Tsukemen, the ramen noodle dish that originated in Japan and consists of separate servings of cold noodles dipped into hot soup or broth at the table, has been relatively hard to find in L.A. until recently. Hyun “Sean” Park and Justin Lim’s new Okiboru in the heart of Chinatown is the place to slurp and splash your way into noodle nirvana.
The signature Okiboru big bowl consists of a mound of thick ramen noodles made in-house daily from imported Nippn hard wheat flour, topped with grilled chasu pork ribs, which are marinated overnight, braised for four hours and then grilled before serving. House-made pickled radish, scallions, bamboo shoots and nori garnish the top with a lime wedge.
According to the owners, Okiboru is the first ramen shop in the United States to use handmade noodles for the dish.
Alongside the big bowl is a smaller vessel containing the hot and dense three-day broth blend of chicken and pork with a perfectly soft-boiled egg floating inside, which has picked up the intense flavor of the broth. The yolk is soft but still firm enough to eat with chopsticks. Park says it doesn’t matter in what order you eat the egg, but that’s where he likes to start. If you like heat, ask for the house-made chili paste.
So, let the dipping begin.
For novices, the instructions are on the wall:
Look at your food angrily so it knows who’s boss.
Don’t pour the broth over the noodles (it’s way too rich).
Dip noodles in broth and slurp aggressively, no one will judge you here.
Don’t drink the broth like soup.
Do try squeezing lime juice on the noodles.
Park, a native Angeleno whose uncle Chong Lee owns the iconic Neptune’s Net on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, wants to spread the word on tsukemen. “I think L.A. is the perfect market for it, people are adventurous eaters here,” Park Says.
There are also vegan options with a tsukemen made from pureed mushrooms and other vegetables. Vegan, gluten-free noodles also are available, topped with grilled tofu.
The casual cafe-style Okiboru is located next door to that magical and mystical feast for the eyes, the Southern California Teo-Chew Association building. A room full of mind-bending altars celebrating Holy Emperor Lord Guan, Fu Du Zheng Shen, Tu Di Gong and other gods is an inspirational must-see with doors open to the public.
And one last thing: Don’t wear a white shirt.
Okiboru, 635 N. Broadway, Chinatown; (213) 988-7212, okiboru.com.