Looking for something different? Here are some hidden gems to try out.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY: JAY BAMBA
California has been blessed with many cultural dishes, such as good foodies like ramen, for example. Originating from Japan with a few Chinese elements, ramen has been a popular food that has represented the Japanese food culture for decades, along with sushi. Seeing as that hot soup and noodles is a perfect match for the season, I have visited four restaurants within driving distance from Long Beach – Tsujita, Hayatemaru, Men Oh and Hakata Ikkousha.
Ramen has two essential components – soups and noodles. They both differ within the regions of Japan, and each style illustrates unique specialties. Stocks for soups are often made with pork, chicken and vegetables, each giving a distinct taste that is perfect for the ramen noodles. Soups are diverse in terms of thickness, as well – in which some have a light broth, and others have rich, creamy texture to it. The noodles also vary in thickness and materials, each used in appropriate soups.
1644 W Carson St. B, Torrance 90501
Time from CSULB: 20 minutes
The most popular ramen in the restaurant offers a hearty soup and a good amount of cabbage you probably have not had in a long while. The Spicy Miso Ramen is also on sale during the restaurant’s happy hour. This store is open to 3 a.m. Monday through Saturday; perfect for the party animals. The restaurant also has the most seats and parking space available in the restaurants mentioned in this article; making it the most accessible. There are also three booths among the 40-plus seats, providing a cozy, private environment.
Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle
2057 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles 90025
Time from CSULB: 30 minutes
Directly translated from Japanese as “dipping noodles,” Tsujita’s famous tsukemen is a variation of a ramen that takes a slight twist to others. The tsukemen has the soup and noodles in separate bowls, whereas you dip the noodles into the soup one bite at a time. Parking is limited, so make sure to carpool! Expect some waiting time, as it is usually crowded due to the little number of seats available.
Men Oh Tokushima Ramen
456 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, 90012
Time from CSULB: 30 minutes
Tokushima Ramen from Men Oh features an extraordinarily rich and creamy pork broth with a mix of ordinary and unique toppings. Stir fried pork and bean sprouts are default, but it also offers a variety of optional toppings such as corns and spinach. The counter seats have a TV, and the wide selection of beers and sakes contribute a sports bar ambience to it. Although located in the LA area (which is known for its infamous parking situation), there is a specific lot designated to it, so parking should not be a problem.
21605 S. Western Ave J, Torrance, 90501
Time from CSULB: 20 min
Featuring a thin noodle and a rather clearer pork broth, the tonkotsu ramen from Hakata Ikkousha is quite possibly the most traditional and conventional ramens anyone can get. Its flavor is representative of the Hakata tonkotsu style, which is one of the mainstream styles in Japan. If you have never had ramen before or you want to enjoy a classic ramen, this is the spot. The restaurant, located in Torrance with a sizable parking lot, is its second location in the States and has also expanded to Singapore, China, among other places across the sea.
Although some of these restaurants may be a little far from Long Beach, I can guarantee that the drive will be worth the wait. Hurry and head over to one of these places before the season ends so you can enjoy the soups and noodles to their full potential. However, let me also iterate that ramens are just good all year.