Thanks to Exile Kiss' blog post about the Umaimono Fair at Mitsuwa Market, I headed down to the one in Torrance over the weekend. With limited time, and long lines, I was only able to sample items from three different vendors. Since the fair is held inside the market, there is limited room and seating. There were several vendors in temporary stalls between the main market and the permanent food court and a ramen vendor that took over a kitchen inside the food court. I arrived right around noon and ran into the lunch rush and long lines. My plan of attack was to do a quick walk through and then pick what I wanted to try.
The first thing I saw and with the longest line was the Takoyaki stand. I have never tried takoyaki before nor have I witnessed the making of them. Fascinated by the process, I recorded a short video to share with everyone.
Each batch makes 84 of these delicate pastries stuffed with octopus, green onions, puffed rice, pickled radish, and finished with white wine. Each box comes with 8 pastries topped with two sauces, and bonito flakes. I tried to avoid the soggy takoyaki that Exile Kiss received, unfortunately, I had forgotten to ask for the sauces on the side as well. Since it was my first time eating these, I didn't know what to expect. The exterior was soggy as Exile Kiss described, and the inside was gooey. The octopus was rubbery for me and I did not get any hints of the other flavors in the batter. There wasn't enough sauce for all the pastries and ones with only a little bit of sauce did not taste as good. I'm glad I gave these a try, however, I did not enjoy them as much as my fellow foodie.
2 for 4.50
While waiting for the ramen, I decided to try the fish cakes since there was no line. There were several option available and the woman behind the counter suggested gomoku, which I happily slected and pumpkin for my second choice. The fish cakes were sitting under heat lamps and were barely warm and extremely greasy. The corn in the gomoku was over powering, shadowing any other flavors in the cake. I found the consistency of the pumpkin fish cake very enjoyable, and the subtle flavors of the pumpkin blended well with the fish. However, these were extremely disappointing.
Butter Corn Miso Ramen
The vendor had two ramen selections, and after looking at the slice of butter on the photo, I knew had to get one with butter. The miso broth ramen came with a slice of pork, sweet yellow corn, ground pork, cabbage, bean sprouts, green onions, sesame and pepper. I have never had a slice of butter in my ramen before and was very curious to find out how it would change the flavor of the broth. I taste the miso broth before mixing in the butter and it was not like the subtle miso broths I am used to. This broth was in your face and packed with flavor. After mixing in the butter, the broth became richer. One qualm with this dish is that it only came with one small slice of pork. The pork was flavorful and tender, but another slice would have been great. The crunchiness and sweetness of the corn gave the dish a nice balance. This was a good introduction to a different side of ramen.
Overall, I look forward to the fair next year and will schedule more time to look around and sample more dishes. I will definitely pass on the fish cakes and try one of the bento boxes instead. Hopefully next time there will be more vendors as well.
Takoyaki - 2.5 out of 5 stars
Fish Cakes - 1 out of 5 Stars
Butter Corn Miso Ramen - 4 out of 5 Stars
Umaimono Fair at Mitsuwa Market
21515 S Western Ave
Torrance, CA 90501
There is plenty of parking in the large lot including underground.