There's a lot of perks of living in Southern California. We get a lot of sun throughout the year that sometimes I even question if winter really exists. But with rain? rain is some that's really special. No really, it's like really special. We are in a drought here, so when it rains everyone freaks out. And when it rains, I don't know about you, but I go all out. I do everything that I would want to do on a rainy day. WE all wait for the day that it rains, and then of course complain about wanting it to be sunny again. But for me, I turn into a bum, and the first thing I would want to do as a bum is simple, be warm and stay warm. It doesn't stop me from going out, but staying in isn't so bad either. But what I love about rainy days, is how heightened up everything becomes that goes with a rainy day. You have your "sweater-weather", "Snuggle-weather", "Let's get some hot coco-weather", and everything weather that you can imagine. Well I want all of that, and nothing will be better to start off my first post, then to post about one of my go-to comfort foods during this rainy weather, Ramen.
I've had a lot of Ramen during my careers of adulthood, and I've had cheap packaged ramen from $.20 to fresh handmade or machine made ramen served in higher end restaurants. And if you want to know if my Ramen taste buds has any type of credibility, yes, yes I have been to Japan and had some of the best Ramens ever. Don't ask me from where because I was too drunk to remember and I don't really know much Japanese besides I'm hungry, where is the restroom, I'm full, I have diarrhea, I'm angry, I'm tired, thank you, bye, ugly, fat, pig, beef, all the sushis... wait ok maybe I do know a little more Japanese than I thought I did.
After coming back from Japan, I didn't realized how much I missed Japan until I started encountering places here that reminded me of places I've been to in Japan. There are a lot of fantastic Japanese restaurants out here that are comparable, if not better than what I've had in Japan. But one thing I can't really find that's better or comparable is Ramen. After being out super late bar hopping with some friends, we ended up with more beer and a nice comforting bowl of ramen to make sure we go to sleep and stay asleep. I knew I wasn't going to be hungover the next morning after having this. I haven't had that experience since.
So a fellow foodie friend recommended Santouka Ramen to me. Why did I trust her? because she hated all the other crappy Ramen joints here as much as I did. So on my next earliest convenience, I made my way to a Santouka out in Costa Mesa. Santouka is located inside the Mitsuwa Marketplace (like all the other Santoukas that I know of). Everything, as in the restaurants in this marketplace, is cash only. Santouka is usually the restaurant with the longest customers in line waiting to order. Don't be discouraged by this because the line does move by fairly quick.
So here we go:
Shio (Salt) Ramen is one of my favorite Ramens to get, but I haven't found one that not only stand up to a light and creamy pork flavor, but has a deep rich punch from the salt. This here stands up to it. The flavor of the Tonkotsu base is so flavorful that the salt really enhances this into something so much more than any Ramen that I've tried out here. Unlike a regular Tonkotsu Ramen that has a lot of callogen which makes it super fatty and RICH, the Shio Ramen is all of that minus the food coma the size of a truck. The toppings this ramen comes with are; Chashu (braised pork belly), bamboo shoots, Kikurage (black fungus), Narutomaki (fish cake), sesame seeds, onions, and pickled plum. My favorite Ramen so far in the states.
Mentaiko is just spicy cod roe. I love Mentaiko. I don't expect everyone to like this. I mean just look at it. I absolutely love the salty and briny flavors of mentaiko with a slight fishy bitterness towards the end. This was absolutely delightful to have considering how large it is. It was served with some egg salad and Nori. I even poured a little of my Shio ramen broth onto the rice that was left. No grains left. All egg lovers and foodies out there needs to try this!
Natto is another one of my FAVORITE foods. Natto is fermented soy beans, or in other words, deelliiiccciiioouusss! Ok fine, may not delicious to some... or many.. but I absolutely love it. Natto is typically served during breakfast in a lot of households BUT not a lot of Japanese people love this. It's extremely slimy, and gets slimier the more you mix it. The flavors of it is not something I can really describe.. but the slime is similar to that of okra. I normally like my stinky stink with a quail egg, nori, onions, wasabi, and a dab of soy sauce. I call this Heaven, but a lot of my friends hated me afterwards because it was not Heaven to them. Maybe you shouldn't listen to me. I love stinky and awkward textured foods.
If you love pork you will love their Chashu bowl. When you try to explain to someone what melts-in-your-mouth tender means, you show them this. The fat on this is what marries this bowl to me. It is served with onions and sesame seeds. The perfect marriage with the ramen because like my other bowls, I like to drizzle a little bit of the soup base onto this. This is a MUST try.
Last but not least, their salmon and ikura bowl. This is another one of my favorite comfort foods. A lot of times when I have this, even in Japan, they tend to over cook the salmon. This was definitely not the case. The salmon was perfectly cooked and the ikura (salmon roe) just makes the salmon taste even more moist than it was. With this, I like to eat it with a little wasabi and just a splash of soy sauce since the ikura itself is already salty.
So there you have it, one of my favorite rainy day go to meals. And don't forget your cash.
Check it out here if you want to see where a Santouka may be near you: http://www.santouka.co.jp/en/shoplist/index.html