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Tortes and Torts: Ramen with Tuna Uygun

Robynne Thompson (1L)

IMG_0248It’s that time of year. Middle-of-term fatigue is setting in. Colds and flus abound. Winter is…approaching. Is there a better way to combat the futility of the season than with a piping hot bowl of ramen?

Ramen has a complex history. It was originally an import to Japan from China. At different times and places ramen has been associated with complex social forces. Connections to migration and national identity, social class status, and industrialization (looking at you, Oodles of Noodles) have influenced perceptions of the soup.

To get the lowdown on Edmonton’s ramen scene, I went to ramen enthusiast and 2L student, Tuna Uygun. You might also know Tuna as your SLS criminal law day-leader and caseworker, as the LSA’s Vice President General, or as an up-and-coming hip hop artist.

Tuna’s love affair with ramen began on trip to Japan in his undergrad. It was love at first bite. Exposure to 2L student Dylan Robertson’s poutine Instagram (@dylan_eats_poutine) inspired Tuna to create @tunaeatsramen.

Tuna and I met at Whyte Ave’s own Nudoru Noodle Shop. Google claims it’s a 20-22 minute walk from the Law Center (I tackled it in 17:37 minutes at a hungry pace and 15:27 minutes back at a hangry pace. On a totally unrelated note, Nudoru is closed on Mondays).

Nudoru’s atmosphere is casual and cool with woodcut-inspired graphics and a mid-century modern vibe (Did that sentence read as pretentious as it felt?). Nudoru has a build-your-own ramen option for the adventurous type. For the purists, they have three ramen specials and several tonkotsu/hakata (pork) ramen options, plus a few rice dishes and small plates. Tuna and I both opted for the build-your-own ramen.

Tuna chose a well-balanced blend of spicy, rich, and acidic; chili-flavoured broth, soft-boiled egg, nori, pickled onions, and brisket (for fun, he says). I opted for a different approach. Choosing ingredients solely based on richness, I had miso-flavoured broth, pork shoulder, nori, fried shallots, and egg. I don’t know why I seem to gravitate to beige foods, but I do.

Tuna tells me that, to him, “what makes a good ramen are good noodles and a good broth. But what separates a good ramen from a great one is usually the protein.” And this was a good ramen. Really good. Bouncy noodles, rich and mildly sweet broth. My only complaint is that mine could have used some acidity, but that’s my own fault. Tuna ranks Nudodu’s pretty high on his list, but the brisket didn’t combine well with the rest. Next time, I think we’d both defer to one of the menu items.

So, can I compare building a bowl of ramen to law school? I’m sure going to try.

As Tuna said, “with ramen, it’s such an experience in the sense it’s all in one bowl but there’s so much going on.” And in law school, there is a lot going on. Everyone is going through periods where they don’t feel comfortable. For Tuna, being uncomfortable is a part of the process, “I don’t think you should ever be that comfortable…you should want to challenge yourself.”

And when law school gets too uncomfortable? Tuna recommends connecting to the good: “It seems so cool in the legal profession how [academic and practical knowledge] blend together. You get the real impact of this academic work…It’s demanding but it’s so unique. But it can be overwhelming and at that point just enjoy the goodness of it. Do something that makes life slightly better for somebody else. Buy someone a coffee at Steve’s.”

For Tuna, this also means helping students be happy, safe, and comfortable. “I always think it’s important to play a role in your community and to cultivate a better community.” Wherever/whoever your community is in law school, say hi to someone you haven’t met yet, hold the door, buy someone a coffee, buy Steve a coffee. Eat some ramen.

Building your own ramen might be a little intimidating. Sometimes ingredients don’t seem to fit. But you don’t always have to know what the end result is going to be to build a ramen that works for you. Ultimately, your bowl of ramen is going to turn out just fine.

Check out Nudoru for a tasty bowl of ramen a stone’s throw from the Law Centre. Check out Tuna’s Instagram, @tunaeatsramen and try his top choice in Edmonton: the black garlic ramen at Kuzoku.