One of the reasons food has such a significant presence in our lives is because food brings people together. I recently finished a “hidden gem” show about food on Netflix, called “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories”. I spoke to a few of my Japanese friends about the show, and their enthusiasm confirmed that it is even popular in Japan (probably because it is based on a best-selling manga, or graphic novel/comic)!
What appears to be a documentary, much like Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is actually a series of fictional micro stories about the people who visit a late-night diner in Tokyo. Each episode features a different dish, which serves as the centerpiece for stories about people, in the simplest sense. Each episode is only about 20-30 minutes, and could seem to be about nothing, yet reveals meaningful facets of what it’s like to be human.
There is just something so peaceful and unassuming about this show, and it’s different from anything I’ve watched in a while, so I thoroughly enjoyed and savored each of the ten episodes. Do you know of other movies/tv shows with a similar feel? If so, please share – I’d love to see them!!
Inspired by this show, I decided to try my hand at some Japanese cooking. The first episode is called “Tan-Men”. I know – you’re thinking, male humans with darker-than-normal skin from sun exposure?! Haha, not really (for better or for worse) – I think the translation is actually, noodle soup!
From Midnight Diner: Tokyo Series:
These photos are not mine, they are screen captures from Netflix.
If you know me, you know that I LOVE noodles. If I had to choose one food to eat for the rest of my life, it would be noodles. This dish looked delicious and simple so of course I had no excuse not to try it out!
For inspiration, I followed J-Simple’s recipe here – please visit for the full instructions!
- Chicken stock (1 box)
- Bean sprouts
- Noodles (you can make your own or just take some from an instant ramen package!)
- Garlic (~2 cloves)
- Thinly sliced pork belly (I used the 6mm, 80% lean from H Mart)
- Salt and pepper of course
- If you want to follow Master’s way, add wood ear mushrooms
- Cabbage (the firm, crunchy kind…not sure what it’s actually called. See pic below!)
- Cooking oil (I used vegetable)
- Julienne the carrots and cut the cabbage into bite-sized pieces. Chop the garlic into the size of your choosing and wash the bean sprouts. Cut pork belly into bite-sized chunks.
- Put the chicken stock on to boil – use as much as you would like to have as broth for your tan-men. I used about 1/2 a box.
- Meanwhile, boil some water for the noodles on the side.
- In a wok or high-brimmed pan, tir-fry the garlic and pork in the cooking oil until the pork changes color. Add in the vegetables and stir-fry until the pork looks cooked, but not browned.
- Add the boiled broth to the stir-fry mix and boil for about 1 minute.
- Strain the noodles when the are ready and scoop into a bowl. Pour some of the veggie/meat/broth mixture on top, and…voilà! You’ve got yourself a steaming bowl of noodle soup 🙂