Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ramen - In All Its Glory

Let us take a second to appreciate this beautiful dish called ramen. Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup dish loosely derived from the Chinese "mein." Like pasta, ramen noodles have a certain chewy yet delicate texture and helps fulfill our carb cravings. Before I ramble about my love for ramen, it's important here to not confuse authentic ramen with the instant variety we find in supermarkets. What we're talking about here is soup stock that takes almost an entire day to prepare, topped with slowly cooked pork (cha siu) and vegetables.

Although there are many ramen variations, the classic ramen is the shoyu (soy sauce) ramen. Every restaurant has its own recipe for their base broth, but it generally consists of slowly boiling pork, pork bones, leeks, and other vegetables. There's a certain art in parboiling meats and veggies as well. The shoyu broth is essentially a compound broth that combines the base with soy sauce. Another popular variation is the miso ramen, which is a compound broth that incorporates the base with miso paste. The traditional shoyu ramen is topped with (from bottom left) spinach, bean sprouts, seasoned bamboo shoots, egg, scallions, and pork.

One of my favorite films of all time is "Tampopo," directed by Juzo Itami. This film revolves around a woman's determination to achieving the perfect bowl of ramen. There's also a great message about the universal appreciation of food in this film for all you foodies out there.

West LA is fortunate to be graced with a few ramen restaurants. You can find me at Yokohama Ramen at least once a week. Another great ramen joint is Ramenya on Olympic. There's also a few nice ramen shops on Sawtelle Blvd. as well. Cheers to good ramen!

Yokohama Ramen - 11660 Gateway Blvd, West LA
Ramenya - 11555 W. Olympic Blvd, West LA