual seekers without any brand of religion, that I met there. People felt so alive. It felt like a festival and yet also like a monastery. There was a simple holiness, a sweet devotion, that was in the air of Taizé. A well of deep joy was tapped into, for me and for many others, during that time.
December 2nd, 2016
Winter has commenced in Philadelphia, with proof at City Hall. Ice-skating is back. (And will remain till February 26, 2017.)
The Rothman Institute Ice Rink has re-opened its door for the winter season and, as is the case each year, sits right in front of City Hall.
Don’t know how to skate? No worries! There are lessons for the inexperienced. These lessons only take 30 minutes, and are offered to both adults and children.
For those who want to be on the ice, but don’t really feel like skating, renting out sled-skating equipment is an option. Never heard of sled-skating? The picture below will give you an idea.
Perfect if you also don’t feel like standing.
If you end up with friends at the Rothman Institute Ice Rink and have no desire to do any of these activities, you can always eat your loneliness away at the Rothman Cabin. Their menu includes greasy comfort foods like poutine and [grass-fed sirloin] cheesesteak, as well as more health-conscious choices like winter beet and wheat berry salad and vegetable chili. But, no matter what, you have to get funnel cake fries. Because you have to.
At City Hall’s most exciting winter attraction, there’s something for everybody.
2016-2017 season hours:
Monday-Thursday: Noon – 9 pm
Friday: Noon – 11 pm
Saturday: 11 am – 11 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 8 pm
HOLIDAY AND SPECIAL HOURS
NOTE: The rink will close at 6 pm on December 14
For more information: http://www.ccdparks.org/dilworth-park/rothmanicerink
November 22nd, 2016
Recently, when visiting Milan, I had the opportunity to visit Duomo di Milano, or the Milan Cathedral. The largest church in Italy, and the fifth largest church in the world, and yet there is detail upon detail on this huge structure(s). Perhaps not the most coherent in its style, but definitely beautiful, and definitely awe-inspiring.
I think Mark Twain’s description perhaps sums up its majesty most perfectly:
“What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems …a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!… The central one of its five great doors is bordered with a bas-relief of birds and fruits and beasts and insects, which have been so ingeniously carved out of the marble that they seem like living creatures– and the figures are so numerous and the design so complex, that one might study it a week without exhausting its interest…everywhere that a niche or a perch can be found about the enormous building, from summit to base, there is a marble statue, and every statue is a study in itself…Away above, on the lofty roof, rank on rank of carved and fretted spires spring high in the air, and through their rich tracery one sees the sky beyond. … (On) the roof…springing from its broad marble flagstones, were the long files of spires, looking very tall close at hand, but diminishing in the distance…We could see, now, that the statue on the top of each was the size of a large man, though they all looked like dolls from the street… They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter’s at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands.”
That last line, though.
October 29th, 2016
The Bahá’í House of Worship, outside of Chicago in Wilmette, Illinois, is the oldest surviving Bahá’í House of Worship in the world, and the only one in the United States. Bahá’ís from all over the world funded this construction of the temple, which had its ground-breaking ceremony in 1912. The construction of the temple took much longer than expected and was finally dedicated in 1953.
So who are the Bahá’ís and why is this temple worth making a part of the agenda on your next trip to Chicago?
The Bahá’í Faith is a religion that stresses the unity of God and humankind, and calls its adherents to prayer, meditation, and service. It was founded in the 19th century in present-day Iran by Bahá’u’lláh, a man who is believed to be a messenger from God and the fulfillment of various prophecies from the world’s major religions. In some parts of the world, Bahá’ís have been persecuted—and yet, this religious community continues to grow. Both celebrities Justin Baldoni and Rainn Wilson are adherents, and have spoken a bit about their faith. In this video, Baldoni shares about his spirituality and community.
Here Rainn Wilson, or Dwight from the Office, explains his own spiritual journey, from his ecumenical childhood experiences to learning balancing and even integrating his profession and faith.
And why should you visit the temple in Illinois?
The temple is surrounded by gardens and fountains, and its architecture includes domes, pillars, intricate details, and is supposedly deeply tied to the mystical science of numerology.
I mean, just look at it:
Did I mention it was on Lake Michigan?
Maybe bike along Lake Michigan and make a stop at the temple? They have bike racks.