photograph by Anna Routh Barzin

Melting Pot series: A soup pot contains multitudes — not just from our gardens and pantries, but from our cultures and memories, too. Go ahead, throw everything in, and wait for it to simmer. What happens next is magic: One whiff and you’re transported back home, to the warmth of family. Learn about seven soups served across the state.

The springy noodles are slippery rascals, impossible to capture by spoon; chopsticks are required, or, if you must, a fork. Which is why, when you step into Dashi, the ramen restaurant in downtown Durham, you see so many heads bowed in concentration, eyeglasses fogged over by steam, slurping away. But don’t be fooled. Ramen noodles are really just a vehicle: Their density and shape provide the perfect delivery system for the savory broths that give this soup its global appeal. “A good foundation is the most important part of ramen, and that’s the broth,” says Billy Cotter, Dashi’s chef and co-owner. “If you don’t get that right, it doesn’t matter what else you do.” The salty, porky broth of his Tonkatsu ramen begins in a 60-gallon steam kettle with onions, ginger, and garlic, followed by a heap of local pork bones, a rich slab of fat, 12 whole chickens, pigs’ feet, and dried mushrooms. Simmer that for 26 hours and you get a silky, latte-colored elixir. Tokyo would approve. Still, Cotter is a Durham native who got his start in the kitchen of his stepmother’s restaurant, so his ramen is topped with Old North State standbys: smoked pork; collards; sweet, roasted turnips; and a pickled garnish. Southern flavors steeped in Japanese tradition are right at home together, just as we are at Cotter’s table.

Melting Pot series: Butter Bean Soup

415 East Chapel Hill Street
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 251-9335

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Louise Jarvis Flynn is a contributing editor for Our State.