Simply Delicious Udon at Marugame Monzo

If you’ve been living under a rock this past month, then let me tell you something: the long drive to the south bay for handmade udon is now obsolete.  Newly opened next to the always crowded Daikokuya in Little Tokyo is a small restaurant called Marugame Monzo that will satisfy your chewy Japanese noodle  needs.

This guy knows noodles.

Being in a noodle purist mood, I ordered from the more traditional side of the menu.  The bukkake udon may have a chuckle-worthy name, but don’t let that scare you away.  It’s one of my favorite ways to have these cold noodles. The freshly made noodles are topped with grated radish, a healthy ladle of chopped green onions, crispy bits of tempura batter, optional grated radish, plenty of shaved bonito, and a small container of soy-based sauce.  Drizzle the sauce over the noodles according to your own judgement, sprinkle in some Togarashi, and let the slurping begin.

Bukkake udon from Marugame Monzo hit the spot.

The noodles were of a satisfying consistency with the perfect balance of just the right amount of chew and smoothness.  It’s impressive how uniform each noodle’s thickness is after watching the noodle master roll out the stiff dough by hand.  The seats at the bar are the best in the house because you get to watch the noodles get made right in front of you. Considering the noodle master is rolling out the dough every ten minutes or so, there’s no doubt that the ones you’re slurping up from the bowl are fresh.

Because I was extra hungry, I also ordered a side of eggplant tempura and what they called a soft-boiled egg. The tempura was hot right out of the fryer and while I would consider the egg more of a hard-boiled egg, it was still decent.

Will's plain udon with udon-yu from Marugame Monzo

There may not be anything clearly vegan on the menu, but Will was able to order just the plain udon with noodle-cooking water.  It came with grated radish, green onion, and ginger.  They even included an empty dipping cup for him to make a sauce in.  I suggested he make a sauce with the table soy sauce, grated radish, green onion, and a few spoonfuls of the starchy udon cooking water.  That seemed to do the trick.

It’s great to see this new addition to the Little Tokyo neighborhood.  Daikokuya has already been losing its luster for me, but now I have another excuse to visit the area.  I’m curious to try their more fusion dishes like the uni cream one, but when it’s not something like 90F outside.

Marugame Monzo
329 E. 1st St.
Los Angeles, California 90012
(213) 346-9762

Yun Noodle House

One does not often think of a meal procured from a food court as a great meal, at least not in any of the food courts found in shopping malls. But Asian food courts are where it’s at!  Many a great noodle dish can come from a food court: ramen at the west L.A. Mitsuwa food court.  The countless noodle booths at the Torrance Mitsuwa food court.  Bowls of naengmyun from Korean food courts.  Add Yun Noodle House to the list.

This little noodle booth inside the food court next to the Arcadia Ranch 99 supermarket was so inconspicuous that I skipped it the first time I went there and it wasn’t until last week that I decided to give it a try.  There’s something nice about eating at food court style seating and slurping a bowl of noodles. I could close my eyes, let the smell of the nearby booth’s fried stinky tofu waft in, hear the Chinese grandmas complain about produce prices, and pretend I’m at any food court in China.

Vegetarian noodle soup from Yun Noodle House.

The vegetarian noodle soup is a hearty mix of all sorts of stuff. Carrots, sweet potato (or is it squash??), celery, bean sprouts, dried tofu, fresh tofu, mushrooms, green onion, all join the party in this bowl.  The soup is refreshingly clean tasting with a sweet nuttiness to it.  And surprisingly low on MSG or even MSG free. Add in a healthy spoonful of the chili sauce on the counter and you’ve got yourself a nice bowl of noodle soup. The noodles that come with this bowl are usually thin, but the proprietress of the booth said they can also do wide noodles if you ask for it.

Beef noodle soup. Clean flavors. Reminded me of pho.

The beef noodle soup was surprisingly good for its modest appearance.  The pieces of beef are tender without being too mushy.  The broth had a wonderful sweet aroma that reminded me of a more refined pho broth.  The slightly wide wheat noodles were the perfect size for slurping up the hot broth.  This simple but delicious bowl of noodles was exactly what I needed on a brisk day.

Tofu appetizer

If a bowl of noodle doesn’t seem like enough, there are also supplements on the menu.  Will and I split the cold tofu appetizer, which was baked tofu drizzled with hot sauce, ginger, and scallions.  It needed no extra frills.

Hours after consuming my bowl of noodles, I was pleased to notice that I wasn’t overly thirsty.  Could it be that this food court noodle restaurant made a wonderful broth without resorting to cheating with MSG?

Yun Noodle House
1220 S Golden West Ave
Ste E
Arcadia, CA 91007

Hand-cut Noodles in Soup

hand cut noodles made by me

I was channeling a dong bei noodle master’s energy this afternoon because I was overcome with the spirit to make some noodles.  For the dough, I winged it, but it’s roughly:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp salt

I stirred the salt into the warm water till it dissolved, then slowly poured it into my mountain of flour, kneading it as I went. When most of the water was incorporated, I started to really knead the dough.  It was a nice mid-afternoon stress release. I highly recommend it as a break from work. After kneading for about 10 minutes, the dough should be mostly smooth. Stick it in a ziplock bag and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

When you’re ready to cut the noodles, generously flour a flat surface and your rolling pin.  Cut the mound of dough in two and work with one half at a time.  I did a combination of rolling flat and folding to get the noodles thin enough.  When they got to my preferred thinness, I rolled it into a tube and sliced it into noodles.  Sprinkle the noodles with flour, toss them a little, and set them aside while the water boils.

The broth for this noodle soup was made from a mishmash of leftovers in the fridge: baby bok choy, wood ear mushroom, dried shiitake, leeks, and some preserved bamboo shoots.  After adding a sprinkling of white pepper at the end, it turned out to be a tasty broth that wasn’t so strong it overpowered my freshly made noodles.

The noodles were a cinch to cook since they were fresh. I don’t think it took longer than 5 minutes for them to fully cook in boiling water.

hand cut noodles made by meNot bad for a last-minute, gotta-clear-the-fridge meal.