Monday, July 19, 2010

Ramen Summer School: Daikokuya

327 E 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
TEL: (213) 626-1680

What is this Ramen Summer School I have been going on about in my blog and Twitter feed?  Our good friend R has inspired my obsession with all things ramen this season, and when we're talking about something Japanese (food especially), it doesn't take much to get me going.  This caucasian girl from the Northern California suburbs knows precious little about ramen. My knowledge before this year (more or less) was limited to the 25 cent packs of Maruchan dried ramen from the soup aisle in warehouse grocery stores back in my salad days. The times, they are a changin'.

Late late late last Saturday night D and I hit Daikokuya for bowls of their iconic ramen. He ordered for me. One steaming giant white bowl of spicy miso ramen.  See the above description of all the ingredients. I was initially impressed by the boast of boiling pork bones and joints all through the night, which as we know extracts the collagen making the tonkatsu  broth rich and wonderful. Kurobuta pork belly is a phrase that always makes my mouth water. Green onion, egg and sprouts just add to the delicious promise.

The only real ramen experience I have to compare this to is my meal at Breadbar's Yatai a couple weeks back. I have been informed by several people that Yatai is in no way a typical ramen experience, and lots of tweets and blog posts disdain the flavors coming out of Breadbar's  kitchen at this event. However, I found the broth in my bowl of oxtail ramen to be far headier, rich, deep, dark and sexy...layers and layers of flavors.  The broth in my ramen at Daikokuya was much simpler, lighter in texture, in flavor, in oil. I am in no way saying Daikokuya's bowl was not delicious, it was wonderful. I squirreled away my leftovers for brunch the next day.  While almost as good the next morning, I was disappointed to see a lack of gelatin in my broth.  The cold broth had not gellified in the slightest as it cooled, which made me question the claim of the hours long boiling of pork bones. In my experience, cooking and eating in my mom's kitchen, a broth really made from bones will definitely gellify when cold.

This won't keep me away from Daikokuya, it's just a couple miles from my house and two of my favorite men are in love with their bowls.  But it will definitely drive me to continue the search for my favorite ramen bowl. Blogging friends Gourmet Pigs and Exile Kiss have both generously shared their list of favorites and I cannot wait to dig in.


weezermonkey said...

I looooove Daikokuya! I'm actually thrilled to learn that the broth doesn't gel. :)

Lucas Hare said...

I love ramen. When I was working in Japan in 1996, I damn near lived on the stuff. And I can't tell you how healthy and - ahem - regular everything seems if you eat precious little else. I can't be doing with udon noodles, though. Too fat. Over here we have Wagamama, which is a 'fast food' chain in the best sense of the term: they bring you the food when it's ready, but it's fresh and zingy. Last Friday my lovely wife brought me back my favourite: chilli beef ramen.

I say "over here"; it appears there are three in the Boston area:

Food, she thought. said...

Weezer, One of the reasons I am looking for a gelatinous texture is that the collagen adds a very rich flavor to the broth without needing the MSG. Not that I men MSG, it doesn't seem to disagree with me. It's just a tool I am using when considering how broths and soup stocks are made.

Luke, My mom loves Wagamama so much that during D & my last trip to Europe she made us hunt one down. We ate something delicious at the long tables of the Wagamama in Amsterdam. :-D

Anonymous said...

re: gelatin,
That is a VERY interesting observation FST. I'd still hit that bowl anytime though, especially since there's 1 3 miles away. That leaves Santouka, Shin Sen Gumi & Asa on the short list. Someone will inevitably bring up Ramen California, and I will of course scoff on the sly.

Food, she thought. said...

Sinosoul: You will most likely scoff right out in public. I have heard of Ramen California and that their approach is unorthodox. I am not ready to try anything unorthodox again until I have had some more authentic experiences and know what an amazing ramen bowl should taste like.

Anonymous said...

A thought on the lightness of daikokuya ramen. Did you know they offer a version that has added soup extracted from the back fat? You have to ask for kotteri flavor. Maybe next time you are dragged there you can check it out and it would be the richer experience you are looking for. :)

Here is the note: