Thousands of ramen enthusiasts and 14 ramen restaurants from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Tokyo, San Diego and San Jose took over the infield at the Santa Anita Park in Arcadia over the weekend for the Ramen Yokocho Assn.'s ramen show, billed as the largest in the U.S.
But this wasn't your average ramen lunch, eaten at a counter, sitting elbow to elbow with the person slurping next to you. It was full on ramen mania, with most of the show spent waiting in line. Before you could even get your hands on a bowl of ramen, you needed to stand in line to purchase tickets for each bowl.
Then you were off to stand in another line, where crowds of people waited, sometimes more than 100 deep, under the hot sun. Some stood on their toes peering over the infield, trying to figure out which line they could bear standing in next. And some just stared in envy as those lucky enough to have made it to the front passed by, bowls in hand.
Ramen chefs wearing bandanas worked busily behind each booth slinging noodles and ladling broth out of giant vats of steaming liquid. Each ramen was $8 and served in white or red plastic bowls. Many people stood inhaling one or two bowls of cloudy liquid and noodles while they waited in line for their next fix.
Tsujita Tokyo from Japan (there's an L.A. outpost called Tsujita LA on Sawtelle) had the festival's longest line, where people waited for more than an hour for a coveted bowl. This booth set up a condiment bar with bowls of minced garlic and shichimi togarashi pepper powder.
The line was equally grueling for a taste of Fujin Ramen's spicy mayo ramen burger with a thick ramen noodle bun, a meat patty, lettuce, tomato and spicy mayo. Dozens of people were spotted taking selfies eating the burgers.
And for those in need of some crispy gyoza, Ajinimoto Frozen Foods served up plates of golden brown dumplings.
The list of participating restaurants included Jidaiya, Men Oh Tokushima, Daikokuya, Fujin, Hayatemaru and Shin-Sen-Gumi from Los Angeles; Hiromaru and Monta from Las Vegas; Shalala from San Jose; Tajima from San Diego; and Tatsunoya, Horaiya, Mattou Seimen and Tsujita Tokyo from Japan.
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