Unlike in this country, where ramen is the subsistence cuisine of slackers, potheads and college students, in Japan ramen is a proper meal, one served both on the street and in sit-down ramen restaurants. More than soba, more than udon, the humble ramen noodle is Japan's most culturally identifiable food -- its Big Mac, its mac-and-cheese. But here in Denver, we can enjoy ramen the way it's meant to be eaten at Oshima Ramen, a small, virtually invisible spot that's the only American outlet of a major Japanese chain. Seven bucks buys a huge, steaming bowl of ramen noodles (rolled and cut each morning) in pork, chicken or bonito broth made fresh to the exacting standards of Keiji Oshima, founder of the Tokyo-based company. Many of the ingredients come straight from Japan, and every bowl is made to order. For two dollars more, you can get a side of fierce-gingered pork gyoza
dumplings with soy-daikon dipping sauce, making for a less-than-ten-dollar meal that should keep you full long past dinnertime.