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The Daddy Ramen team: Phoenix Sigalove, left, and Lichen Richardson, right, along with the children in their blended families: Stella, 12, Malaya, 5, Asa, 9, and LewLew, 7. (Jim Flint photo)

Paying it forward one bowl of ramen at a time

At last year’s Bear Creek Salmon Festival in Ashland, singer/songwriter and storyteller Phoenix Sigalove entertained the crowds with his take on the blues.

At this year’s festival at North Mountain Park Oct. 6, he won’t have time to break out the guitar. He and partner Lichen Richardson will be too busy as the food vendor, serving up creative ramen dishes from their brand new Daddy Ramen food truck.

Sigalove, 47, came to the Rogue Valley about eight years ago from the San Francisco Bay Area. Richardson, 33, was an Ashland resident. Now they have combined their families and live in Phoenix.

Daddy Ramen made its debut in May at the food truck court in Medford at 325 S. Riverside Ave., next to the post office.

“Our truck was built by PDX Cart Builders of Portland,” Sigalove said. “We chose them because they use the best materials, and we wanted to put our best foot forward.”

The truck is equipped with a six-burner propane range and oven, commercial refrigeration and a flat-top griddle. The interior design maximizes space and storage while providing an environment for efficient preparation of the food.

The dishes they serve are not the typical top ramen bowls one whips up at the last minute for a quick meal on a busy week night.

“We have our noodles made for us in Beaverton,” Sigalove said. But taking the gourmet noodles to the next level involves a lengthy process.

“Our bone broth takes 18 to 20 hours to make. The bones are from heritage pork that is pasture raised and acorn fed. In our house ramen, we pair the pork broth with a chicken soup made from my grandmother’s recipe. We call it a two-soup ramen.”

One version of the house ramen is served with a generous cut of chashu pork.

“It’s pork shoulder slow-roasted for about five hours,” he said. “We have a vegetarian version of our house ramen, too.”

Topping the house ramen are flowered carrots, slices of medium boiled eggs, thin slices of green onions, other veggies, and edible flowers.

Another customer favorite is Daddy Ramen’s version of mac and cheese, with the ramen noodles subbing for the macaroni.

“It’s popular with the kids, but the adults like it, too,” Richardson said.

Soon after Daddy Ramen opened, the couple inaugurated a “pay it forward” program. Customers can pay for an extra bowl of ramen which can be served to somebody in need at a future date. They put a coaster in the window for every pre-paid order to indicate that a “free” meal is available.

On their Facebook page, Sigalove told the story about a man who walked up to the truck and sheepishly asked about the pay it forward bowl he had heard about.

Sigalove told him that whenever he saw a coaster in the window, that meant a bowl was available.

“You hungry?” I asked him. “He said, ‘real hungry.’”

Sigalove offered him an extra-large bowl of the house ramen. The man took it to a nearby table and sat down under an umbrella, closing his eyes for a moment before digging in.

“He lifted his head only once to say, ‘This is the bomb!’” Sigalove said.

It’s the kind of thing that makes them happy they started the program.

“We thank the ramen community for helping us do this,” he said.

Through his music, Sigalove is known as a warrior for peace and social justice. His one-man show, “Phoenix Blues,” a story of his year-long horseback ride from Montana to Mexico, was performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Green Show and at the Britt Festival in 2016. Last year he was the understudy for Grandfather and ensemble in the OSF production of “Off the Rails.”

Richardson is a commercial photographer and still does wedding shoots when time permits.

They work as equal partners in the food truck business, dividing the responsibilities. Sigalove preps the noodles and adds meat and eggs to the bowls. Richardson finishes with the toppings.

Each bowl is served to order. They have 16 individual baskets in which to prep the noodles.

You’ll find Daddy Ramen open five days a week at its Medford location. They also take the truck occasionally to winery events and festivals.

They’ll be at this year’s Bear Creek Salmon Festival, set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at North Mountain Park, 620 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland.

Also on the festival slate: music from Montana Soul, cultural displays and activities featuring members from local Native American tribes, storytelling in the Salmon Story Tent, live animals provided by Wildlife Images, and live native fish in a giant fish tank.

The festival celebrates the Bear Creek Watershed and the return of the salmon. Activities for the whole family will include crafts, games and a special salmon parade through the park.

For more information about the festival, see bearcreeksalmonfestival.net. For more information about Daddy Ramen, see facebook.com/DaddyRamen.

Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland.

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