Our intrepid snacker hunkers down and orders in to find the best food options on the web
By Elian Zach
When a perfect meal knocks at your door wearing nothing but a plastic bag and a smile, you can’t help but be seduced, let it in and have your way with it.
I’m not a winter person. I was born and raised in Israel, where it’s sunny and snow-free almost year-round, and where people’s idea of “bad weather” is 55 degrees with an hour of rain a week. I am, however, a big soup enthusiast. Though somewhat inappropriate at 104 degrees and 100 percent humidity, we have a lot of soup in the Holy Land. When the first rain hits the ground, my mom/personal chef concocts a selection of surprising and eclectic soups; hearty mushroom, creamy sweet potato, and spicy bean soups are scarfed down by the Zach clan, as rich aromas of spices and family fill my childhood home.
My sister and co-foodie, Elinor, who moved to New York four years before I did, introduced me to the magic of Ramen, the climax of soupism. Together we scouted for the most exciting variations of the Japanese noodle dish around the city.
One chilly winter night, Elinor Skyped me from her apartment, two blocks away from mine, her eyes twinkling with the kind of passion reserved for a woman in love. “I have found the perfect Ramen,” she declared with joy. “Tt’s amazing, amazing, amazing!” Elinor is the only person whose food critique I never question. If she says something is dreamy – it must be true.
A year later, my BSF (best sister forever) made a life-altering decision to give the motherland another shot. She moved back to Tel-Aviv, and left me all alone in the concrete jungle, scared, longing, and a little hungry.
When power and Wi-Fi were restored post-Sandy, all I wanted was to stay home, take a long, hot bath, and turn the lights on and off, just for kicks. Cold and in a solitary mood, I browsed SeamlessWeb for something comforting to eat during the latest episode of Homeland, when I stumbled upon Rai Rai Ken, the ramen joint Elinor was raving about. Homesick and sentimental, I placed my order. Neither my New York winter experience, nor culinary existence, has been the same since.
With soft, diced tofu, ground pork, garlic, and soy-based broth, this unconventional twist for the classic is a “bowl fulla comfort.” The supple Chinese-style wheat noodles blend beautifully with the tender pieces of pork and cubes of silky tofu. Top that hot mess with Sriracha sauce (to be purchased at your local grocery store) for an added flare, and you got yourself a truly perfect winter meal, and a great excuse to stay in.
This combination of marinated bamboo shoots, seaweed, scallion and red peppers in soy sauce, is the ultimate accompaniment for the scorching soup. This dish serves as a pause of freshness, to be eaten as either an appetizer, or a palate cleanser, in-between slurps.
The only way to seal the meal is with this velvety dessert, which is just the right amount of sweet. The coconut milk moistens and refines, while the tapioca adds texture. Seamless, indeed.
Rai Rai Ken
218 East 10th Street
Hours: Sun-Thurs 12 p.m. -12 a.m.; Fri-Sat 12 p.m. -2 a.m.
Phone: (212) 477-7030
Lazy? Cold? Both? Enjoy it at home:
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