Chef Rasheeda Purdie Uses Ramen To Celebrate Juneteenth’s Legacy

The Harlem-based chef has a new ramen experience available for purchase during the holiday week.

Rasheeda Purdie, Founder of Ramen by Rā, Hosts Juneteenth Inspired Ramen Experience This Year | Photo by Frank Marando, courtesy of Rasheeda Purdie; Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

Rasheeda Purdie, Founder of Ramen by Rā, Hosts Juneteenth Inspired Ramen Experience This Year | Photo by Frank Marando, courtesy of Rasheeda Purdie; Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

RaSheeda purdieThe community-centered approach to ramen is one of the most unique food experiences to emerge from a pandemic. For the DC native and stylist-turned-chef, her solo business located in the culturally rich, brownstone-lined streets of Harlem not only adds to the neighborhood’s historic culinary landscape, but does so while celebrating the cultural ties in every bowl.

His company, Ramen by Ra, where she offers unique ramen experiences, was born out of what she describes as an ‘leap of faith’. While working in the fashion world at a Fifth Avenue department store, Purdie noticed a change in the way people consumed and purchased fashion online rather than in person. After realizing that she had to adapt to the changes the industry was going through, it led her to diversify into another area that interested her: food. In 2015, while working as a stylist for Henri Bendel in New York City, she enrolled in culinary school part-time and did an internship at Cecile working with Executive Chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson.

“I love working with my hands and developing this habit of going to fashion shows, going out to eat and eating all that sumptuous food. I wanted to experience food on another level, ”she says. “I want to experience food in an artistic way like I’m a stylist.

Purdie eventually quit fashion to enter the culinary industry full time. Along the way, while working at reputable Harlem restaurants, she developed almost mentoring-type relationships with several of their owners, including Johnson, Melba Wilson of Melba’s, and chef Marcus Samuelsson of red rooster. After years of working in Harlem, in 2019 Purdie became an assistant general manager specializing in hospitality at a Midtown workspace, but was ultimately fired due to the pandemic.

rasheeda purdie junteenth ramen by ra
Rāsheeda sipping strawberry sage soda | Photo by Frank Marando, courtesy of Rasheeda Purdie; Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

Instead of working for another company to help make someone else’s dreams come true, Purdie decided it was time to start his own. “I finally wanted to give myself a chance,” she says. “I wanted to see how far I can go with my ideas for myself.” And as a ramen fanatic, this is how Ramen by Ra was born. Being one of his favorite dishes, Purdie began to map out what would become his business. As most restaurants were closed during the height of the pandemic, she “was very bitter that she couldn’t have ramen” and took advantage of her extra time to learn how to do it from scratch through documentaries, videos and cookbooks. “As much as this pandemic is bittersweet, it allowed me to take advantage of the time I had to learn things that I probably wouldn’t have, like ramen,” she says.

Purdie started her business mostly on her own, including designing the website, taking photos, doing marketing, and of course being the chef behind all of her eye-catching ramen offerings. In fall 2020, Ramen by Ra launched in collaboration with Ada Supper Club to provide unique ramen experiences that people can enjoy at home. So far, she has performed five ramen experiments, including “Renaissance”, Which emphasized stillness and patience, and“Resolution“, which was dedicated in early 2021. Next is” Roots + Ramen “, which will honor and celebrate the legacy of juinteenth, a public holiday marking the day Union soldiers traveled to Galveston, Texas to announce that slavery had been abolished.

“I’m really happy to experiment with the fusion of cultures. Juneteenth is a really good party for that because I put in what I know and what I learned about Juneteenth (and her eating habits), and I incorporate it into Asian cooking techniques, ”she says.

Edamame salad with black-eyed peas
Black-eyed pea edamame salad with puffed cherry tomatoes and soy balsamic vinaigrette | Photo by Frank Marando, courtesy of Rasheeda Purdie

Ramen by RaThe Juneteenth experience consists of three courses and relates to the food of the holiday, and its tradition of red foods, which historians attribute several sources to the symbolism of color, including what represents strength in many West African cultures and the bloodshed of lost ancestors who did not live to see freedom.

The first course is a salad of black-eyed pea edamame with puffed cherry tomatoes and a soy balsamic vinaigrette with an egg yolk. The second dish is a watermelon ramen with spinach noodles and a cold broth of watermelon juice mixed with a dressing (barbecued short ribs, watermelon poke, watercress, and fried garlic also make appearances in this refreshing dish).

“The watermelon ramen is my everyone’s favorite because it thinks outside the box and is linked to our culture. It is also related to Asian culture, as the watermelon or melon soup is actually very popular in Korea, and it exudes the tradition of red color for Juneteenth. I’m very happy to put watermelons in a brighter light, even with the history they have, ”Purdie says.

The third dish is a roll of red velvet cake with sweet buttercream inside, designed to resemble narutomaki, the pink and white fish cake found in some ramen dishes, with a soda pop. with strawberry and sage. Purdie made sure to include little hidden gems in every dish, like narutomaki, and each dish has something green, red or black inspired by the Pan-African flag.

Ramen red velvet cake roll by ra harlem
Red velvet cake roll that comes inside the Roots + Ramen experience | Photo by Frank Marando, courtesy of Rasheeda Purdie

Purdie believes food acts as a way to connect and bring people from all walks of life and identities together, and she wants her specially created ramen experiences to help build those relationships.

“We are in a world where there are a lot of divisions and when you sit down and eat or talk and are part of the community, we are one. There are so many different things that I have learned from studying Asian culture that I have similarities and come to know through my own culture. I want to bridge the divide between cultures, be it through food, community, vacations, traditions, education or religion, ”Purdie says. There are so many ways to join and that’s what I want my ramen to do.

If you’re in the New York area, you can RSVP to purchase a Roots + Ramen package from June 14-18. at Knock. The pick-up date is Saturday, June 19 between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. in Harlem. Further information will be provided once you confirm your attendance. Get more updates on Roots + Ramen and the upcoming events Purdie is hosting by following her on Instagram and visit him website.

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Kristen adaway is a writer at Thrillist. Am here @kristenadaway.

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