It occurs to me that we in Wellington are pretty well served for eateries. We have terrific cafes and great high-end dining, heaps of variety, and good cheap eats - especially Malaysian - but also pizza, fish and chips, burgers and so on - so long as you know where to look.
Indeed, one of the functions I try to serve here on The Omnivore is to share with you when I find one of these culinary jewels. People often tell me when they find something they like, and it seems only fair that I share the love.
There is always room for improvement, though. This rang home when I commenced watching the PBS series The Mind of a Chef, with Momofuku and Lucky Peach boss-man David Chang. I love the show - it follows his particular obsessions, and each of the 16 episodes is dedicated to a different ingredient, or location, or idea - smoke, Spain, Japan, pork and so on.
But Chang's deepest obsession, which rightly starts the series, is with ramen noodles. Hugely popular in Japan (where Chang worked and trained), ramen seems to be more than a meal or snack - rather, it is a way of life, with office workers queuing around the block at some particularly desirous ramen restaurants.
And, as I watched him and others slurping their way through massive bowls of noodles, describing the subtleties of the broth, and the noodles, it occurred to me - I don't know anywhere in Wellington that I could go to for good, authentic ramen noodles!
Just the thought of this caused me some discomfort. I mean, they all looked as though they were enjoying the ramen so much, that when Chang's travel companion, food writer Peter Meehan, couldn't finish his bowl, I wanted to scream "just eat it, you damned ingrate - don't you know there are people on the other side of the world who would kill for what you are glibly passing up?!"
And so, not by way of any kind of whining, you must understand, but rather, in the form of a wish-list, I thought I would assemble a shortlist of the things I would most like to see pop up in the capital. Thus;
1) Ramen noodles - though I love the pho from Phong Vu in the Left Bank, and, latterly, the generous bowls of pork and wonton noodle soup from A-Roy in Cuba Mall, what I really long for is a bowl of ramen noodles of the type depicted in the Mind of a Chef series, or like that which David Chang serves in his New York eatery, Momofuku Milk Bar. I sometimes think of noodles as a savoury equivalent to ice cream - something it is impossible to remain glum while eating. It seems almost unbelievable to me that there isn't a ramen restaurant here. Is there? Never before have I so profoundly hoped I am wrong.
2) Souvlaki - I often bemoan the lack of fair dinkum Greek souvlaki in Wellington. Christchurch has at least two sensational souvlaki joints that I know of - Dimitris' and Costas - and it seems the least Canterbury can do for Wellington (especially after we let you have blockbusting rugby midfielder Robbie Fruean) is open a store in Wellington. Cheers.
3) Sandwich shops - I am meaning a very specific type of sandwich shop. When I lived in the UK a decade or so ago, every street seemed to have a sandwich shop with a big display of sandwich fillings, and beefy-armed men making sandwiches to order - tuna, or chicken, a range of salads and dressings and so on. They were well supported by local office workers, and surely the ascendency of Subway over its fast-food rivals suggests that a place doing a higher-end version of same would be popular. Top quality ingredients, classic combos - I'd like to be able to get a Reuben sandwich at lunchtime, or a good tuna melt, or a pulled pork sandwich, or a BLT... you get my drift.
4) Fried chicken - and before anyone gets all naming The Colonel, you know that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking delicious, crispy, delectable free-range chicken. I reckon it would be awesome.
So, that's just a few off the top of my head that I would like to see represented in my 'hood. What else would you fancy, in Wellington or in your neck of the woods? Or perhaps you have tipoffs for me to obtain some of these coveted items? Those who are overseas - what Kiwi delicacies would you like to import? Or - what would you like for us to partake of from your locale?
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Ramen photo by Lusheeta
Reuben photo by Rick