Ramen Yokocho Festival Returns to Little Tokyo, With a Gyoza-Eating Contest
Toyama Black Mapo Ramen noodle at Ramen Yokocho 2013
Yeah, yeah, we know it's not ramen weather, nor is it likely to be on the weekend of August 16-17, when the next Ramen Yokocho will be taking over Little Tokyo. Suck it up, literally, and just have an umbrella and a jug of ice water handy. Because ramen transcends minor issues of heat, drought and downtown traffic, doesn't it.
This Ramen Yokocho Fest is part of the Nisei Week Japanese Festival, a weekend of celebrating Japanese culture not only with noodles, but live entertainment and food trucks. The festival also includes what's being billed as the the Day-Lee World Gyoza Eating Championship on Saturday afternoon, in which you can take a break from slurping ramen and see how many gyoza you can down in 10 minutes. More fun heat wave activities! (Editor's note: Okay, calm down, it seems that WE can't eat the gyoza, but can instead watch pros do this. A much better idea, if you think about it.)
Ramen Yokocho 2014
As for the ramen, there will be ramen-yas from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Japan. Shops coming so far — more will be announced — include Tsujita, Shin-Sen-Gumi, Monta, Men Oh, Iroha, Fujin, Shoki Ramen House and a collaboration between Izakaya Kaba and Igeta Shoyu Ramen. And yes, Fujin will be bringing their tonkotsu spicy miso ramen burger.
Because everybody deserves to eat ramen, not only will there be the expected pork bombs but also vegetarian and gluten-free bowls. Shoki in Sacramento is coming to the festival for the first time, bringing white ramen, made with soy milk and kelp stock and gluten-free noodles. Also look for a new miso ramen from Tsujita. (Because the lines there were letting up or something.)
See also: 10 Best Ramen Shops in Los Angeles
The festival runs Saturday, Aug. 16, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 17, from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Admission is $5, and the bowls of ramen are $8 per bowl. A reminder that you can volunteer at the festival, a happy activity that gets you a certificate for school credit, a free ramen lunch and a staff T-shirt.
Now it's time for your ramen PSA: It's going to be hot. Bring water and a hat and know that there will doubtless be lots of people, as the Ramen Yokocho festivals have been hugely popular. How popular? Over 95,000 people came to the last four events, in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco. (See earlier comment about sucking it up.)
Ramen Yokocho Association was established in Southern California in 2013 to promote "the understanding of the delicious Japanese noodle soup ramen." Yokocho means alleyway in Japanese, and the festivals are meant to, sort of, replicate the Japanese ramen alley experience.
Ramen Yokocho: L.A. city parking lot, 7 and 2; 160 N. Central Ave., Little Tokyo. If you can, take the Gold Line to the Little Tokyo Metro Station.
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