She loves ramen.
The noodles are slim and smooth, but chewy at the core. Shreds of bamboo shoot and the char siu pork belly add richness and depth to the texture of the dish. A thin layer of oil residue glitters on the top, embracing the noodles like a transparent wax cover. The clear brown soup underneath saturates the whole bowl, hot and straight-to-heart refreshing. The scallion adds on a bit of greenness and liveliness, scattering all over the noodle soup.
But none of them compares to the egg in it, she asserts. The golden sun.
“All the other ingredients are just the leaves and the egg is the true flower.” Cut in half and unfolded so the whole picture of the egg can be exposed. The distantly amber color of the egg white looks as soft as tender tofu and you can even see the trace left by the knife, reflecting slightly uneven light on the surface in organized lines. The rounded side is as glossy as a pudding.
And here comes the important part—the egg yolk. It has a graduated color—the outer edge is fully boiled and light yellow. The golden inner is the congealed magma, glinting as it freezes power and light into a concrete existence. Softly poking the yolk with the tip of the chopsticks raises one’s passion to preserve its tenderness—pure and warm, perfectly delicate and beautiful like a newborn one touches with a sincere and cautious heart.
With its innocent and tender face, the little piece of gold starts seducing the eater to swallow it all together immediately the moment it is served. How could one manage to resist its bright and passionate eye waves and turn to the still and watery bearings, the plain-colored noodle soup instead?
She always eats the boring part, the noodles first, though. The scallion caper on the plain-colored background falls into the broth as her chopsticks start mixing everything up. Half a spoon of soup with a few noodles dipped in and a strip of bamboo shoot above make up the first gulp. And a bite of char siu. Then a sip of the soup. She plans out everything in the bowl to make sure that the amount of all the ingredients left is proportionate, so that she is not left with just noodles or just chai siu—each and every spoonful is well organized into a combination of ingredients.
And the egg lies intact until the end. With the last spoon of soup and the last piece of chai siu, she devoutly sends it into her mouth. She chews this bite gently, slowly, staring at the corner of the table.
The way she does math with food is fascinating to me in a way that it creates a certain balance in a meal; a harmony that makes the meal a complete story with a start and an ending—even an educational story, the way she does it. The girl with “delayed gratification,” they say.
But I still remember the day when we went to a ramen place together after a final exam, and ordered the same ramen. After we were served, I picked some noodles up with chopsticks and lowered my head to start eating. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her pick up the egg, and take a huge bite of it before touching anything else.
And then she smiled at me, with those peach-pink bulging cheeks. Her eyes were like crescent moons.
Cover photo curtesy of Yest to Yolks