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Spicy Ramen in L.A.

The first ramen I ate in L.A. was on a trip back in 2009. Our plane got into LAX around nine at night and by the time we got to the Grand Kyoto Hotel, I was starved. It was way past 10 pm and most of the restaurants in the neighborhood were closed. But the ramen shops on 1st Street in L.A.’s Little Tokyo neighborhood, right around the corner, were open until midnight or later. And getting a bowl of late-night ramen is a very hipster thing to do.

By 11 pm, Dainkokuya Ramen and most of the other highly recommended ramen stands were packed and there were quite a few people ahead of me on the waiting list. I was way too hungry to wait, so I settled for the quieter scene at Mr. Ramen, where I ordered the roast pork ramen soup. The fresh noodles were excellent, and the dark brown-colored broth was deepy satisfying. The big slices of pork loin were wonderfully tender. The hard-boiled egg garnish was perfect.

Roast Pork Ramen

A few nights later, I visited a ramen shop called Orochon Ramen, which is known for spicy noodles. I ordered the red chile paste noodles on the regular menu and loved them.

Not long ago, very traditional Japanese restaurants like Teppay on Westheimer were the only places to get ramen in Houston. They offer a little shaker of Japanese peppers on the side, but spicy ramen is still pretty much virgin territory around here. I suspect that will soon change.

In L.A., Orochon Ramen got a lot of noteriety for a special menu of melt-your-face-off, hotter-than-hell noodle bowls. The place is famous for its challenge — eat the #2, probably the spiciest bowl of noodles in L.A. in 30 minutes or less, and you get your picture on the “Wall of Bravery.” Adam Richman did this bit on Man vs. Food. While I was there, a Vietnamese-American guy from Houston was doing the challenge. He was only halfway through the bowl, and he didn’t look like he was having much fun. I don’t think he made it.

Here, for your amusement, is a video record of one man’s successful attempt to make the Orochon Ramen “Wall of Bravery.”

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