The miniature, yet beloved Tibetan restaurant Ramen Momo hosted a food challenge last Sunday to determine just who in Iceland could eat 1 kilogram of Ramen noodles—including one egg, shiitake mushrooms and meat toppings—in the fastest time possible.
See Also: Ramen Momo: In Profile
The winner would be crowned Ramen Champion of Iceland 2018 and awarded a year’s free supply of this simple, yet irresistibly addictive eastern delicacy. Here is my own experience competing in this oh-so-important culinary challenge.
Before divulging any more information on just how the competition went, it is first imperative to know its overarching rules. Participants had to purchase a monster bowl of Ramen and consume it all—including every drop of the broth—in the shortest time possible. They had a choice between either Miso or Tonkotsu broth, with either chicken, pork or tofu as a topping.
The winner of the competition would receive the title of Ramen Champion of Iceland, a special Godzilla t-shirt, and a year’s unlimited supply of Ramen soups. This was the prize most sincerely desired by all competing members.
Second place won the t-shirt and a free dinner at a Kaiseki event at Matbar restaurant, while third place received the t-shirt and a gift card for Ramen Momo. Such treasures were in grabbing distance if only my stomach lining could bear it; there was nothing to lose, but everything to gain.
Competition Time – 0 Minutes
I was surprised as anyone when, sitting at the high counters of Ramen Momo, I began to feel butterflies fluttering in the stomach. The ramen had been ordered, a full kilo of Tonkotsu broth with pork and chicken, and the chopsticks had been laid out in front of me, ready to be grabbed the second the whistle blew, as it were.
‘We’ constituted the editor and me, who had agreed that covering Ramen Momo’s food challenge had all the hallmarks of a worthy article. But now, in those nervous moments before the competitions commencement, a new feeling was coming over me entirely. It was the urge to win, to smell victory, to conquer the crown of Iceland’s Ramen Champion and finally secure something worthy of writing home about.
I had done some preparation for the competition beforehand if, indeed, watching YouTube videos and starving myself can count as preparation. Competitors online demonstrated a number of different ways to gulp down noodles in a speedy haste, from tipping the bowl half into your mouth and utilising a shovelling motion with the chopsticks to simply cramming in as much as one can at any given time, forgoing chewing entirely.
According to the champions online, a kilo of ramen could seemingly be chowed down, in full, in under five minutes. I felt confident in my gluttony and equally so in the recent Christmas weight I’ve achieved, so much so that the idea of a year’s worth of free ramen now seemed quite possible to me. I could almost taste it.
RAMEN SERVED, TIMER BEGINS
The ramen was served and, almost immediately, I was taken aback by the sheer enormity of one kilogram. The bowl was gargantuan and steaming, though a picture to behold, with the delicate placing of its chicken pieces, two halves of an egg floating delicately on the surface of the broth.
I took half a second to appreciate this set piece before diving in, trapping huge mouthfuls of noodles between my chopsticks and shifting them—as fast as my table manners allowed—down my throat.
Instantly, my mouth was alive with flavour, surprising given the blandness that I’ve come to expect from Ramen. This was something quite different; the shiitake mushrooms packed an immense punch, whilst the egg, sweet as it was, melted away on the tongue.
I began packing it in as a quickly as I could flick the chopstick and felt thankful that I was, in fact, enjoying the taste of this behemoth of a plate before me.
1 Minute in—
And yet, with only sixty seconds passed, the first revelations of imminent failure began to creep across my mind. Not only had I barely dented my bowl, but the competition was becoming more fierce.
I wasn’t the only one with my eye on the prize.
Daring a quick look over my shoulder, I noticed a fellow speed eater, larger in girth, beginning his own fierce attempt at the championship title. Despite my single minute lead, I realised that his pace far outmatched my own; he was cool and steady, his breathing controlled, his chopstick technique far superior to my own.
I felt panic begin to set in at the base of my stomach—or at the very least, an ever-enlarging pool of Tonkotsu broth. This was going to be an uphill struggle, one where I would likely have difficulty touching the top tier of competitors even. I shut my eyes, breathed in deeply, and refocused the mind. There were, after all, many more mouthfuls ahead.
5 Minutes in—
As the clock hand flicked past the five-minute mark, I knew my chances of finishing as 2018’s Ramen Champion were quickly fading, if they had not indeed faded out already.
Just how did people manage to eat so much in such a short space of time?
At that moment, I had a whole new appreciation of speed-eating as a competitive medium—these people were athletes, trained and experienced, albeit trained and experienced in the art of cramming food into their stomachs in the fastest time imaginable.
But alas, it was my family name I was honouring here! My online magazine! My country! My capacity to eat so much that I might be sick! If a man cannot adequately achieve a winning time in a food challenge, is he a man at all? These thoughts and questions burned through my mind as I approached ten minutes. But would I finish before the mark, or lapse into a snail’s pace?
Just keep eating. Eat and eat and eat.
10 Minutes in—
Chew. Swallow. Repeat. Chew. Swallow. Repeat.
This simple yet wise mantra was no doubt helping my stamina, but my speed was sharply faltering by the wayside. Not that it mattered, of course, given I’d just passed the ten-minute marker.
By this point, I had already succumbed to the notion that I was likely far too slow for a competition of this magnitude—I was still using chopsticks, still dabbing my mouth with a tissue, still wasting precious seconds to take a drink of water. I wasn’t performing like a champion, and my score would suffer for it.
In dismay, I heard the concluding slurps of my competitor behind me and turned to see him draining his bowl of all remaining broth.
15 Minutes in—
This was no longer a matter of winning. That time had long passed. Now, it was simply an issue of finishing the bowl in front of me in a time that I, as a first-time speed-eater, could be proud of.
Mindlessly, I continued to consume, one mouthful after the other, until my bowl neared empty. In defeat, I threw my chopsticks to the counter and drank down what was left the broth.
It was all over. A kilo of Ramen eaten in 15.25 exactly. It wasn’t a winning score… hell, it wasn’t even qualifying, but I felt a sense of pride regardless. A sort of disgusting, heavy-breathing pride. It had taken me less than twenty minutes, and for that, I was both grateful for my stomach lining, secretly impressed and needed the bathroom immediately. .
The Ramen Champion of Iceland 2018
Okay, so I didn’t manage to win Ramen Champion of the year. I didn’t even manage to squeeze in second, third, fourth or fifth. In fact, my time was so far away from what was necessary to achieve a legendary status that even competing was, in many ways, always destined for failure.
Regardless, I had the chance to chow down on some truly delicious Ramen, and take my first steps into the world of competitive eating. But enough about me though. Who won the acclaimed title of Ramen Champion of Iceland 2018, and just what time did they get?
A big congratulations to the athletically-built, American born Reykjavik local, Jonathan Anderson, who consumed his bowl in a breathtaking 2 minutes and fifty seconds. Bruno Troccoli came in second place, scoring an admirable 3 minute and 36 seconds time, beating out third place winner, Geoffrey P. Huntingdon, who finished in 3 minutes and 56s second.
In retrospect, I have absolutely no idea how anyone can eat an entire kilo of noodles in the time aforementioned, but then, we’re dealing with the big leagues here. Given that I am the epitome of an ameteur hour performer, I can only offer my most sincere praise, and wallow in the understanding that some of us are simply destined to eat amongst Gods during our lifetime.
If you’re interested in paying Ramen Momo a visit, the restaurant is open from 11.30AM-3PM and 5PM-9PM on Tuesdays to Fridays, and 12PM-9.30PM on Saturdays. Sunday’s opening times are 5PM-9PM and the restaurant is closed on Mondays.