Hai Di Lao: The Disneyland of Hot Pot

Dancing Noodles at Hai Di Lao

In partnership with Westfield Santa Anita.

Memories of hot pot have always involved family and friends around one or two boiling pots of broth on hot plates, set upon the dining room table and enjoyed over conversation, often during the holidays such as Lunar New Year. Sometimes, it was simply the way my mom handled a meal when there were going to be a lot of people coming over for dinner. Raw cut meats, vegetables, bean thread noodles, and tofu were laid out on the table, waiting their turn to get dunked, cooked, then retrieved before being dipped into a personal bowl of XO sauce
beat with a raw egg, and eaten.

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Taipei, Taiwan: 72 Hours of Beef Noodle Soup at 72 NRM

Clear broth beef noodle soup (Ching Zuan)

I have always loved beef noodle soup. It’s easily one of my five reasons to drive to San Gabriel Valley. Before my trip to Taiwan, however, I had associated a proper bowl of noodles as having a deep, dark broth and good amounts of chili paste and oil floated in it (latter of which is added by myself). In the beginning of my trip, spent in the southern cities of Taiwan, I even had homemade Nu Riu Mian. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. It was homemade in the sense that the broth and beef had come from a frozen packet bought at the Kaohsiung Costco, whereby you add your own, fresh noodles – and greens, if you wish. If those were available at the Culver Costco, I would become probably the only CostCo member to occupy a 1-bedroom apartment shoebox in a heartbeat.

Broth and bones

Alas, I was left to satiate my beef noodle soup cravings – along with other requisite dishes – to the best of my ability during this trip. I saved the restaurant version for Taipei, which is the city to consume a bowl as the dish is a Chinese import. It’s a specialty particularly in the capital city, as evidenced by their yearly Beef Noodle Festival. Thanks to the recommendation of Danny (KungFoodPanda), the small shop specializing in the bowl of noodles was one of my favorite stops, period. The Taiwanese in the States – and Taiwan, apparently – love acronyms, and the name of the shop was no coincidence since for their most popular bowl of soup, the broth takes 72 hours to complete. It’s also named in allegiance to its Anglo phonetics, though it was my mother whom I have to thank for translating so that I could understand the process. It is unlike any other bowl I’ve had – in both taste and color – and the broth’s complexity pretty much blew me away. The housemade noodles were also excellent and springy, tossed with slivers of fresh ginger. The beef tendon atop the clear broth was super tender. The traditional dark broth (with braised chunks of beef as opposed to the tendon) may be the more favored flavor in general, but there was good reason to wait that extra half-hour before the “clear broth” was declared ready by the shop owner, proving that they really take their broth seriously.

Traditional, dark broth beef noodle soup (Hong Zao)

It is the dark broth at 72 NRM that is ready at all times. Nevertheless, I showed restraint and kept my hands off the jar of chile paste on the table so that I might really taste the essence of the broth. It was the most flavorful yet seemingly effortless bowl of beef noodles I’ve ever had. Sometimes, in a less refined broth, I’ll find that there’s a bit of precipitate to the texture – but this broth was basically seamless with its rich flavor completely integrated. The clear broth still had more, but with that being my first bowl ever, I wouldn’t feign any sort of expertise. It stands that it had eye-openingly complex broth and amazingly fresh noodles.

The process of this broth – and the fact that it takes 72 hours to make – was intriguing enough to ask my mom for a translation. Apparently, the ingredients are simmered in cold water the entire first day. Then the temperature is brought to a medium heat during the second day in order to break down the grease. Mild heat is used on the third day in order to bring out the flavor. One and a half pounds of bones are used to make each bowl of broth. The flavors are so rich that you will “still be savoring [them] for 2 hours” after you finish your bowl.

They were right.

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72 NRM
Taipei, Taiwan

Ramen Jinya Is Good For Your Ramen Fix

Tonkatsu Premium Ramen

I’ve had a lot of ramen. Truth be told, those bowls of ramen don’t come from very many places. My inaugural non-Top Ramen bowl was at Shin-sen-gumi in Arcadia, but my favorite is (and the majority of those aforementioned bowls were from) Santouka with their Shio broth being the trump card to my ramen cravings. With those locations being San Gabriel and the Westside – and my new apartment being in Hollywood proper with Torrance and Gardena even further away – I became eager for other options. Ramen Jinya does a great job filling in.

Curry

Another confession: I have a bias against chicken broth ramen. Give me that chashu in all forms – fatty pork slices and fatty pork bone broth. So while Ramen Jinya is like Ramen California (so I have heard, haven’t tried) in offering chicken broth options, I just have a hard time making the leap. So Tonkatsu and Premium (bonito-infused) Tonkatsu ramen it is. With, perhaps, a side of curry. In retrospect, it’s not the most complementary side you can order with ramen, but I can always eat curry. For everyone else, I’d go with the gyoza. They’re bite size, but they’re good and have a proper crisp on the outside and a hot center. (Unfortunately, I was off form on my first visit and don’t have a picture.) As far as price point, you can get a salad, side and ramen combo for $13.50 and a bowl of ramen alone for $8.50.

I’m not sure where my menma (bamboo shoots) were, and the egg was perhaps a little stale, but the broth was solid and less salty on my second visit than my first – a good thing. It could maybe use more body, though I did like the Premium broth better than the regular Tonkotsu. A bonus: You’ll find yourself scooping soup less since the spoons are so big. The noodles, though, are my favorite thing about Ramen Jinya, and house made from what I could tell. They have good bite yet are plump enough to keep you satisfied.

Ramen Jinya is great for this South Bay-averse ramen lover. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be adventurous enough to try the chicken. According to a tweet of Mattatouille’s, however, I hear that the newly-opened Robata Jinya on 3rd Street offers their restaurant family’s ramen – and I just so happen to work in Beverly Hills. Even better. Who can argue with accessible, good ramen?

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Sun – Thur 11 AM – 10 PM
Fri – Sat 11 AM – Midnight

Ramen Jinya
11239 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City,CA 91604
818.980.3977