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Pickled bamboo shoots deserve to rise beyond the ramen bowl

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“Menma” is a classic Japanese ramen topping made of pickled bamboo shoots. One can do without it, but its humble presence in the bowl is somehow quite reassuring.

There is nothing fancy about menma's taste or appearance, yet its unique texture defies comparison to any other food item.

"People think menma has no use except as an addition to ramen or 'chahan' (Chinese-style fried rice), but it actually can shine in various homemade dishes," said Eiji Hitaka, 72, of Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Having worked for decades for a major chemical company, Hitaka is now an entrepreneur committed to revitalizing his native city.

Japan's menma market has long been........

© The Asahi Shimbun