Nordeast ramen fest aids Japan

Ramen, the fast noodle of choice for generations of people on a budget, is in the spotlight Thursday evening.

That's when a crew of five celebrity chefs and one rank amateur face off in an event called Eat Ramen Help Japan.

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Here's one of the organizers, Ken Okumura, in a ramen eating frenzy - probably accounts for the blur - during a visit to Japan with his family.

You can order bowls of ramen, and the proceeds go to aid victims of Japan's tsunami last March. The massive wave that hit the island nation killed more than 20,000 and left countless others homeless.

Hardship is too weak a word to describe the suffering caused by the tsunami and its effects.

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Thursday evening's "ramen off" won't feature the dried, instant, cellophane wrapped version sold by the shipload to college students and others.

This is the real thing. A handmade noodle in broth - the original comfort food - called chasu in Japanese.

Okumura was born in Japan, raised in Los Angeles, now resides here with his family in the land of Ten Thousand Taxes. His parents live in Japan and the good news is they are not direct victims of the tsunami. But they share in the rolling electricity rationing which affects the entire nation.

The ramen cook-off begins Thursday at 6 p.m. in northeast Minneapolis at Create Catering. Along with Ken, it's the brain child of Stephanie Meyer, Stephanie March and Aaron Ackerman.