Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Handmade noodles, Otafuku

Handmade noodles! Presumably a staple of many peasant diets, in our mod-ren fast-paced society they have become the province of food fanatics with access to the deepest ethnic conclaves. At many of these restaurants, the noodles are the star attraction and can be enjoyed practically au naturel. The tremendous diversity of international dining in Los Angeles is reflected in the handmade noodle masters plying their trade:

Ma Dang Gook Soo:
Robust Korean gook soo, a thick wheaty cut noodle.
Delicate ropy udon, a world apart from the prepackaged kind from the Japanese store.
Mandarin House:
Bean-y jajiang sauce covers these hand-pulled beauties.

There are many spots I am keen to try; Heavy Noodling has the famous noodles sliced from a ball of dough that have a thickish centre and delicate frilly edges, and Mr Chu's is famous for hand-pulled noodles. These are described in "Counter Intelligence" and Carl Chu's books, see my links for details.

But back to Otafuku. This is a tiny wood-panelled treasure esconsced in a Gardena Japanese 'hood (16525 S Western Av, Gardena, 310 532 9348). House specialties are handmade soba, udon and especially the white "sarashina soba", made with flour milled from the heart of the buckwheat grain. Naturally this is imported from Japan. I sampled the sarashina soba - termed seiro on the menu after the serving container - and they are spectacular. Handmade noodles are generally a textural thrill but these have a wonderful pure flavour also. Most diners in Otafuku have a little bamboo stand with unadorned soba to dip in sauce or broth served on the side. Handmade udon at Otafuku are right on par with Kotohira, delicious in chicken soup. Traditional Japanese starters are terrific too, I loved the pickled vegetables and the mountain yam with seaweed. Another L.A. destination of the highest quality!


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