Food does not need to excite all the time. Sometimes all it needs to do is sooth, comfort and nourish. Comfort food for me is simple, no complicated tastes needing understanding or deciphering. Comfort is being in the warmth of things familiar. Comfort food revives and brings me to a state of mind where things are safe and happy. Some find comfort in steak and potatoes, chicken soup, pasta, chocolate and ice cream but for me, it’s ramen. Ramen is a complete meal for me. It has all the elements to soothe my hunger. It is a bowl of tasty pork broth flavored with soy or miso, slightly firm and chewy noodles, soft or hard boiled egg (I prefer soft boiled), pork belly, seaweed, fishcake and sometimes sprouts. Ramen has no drama, it is straight out WYSIWYG. The pork broth for me is key as it needs to have a taste that is flavorful and soothing. At least that’s how I define it. All I know is that I am a happy ramen eater. In my quest for good ramen in San Diego, I’ve driven around the city and slurped on quite a few good ramen shops. Here are my favorites:
Settled inside the San Diego Mitsuwa Marketplace is Santouka Ramen (Hokkaido Style). The broth they serve is wonderful. Some people think it is salty but I think it’s just right. The broth is delicious and flavorful. Another favorite is Izakaya Masa over at Mission Hills, San Diego. They open from 6PM to 1AM. Some people end up at bars after work to unwind but for me I end up here when I arrive late at the San Diego airport and get my fill of soothing ramen. My family also enjoys Tajima and Ramen Yamadaya. We also highly favor Underbelly located at Fir St., San Diego. This place is unique in itself because it pays homage to Japanese ramen houses. The place is small and seating is a premium but turnaround is quick. I always order the “Belly of the Beast” – Ramen with oxtail dumpling, smoked brisket and hoisin glazed short rib. The meat melts in your mouth, ahhhh goodness in a bowl! You slurp your soup from the edge of a bowl as no spoons are available here. The more you slurp, the more tasty it gets.
I love ramen bars because they are so informal and welcoming. Ramen may appear like cheap food to the uninitiated but when you learn about how long and tedious it takes to make the broth and the ingredients that go in it, one appreciates why it is so good.