Los Angeles is one of those truly cosmopolitan cities in the World. Because of this, some people see it as lacking a true identity, or as fake, but I see it as… a great place to eat food from absolutely everywhere! And if what you crave is Asian food, then only in LA will you find the most varied and authentic food from the Far East. There are significant populations from Korea, China, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand with restaurants that cater their menu towards their own communities more than towards your average Western diner, certifying the authenticity of the food. Since you can find noodles pretty much in any cuisine throughout Asia, I thought it would the perfect dish to compare. What? You’re not in LA and won’t be there anytime soon? Don’t worry, I’ll attach recipes so you can give it a try at home.
Ramen is probably my favorite noodle soup. Scratch that. Ramen is probably my favorite soup. PERIOD. I could eat it every day of my life. Of course I’m not talking about instant ramen, which apart from being not particularly healthy, has nothing to do with the terrific bowl of ramen you can find in my favorite hangout: Silverlake Ramen. This relatively new place is something of a hole in the wall in LA’s official hipster neighborhood and, although the clientele does not consist of Japanese natives looking for a dose of culinary nostalgia, the ramen they offer is as good as the best ramen I’ve had in Tokyo…
Sorry, I had to interrupt my writing to just to go there and have a bowl of ramen. TRUE STORY. Now that my stomach is satisfied, let’s carry on.
My favorite dish on their menu is the Tonkotsu Ramen. A good bowl of ramen has a rich broth, with tasty noodles and fresh veggies and is served hot. It’s the perfect meal for a cold night, but with a cold bottle of sweet sake, I could eat it on any summer day too.
For those of you not living in LA, or anywhere near a good ramen place, here’s a good recipe I found. However, you’ll need plenty of time to make it, as the broth takes quite some time to prepare. In fact, at Silverlake Ramen they claim it takes them 16 hours to make their broth.
Naengmyeong is a Korean dish that has its similarities with ramen. There is, however, a big difference between the two: Nengmyeong is served cold. The dish, usually served in a stainless steel bowl, consists of noodles, a hard boiled egg, meat and vegetables in a cold broth. The taste is a lot more vinegary than Ramen and, the same way that Ramen hits the spot on a cold night, Naengmeyeong is perfect for a hot summer day’s lunch. In LA’s K-Town, home of the largest population of Koreans outside of Korea, you will find plenty of real places (“real” as in the menu is only written in Korean “real”) that serve the dish. My favorite place is Hwang Hae Do, a place whose only aspiration is to serve good and affordable food. No fancy decoration here.
If you can’t make it to LA or Korea, you can give try it out at home. Watch this video, this woman makes it look easy:
And last, but not least…
This dish has nothing to do with the other dishes. It is closer to Yakisoba or Chow Mein, but it’s also completely different. Basically, this is how it works: You put a bunch of vegetables and meat in a bowl, then you add as many noodles as you want, add some sauce and toss it on the grill. The funny thing about Mongolian BBQ is that it is neither Mongolian nor barbecue. It was first “created” by Taiwanese restaurants in Taipei, basing the concept on supposedly Mongolian eating customs. Mongolian BBQ actually has more to do with Japanese teppanyaki, which was very popular in Taiwan. There are many Mongolian BBQ fast food chains, but if you want to eat the healthy version, come over to Gobi, located in Silverlake. On a side note, you’ll see in their dessert menu they have a beer float, and you might think: “I like beer, I like ice cream, I think I’ll like this”. Think twice.
If you don’t want to spend $20 to try this, you can always make it at home with this recipe.