Chin Ma Ya’s Tan Tan Men Combines Two of My Favorite Things (Dan Dan Noodles & Ramen)
Is there a better area of Downtown to work near (or eat lunch in) than Little Tokyo? It almost makes me want to get a job at City Hall just so I could work near all the great Japanese food that lines the streets between Main St. and Alameda. I’ve already tried the porky bowl of goodness that is Daikokuya’s ramen, and the Little Tokyo Marketplace (on 3rd & Alameda) is on my radar. But when Profiled Lunch’er “Nguyen” (who also happens to own Starry Kitchen in the Downtown Water Court) called Chin Ma Ya’s ramen one of his favorite dishes to eat Downtown, the Weller Court (nr. 2nd and Los Angeles) leaped to the top of my list.
Chin Ma Ya isn’t known for their typical Japanese ramen. You can order a shoyu or shio ramen, but their specialty is something called “tan tan men” a Japanese ramen with a Sichuan twist (imagine a bowl of soup with dan dan noodles dumped into it, and that’s the dish.) I love ramen. And I love Sichuan cuisine. So there was pretty much no way this was going to be bad…
The broth is made from both chicken and pork, so it’s not nearly as porky as Daikokuya (a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you ask) but there is sesame paste added to the broth giving it a slightly creamy texture. The ground beef and pork mixture that gets dumped into the soup helps give it a nice meaty flavor, and the slightly curly noodles are some of the better I’ve had in L.A. As for the spice I went with medium, on the waiters recommendation, which had a nice kick… but nothing unmanageable. If you like things very spicy, I would definitely order it hot… but according to Rameniac (my go to source for all things ramen) even that isn’t going to bring you to tears. (Although, I guess if super spicy is what you’re looking for, you should just hit up Orochen upstairs.) The best part of the whole thing was the kara-age (fried chicken), which you can get on top of your ramen (how could I not, right?) The choice between having ramen topped with fried chicken, and ramen without fried chicken is no choice at all. Don’t like it getting soggy in the soup? It’s a popular side dish as well.
The ramen alone is only $7.30, with kare age on top it jumps to $8.90. But the hard core Midtown Lunch’ers will go for the combos- where you can get ramen along with their other signature dish- chin ma han- for under $10.
If you’ve ever had mapo tofu then “Chin-Ma Han” will be familiar to you. It’s tofu that been simmered with ground beef and pork and served over rice. Once again, it wasn’t as spicy as a true Sichuan dish but I really liked the added bit of sweetness that you don’t find in mapo tofu (I believe the not so secret ingredient is miso paste.) Combined with the soup, it’s way to much for one person to eat (even me!) but once again, how could I not.
I still haven’t found a proper Sichuan Midtown Lunch (clearly I’m going to need to to the SGV for that), and for typical ramen Downtown I’d probably choose Daikokuya (admittedly, though, I haven’t tried Orochen yet.) But Chin Ma Ya is certainly unique… and if you’re in the mood for some dan dan noodles, masquerading as Japanese ramen, this is a great lunch option.
- Dan dan noodles + Ramen = Heaven!
- I like pork, but Daikokuya is too much. Chin Ma Ya’s broth is more my speed
- Ground meat FTW
- Ramen + mapo tofu for under $10 is a great deal for a ton of food
- Their kara age is awesome… and you can get it in top of your ramen.
- At lunch they have $2 draft beers!
- If you like their hot soup, wait until you try their cold tan tan men. It’s even better…
- The broth isn’t porky enough
- When it comes to ramen, I just want the basics. None of this crazy hybrid stuff.
- Way to bastardize two great cuisines with one dish
- I prefer slices of pork belly to ground meat
- I’m not into spicy
- Sweet mapo tofu just seems wrong
Chin Ma Ya of Tokyo, 123 Onizuka St. (Weller Court 2nd Floor), 213-625-3400
Parking is available if you enter on 2nd St. btw. San Pedro and Los Angeles. 1 hour free with validation.