In the last few years, Chinatown has gone through a major shift. Classic shops filled with Chinese souvenirs and knickknacks are being replaced with art galleries and restaurants I used to visit with my family are slowly being erased from LA’s culinary history. While this change makes me nostalgic for a time when Chinatown felt more like Chinatown, I also can’t help but embrace these changes.
While I probably don’t go to Chinatown anymore when I’m craving Chinese food, you can still find me there eating some things you probably wouldn’t expect to find: hot fried chicken from Howlin’ Ray’s, po’ boys and other southern bites from Little Jewel of New Orleans, Korean-fusion burgers and bowls from Chego, Filipino confections from Isa Fabro (pop-up), classic burgers from Burgerlords, yerba mate teas from Erva, and now, tsukemen from Okiboru.
What is tsukemen?
Tsukemen has been around for a little over 50 years in the Japanese food scene. Tsukemen is also known as “dipping ramen” or “dipping noodles”. The ramen noodles are served cold and separate from the broth. The noodles are dipped into the broth and then eaten. Think of it as a sort of deconstructed ramen.
While this concept may be odd for some who are used to being served large bowls of ramen swimming in broth, I actually like this method. Okiboru’s traditional broth is the base for all tsukemen with the exception of the veggie tsukemen. The broth reminds me of a thin gravy. It’s a creamy pork broth with bits of chashu pork. The bowl of broth is decorated with a soft-boiled egg. Bamboo shoots, pickled radish and nori are nestled into the cold noodles. This combo is known as “Just-a-Boru”. When both are combined, it’s a perfect match. The richness of the broth perfectly coats the fresh noodles that are made in-house.
While you can order simply just the broth and noodles, there are options for pork toppings.
“Grilled pork belly chashu”. Cold ramen, pork broth and tender slices of chashu – the ultimate comfort food.
“The Okiboru”, which is their signature bowl, the noodles are topped with grilled pork ribs.
There are vegetarian dishes and options available. I tried the veggie tsukemen which I enjoyed just as much as the pork version. The vegetarian broth is cream in color and speckled with scallions. This creamy vegetarian broth is a combination of mushrooms and other veggies. The noodles are decorated with bamboo shoots, pickled radish and a wedge of lime. You can opt to add grilled tofu. I liked the texture of the grilled tofu and it was a great addition for those who are going meatless.
While tsukemen is cold noodles dipped into a hot broth, Okiboru also offers hiyashi chuka – a cold ramen dish. When I think of ramen, I normally don’t think of it as being served completely cold, although I must admit that cold ramen is perfect for when it’s warm out. The addition of pickled radish, cucumbers, and tomatoes are cool and refreshing; they add to the lightness of the dish. You can top off the noodles with chashu pork or grilled tofu – I couldn’t get enough of that chashu, so pork it was!
If you’re looking to try something new in Chinatown, why not dip it good at Okiboru?
Okiboru is located past the Dragon’s Gate entrance on Broadway in the Jia apartments.