Location: 2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Japanese ramen is one of our family’s favorite noodle dishes of all time. Between New York and Los Angeles, the favorite ramen of our Wai sik family is, interestingly, not a very typical type of ramen. So if you’re imagining a big bowl of noodles carefully immersed in a slow-simmered soup, you might be a little surprised to hear that our hands-down go-to bowl is actually a two-bowl combo called tsukemen: a cold ramen noodle dipped in a hot concentrated pork-based broth, conjured by Tsujita, a small corner ramen shop in the Little Osaka area of Los Angeles.
The hubby and I discovered this spot several years ago, by accident, and only because we saw the mob of people waiting outside for lunch. Back then, the restaurant was actually a premier sushi spot for dinner and only served their special dipping ramen for lunch. Back then, the hubby and I were just dating, and as two foodies with no impatient kids to worry about, we decided to tackle the two hour wait and try what potential treasure awaited at the end of this rainbow…
And boy, what a treasure! What we discovered were firm noodles accompanied with a pork-based broth that is cooked so long it has basically concentrated into more of a sauce than a soup. The broth is, as my so eloquent hubby claims, “porkier than the pork in it.”
Should you decide to make a pilgrimage to the west side of Los Angeles for Tsujita, order the Tsukemen with ajitama (soft boiled seasoned egg with its perfect orange gooeyness) and chashu (if you want even more pork). Start by dipping the perfectly cooked noodles into the warm broth, a little at a time so as to preserve the heat of the broth the longest. Taste the sultry umami of the broth as it sticks to your lips. Add some sesame seeds, the roasted nori and keep dipping away! Now before you get too carried away and slurp off all the noodles, be sure to leave some noodles for stage 2. Stage 2, you say? Yes, stage 2.
After you’ve tried the savory broth dipping style, many traditionalists and locals alike will now add sesame seeds, pickled ginger, and a little helping of the spicy takama mustard leaves to the bowl of noodles. Be careful, those spicy leaves are really strong, so start with a little before adding too much and regretting it! Then add a light drizzle of the tsukemen sauce (similar to a soy sauce, but not as salty), and lastly the spritz of fresh lime. This makes your cold noodles into a cold ramen noodle salad, if you will. Its bright flavors refresh the palate and helps you feel a little less guilty and bloated from clogging your arteries with the earlier sauce. When you’ve finished off your noodles, your sauce seems a little lonely and a bit of a waste to have not finished off, doesn’t it? Never fear, ask for soup wari, which means the kitchen will add a soup base to your broth, diluting it slightly just enough for you to drink it as a soup without dying of gluttony. It also warms up your palate again and calms any of the spiciness that may have lingered from your cold noodle.
The shop now has converted to an all-day ramen restaurant, transferring the sushi service down the street, in order to satisfy the still hungry crowds that await its sticky indulgence. They’ve even opened two other ramen shops across the street, with different recipe variations (Tsujita Annex and Killer Noodle). Tsujita has literally taken over the block of Sawtelle for the sake of noodle-lovers, accompanied by other noodle restaurants like Marugame Monzo, Tatsu and Tentenyu. One thing for sure, despite the many options, Tsujita’s flagship is still the favorite of many locals and out-of-state visitors. Jenny loves this place and her first meal is always the tsukemen from Tsuijta, if not also her last before flying back to the east coast! Their consistency in their thick uncompromising flavor and integrity to ingredients despite some picky eaters that may occasionally ask for – gasp! – vegetarian or non-pork based ramen (I know, the nerve!) has kept them in a top spot for years in our WAISIK family’s bellies.
Their second location that opened in Glendale at the Americana follows the original restaurant’s recipe. The differences are a bigger space, they accept credit card, offer a couple more appetizers, and they have two key promotions going: buy one get one free at happy hour and kids eat free on weekends! Promotions change but why not take advantage, right?
– Aimee, @waisikmommy