I have a dream…that one day I would learn the skills to be a true ramen master.
So when Foo-Foo Tei’s Murakami-san took me back into his kitchen last night, I thought this could be my start! But staying true to his humorous nature, it was just a lesson in boiling water…har har. “Wax on, wax off Keizo-san!”
Luckily, I still got to witness the creation of Foo-Foo Tei’s new-for-2009 version of shoyu ramen. Yup, that’s right I said NEW for 2009! Healthier than the mystical Kokudama, this new shoyu ramen comes packed with flavor due to the addition of one simple ingredient. No, it’s not MSG (how dare you!), but it’s definitely a difference-maker that’s noticeable with every sniff, every slurp, and every chew. What is it, you ask? Sorry…I’ve been sworn to secrecy.
What would happen when a guy with a ramen blog gets together with the owner of a ramen-ya and the owner of a wonton noodle shop over a few late night drinks? Funny you should ask! Aside from sharing “office” laughs, a Foo-Foo Forest Wonton Ramen is what happens…
Imagine that–a Wonton Forest noodle soup using Foo-Foo Tei’s ramen noodle. Is that some awesome fusion or what?!! With a little extra fish oil and a few customary dabs of chili sauce, this wonton ramen would be something I could get used to. Unfortunately, it was just an experiment and not something that will be offered anywhere…at least for now.
Even though I saw this coming, the melancholic truth sends a pain towards my mere heart. What’s next? Yokohama Kaigenro? Hanaichimonme? Honda Ya? Go 55? Beard Papa? I’ll be the first to welcome the new Super H Mart (supposedly) taking its place, but 1/25 will still be a sad day. And although I won’t really miss Sakura‘s ramen, I’ll miss some of the other stuff they had.
123 Astronaut Ellison S Onizuka St. #202
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Leave it to rameniac to discover (by chance) the newest ramen-ya on the LA scene. Located in Little Tokyo’s Weller Court directly beneath the infamous Orochon Ramen, Chin-Ma-Ya of Tokyo takes a risky Sichuan-style jump across the Pacific, hoping to promote good health by making you sweat.
So why does this restaurant look so familiar? Ohhh, it’s that chain of ramen-ya’s from Japan! I now remember walking by the Ebisu branch, thinking “hmm should I or shouldn’t I?…Nah!” I then proceeded to hit up Tsukumo Ramen instead. I now regret not trying it, solely because it could have made the basis for a great comparison. Anyhow, let’s see what Chin-Ma-Ya of LA has to offer.
Tan-Tan Men: The signature ramen at Chin-Ma-Ya is the Sichuan-influenced Tan-Tan Men that can be ordered in 3 different spice levels–original (highest), medium, and mild. I chose to begin with the original cuz I’m always in the mood for a good kick. Not nearly as spicy as the dreaded “Special 2” from their upstairs neighbor, this original Tan-Tan Men has just enough spice to still make the flame enjoyable. And aside from its spiciness, there’s also a great nutty flavor that permeates a heavy, concentrated soup. The noodles are average at best, but most importantly they match the soup almost perfectly. The toppings (ground pork & spinach) are typical of a simple tan-tan ramen and just as important as the noodle itself.
On the backside of the menu, a brief explanation of the inherent benefits of this type of soup are explained in Japanese. Apparently, the ingredients that make up this ramen (including capsaicin) are very good for you. From increasing circulation and promoting a healthy digestive system to stimulating the brain and building a better immune system, this bowl may end up quieting all the ramen haters out there.
Karaage Ramen (Shoyu): Aside from their signature Tan-Tan Men, they also offer a few bowls that use a traditional Shoyu or Shio base and the Karaage Ramen is one of them. As basic as it sounds, this shoyu-based ramen is simply topped with spinach and a few pieces of fried chicken. The soups flavor was enjoyably strong, but it was also a tad too oily. Perhaps it was the added oil from the karaage? The noodles were the exact same as above and not any more impressive.
The one thing that stood out the most was in fact the Karaage. I was shocked to see that it had held its crunch even after being submerged in the soup. Impressive! And oh yeah, the flavor of the Karaage was excellent!…though I’ll probably just order them as an appetizer next time.
Overall, I would still prefer Shisen’s soup head-to-head, but let it be known that there’s a new Sichuan ramen-ya in town–a ramen-ya that can definitely hold it’s own weight!
Since we’re no longer able to text message while driving in California, how about email? The long-awaited movie, The Ramen Girl, finally hits theaters (in Japan) on 1/17! One question: Which is worse, straight to Japan or straight to DVD? Someone asked me yesterday what the big deal was with the upcoming Presidential Inauguration. He is from Uzbekistan…I let it slide. The other day, I was traveling well over the speed limit on the freeway when a cop pulled up next to me, shined his big, bright light in my face, and then sped away. It’s a good thing I wasn’t text messaging!
I’ve been stuck at home feeling a bit under the weather lately, so I decided to crack open one of the canned ramen I brought back from Japan last year. According to the label, it’s just called Shoyu Ramen. Simple…I like. I can’t remember exactly where I bought this one, but it must have been somewhere in Akihabara. After all, that’s where most of the ramen vending machines are.
My first reaction after opening the can was: [CENSORED]. Exactly. These cans can last for years so it is highly unlikely that I was staring at some type of fungus. It turns out that it was just some good ole lard clusters that blended into the soup after I applied some heat. The directions on this can actually recommended that you reheat the ramen in a pot and not in the can. So being the rigid servant of society that I am, I obeyed.
To my surprise, there were two real-looking pieces of menma and one naturally fake-looking piece of chashu. The menma tasted like mushma (whatever that is–I couldn’t find it in edjusted’s glossary) and the chashu tasted exactly like cardboard with a hint of vinegar. Mmm…the resemblance was amazing. The soup had a soury sensation of overwhelming fishiness. To put it lightly, it was disgusting…haha.
The noodles are made with konnyaku (konjac) to combat the effects of sogginess. They pretty much tasted like those you would find in Sukiyaki (the dish not the song).