Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ramen, Ramen, Ramen

Ramen. Such a fighting word. Beyond the freeze-dried stuff you buy at the grocery store for fifty-nine cents that passes itself off as "ramen," there exists a world flavor, texture and delight that no amount of hot water poured into a styro cup can ever satisfy. This is the world of real ramen. That Chinese-derivative Japanese noodle soup that inspires legions, forms the basis of movies and causes brothers to battle. The line between miso and shoyu is deep and one does not cross sides lightly.

The beauty of Southern California is its' pockets of life in the form of ethnic communities. While Mexican food abounds through most of Los Angeles, a visit to Gardena or Torrance reveals a strong, East Asian (namely Japanese) world. And nestled in this community is the Mitsua Marketplace - a warehouse sized building filled with a food court, shops and grocery store chock-full of Japanese foods and items. Need a book on Nobu Style? They've got it. Shiseido cosmetics? They've got it. Some weird kitchen contraption? No problem. Salty toothpaste? Yes! Pocky sticks? Of course. Tonkatsu? Hai!

Within the food court is reputedly one of Los Angeles' best ramen stands. It's a relatively simple operation that features a model menu you can point to, or a written menu in Japanese that you can also point to. Al and Polly had been here many times before and knew of my prediliction towards ramen and decided that I had to check it out before leaving.

I went with some pretty standard fare, shoyu ramen (that's a soy sauce based soup) with sliced pork, sliced fish roll and seaweed, with a hard boiled egg and a boil of rice and salmon roe. Al ordered almost the same thing, except his ramen had a different soup base and his rice bowl had pork instead of fish eggs.

It was good stuff. The noodles, which is the heart of the soup and the broth its' soul, were really reminiscent of Chinese saimin noodles: thin, squiggly but chewy. The broth was delicious, delicate and refined with just a lingering flavor of soy sauce. The salmon roe was fresh and popped in the mouth with a delicate saltiness. I'm a big fan of hard boiled egg with my ramen, so I was excited that mine came with one. This one was properly cooked but the outer skin was brown as though it had been steeped in tea for quite some time. Whatever flavoring what used turned out to be too delicate and disappeared under the flavor of the ramen.

In all, a good meal and a great place to shop. If only I lived there, I could have gone to town in the grocery store. Although I did pick up several Japanese cookbooks - including one titled: Nobu Style.

Mitsua Marketplace
1815 W 213th St # 235
Torrance, CA 90501
(310) 782-6800

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