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Ton-Chan Ramen: You've Been Spammed

Shoyu ramen at Ton-Chan
Shoyu ramen at Ton-Chan
T. Nguyen

What distinguishes the Lady's Set from the Kid's Set at Ton-Chan Ramen is spam. Specifically, both combinations offer a half order of shio, shoyu or miso ramen, but the Lady's Set comes with sushi or salad, and the kids get what apparently is the Happy Meal toy of ramen combinations, spam musubi.

Ton-Chan is right next to the relentlessly crowded Golden Deli Vietnamese restaurant, meaning you're often sitting next to people whose palates were all ready for phở, and now must adjust their stock mindset. That transition from one noodle soup to another sometimes can be hard, especially if the most difficult decision you thought you'd have to make at lunch is whether you want the phở with all the tripe, or not. At Ton-Chan, you customize your bowl in a multistep process that is not quite as involved as Shin-Sen-Gumi's bingo card of options, but considerably more work than just rolling up to the counter at Daikokuya.

The first, and most critical, order of business is to choose one of the three tonkatsu-based broths. All are made with pork and chicken, "cooked over high heat," the menu says, over 20 hours. The difference, though, really lies in the homemade noodles: the Hakata Shio bowl is filled with straight, thin noodles, and both the Tokyo Shoyu and Sapporo Miso come with futo-chijire-men ones -- these are thick and curly wheat noodles, and they have quite a nice bite. You might want order a noodle refill with your shoyu, to better sop up all that creamy flavor, which is amped up considerably by flecks of black garlic oil.

The bowls come standard with an egg, nori and chashu, which brings us to your next potential point of indecision: toppings. Whatever you do -- the corn, the bok choy, the bean sprouts -- also choose the extra kotteri (pork fat), which will add a layer of, well, fat to your bowl, and for good reason. When you're called to select a level of spiciness from 0 to 6, choose the lower end of the scale so you can better taste the strength of the broth, and request the chili paste on the side.

If you're done dressing up your bowl and you don't need accessories like sushi or rice bowls, then you're all ready to go. If not, it's time to find the purse to match the outfit. There are about nine combinations that offer to mix and match your personalized bowl of ramen to various appetizers and sides; ramen with a curry bowl, maybe, or ramen with a spicy tuna bowl. Or the Lady's Set, or the Kid's Set. You don't actually have to be a lady or a kid, respectively and thankfully, to order either of those combinations, because we all could use some spam musubi, and real men eat half orders of ramen with a salad.

As part of a combination or all by its lonesome, the ramen is solid here at Ton-Chan, though not as fantastic as the soulful bowls at Shin-Sen-Gumi, just three miles south and about 10 minutes away. Then again, few bowls of ramen are. At the very least, for $8.25 a bowl, you could do much worse than end up at Ton-Chan after being crowded out of Golden Deli, or after you've finally plugged in every possible combination of variables at Shin-Sen-Gumi and need a ramen recharge elsewhere.

And if you're someone of the female persuasion who decides to recharge at Ton-Chan, eschews the half ramen and sushi or salad in favor of the enormous $15 Manpuku Set -- which includes ramen, a half order of fried rice and six pieces of gyoza -- well, you're just our kind of lady.

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Ton-Chan Ramen

821 W. Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA 91776

626-282-3478

www.twitter.com/tonchanramen


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