Silverlake Ramen

IMG_6895I’m not sure if my taste bud has changed but some of the ramen places I once thought were phenomenal have become a bit of a blah. I used to rank Santouka and Mottainai, both located in South Bay, to be two of my favorite ramen restaurants in Los Angeles (Daikokuya is still my undisputed champ), but my recent visits there made me think otherwise. Don’t get me wrong – their ramens are still very decent and in fact, a Japanese TV show recently ranked them in the top 10 ramen shops in LA and Orange County – but I didn’t experience the euphoric high that I once enjoyed after slurping their milky tonkotsu broth.

Though never a ramen addict, I do have an occasional craving for the super-high-in-sodium-but-totally-worth-it Japanese comfort food … and it often comes in scorching hot days, like today. Let’s call it a ramen paradox – how a hot noodle soup (in temperature, as well as flavor) tastes extra delicious in a 100-plus degree weather.

Determined to recreate the ramen love I once felt, my husband, Pon Pon and I headed to Silverlake Ramen, a small, no-frill establishment in a shopping center on an artsy and very hipster stretch of Sunset Boulevard. This place has received positive reviews on Yelp, and we conquered with the consensus.

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We ordered the tonkotsu ramen and shared a place of grilled gyoza. I really liked the flavor of the broth and how the “kotteri” (rich) soup intertwined beautifully with the slightly undercooked (just the way I like it) noodles. I think I favor this bowl of pork bone broth over my previous favorite places, but with one caveat. Although flavorful, the broth was way too heavy and thick, like the humid air outside. It was definitely more fatty and salty than I would like, so much so that my palette, as well as my stomach, got too overwhelmed and couldn’t finish the entire bowl. But yes, this place is very good and I would definitely come back here to satisfy my next craving.

IMG_6893These pork dumplings were very ordinary (and I mean this in an endearing way) but definitely brought out the lovely comfort feel to this gyoza lover here.

I’ll be sure to sport a pair of my geeky, black-frame glasses and a skinny jeans next time just so I can blend in with the other Hipsters in this trendy neighborhood.

Silverlake Ramen
2927 W Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
★★★★☆

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Money-Saving Meal: Chapchae

I watched the show “Extreme Couponing” on TLC for the first time a few weeks ago … and may I say … #$%*@#$? eekThe show documents people who clip coupons and go to any lengths to save money on groceries and other necessities. And I mean any lengths – from dumpster diving to stealing coupons from a driveway of foreclosed houses in the neighborhood. This is not a hobby but a way of life for these extreme coupon clippers and they spend the amount of time equivalent of a full-time job to prepare for their shopping spree. The reward is magnificent, where they often walk out of a supermarket saving 90 to 100% of their total grocery bills. It’s very typical to see people walk out with $600-plus worth of groceries without paying a dime … or even a penny!

I must admit that the show fascinates me and disgusts me all at the same time. While it is unbelievably refreshing to discover that someone has finally found the way to completely manipulate the system, it troubles me to see such excessive behaviors. Really, who needs 100 bottles of laundry detergents, 500 cans of soda, 100 boxes of cereal, and other mostly unhealthy, processed food items in their garage-turned mini mart? I feel like there isn’t much difference between extreme couponers and hoarders. The only differences, maybe, are that the latter is super organized and they don’t have 20 dead cats in the house. But excess is still an excess and it is very disturbing. Good thing the show “Intervention” is right around the corner on A&E.

Although I won’t be spending 40 hours a week clipping coupons and comparing prices on a jar of peanut butter from store to store, the show did have one positive impact. It made me realize that I need to rethink my own shopping behaviors. I think there are two things that I need to constantly remind myself of: 1. Plan ahead to reduce food going to waste; and 2. Cook at home to save money. So, here’s my first attempt at dining at home and using up everything I have in the fridge and the pantry.  This Chapchae recipe is so easy and you don’t even have to go dumpster diving for it!

Chapchae, Korean-style noodle and vegetables
Serves 2

This is where I apologize in advance. Although Korean cuisine is one of my favorites, I don’t have much background knowledge on it; therefore, I might have butchered the culinary tradition by making my version of this popular noodle dish, like the way Rachael Ray does with all her “ethnic” dishes. If I offended any hardcore Korean cooks or Korean food lovers, I am very sorry. redface

Ingredients

4 oz (or half package) Harusame noodle (this is the Japanese version of the Korean glass noodle)
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped
½ onion, sliced
Small ginger (maybe ½ the size of your thumb), finely chopped
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, julienned
½ green pepper, julienned
3 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoons agave nectar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
¼ cup of water from shiitake mushroom reconstitution
Sesame oil
1 tablespoon Doenjan, or Korean soy paste
Salt and pepper to taste

Instruction:

Mix soy sauce, mirin, sake, agave nectar, Daenjan, sesame oil, and vinegar in a bowl and set aside. Cook harusame per instruction on package (usually boiling noodle in bubbling hot water like pasta). When cooked, set the noodle aside. It’s best to stop cooking when the noodle is still a bit coarse. You will have a chance to cook them some more in a sauce later.

Heat a separate medium-size pan and sauté all vegetables, garlic, and ginger with sesame oil until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked noodle into the vegetable mix. Pour the sauce mixture and cook until the liquid is completely gone. You can serve immediately or serve chilled. I like to pour some more vinegar and a dollop of hot sauce.  Enjoy.

Traveler’s Oasis: Dojima Ann

sushi-3Of all the fabulous places one can dine in the culinary rich San Francisco, I ate at the little hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant near my hotel – twice! As usual, I was totally craving the taste of home!

Dojima Ann, located a few blocks from the hustle and bustle of Union Square, is not just a little friendly Japanese noodle shop but an oasis for any Japanese or Japanese-food loving travelers tired of dining at fancy restaurants and just want simple, down-home cooking (the place was packed with those appeared to be Japanese tourists). What is so pleasantly surprising about this place is that despite its location, it offers many authentic, Osaka-style dishes that you would only expect in Asian enclave.

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I ordered a bowl of Daikon Oroshi Udon, a cold udon noodle with grated Japanese radish, quail egg, fish cake, scallion and root vegetables (pictured above), served with dipping sauce, and a side of hamachi (yellowtail) cut roll to calm my Japanese food craving. (pictured below).  They were both so darn tasty!

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I guess you can take a girl out of Japan, but you can’t take Japanese food craving out of a girl.

Dojima Ann
★★★★☆

Post-Run Lunch to Awaken my Senses: Asian Noodles

A couple of friends and I participated in the Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker 10K Run a few weeks ago — an event that was a part of the week-long Chinese New Year celebration. The race began at the heart of Chinatown, then up the hills through Elysian Park and Dodgers Stadium and back to Chinatown for the picture-perfect finish. This was such a wonderful and a rare opportunity to travel the streets of Los Angeles on foot. The view of Downtown LA skyscrapers in the smog-free morning was serene and breathtaking.

I love these local running races and I try to participate in them as much as time (or money, these things aren’t cheap!) allows, but running and I have this strange, love-and-hate relationship. I guess the “hate“ part is the actual motion of putting one foot in front of the other (yep, running is evil), and the “love” part is being able to collect finisher’s medals and cool freebies. I suppose the bragging right you earn by finishing a longer-distance run is pretty good too, although I never reveal to people that I actually crawl my way to the finish line. My boyfriend volunteered one day to buy me a calendar instead of a stop watch … and I don’t think he was joking.

Well, every run is an agonizing experience but a guilt-free lunch that follows immediately after makes every minute of pain worth it (okay, maybe not every minute … maybe two). And this day was no exception.

Although we were in the heart of Chinatown that day, we decided to walk down a couple blocks to sample some Filipino food at Asian Noodle — a cute little establishment with a cafe or an art studio-esque decor. To tell you the truth, I’ve never been much of a South East Asian cuisines fan, and never placed Vietnamese, Thai or Filipino food on top of my “must eat” list. I’m not sure exactly what turns me off from them … maybe I’m not too crazy about cilantro/basil/lemongrass-laden dishes. But I was pleasantly surprised at the firecracker of flavors I experienced at Asian Noodle. Sure, there were some entrees that we ordered that I wasn’t too goo-goo-ga-ga over, but there were a few that I absolutely fell head-over-heels for, like the garlic rice. It was such a simple dish — rice sauteed with chopped garlic — but the flavors had so much depth. The silver noodle was also quite delicious, with chicken and cabbage adding the nice crunch. My apologies – because of my lack of knowledge on the Filipino cuisine, I can’t recall what each dish was called, but here’s what we ordered. If you’re a fan of pungent flavors of lemongrass and other powerful herbs and spices, this place will surely satisfy your SE Asian cravings.

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I think our eyes were much bigger than our stomach that day. Between the five of us, we ordered enough food to feed the entire Chinatown and then some. I guess that’s what happens after a good workout — you “think” you’re really hungry but your body is actually too tired to digest. But the combination of sweet, sour and spicy flavors of the Filipino dishes really awakened my senses and, after a couple sips of the delicious lemongrass soup, I was back to my usual hungry self.

Asian Noodles

643 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
★★★★☆