Welcome to my ramen dream... Currently being interpreted in Ramen Burger Land... Looking for a good slurp? Email me ! - Keizo

Friday, October 31, 2008

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 31: Kata Yakisoba

Day 31...the last day. Mission accomplished! Unfortunately, Murakami-san wasn't able to join me tonight, but I brought plenty of friends to celebrate this momentous feat. I still can't believe I've come to a single restaurant 31 days straight. It went by so fast. What am I gonna do tomorrow?

The last ramen on the wall is Kata Yakisoba. It's not exactly ramen, but then again, there's not always 31 days in the month. To be honest, this was probably a good dish to end on, although I'm still anxious to repeat the ones I really liked.

The toppings were very similar to the Umani Ramen, if not exactly the same. Fresh vegetables, pork, shrimp, and several other mouthwatering ingredients, this Kata Yakisoba is an instant classic. Does it really have to end?

The noodles were the most surprising part of this dish. It was more like a fried Kishi-men than ramen and it was absolutely incredible. I was not expecting this at all. Wow, I am impressed!

With all the side dishes arriving, the only one I hadn't tried was the Fried Chicken Liver. For the record, everything fried at Foo-Foo Tei is good...really good! And the shoe string fried onions surrounding the liver was downright addictive.

31 noodles in 31 days. A friend coaxed me into taking the picture below. It's been fun...real fun. I just want to say thank you to all the staff at Foo-Foo Tei for putting up with seeing me everyday. I really enjoyed it! And much thanks to Murakami-san for inspiring me and showing me the true meaning of running a great ramen-ya. It was a blast! And thanks to you, the reader, for sharing this challenge with me. I hope we can all do this again someday!

Is it over? Is it really over?

Tomorrow's ramen: ????????
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 30: Curry Nanchatte Ramen

Today, a friend asked me if I was sick of ramen yet. So I replied, "ARE YOU CRAZY!" While I'll probably never get sick of good ramen, it will be hard to top this month-long experience. It's not really a challenge anymore because I've enjoyed every bit of it.

Today's Curry Nanchatte Ramen (the last in a bowl) is a marriage between the top-selling #17 and Murakami-san's famous curry. It can only be described by one word: silky. The creamy sweetness of the Nanchatte gives the semi-spicy curry a Thai-ish feel that goes down smooth. Although it's no Bassanova, I liked it better than the Nanchatte alone. Because, as Murakami-san might say, this chewing gum (marriage) has "long-lasting flavor!"

I might have freaked out if I saw these balls in the Motsuni, but this is curry ramen and you can't have curry without potatoes!

This Curry Nanchatte was as good as I thought it would be. The noodles also matched the soup brilliantly. With the normal toppings of the Nanchatte (chashu, shoga, hanjuku egg), I won't wait 30 days to try it again.

So...is this the end? "Mama told me one day this was gonna happen but she never told me when." Sorry, that last question reminded me of New Edition. Wait...there's still one more day!

Tomorrow's ramen: Kata Yakisoba
So now you know what I meant by "the last in a bowl."

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 29: Beef Tomato Ramen

Can you believe it's already Day 29? Only 2 days left! So unfortunately my team got blown out tonight, but that's okay I'm not worried. It's only one game and it was against the best team in the western conference.

On to the ramen. Today's bowl was filled with Beef Tomato Ramen. Its name is self explanatory, but the beef stew-like soup was topped with lots of fresh spinach. If you like beef stew or beef noodle soup, then you'll like this ramen. It really fulfilled my craving for beef today.

The tomatoes were fresh and the beef was very tender. You can really taste the effort put into this soup. It's just like mom used to make.

The fresh spinach naturally soaked up the soup and tasted even better combined with the beef.

The noodles also soaked up the soup like a sponge, which gave them a new identity.

I apologize for not being more descriptive, but it feels like its been a long day. Thanks for understanding. I'll see you tomorrow!

Tomorrow's ramen: Curry Nanchatte

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 28: Motsuni/Menudo Ramen

When I first started this challenge, the Motsuni Ramen was not something I was looking forward to eating. In fact, I felt it creeping closer every single day, badgering my mind worse than Ricky Martin ever could. It's not exactly fear because I can eat practically anything. I think it's more so a childhood memory gone bad. In any case, it's time to rise above and eat it for the people!

To my surprise, the Motsuni Ramen was actually quite delectable. And although staring at the guts began to initiate a queasy reaction, once it was in my mouth everything was just fine. The soup was magnificent! The original miso base achieved a richer flavor from the stewed pork intestines and the added spicy kick really enhanced everything about it. I couldn't help but think that the soup tasted like a better version of Shin Ramyun. And thank goodness for the tofu, I don't think it would have been the same without it.

I should've ordered some butter. Now that I'm writing this, I really think some butter would have done wonders. Anyway, if it weren't for this challenge I probably never would have tried this ramen, but now that I have, I feel good about it and might even order it again someday.

No side orders today since I didn't want to puke my guts out while playing basketball (no pun intended...okay maybe it was...err).

Tomorrow's ramen: Beef Tomato
It's also B Diddy's Clippers debut so you know where I'll be tomorrow night!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 27: Hiyashi Chuuka

Traditionally reserved for the summer months, Foo-Foo Tei's Hiyashi Chuuka lasts well into October (as you can see) to please the soup-less fanatics that mourn during the winter. Originally created for those people who cannot handle a hot bowl of ramen during Japan's humid summer months, Hiyashi Chuuka (in general) is a cold noodle topped with ham, egg and lots of vegetables, perfect for slurping in the heat. And before I forget, I must mention that Foo-Foo Tei's season for Hiyashi Chuuka will most likely finish at the end of this week. So if you got an itch for a really good cold noodle, you better go now or you'll be kicking yourself for the next 8 months!

Murakami-san's dressing for the Hiyashi Chuuka is a homemade sesame sauce mixed with sugar, soy, vinegar, and other secret ingredients. And you know what...the flavor was perfect! It's a very simple dish, but I couldn't imagine Hiyashi Chuuka being this good. I was surprised.

The way the dressing coated the ham, cucumber, egg, seaweed, moyashi, negi, ginger, and of course the noodles was special. A refreshing escape that provides a cool breeze.

I was finally able to order the Yaki Buta (pig) that was sold out the other day. Eight pieces of tender roasted pork that had a sweetness about them. I still wish I could have dipped them in the Tan Tan Men from the other day.

Tomorrow's ramen: Motsuni a.k.a. Menudo
I guts to have it!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 26: Ja-Jang Men

It's Day 26 (no not Diddy's group) and it's time for Ja-Jang Men, a popular dish from China that also has ties to Korea. Although soup-less ramen (otherwise known as mazemen or mazesoba) has recently become popular in Japan, it's been hard for me to really classify them as ramen. It just doesn't feel the same without the soup. In any case, Foo-Foo Tei's Ja-Jang Men arrived with an excellent aroma and I was amazed how big the plate was.

Hidden beneath was the familiar noodles that have become my stomach's best friend. Glistening with oil, they took on an entirely different characteristic without the soup. They felt much lighter and tasted great with the sauce.

I don't have much experience with Ja-Jang Men, but Foo-Foo Tei's version has a good, rich flavor that balances out with all the ingredients--mushrooms, cucumber, bell peppers, onions, ground pork, and fukujinzuke.

Today's side order was Pan Fried Beef & Vegetables. Another flavorful dish that tasted like pan fried sukiyaki. If it weren't for the huge Ja-Jang Men, I probably would have ate more than just a few bites.

This next dish was a surprise from Murakami-san and he refused to tell us what it was or how it was made. Aside from the obvious shimeji, there's also some tender pieces of chicken trapped in a pool of gravy underneath. The gravy tasted a lot like katsuoboshi, but I'm sure it was more complex. And since it didn't have a name, my friend's and I simply dubbed it "The Damn Good Chicken & Gravy" dish.

The weekend is over and once again it wasn't long enough. That's okay, tonight's baseball game landed on my square!! Allllright!!

Tomorrow's ramen: Hiyashi Chuuka
Hmm...is it still summer?

UCC Café Plaza - Walnut, CA

Hing Wa Lee Plaza
1569 S. Fairway Drive
Walnut, CA 91789
(909) 598-3200

I've been going to this UCC Café Plaza at least once a month now ever since it opened last year. I often go in the morning to enjoy a glass of their signature siphoned coffee and a plate of Japanese-style French Toast, but today would be different. Last month when I was here, I noticed a little sign on the table stating that they now have ramen. So of course, I had to come give it a try. (Don't worry, the Foo-Foo Challenge will still continue tonight!)

Before I say anything further, I would just like to say that the service today was absolutely horrendous! I've never experienced anything like this before at this restaurant and unfortunately it may mean the end of my UCC visits...forever. Yeah, I've waited hours in line for ramen before, but never have I waited 45 minutes after being seated to finally be served an ice coffee. Nor have I seen a waitress get an order wrong and not apologize for it. Coupled with the attitude of slamming our glasses on the table after I had asked just ONE TIME where our iced coffees were, I think I've had enough. By the way, our waters arrived 57 minutes after we sat down. Uuuh...am I missing something?

What is "Japanese Fusion Ramen" anyway? Ramen is essentially Japanese already so does this mean it is fused with itself? (Can you tell I'm still bitter?)

Fried Tonkatsu Ramen: This is not ramen! The noodles are the same noodles that they use for their spaghetti and since my bowl was probably sitting for several minutes in the kitchen (I can't imagine why), the noodles were horribly soggy. The soup was also very disappointing. It tasted like chicken broth mixed with instant ochazuke packets...pathetic! I really hate wasting food, especially ramen, but the lower right picture is as far as I could get. I wasn't about to waste any more room in my stomach when I could fill it with real ramen tonight. The only positive was the tonkatsu, but the damage had already been done.

I'm not one to complain or make a scene or withhold tip for bad service so I still paid and left a tip as I would normally do. I really enjoyed their food minus the ramen, but I could live without it. And I'll stop recommending this place to friends from now on.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 25: Tan Tan Men

With Halloween approaching, I was afraid today's ramen would attract some vampires looking for a bloody slurp. Precisely why I went to Foo-Foo Tei during the day...haha.

Today's Tan Tan Men gets it's blood-red color from a thin layer of chili oil concocted by Murakami-san himself. And if you look closely at the bottom left corner of the pic below, you might recognize the faint outline of a hanjuku egg. Being that the egg has a higher density than the chili oil, it absolutely cannot come up for air. The rest of the soup is a blend of three sauces with the most distinct being sesame. Parting the red oil reveals a light brownish colored soup beneath. It's not very spicy, but you will notice a strong sourness that comes from vinegar. Don't worry, the ground pork handles the sourness with dignity--I just wished there was more of it.

A close up look reveals the mass abundance of sesame seeds, along with how the soup and chili oil refuse to bond. Peanuts also add to the nutty flavor.

I found it interesting how the ground pork stuck to the noodles as I slurped. But I still wished there was more of it.

I don't know why, but I felt like eating meat today. I tried to order the Yaki Buta with my ramen because I thought it might taste good dipped in the Tan Tan, but unfortunately they didn't have any. Bummer...

Tomorrow's ramen: Ja-Jang Men
Okay so it's not really ramen, but soupless ramen is popular in Japan these days.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 24: Nanchatte Chanpon

It's Friday! And I don't have to work this weekend! Yesss!!! Other than the fact that it took me two hours to get home today (I miss my bike), it was relatively chill at work. Apparently I missed out on all the fun yesterday: Fire in the sepulveda pass; 405 freeway shutdown; Manager getting fired and dropping F-bombs...

When I think of Chanpon, I can't help but think of Nagasaki--the city that made it famous. Foo-Foo Tei's Nanchatte Chanpon Ramen is a great twist that uses the Nanchette Tonkotsu base topped with another massive amount of pork, seafood, and vegetables. I became full just looking at it. No side orders today, this Chanpon was more than enough.

The sweet tasting soup meshed well with all of the toppings, but I wished there was more than just two shrimp. I think Murakami-san should just make a ramen with only shrimp (*hint* *hint*). And these fried onions would be nice too. Yeah, Ebi Fried Onion Ramen--that sounds good!

One week left! It's the home stretch!

Tomorrow's ramen: Tan Tan Men

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 23: Tanmen

It's been a few days since Murakami-san had the chance to sit with me, so when he finally showed up after meeting with his lawyer (MP stress) it felt nice to just kick back and drink some beer and shochu. And yes, he did perform a couple disappearing acts tonight but I'll get to that later.

This Tanmen invoked a very nostalgic flavor from my childhood. In the late 80's, my mom used to take my brothers and I to this Chinese Restaurant in Fountain Valley called Fountain Chinese Restaurant. It doesn't exist anymore, but back in the day it was owned by a Chinese family that once lived in Japan and the ramen was phenomenal. The last I heard, they moved to Las Vegas and opened a restaurant in one of the big casinos. Man, those were the days.

Foo-Foo Tei's Tanmen is just as good, if not better, than that ramen from my childhood. It begins with a little pork fat in a wok that's heated to an extremely high temperature. Then you begin adding all the ingredients in precise steps while feeling the heat and testing the aroma. Once everything has been added, the soup is then poured on top of everything, creating a mushroom cloud of steam that hits your face with shocking tenacity. Sprinkle a little crushed goma on top and a masterpiece is born. And if you want, you can also add some pepper and vinegar to adjust the Tanmen to your liking.

I must admit I was a little scared of Murakami-san's comment yesterday, especially after his drawn out sinister laugh. So when he first disappeared tonight, I contemplated running out the door...hahaha (I would never do that!). He returned with the following: 2 slices of French bread lightly toasted and topped with something odd-looking.

A closer look revealed that it was spread with beef liver mixed with pepper shiso and topped with Pi~tan (Century Egg) and a thinly sliced piece of celery. A remarkably light-tasting otsumami that was nothing like the "cucucu" I was afraid of.

As I was about to leave, Exile Kiss showed up and joined us at our table. And when we started talking about noodles and soba, Murakami-san got up and disappeared for the second time. When he returned, he presented both Exile Kiss and I with this beautiful soumen dish. Wow! This was good stuff! Murakami-san ありがとうございました!

Murakami-san also gave me this pack of Chinese Instant 生 Ramen that he found at the market today. It's unusual to find a nama ramen from a Chinese company so I was excited to take it home. And although Murakami-san doesn't guarantee that it tastes good, I can't wait to give it a try.

Guess what? Tomorrow's Friday...woohoo!!

Tomorrow's ramen: Nanchatte Chanpon

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 22: Kimchee Ramen

I spent all morning trying to decide which soup base to choose with tonight's Kimchee Ramen. I kept trying to visualize how the Kimchee would affect each individual soup (shoyu, shio, or miso) and where it would cause the greatest impact. And then it hit me like how I got smacked in the face playing basketball last night. Miso! Ramen-ya's in Japan usually enhance their miso ramen by adding karashi miso or some other spicy medium. And being that I fell in love with Foo-Foo Tei's Miso on Day 3, I was curious to see what a little spicy would do.

The normally hot Kimchee stars in a seductive act of shedding its own color in the confines of the sweet miso. The resulting performance was awe-inspiring and exactly how I imagined. The non-overwhelming spiciness shuffled through the soup and really enhanced the miso flavor, creating an accent that was easily manageable. And all that is left of the Kimchee is a plain pickled piece of napa cabbage. Bravo!

To stay on the theme of the night, I ordered the Spicy Chicken appetizer which was three yakitori skewers covered in a spicy barbecue-like sauce. To be honest, it wasn't spicy at all. The tender, juicy sticks of chicken satisfied whatever hunger I had left and since I was too full to eat them all, I brought one of the sticks home for a late night snack. In fact, I think I'll go eat it right now.

9 left!

Tomorrow's ramen: Tanmen
And no it doesn't involve exposure to UV-light...haha.

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 21: Ten-Shin Ramen

I've never been so close to missing my daily deadline of midnight so this post may be a little bit rushed. As you already know, Tuesday's are my basketball nights so I had to show up at Foo-Foo Tei earlier than I'd like. And since Murakami-san is usually on his shopping run at that time, he wasn't able to join me. So I'm gonna wing it and try to guess what today's Ten-Shin Ramen is made of.

I think I mentioned before that my brother living in SF is a BIG fan of Ten-Shin Ramen. Well...bro you need to come down and try this ramen. I think it'll make you want to live in LA again. For those of you who have never tried it, it's described as "Crab Omelet Noodle Soup W/Gravy," but that description does not do justice. It's actually a fluffy omelet perfectly scrambled with REAL crab, floating like a life raft in a sea of dense soul-saving gravy with a hint of sweet & sour awaiting to be rescued. This has to be in my top 5 of the 21 bowls I've eaten so far.

I'm pretty sure the base was some kind of shoyu combination. I'm not sure if there was oyster sauce, but I did notice some sweet & sour. The gravy-like viscosity was due to the starch and there were also plenty of Tobiko (Flying Fish) eggs floating around.

I absolutely love how the gravy coats the noodles and hangs on for dear life. I bet I could eat the Omori (large size) version of this all by myself, but let's not get carried away--one challenge at a time...haha.

If you didn't believe me when I said it was worthy of top 5 status, then take a look at the pic below. I would have started licking the bowl if the waitress didn't take it away. I think I'm a Ten-Shin Fan now too!

Tomorrow's ramen: Kimchee
All bases in play!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Foo-Foo Challenge - Day 20: Shin-Shin Ramen

I'm breathing fire right now so I'll try to keep my mouth shut for the entirety of this post. Okay, so it wasn't that spicy, but it was still spicier than I'm used to. If it were up to me, I'd rename this ramen Beading Sweat Ramen.

Inspired by Korean soon tofu, the Shin-Shin Ramen combines Korean hot miso with Foo-Foo Tei's own signature miso. This combination results in a sweetness that hits your lips which proceeds to explode on the way down your throat. It's great for waking up your brain after a long day of work. AND it's much tastier than that Special 2 stuff you'll find in downtown.

The rest of the ramen is topped with oysters, squid, mushrooms, and PLENTY of vegetables. And oh yeah, there's tofu too.

This Deep Fried Tofu may look like a kitchen sponge, but cover it with shoyu and it will soak up your hunger for great-tasting food. The light crisp on the outside will leave you hooked.

As I was browsing through this Japanese tabloid magazine, I came across this: Cola Ramen. Cola Ramen???

And then there was Milk Coffee Ramen. Are you kidding me?? Hey Murakami-san, I think you need to add these to your menu! Haha...なんちゃって。

Tomorrow's ramen: Ten-Shin