I have a newfound respect for saimin, thanks to the one time I publicly hated on it. Disdained it, actually, resented it even. Compared to all the noodle bowls I love in this world — ramen, pho, naengmyeon, the roast duck noodles at Duck Lee and my greatest love of all, spaghetti — why does saimin have to be so bland? Is saimin anything more, I asked, than a powerful nostalgic deception perpetrated on collective taste buds by memories of small-kid-time saimin with the family and happy post-game bowls with friends?
Actually, that’s what saimin turns out to be. Not the deception part, but the rest: It’s the soul of being local. It’s simple and plain and imbued with comfort. And even if you prefer ramen, you probably still like saimin. I learned this lesson late, but at least I learned it. I eat saimin now. I eat fancy bowls that would qualify as haute cuisine, and bowls topped simply with green onion and fishcake. I eat bowls when I’m ravenous after swimming, when I need something soothing and starchy after a night of sake, or just when I want to reconnect with people and times past.
That’s the thing about coming from an anti-saimin stance. Knowing nothing, with no saimin history to measure against, I have no rules about noodles, broth or toppings. I just like what I like. Here are my favorite bowls.
No. 4: Zippy's (2 of 5)
Everybody has a favorite dish at Zippy's; Zip Min has never been mine. But it was my mom's, and she used to order it late nights with a decisive nod and a smile. I never understood that until out of curiosity, I ordered it for myself.
The Zip Min's broth is a happy receptor of all its riotous toppings: briny under the strip of nori, tasting of fried bread under the shrimp katsu, meaty where it cradles the char siu. Plus there's fried egg, kamaboko fishcake, choi sum and green onions, and I haven't even mentioned the five garlicky won tons. Where I expected mush, the noodles are slightly al dente. I'm happy now every time I get a Zip Min. I see why my mom smiled.
Our Top 5 archive
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