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Daikokuya, Shin Sen Gumi, and a Japanese (and Asian) noodle summary

Thi N. | Oct 2, 200301:56 AM

Some rambling on Japanese noodles follows. I should note: though I have been noodle obsessed for many a year, I have never actually eaten ramen in Japan, so the truly knowledgeable may simply want to pass over this posting in disgust.

Most of the ramen I've had has been, I believe, Tokyo-style (?) - noodles in clear broth, soy broth, or miso-enhanced broth. Thus far, I've eaten at a number of ramen places throughout Little Tokyo, Sawtelle, and Gardena - the best I'd yet had, ramen-wise, was Ramen-ya, for their satisfyingly toothsome, deep-flavored noodles, in a pleasant broth. (Ramen-ya, by the way, is in a whole different category from Asahi Ramen, which is nearby and kind of sad.)

Ramen-ya is also run by Koreans, which I am told is pretty common in Japan, and, I am told, which results in a distinctive style of ramen.

I went to Daikokuya on Liloo's recommendation. This was quite pleasing. This is - I can't remember the name of the style, somebody has to help me out - the northern (?) style that's based around the long-cooked pork bones and the flavor of black (?) pork? Anyway, it was intensely porky and hearty, and I enjoyed it. A nice, granular broth with little bubbles of fat in it. The noodles were alright, but unmemorable. This is the first time I'd ever had this style. Also, the two dudes who work behind the counter, one of whom looked like some cross between the old Toaist monk in Chinese Ghost Story and some heavy metal roadies I once knew - they rocked out.

Two days ago, I hit up Shin Sen Gumi, which I had been told was in that same northern (?) style. Clearly of the same school, but a whole 'nother beast.

First, the place. Kind of dingy cowboy-modern decor. Bright lights. Loud, loud hip-hop. Big chunky guy behind the long counter, looking like he could beat the crap out of me and anybody I brought along. The other guys wandering around taking orders were prompt and friendly, but also looked like, though they were skinny, they could beat the crap out of me. Even the girl waiter.

I was given the choice of mild, normal, or extra pork flavor (I picked normal), and the choice of mild, normal, or extra oil (I picked normal).

What came was... extraordinary. The broth had this incredible body - not the outright head-blasting step-on-your-family-jewels porkiness of Daikokuya, but really sauve. Definitely beautiful. And the texture - kind of smooth, and, though this is a major cliche, silky. Amy and I talked about it for a while in the car ride back. We agreed that "silky" was the only right word. Daikokuya had the greater flavor-complexity, but Shin Sen Gumi's, I loved.

The ramen noodles are very supple, very soft, and almost flavorless. Which works. The body and blood and power are in the broth - the noodle just sort of gives you pause and relish.

My ladyfriend got wontons in her soup, which turned out to be awesome. Completely different texture in the wrapper - thick, slightly sweet wrapper, with well-spiced filling. A nice contrast.

Every once in a while, somebody would buy the cook or the waitress a beer, and there'd be a loud toast from the staff to the drink-buyer, and then the dude/dudette would chug the whole thing and there would be shouting. It was a great place.

Anyway, that's all. I've been craving Shin Sen Gumi for the last few days. The density and savour of that broth... it suffuses your mouth and nostrils like something I can't mention on this board...

Anyway, it's one of my two favorite intense-broths in town, along with Ruen Pair's blood-and-beef Kou Jub soup.

Daikokuya is in downtown. Shin Sen Gumi is is Gardena.

Anyway, this has gotten me to thinking. So, a long list of favorite Asian noodles. Please give me your favorites, I will try them all:

Soba: seishiro, served zaru (cold and basically plain), at Otafuku. I cannot describe this, except to say that they are the best noodles I've had in my life. Everything else I've had here, that's not a noodle, has been sort of unmemorable - especially the soggy tempura. But those noodles...

Tips: a nice clean palate before hand. Like certain green teas, I find that if I've eaten anything strong in the few hours before I have these noodles, I can't quite fully *taste* them. The first time I had them, I kind of gobbled them up at high speed and only halfway through did the flavors expand on me and did I realize that I was in the presence of Great Noodle...

They also used to have great homemade pickles, but these went away. I think somebody theorized that the fermenting pickling process was against health code. Sad...

(I have noted that somebody likes Bamboo Garden more than Otafuku. This I will try soon.)

(This is leagues better, in my book, than Yabu, which a lot of people seem to like.)

Udon: Kotohiro. Smooth, gentle sweet nutty flavor. Nice broths, too.

Thick Northern Chinese noodles: hand-cut noodles in lamb soup at China Islamic. Damn! This gots TEXTURE, baby. Runner-up: hand-cut noodles at Mandarin Deli, Downtown branch. (Annoyingly, you have to ask for hand-cut noodles, otherwise you get crap-for-noodles.)

Those Springy Korean noodles: naengymon at Chung Ki Wah, which I like more than my old favorite, naengymon at Ham Hung. Springy, cold, spicy, and, if you're hardcore, comes with raw skate wing, which I dig, but which has made other people barf. Gotta enjoy chewing *around* the cartilage*.

Pho noodles: haven't found a great all-around pho, but best noodles so far are at Pho Hoa in Chinatown.

Special weird-ass-runner-up-that-I-may-love-or-be-disturbed-by: house special chicken noodle soup at Din Tai Fung, in double-steamed chicken soup. Soup is extraordinary. Noodles are - almost flavorless and very dense. I may love this. I don't know. Must eat again.


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