For Labor Day holiday, the medical school granted Med 3s a week long break and I took advantage, escaping home to Los Angeles. L.A. is one of the great food cities but I always hit the same cluster of favorite restaurants whenever I get the scarce opportunity to fly home.
This time, however, I made a focused effort to try new places and brought along a camera to document the visits. Rather than posting half a dozen consecutive restaurant reviews, my plan is to space them out for variety. Some of these probably won’t be published until December or beyond, but this isn’t time-sensitive information anyway so no biggie.
First up is Foo-Foo Tei, a Hacienda Heights ramen shop hidden in a desolate, quiet neighborhood. Their claim to fame is a menu featuring a whopping 31 ramen varieties — hence their slogan “1 Noodle A Day”. One ambitious blogger took it literally and spent an entire month eating a different ramen every day. On my visit, I tried their most popular ramen (Nanchatte Tonkotsu). Fairly tasty, but for all of the ramen hype, the Tonkatsu Curry was my highlight.
I’ve visited Japan a total of four times and have spent the most time in Tokyo. Food quality is universally high in Tokyo. Walk into any random Japanese restaurant, even the smallest standing-only ramen-ya in the subway, and you’re almost guaranteed a good meal. However, I usually made dinner reservations for fancy restaurants and whenever I did eat casually for lunch, sushi was typically my focus. That means I haven’t had many chances to explore at random and sample other casual Japanese cuisine like ramen, gyoza, curry, etc. in their native environment.
So while I have eaten tasty ramen in L.A., unfortunately I can’t give meaningful comparisons to authentic Japanese ramen. It is a deficit in my food knowledge that I will definitely make up next time I’m in Japan!
The giant selection of 31 ramen. Foo-Foo Tei has the classic shio, shoyu and miso ramen of course. Then there are a few inventive ones like Kimchee ramen and Mabo Tofu ramen. Many of the ramen varieties on the menu allow you to choose your favorite soup base. Here’s the full resolution version of the menu.
Ramen menu written on wall slats for that touch of Japanese flavor. Looks awkward hanging out on the middle of a pink wall though.
The flip side of the menu with a ton of rice bowls, appetizers and other side orders. From my experience, Japanese restaurants with extensive menus like this tend to be more authentic because otherwise they would only serve the most popular dishes for American tastes.
My Nanchatte Tonkotsu ramen, the most popular ramen in the restaurant. Nanchatte means “just kidding” in Japanese and is the chef’s humorous interpretation of Tonkotsu (pork bone) style ramen. In creating a pork-free soup, he developed a white creamy broth that dangerously flirts with cloying sweetness but luckily doesn’t go overboard. The two slices of cha shu (pork) were tender and soaked up the soup. Nanchatte tonkotsu was a tasty bowl overall that did not shy away from flavor.
Noodles were the same generic yellow noodles I’ve always had with U.S. ramen. This is the main reason why I wish I’ve tried eating ramen in Japan, so that I can know if these noodles are authentic. They are chewy and springy but of the exact same quality as frozen ramen noodles I buy at the local Japanese market. Maybe those frozen noodles actually are served in authentic ramen-yas?
I definitely want to return to Foo-Foo Tei and try their other ramen. The following are the bowls ordered by other people in my party. I only tasted a spoonful of the soup from each so will not provide further commentary.
Oyster ramen with miso broth.
Pork and miso ramen.
Shin-shin ramen with oyster and squid. Extremely spicy!
From my research, I knew beforehand that the chef takes great pride in his curry so I wasn’t surprised that it was excellent. Wonderfully aromatic, the spices in the curry were already wafting in the air when the waitress brought this to the table. Eating the curry with the rice continued the flavor parade with a symphony of cumin notes and assorted other spices I couldn’t identify. Succulent tonkatsu (pork cutlet) complete the dish. A must order at Foo-Foo Tei!
The gyoza is excellent as well and bursting with flavor. According to Go Ramen!, the secret is that ramen soup is used to cook the gyoza instead of plain water. Seems like a simple enough explanation, and it works! Unusual presentation too. Instead of breaking apart the gyoza that have stuck together during cooking, they serve the entire mass including the crispy remnants of the cooked ramen soup.
Foo-Foo Tei made a great first impression on me and I would likely become a regular if the location weren’t so far from my house. Luckily I do have cause to head out to Hacienda Heights a couple times a year. The perfect excuse to try more of their ramen!
15018 Clark Ave
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745