Meet Your Food Blogger: Rickmond Wong of Rameniac
Alhambra native Rickmond Wong considers himself a ramen shaman. According to Jonathan Gold, when Wong was in high school he was already emailing our food critic to brag about his superiority in the field of the often understated noodle. Wong's food blog, Rameniac, pays homage to the history and tradition of the noodles, serving as a dictionary of ramen forms and styles (he defines 22 different styles) and charting the diasporas of a food easily typecast as an instant noodle in a Styrofoam cup.
While Wong is undoubtedly a ramen snob, reviewing ramen joints in Canada, Japan, the U.S. and the U.K., he does not discount the instant. An entire section of his blog titled "Boiling" is dedicated to reviews of instant noodles. Through Wong's blog, we travel to the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum in Tokyo, to ramen restaurants at home and abroad, to the yatai (food stalls) of Fukouka. His highly detailed posts (he has self-diagnosed OCD) include beautiful photos of bowls brimming with noodles and street scenes from his travels. Wong's reviews are accompanied by a grading system of "soup, noodles, toppings, sides, ambience and intangibles." His blog is a strong argument for a ramen as a subject of higher education. He's already earned a P.H.D. Squid Ink asked him his experience as a food blogger in Los Angeles, and the evolution of his noodle fetish.
Rickmond Wong Noodle brain
SI: How long have you been blogging about food?
Rickmond Wong Kotteri ramen at Asa in Gardena
RW: I used to blog about food every now and then on my Xanga, which I started around 2004. My college buddy/programmer friend Victor helped me build rameniac.com
SI: What's your real job?
RW: I build websites for a Hollywood studio and own of a clothing boutique/ gallery/event space in West Los Angeles (Shameless pimpage: It's called "Qio," it's located at W. 11614 W. Pico Blvd. across from Record Surplus, and we sell fashionable things from Tokyo.)
I fancy myself a musician and score music for my friends' film projects every now and then, but I rarely get paid for doing so. I'm just a dude with a bunch of gear who spends way too much time at Guitar Center. One of these days I'll record an album of shoegazer/indie/noise/post-rock and my life will finally be complete.
SI: What's unique about food blogging in Los Angeles?
RW: Los Angeles has a huge number of food blogs, and the diversity to match. I think it has to do with the demographics of Southern California, our neighborhoods, and the pockets of hidden goodness that compel people to photograph and write about their meals.
SI: What's your favorite food truck, if you have one?
RW: Kogi lives up to its hype. Tacos Arizas and El Paisano, both in Echo Park, are my usual taco spots. The taco table at Fletcher & Larga in Highland Park has damn good al pastor. But if I have to pick one, my favorite stand by far is Ricky's Fish Tacos in Silverlake. Ricky is this awesome and highly personable guy from Ensenada; he truly makes the best fish tacos in town. He's only out on weekends though, and you can follow him on his twitter (http://twitter.com/RickysFishTacos) to see if he'll be open.
SI: How did your fascination with ramen begin?
RW: Like many Americans, I grew up eating Cup Noodle and instant ramen. Eventually, I found myself in Japan, teaching English at a junior high school in the Japanese countryside. I was living in a small town on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, where tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen comes from, and eating ramen constantly. I have this thing for soup. If there's no soup, a meal kind of feels incomplete.
Anyway, the ramen in Kyushu, in Fukuoka specifically, is amazing, and there's really nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. Even the vibe is astounding. There's this stretch of ramen carts along the Nakasu river in Hakata. Imagine if all your favorite taco trucks set up shop along a gorgeous riverbank in the heart of the city, where buskers played jazz and alcohol flowed freely. Now imagine if this happened nightly, 365 days a year, but instead of tacos they were serving noodles.
I was an ethnomusicology major in college and I have this obsessive need to categorize and study things on a cultural anthropological level. It wasn't long before I came to realize that ramen is much, much more than six-for-a-dollar broke-ass starving student food, and that its reputation was in need of a makeover in the Western World.
Rickmond Wong The ramen carts of Hakata