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Ramen Resolution – Shoryu takeout

Ramen Resolution – Shoryu takeout

Matsuri is the Japanese word for festival, and Sunday just gone saw Trafalgar Square taken over with all things Japanese.

The weather wasn’t great but stayed mostly dry and so was able to catch about an hour of the entertainment line up which included traditional dancing, some impressive hats and costumes, anime artworks and a man playing the koto (which is a bit like a lying down harp from what I could gather).

What better way to enjoy this than sitting down with a bowl of ramen and a freebie yakkult?!

I’ve been to Shoryu before, in fact, it was the very FIRST place I visited in my #RamenResolution adventure!

Dishing up noodles from a stall necessitated a more limited menu than branches of the restaurant; with just two options Tonkotsu or Spicy. Having had a spell of just regular tonkotsu’s recently I went the spicy route and wasn’t disappointed.

It looked like quite a meagre portion, but actually came away feeling full, which for street food is basically unheard of. In fact, with melt in the mouth pork and spicy but not blow-your-head-off broth I was really pleased. The only downside was the inability to properly slurp the soup.

Idea for a festival: RAMEN!! Just halls full of ramen. Yes please. Somebody make this happen!

Ramen Resolution – Koi Ramen IRL

Ramen Resolution – Koi Ramen IRL

On a walking tour of London’s Glittering Soho™, the guide told us about the steep rise in popularity of pasta after the second world war; that Londoner’s went mad for spaghetti. That’s basically the reaction my dad had when he first tried Thai food a few years ago, he couldn’t get enough.

So, when he came down to London for the day I thought we’d introduce him to ramen, so off we set for Koi Ramen in Tooting Market (I’ve blogged before about their noodle home delivery service but this was my first time actually eating there).

Naturally, on the way I got the eye-roll-inducing moans of “£10 for a bowl of noodles” so to quiet him we stopped off at Graveney Gin first, plus I figured get him drunk and I wouldn’t have to pay!

The menu at Koi is super limited. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. ‘Do a few things really well’ is a good philosophy, but as a first-timer, it can be a bit concerning to not see things you recognise. Thankfully he had me to guide him through his first ramen experience.

We both opted for the Tonkotsu, with an egg (because we all know by now that and egg should really be compulsory) and threw in a side of gyoza for good measure.

It’s always fun when you can see into the kitchen and watch the chefs work their magic.

After a few minutes, two steaming bowls of noodles were placed in front of us. Light milky broth, moist sweet pork, the richness of egg yolk and the ocean taste of nori. The noodles were the right level of hardness for me but the broth could have been slightly thicker and silkier.

My Dad was impressed with his first ramen experience and I think Koi was a great choice for authentic style ramen in the hustle and bustle of south west London.

Get real about grab bags

Get real about grab bags

In the week that has seen #GrabBags trending on Twitter and a BBC news article on the same topic ranked at number 5, there has never been a better time to try to capture my own thoughts on ‘grab bags’.

Here’s one of the tweets that caused some online excitement last weekend.

I can’t get fully behind any advice that provides a checklist of ‘essentials’ to stick in a bag like this. In fact, I can rarely get behind any advice in checklist form because I think the real world is more nuanced; at best a checklist is a starting point.

I say I can’t fully get behind the idea; what I mean by that is I can see situations and locations where that advice (and, gasp, even checklists) is sensible, but they are not here in the UK.

In August I attended an Emergency Planning Society event and made a confession. I don’t have a grab bag packed in case of emergencies. 

The reasons for that are numerous and some of those reasons listed below. But, I genuinely would be interested in counter-arguments. Am I wrong about this? Tell me!

  • The stuff that I would find really useful is the stuff I use every day. So I’d either have to have two of everything or spend all my time packing and unpacking bags.
  • A lot of the stuff included in checklists is obsolete – a wind-up radio, in 2019? I’m going to get my news online. (What about if it’s a power cut you say? Well, even then it would have to be super widespread and of an extended duration, and in the very unlikely event that does happen, then really what use is a radio going to be anyway, all it’s going to tell me is that there is a major power cut and I’ll be like “yeah, thanks”.)
  • We’re not exposed to the types of risks that would require the kinds of evacuation where a grab bag would be useful. This is actually the biggie for me. We don’t have the types of risks that warrant 48-hour survivalism.
  • I reckon I’ve got a level of personal resilience that means I could look after myself in most situations. What this means, in reality, is provided I’ve got my phone and access to a charger there’s not a lot else that I need. (Yes, I know this smacks of privilege, I’ll get to that later).
  • I know I would be terrible at keeping something like that updated. I cleaned out a kitchen cupboard a few weeks ago and found a tin dating to 2009. Reader, I have moved house three times since then!

So, I don’t have a grab bag packed for emergencies. What I do have is a series of grab bags stashed around the house for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Wait…keep reading…

This isn’t about baseball bats with nails through them. It’s the name I jokingly give the places I store useful things, so that I know where to find household essentials – string, fuses, batteries, picture hooks, duck tape. They’re in a bag, biut I’ll probably never grab it.

As one of the contributors in the BBC article notes, we all prepare ‘grab bags’ every day. If you take a bag to work or the gym, you’ve got the things you need. If you’re pregnant you’ve probably thought about a hospital bag. If you regularly make long car journeys you’ve probably got some essentials in the boot. Grab bags need to be both personally and context-specific. That’s why checklists don’t work for me.

Now, let’s get back to that bit about privilege because this is definitely not an issue to overlook. In the last five years, food bank use has increased by 73%. Read that again. It has nearly doubled. People are reliant on emergency food every day, are they likely concerned about some possible ‘what if’s’?

Not everyone is able to pack a bag in the way that some advice encourages them to.

But now think about how would that make you feel? If you were a single parent reliant on food banks to feed your family. And you see this advice coming out that of by the way you should also have all this extra food just hanging around, and while you’re at it, that money you were going to spend on rent or whatever, no, no, invest in a wind-up radio that you’ll never use.

Of course, I do think that presonal preparedness is important (and often overlooked). But emergency response plans and the systems and processes that support them, should not be so inflexible they can’t cope if someone hasn’t thought to bring a copy of their home insurance when evacuated in the middle of the night because of a gas leak.

Emergency Management needs to wake up and see the real world. And then it needs to come up with solutions and advice that chime with a broad spectrum of people’s realities.

At its heart, the grab bag advice isn’t bad, it’s just ill-framed. Do people really need a bag packed by the front door?

Or is the message really saying “Hey, it might be handy if you’re able to put your hands on some things if you get chance and it’s safe to do so. Oh, but don’t worry if you can’t for any reason, we’ll be here to support you.”

Ramen Resolution – Kanada-Ya Islington

Ramen Resolution – Kanada-Ya Islington

I think this is the first post that I’ve written entirely on my phone! How’s that for technical wizardry?!

I’m rarely early for things, but when it does happen my favourite game to play is to tap into google maps “ramen near me” and then go tasting.

Thats exactly what I did this evening whilst waiting for friends to arrive for a gig.

Step forward Kanada-Ya Islington.

I’ve previously checked out their branches near Tottenham Court Road station and in Piccadilly, so I knew to expect good things.

Let me tell you, this could be some of the best ramen I have had in 2019.

To be honest, it’s always a good sign that you can pick your noodle hardness!

I declared 2019 “Year of the Yuzu” back in January, so my menu selection was easy, the Spicy Yuzu ramen jumped out!

Here it is…

…there it was!

The yuzu was nicely balanced, not too citrusy, but enough to cut through the frothy and salty broth; the pork was a little firm, but tasty. In hindsight it could have benefited from an egg.

Oh, and see that other plate there? I thought I’d teat myself to a ‘small plate’ of chasu pork belly. Why? Well, in a few weeks we’ll be eating wild squirrel and foraged turnips, laughing hysterically about when we could eat in restaurants.

Obviously the pork was lovely but that dipping sauce…that was absolutely devine. Definitely recommend!

Well done Kanada-Ya, you’ve done it again!

EPS Community Resilience Event – July 2019

EPS Community Resilience Event – July 2019

On Wednesday I attended an interesting Emergency Planning Society event loosely themed around community resilience.

It’s a term which means different things to different people and more often than not the starting place for discussion is about definitions. “What does Community Resilience mean?”

Boring.

We should instead, embrace that it’s a broad term, with varied interpretations depending on individual perspective and one which will change over time. Rather than getting hung up on what it is, we should focus on what we can do.

One of the things we can do is to be braver and more innovative. At the event Helen spoke about Naturvation, a European project looking at green infrastructure solutions to city challenges, the highlight was the unintended consequence of a Melbourne project which allows people to email love notes to 70,000 trees!

Three comments from speakers and attendees on Wednesday gave me the shivers. So I’m going to use this post to take each of those points in turn and explain my perspective, and then give a suggestion on approaching community resilience (or maybe just resilience) differently.

‘We are living in a riskier society’ – Lord Toby Harris

Lord Harris is the President of the Institute for Strategic Risk Management. He knows his stuff and is a fantastic advocate for the resilience profession. But I’m not convinced that the evidence is truly there that our world is getting more unsafe. More unsafe compared to what?

On one hand, I agree with Lord Harris that complexity is increasing and that the speed of global communication brings some new aspects. However, we should consider this against changes in demography and our collective risk tolerance.

World War One resulted in approximately 40 million casualties. The Black Death is estimated to have killed up to 60% of 14th century Europe. Baby Boomers and Millennials have experienced less real risk than nearly all generations that preceded them. Our risk perception, the things we choose to be concerned about, reflect our values as much as any objective knowledge of the hazard.

The world is definitely not without significant problems, but it’s important not to lose perspective and to understand where our rhetoric comes from and what underpins it.

‘We’ll all be living as individuals and everything will be delivered to us by drone’ – an event attendee

Lots of worrying scenarios were painted at the event – geopolitical instability, global food and water insecurity, weather extremes, tropical disease migration, antibiotic resistance…the list goes on.

For me, the scariest scenario was mentioned by an attendee; a Wall-E-style vision of the future,  where the death of cities results from us all living as individuals who never leave our confines because Amazon drones or 3D printing technology makes everything available at home.

I reject this fully. The world population is urbanising at pace. That’s a relatively new phenomenon too, of course, but as a species, we’ve lived for tens of thousands of years as societal groups and I can’t see us unlearning that behaviour any time soon, irrespective of what might be technologically possible.

The idea of ‘doing’ community resilience in the absence of community also left me incredibly puzzled!

“Spontaneous volunteers need to be controlled” – an event attendee

I called this comment out on Wednesday. I think it’s an outdated view, which cements the idea that you can command and control your way out of an emergency when in reality there needs to be flexibility, decentralisation and inclusivity.

The octopus has the most well developed invertebrate brain, but it doesn’t use its brain to tell each arm to change colour, that would take too long, instead individual skin cells sense changes in its environment and respond accordingly, which collectively gives a camouflage capability.

Similarly, the human immune system is based on individual white blood cells which go about our bodies looking for pathogens, finding and solving problems without intervention from our brains.

So why is it that when our society is faced with risk, that our approach is to introduce structure and control? Having some sense of leadership parameters to work within I agree are important. But you can achieve that through decentralised approaches too – provided people aren’t doing harm, what is the problem with them supporting the response and being enabled to do so?

So, where from here?

  • We need more ecologists in resilience.
  • We need more historians in resilience.
  • We need more complexity scientists in resilience.
  • We need more economists in resilience.
  • We need more ethicists in resilience.
  • We need better inclusion and intersectionality in resilience.
  • We need to empower people to innovate and solve problems collectively.

Resilience is naturally an incredibly broad field, it touches on so many other disciplines, all of which have lots of valuable contributions to make. We should aim to make it even broader, to bring more people into our discussion. What the resilience profession brings is a place to connect all of those dots.

Community Resilience, whatever it means to people at a given time, can only happen if we embrace how complex and messy our communities are. It can be hard for public or private sector organisations to find logical, auditable and measurable ways to ‘do’ community resilience, because of the way in which productivity and effectiveness are measured.

Our communities are filled with incredible skills, knowledge and people. We need to take a more inclusive approach and distance ourselves, at least slightly, from the neoliberal patriarchal approaches which currently dominate.

If you’d like to hear more about the event, take a look at this thread from the London Branch of the EPS for a rundown of the key discussions on the day.

Ramen Resolution – Tatami

Ramen Resolution – Tatami

For lunch at a work event yesterday it was a toss-up between cheese sandwiches with curly edges, or literally anything else. So a colleague and I dashed over to Flat Iron Square in London’s glittering Southwark to grab a quick bite.

Flat Iron Square is one of those trendy ‘food hall’ type places where there are lots of different types of ‘street food’ under the same roof. Notice those air quotes – because I feel like these are just new words for things that existed before.

Tatami Ramen was one of the busiest places there, but I literally only had to wait a matter of minutes before my Pork Tonkotsu order was up on the counter for collection.

For takeout noodles they were actually pretty good – the broth was salty and creamy, and there were two sheets of nori rather than the standard one, and a handful of rocket. A bonus topping, which I didn’t see listed on the menu, was crispy onions, which gave a subtle caramel sweetness.

Also, because I’m bad at cropping photos, you also get to see my shoes and a little bit of Sophie’s leg!

The noodles themselves were a tad on the soft side, and as you can see above, the egg was a little overdone; but as a quick snack, you can’t really fault Tatami.

Also worth pointing out that whilst £8 for lunch is probably a bit on the steep side, I think that is the cheapest ramen that I’ve found in London in 3 years of ramen adventures.

I’ll definitely go back (I want to try the vegan ramen, which has a kombucha based broth because hipster!) and would definitely recommend if you’re at Flat Iron Square, or just in the general London Bridge area and need a bowl of ramen!

Ramen Resolution – Bone Daddies (Soho) (again)

Ramen Resolution – Bone Daddies (Soho) (again)

There are so many ramen places that I sometimes feel that going back to places might mean I’m missing out on new discoveries. However, if you’ve had Bone Daddies’ Korean Fried Chicken Wings then you’ll understand that it is hard to resist its siren call.

That was the case when a good friend made a spontaneous trip to London recently and I was given the task of arranging food.

Paul lives in Birmingham. The UK’s second city is not known for extensive ramen options, so I thought it was the perfect choice for us.

After a couple of drinks on Bermondsey Street, we hopped the tube a couple of stops to Soho.

Regular readers (the WordPress stats tell me there is at least one of you!) will know that I’m a regular Bone Daddies customer. You can read previous reviews here and here.

Earlier this year, to nobody in particular, I declared 2019 “Year of the Yuzu” and so when I saw Yuzu Tonkotsu on the menu that was a no-brainer option for me. Paul chose the Crab Tonkotsu and then we shared chicken wings (obvs) and pork ribs (but they arrived after I took the photo).

That’s also a green tea hanging out there, because, health.

Bone Daddies is NOT authentic Japanese ramen. The flavours are punchier, it lacks a certain elegance and restraint that seems common in lots of other places. But that does not stop it being delicious. Plus, they make their playlists available on Spotify!

They’ve created a vibe in the restaurant which makes it just a nice place to hang out, catch up with great friends and exchange stories which cannot have any place on the internet!

I recommend it to everybody, and no doubt will be back there before too long.