13 Places To Find Pork-Free Ramen In Los Angeles
Ramen is traditionally made with a rich, pork-based broth and springy noodles that are then topped with slices of roast pork. One of the most popular version is tonkotsu, which originated in the Japanese city of Fukuoka in 1937 and involves boiling pork bones for several hours. But not everyone who loves ramen loves Vitamin P. Fortunately, more ramen shops are offering pork-free — and entirely meat-free — alternatives. Toripaitan is a popular version prepared by boiling chicken bones. Paitan translates to "white soup," referring to the milky appearance of the broth.
These bowls of ramen, whether prepared with chicken, beef or vegetables, are delicious, satisfying and an ideal antidote to a Los Angeles winter day. Be aware! Some places use pork in their chicken broth (we've noted that in the listings below) but wherever we've said a ramen is pork-free, we have confirmed with the business that it contains no pork.
Jinya Ramen Bar
Jinya Ramen Bar offers three kinds of chicken ramen (regular, spicy and a wonton that contains shrimp) but their two types of vegan ramen are the sleeper hit. The Flying Vegan Harvest features corn, tofu, bean sprouts, broccolini and soy "meat" in a miso broth. The spicy, creamy vegan ramen contains fewer toppings, the better to showcase the rich soup, thickened with sesame.
- 11239 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. 818-980-3977.
- 5168 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire. 323-954-6477.
- 2400 Main St., Santa Monica. 310-392-4466.
Located inside the Grand Central Market, Ramen Hood is a collaboration between Ilan Hall, Top Chef season 2 winner, and Rahul Khopkar, who has worked at Noma. The rich and umami-packed broth is made from a kelp and mushroom dashi thickened with miso and sunflower seeds. The curly noodles are dressed with king oyster mushrooms, bean sprouts, scallions and nori. You can even add a vegan "egg" — a chewy, pale white oval made from soy milk and agar, and a yellow "yolk" made of nutritional yeast and sodium alginate — to your bowl.
- Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, downtown L.A. 718-213-7374.
Started in Northern California, Kai Ramen offers a few kinds of pork-free ramen including three chicken options and two vegetarian ones. The most popular is the Volcano Ramen, a mess of spicy chicken broth, thick noodles and crisp, fried chicken pieces. It was so popular it was upgraded from a monthly special to the full-time menu. The vegetarian ramen, dubbed the Popeye ramen, is a soy-based broth with spinach noodles topped with tofu and fresh greens.
- 15030 Ventura Blvd. #23, Sherman Oaks. 818-789-3944-349.
- N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood. 310-360-0322.
- 1261 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra. 626-940-5541.
Menya Musashi is a pioneering Tokyo ramen shop known for its tsukemen, which comes with a dipping broth made from pork, chicken and fish. At their L.A. location on Sawtelle, they also began offering a toripaitan ramen this summer. You can customize any order by choosing the type of noodles (thin or thick), the flavor of the broth (including garlic and spicy) and additional toppings such as bean sprouts and soft-boiled egg.
- 2012 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A. 310-231-7188.
Iki Ramen, partly owned by the general manager of n/naka, is Koreatown's new darling. Although their toripaitan ramen contains dashi prepared with pork extract, their wagyu ramen is totally pork-free — and it's one of the best dishes on the menu. Thanks to the fatty wagyu, the broth is clear, rich and flavorful. The thick noodles are served with A5 wagyu meat from Miyazaki (the highest grade of Japanese beef, known for its marbling) and an onsen tamago, a perfectly poached egg. They also offer a vegan spicy miso ramen prepared with their housemade miso blend.
- 740 S. Western Ave., Koreatown. 424-335-7749.
Tentenyu uses pork to season the chicken broth in its namesake ramen but its long-simmering toripaitan ramen is completely pork-free. The thin noodles in rich broth are crowned with slices of chicken breast, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, green onion and seaweed. They also serve a vegetarian mushroom ramen garnished with lotus root, tomatoes and radish then finished with truffle and garlic oils.
- 3849 Main St., Culver City. 424-603-4803.
Aside from their tonkotsu, Ippudo doesn't offer any other meat-based ramen but their Akamaru veggie ramen features a vegetarian broth that's surprisingly similar in flavor and texture to their original pork version. It consists of Ippudo's thin ramen noodles in a sesame-based broth topped with tofu "chashu," bean sprouts, kikurage mushrooms, black garlic oil and a dollop of miso paste.
- 8352 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. 310-986-2717.
- 1403 2nd St., Santa Monica. 310-893-0577.
After opening in downtown L.A. this summer, Ramen Koo expanded with a second location, in Hollywood. Although their chicken paitan ramen contains pork extract, the spicy chicken miso ramen is 100% totally pork-free. Dark meat lovers will be happy to know they can get a whole chicken leg instead of mere slices of breast meat. Ramen Koo also offers two vegan broths and two types of gluten-free noodles.
- 5784 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. 323-645-7766.
- 225 W. 7th St., Downtown. 213-395-0988.
Tatsu Ramen has grown rapidly since opening its first shop, on Sawtelle, in 2012. Known for its iPad ordering system and late hours, its signature ramen is its 14-hour tonkotsu broth. But Tatsu has other options, too. The Cheeky Ramen uses a creamy, slow-cooked chicken broth while the Hippie Ramen relies on a vegan broth made from onions, mushrooms and ginger.
Tatsu also offers gluten-free noodles.
- 2123 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A. 310-684-2889.
- 7111 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. 323-747-1388.
- 319 S. Arroyo Pkwy., Pasadena. 626-345-5688.
Okiboru House of Tsukemen
There are a few places to find pork-free ramen in L.A. but Okiboru may be the only one to offer pork-free tsukemen. Okiboru's toripaitan tsukemen features a chicken and seafood-based broth (no shellfish) that's slightly less rich than its pork counterpart. The vegetarian yasai paitan tsukemen, with a creamy mushroom and vegetable broth and topped with grilled tofu, is also probably the only vegetarian tsukemen in town.
- 635 N. Broadway Ave., downtown L.A. 213-988-7212.
Don't let the name and the location fool you, Venice Ramen is owned by a pro who runs four ramen shops in Tokyo. The chicken ramen here is a great option for those looking for a healthier bowl. The clear broth is light and peppery, perfect for the thin, housemade noodles. Their chicken "chashu," tender and thinly sliced, is also one of the best in the city.
- 515 Washington Blvd., Marina Del Rey. 310-448-8886.
A modern izakaya from the people behind Gjelina and Gjusta, MTN offers a handful of non-traditional ramen bowls. While the food is more expensive than at most ramen places, MTN makes their noodles by mixing buckwheat with regular wheat flour, creating a distinct sandy color and a slightly nuttier flavor. They offer seven types of ramen including a shoyu duck ramen as well as a Jidori chicken and yuzu ramen. For those who enjoy shellfish, the spicy Dungeness crab ramen is the way to go.
- 1305 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice. 424-465-3313.
Located in an unassuming Koreatown strip mall, Ginza Ramen is one of the few spots where you can still get a good bowl of ramen for under $10. Ginza serves beef ramen made with an 18-hour broth. Chunks of beef shank bob alongside thin noodles that you can adorn with up to six toppings including bamboo shoots, red ginger and bean sprouts. It doesn't hurt that Ginza has a daily happy hour (5:30 - 7 p.m.) with ramen bowls for $6.95 (although valet parking at the strip mall costs $3). Ginza also offers chicken shio ramen as well as tofu miso ramen.
- 709 S. Vermont Ave., Koreatown. 213-263-2880.