Friday, January 25, 2008

Driving for Noodles

How far would you drive for a good bowl of noodles? (The question reminds me of that old cigarette jingle, "I'd walk a mile for a Camel.") Now that the simple bowl of ramen has nearly reached cult status in Los Angeles, I think many ramen lovers would answer "far." From the San Gabriel Valley to J-town. Down the 405 to the South Bay. Across town to the west side.

And why venture so far from home? To paraphrase notorious bank robber Willy Sutton, because that's where the ramen is. Or at least the ramen worth eating, according to a list compiled by rameniac food blogger Rickmond Wong, dubbed the "Rock Star of Ramen" by the LA Times.

In my quest to visit rameniac's top five picks (I have two more to go), I'm logging extra miles on the Prius and contributing a little more to global warming.

But it is possible to satisfy a yen for ramen while being kind to the planet, thanks to "the rule of three," a little life-changing strategy I picked up from Paula. It's not as kinky as it sounds. The trick is to cluster a far-flung outing with two other nearby activities.

Since Santouka, Wong's number-one favorite ramen shop, is located in the food court of the westside Mitsuwa Market, this took less effort than making a Cup O' Noodles.

I stopped at Mitsuwa to pick up special o-sembe, or rice crackers, to include in my Dad's birthday package. He became addicted to these during the occupation of Japan more than 55 years ago. And, wouldn't ya' know it, you still can't buy a rice cracker anywhere near Ravenswood, West Virginia.

I also purchased prizes for my niece Emily, one of the two winners of the "What Would Susan Eat" contest. (Since she lives in a Duke's state, she gets an "only in LA" prize.) I chose these snacks for my great nephew Will because I think it's my job to remind him that he's one-eighth Japanese.

I couldn't resist buying these ultra-thin, chocolate-covered MEN'S Pockys for Emily. What makes this product masculine? The bitter chocolate? The dangerous packaging with chocolate draped like a noose? The smoking cigar effect? Are men actually purchasing these or are women buying them for the men in their lives? My hunch is that rebellious women are rising up and scarfing down on this "forbidden" confection. "Men's" Pocky be damned!

My friend Barbara F, the other winner of the WWSE contest, lives nearby and joined me for a bowl of ramen. Here she is with her coveted jar of Duke's mayonnaise.

So far, so good. I've caught up with a friend. I've passed the mayo. I've purchased snacks from Mitsuwa for a birthday gift and a WWSE prize. Isn't that already more than a threesome? But what about the ramen? Would eating a superior bowl of ramen be like hitting a home run?

Ah, the ramen. Beautiful presentation. Slightly chewy noodles. Complex broth. Buttery pork. I think it was the best bowl of ramen I've ever had - a home run out of the park with the (rule of three) bases loaded.

How far would I drive for a bowl of noodles? Definitely to Santouka again and again.

Santouka Ramen
Mitsuwa Market Food Court
3760 Centinela Ave.,
Los Angeles, CA 90066
10:00am - 8:00pm

This post also appears at


Oishii Eats said...

I loooooove Santouka. OMG and the "rule of three" makes so much sense!!!

Lisa Hall said...

have you tried Daikokuya in Little Tokyo? My personal favorite....and the gyoza are the best I have ever had in my life! A must eat.

Susan C said...

OH, Yes! Daikokuya is still one of my favorites.