“Did you make ramen today?”
That was the question coming from neighbors, friends and strangers who came to know Rasheeda Purdie as the woman dishing out noodles and broth to anyone who wanted during the early days of the pandemic.
Living in New York City, Purdie has always turned to ramen for comfort.
The chef loved it so much that she started making the Japanese dish herself when she was effectively cut off from the source as restaurants closed en mass to stop the spread of the virus.
“I had to still get my fix,” Purdie tells TODAY.com. “Going from eating ramen twice to three times a week to none, that’s just something that I had to figure out.”
What started as the fashion industry vet-turned-chef satisfying her own cravings in 2020 snowballed into Purdie, who is Black and not Japanese, opening up her own ramen shop at the end of 2023 in Bowery Market.
“I started to play around with recipes and understand what it really took to create a really good broth,” she says of her time spent learning while much of the city was shuttered. “I wanted to really hone in on the craft, study and respect the layers that go into making a ramen.”
During that time, Purdie ordered cookbooks, watched documentaries and did everything else she could think of to study the art of ramen-making.
Purdie’s menu offers a list of breakfast-inspired ramen with items ranging from BLT (tomato-shoyu, smoked bacon, roasted tomato, lettuce, leeks) to steak and soy egg (chimichurri-shoyu, seasoned egg, crispy shallots, sliced steak, chili threads) and even everything egg drop inspired by an everything bagel (sesame-shoyu, everything crunch, fluffed eggs, crispy shallots, chili threads).
Each dish has its layers built on top of a classic shoyu broth base.
“I always credit Rasheeda for my love of ramen,” diner and friend of the chef Dominek Tubbs tells TODAY.com.
The blogger says Purdie’s approach to ramen makes it accessible to people who might not have the framework to understand it beyond the familiar packets of instant noodles found in grocery stores nationwide.
For Black History Month, in addition to her breakfast mainstays, Purdie is pulling out a recipe that’s a little more personal: potlikker ramen.
“Collard greens was the first thing I learned how to cook with my grandmother,” Purdie says.
The concept of cooking something — like collard greens, but also like ramen broth — for hours and letting the flavors build, meld and completely change over time was one she connected with deeply.
She says in her days studying ramen broths, she saw similarities between it and the Southern cooking she was familiar with. That low-and-slow process caught her attention, drew a parallel between ramen and her own roots and gave her the confidence to try potlikker ramen for the first time.
The flavorful liquid that’s leftover from cooking a pot of collard greens is often used as a soup starter, Purdie says — though, she adds, some people choose to trash it or save it to flavor other dishes. So turning that potlikker into a broth isn’t so outlandish.
It’s the application to ramen that’s making people excited.
“Showing how that same golden liquid — that broth, that mana from on high — showing how that liquid can then be used in a different cuisine, I think expands the minds or horizons of Black people in terms of what this food can be,” Kearney says.
“I am absolutely thrilled and it warms my heart,” chef Melba Wilson, owner of Melba’s in Harlem, tells TODAY.com of Purdie’s newest item.
Wilson continues, saying it honors “the profound history of the Black community” while paying “a heartfelt tribute to our vibrant cultural heritage.”
The dish — featuring potlikker broth, collard greens, smoked turkey meat, a soy egg, scallion and bean sprouts — is already resonating with Ramen by Rā’s following, and it’s not even available to order yet.
Just as it’s a personal recipe for Purdie, Tubbs says it brings her right back to moments spent growing up around her mom’s kitchen.
“I have like deep deep southern roots,” the food and lifestyle creator tells TODAY.com, adding that “potlikker is something that I’ve always been very familiar with.”
She says her mother, who trained as a chef, would often take flavors and ingredients that were tied to slavery and sharecropper periods in the U.S. and bring them onto a more modern table. So Tubbs got nostalgic when she heard about Purdie’s creation.
“I’m very excited to give it a try,” she says of the potlikker ramen. “I’m actually planning on bringing people who are new to experiencing ramen, and then also people who might not have grown up with Southern roots or heritage so that way they can also experience it.”
While diners can reserve a seat (and order ahead) at Purdie’s counter via OpenTable, she plans to release a separate reservation link for potlikker orders over the weekend.
Ramen by Rā will be offering limited bowls of the Black History Month special every day between Feb. 7 and 10 on a first-come-first-served basis.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com