Southern California is being blasted by a rare winter storm. There have been reports of tornados and hail, flooding and landslides. Nighttime temperatures have dipped into the upper 40s. Grocery store shelves have been ransacked for supplies. This is our version of a blizzard, the kind that are given names like The Blizzard of ’96. Ours is That Time it Rained for Several Days in 2010.
So, it was on the coldest, rainiest day in regional collective memory, that my friend wanted to drive downtown for lunch, park on the street and walk to an outdoor shopping center for ramen. I carefully weighed my desire for a steaming bowl of soup against the option of staying home under a fuzzy blanket. Soup won. I hoped that a healthy dose of miso and noodles would be the antidote to a blustery day.
We scored rock star unmetered parking on Los Angeles St. in Little Tokyo and pressed through the driving rain to Orochon Ramen, on the top tier of Weller Court. The bustling late-lunch crowd was slurping noodles from massive white bowls. Near the door I noticed a bulletin board pinned with photos of sweaty men with pained expressions and stained shirts proudly displaying empty bowls. Oh no. Looks like this place was featured on Man v. Food. Eat the spiciest bowl of ramen, get your face on the Wall of Bravery. Why am I here? Can the food really be good at a place that dares diners to eat? What’s that? Pitchers of Kirin are $12? Sweet.
I know as much about ramen as I do about shoveling snow. I do know that better ramen is to be had elsewhere in the city, and am happy to hear recommendations. The ramen at Orochon was plentiful and pretty good, with pork, bean sprouts, mushrooms, scallions, green peppers and bamboo. I ordered mine with an egg and extra bean sprouts. The salty miso broth had the perfect infusion of spiciness (number 3 on their scale of 1-7). This place is worth a visit, especially if you’re into daredevil eating.
Miso soup with ramen kicks chicken noodle soup’s ass in the good-for-you department. Miso, fermented soybean paste, is a concentrated protein source, rich in amino acids that keep skin firm and youthful. It is alkalinizing and provides a spectrum of minerals that strengthen the immune system. Ladies, keep in mind that miso regulates hormone levels and can reduce hot flashes in menopausal women. When you buy miso paste, look for unpasteurized miso, which will contain flora beneficial for healthy digestion.