We all know that crinkly, blue plastic wrapper containing dried noodles and a salt packet. To some, it is the definition of survival in college, while others may look at it in dismay. I can say with certainty that instant ramen has evolved over the years by the creative genius of those among us. However, while I do appreciate a quick meal, my view of ramen is quite different.
Ramen has been typically illustrated as a bowl of noodles and broth mixed with various ingredients such as tofu, soft-boiled egg, nori (seaweed), etc. This Japanese dish has been wildly popular all over the world and restaurants have been popping up left and right, all serving this wondrous vessel of umami goodness. Yet, I am here today to tell you that the ramen you always knew may not be the only one out there.
Introducing: Tsukemen ramen. The single dish that will change your perception of the trendy noodle-soup.
Tsukemen (known as Dipping Noodle) is compromised of two basic parts, each equally important. When you order Tsukemen, you will receive two bowls, one filled with golden, chewy noodles and another filled with thick broth. Usually, this dish has toppings such as char siu (the most delicious fatty pork you will ever wish to encounter), a perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg with a barely held together yolk, bamboo shoots, and nori.
For the broth, each restaurant has different cooking styles and techniques, but some restaurants (like Tsujita LA) will cook their soup for over 60 hours! Wherever you go, what you will get before you is the most intense, extraordinarily rich broth you can imagine.
Now to the important part – eating. There are many rules and traditions when eating this type of ramen, but personally, I believe eating should be free of rules and everyone should do what makes their experience enjoyable. First, simply grab noodles with your chopsticks (or fork, I don’t judge ya’ll) and dip them in the broth. Immediately after, stick those glorious noodles in your mouth and prepare to be satisfied.
#SpoonTip: Some people like to break open the soft boiled egg and have the yolk run over the noodles in a spectacular river of umami goodness.
Tsukemen is not your typical soup dish. It is interactive, experimental and creative. Each bite brings something new, whether it’s a piece of savory pork or a creamy piece of egg. It is a dish I have come to love/crave and I know all of you will, too.
My favorite restaurants for tsukemen are in in the Bay Area (Orenchi) and LA (Tsujita). I will just say Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle has changed my life and if you are ever in the West Los Angeles, I urge you, please go to this restaurant. I will say with complete certainty that their Char Siu Tsukemen is the best ramen I have ever, and will ever have (ask for extra lime and garlic to add to your noodles, best thing ever). Adding both of these restaurants to your foodie bucket list is definitely a must, especially if you call yourself a ramen fan.