A recipe for Homemade Udon Noodles and our visit to the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes Peninsula, California! I will also be sharing a few favorite nearby food stops in the area.
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South Coast Botanic Garden
These photos at South Coast Botanic Garden were taken prior to 2020.
For 2020-2021: Guidelines currently require face coverings at all times for ages 2 and up and advance reservation is needed for entry.
When in the Los Angeles area, the South Coast Botanic Garden is a wonderful spot to add to the list of places to visit. Located at 26300 Crenshaw Boulevard just south of Torrance in Palos Verdes Peninsula, it is open 364 days a year (closed Christmas).
The gardens have quite the interesting history. It was one of the first botanical gardens in the world to be developed over a sanitary landfill and before that the area was an open pit mine (and much longer before that it was covered by the Pacific Ocean).
Over 40,000 trees and other plants were donated and planted in April 1961 and the collection has continued to grow to more than 200,000 plants today.
During our first visit, I was wonderfully surprised by how much the exhibits were actually created with all ages in mind. Throughout the park (some of these may be temporarily unavailable due to current distancing guidelines), there are many interactive features to help hold the attention of younger visitors and promote learning.
The Children’s Garden and Children’s Discovery Garden include a dollhouse and bridge as the backdrop for a nursery rhyme-themed garden, secret tunnel, alphabet garden, butterfly garden, and more. The Garden for the Senses encourages getting up close and personal through smell, touch, sound, and sight with a variety of herbs and other plants in raised beds.
A favorite for Evan was the Desert Garden. This section features cacti, euphorbia, aloes, and more from the United States, Mexico, South America, and Africa.
We have also enjoyed the many special events held at the gardens throughout the year. Favorites for the kids have included art days, scavenger hunts, and tea parties. They currently have a tropical butterflies exhibit through July 31st and the newest addition, Hide and Seek: Art Meets Nature, is now on display with works from both the South Coast Botanic Garden and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Overall, we have always had such a wonderful time at South Coast Botanic Garden. After our first visit in 2019, we ended up getting an annual membership and came back time and time again throughout the year. This membership pays for itself within two visits and includes access to over 300 gardens throughout the United States.
Since we were so close and had the membership, we would usually spend 1-2 hours in the gardens. For a one time visit, it could have easily taken half a day or longer to explore up to the 87 acres. As a note, much of the gardens do get hot midday with minimal areas for shade during late summer/early fall.
Along with the gardens, I am also sharing some of our favorite food spots in the area.
Reverent Coffee Bar
Reverent Coffee Bar is a fairly new addition to Rolling Hills Estate. It is just a couple of miles from South Coast Botanic Gardens and the perfect stop for coffee before or after visiting.
This small coffee shop opened in fall 2019 and features a variety of coffee, tea, and seasonal pastries. I especially love their Matcha Latte and Revery (a cappuccino with orange blossom syrup and cinnamon).
Big Island Eats and Shave Ice
Another new and delicious addition to Rolling Hills Estates is Big Island Eats and Shave Ice. Along with Hawaiian favorites and a delicious assortment of shave ice/shave shakes, the combo meals are completely customizable with options for rice/noodles/salad, protein, sauces, and add-ons.
Photographed above is their: LavaLava Shave Ice (sugarcane syrup, coconut syrup, dark chocolate drizzle, choco chips, vanilla ice cream, and strawberry syrup); Will’s Pina Colada (coconut syrup, coconut pineapple ice cream, pineapple orange juice); Combo Plate 1 with field greens, cabbage, guava chicken, Mac salad, yuzu ponzu dressing, shoyu mayo, and over easy egg; Keiki Bowl Kids Meal with rice, ginger tare beef, Mac salad, and POG juice; and Garlic Fried Rice with Portagee Sausage.
Creme de la Crepe
Creme de la Crepe has been a favorite brunch spot for the kids. We have enjoyed the variety of buckwheat and sweet crepes along with waffles, French toast, omelettes, and more.
So far we have only been to their Rolling Hills location, but they also have restaurants in Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Long Beach, Beverly Hills, Huntington Beach, and San Diego.
My friend Lauren introduced me to Chicken Maison as one of their favorite take out spots. This Mediterranean-style, family-run restaurant was first opened in South Torrance in 2005. We stopped by their Rolling Hills location, but they have additional restaurants in Redondo Beach, Santa Ana, Gardena, and Harbor City.
Photographed above is their Maison Special Salad (chicken Caesar salad with rice), Gyro Sandwich, Chicken Fettuccine Pesto, Chicken/Vegetable Kabob with hummus and rice, and Honey-Stachio Pita Chips (so so good!).
Gaetano’s Restaurant is a little over a mile in the opposite direction of South Coast Botanic Garden in Torrance, California. It is one of our favorite spots for Italian cuisine. Since 2020, I have also appreciated their easy online ordering and curbside pickup.
I tend to lean towards getting pasta (their Butternut Squash Ravioli is particularly fantastic), but we recently discovered a love for their lunchtime sandwiches as well. Over the past year, they have occasionally put together fun pizza kits that were a huge hit with the kids.
Their family also owns Bettolino Kitchen in Redondo Beach (with an incredible Tortelloni al Limone- spinach and ricotta stuffed pasta with lemon cream sauce).
Sidecar Doughnuts opened this Torrance location in Fall 2019 (they have additional shops in Santa Monica, Costa Mesa, Del Mar, and Fairfax & 3rd). I keep coming back time and time again for their fun and exciting flavors.
The Salted, Malted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough began has a specialty seasonal flavor in collaboration with Tyler Malek of Salt & Straw and inspired by their salted malted chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. This flavor-packed chocolate chip cake doughnut is topped with vanilla glaze, a scoop of malted cookie dough, malted chocolate fudge, and sea salt. It was such a hit (and continues to be my favorite) that the doughnut became a permanent (at least for now) fixture on the menu.
Ichimi An was one of the very first restaurants I tried in Torrance while visiting a month before our move here during the search for a house. They feature fresh soba (absolutely amazing) and udon in a variety of styles, both hot and cold, along with rice bowls, tempura, and more.
I also love their location in Old Town Torrance.
Pinwheel French Café & Bakery
Pinwheel French Café and Bakery is open daily 7:30-3:30 for breakfast, lunch, coffee, along with a variety of pastries and bread. The kids particularly love their croissants and waffles.
Shiok! Asian Street Food is another new restaurant to Torrance (Fall 2019). They temporarily closed during the initial shut down, but will hopefully reopen in the future. Featured above is their Asian Street Bowl, Crispy Golden Bao, Nightmarket Bao, Thai Tea with Sea Salt Foam, and Strawberry Shortcake (Fresh Strawberry, Jam, and Coconut Milk).
The Nijiya Market in Rolling Hills Plaza is on the smaller side compared to other Japanese markets in Torrance and the surrounding area, but it almost always has exactly what I need with excellent quality. I also love their assortment of packaged meals and snacks found just inside the entrance.
This market has additional locations in North Torrance, West LA, Little Tokyo, Puente Hills, San Diego, and in Northern California and Hawaii.
Hitachiya USA is in the same section of Rolling Hills Plaza as Nijiya Market. This beautiful shop features a wonderful collection of high quality Japanese cookware along with knife sharpening and repair. I purchased the bamboo woven plate featured in the udon photos here.
Homemade Udon Noodles
We only have a year left in Los Angeles, so I wanted to try to make homemade udon noodles (手打ちうどん) for when we are no longer near so many amazing places like Ichimi-Ann to get them fresh.
In 2019, I reviewed the cookbook, The Japanese Larder, and made homemade ramen for the first time. It was such a fun experience and I bookmarked the following recipe for udon to make at a later date. This was finally the push I needed! We have now made the homemade udon noodles a few times with a few adjustments along the way and it is a particular favorite with my daughter due to the unique kneading style.
Udon (うどん) are thick Japanese noodles with a smooth, chewy texture. They are perfect in soup, stir-fry, or even on their own chilled with a flavorful dipping sauce. The noodles do take some time to prepare, but come together simply with flour and salt water. You won’t even need a pasta machine or any other specialty tools.
After initially bringing together the dough and allowing it to rest for about 30 minutes, it is massaged through three cycles. Traditionally (and my daughter’s favorite part), the ball of dough is placed in a bag (wrap the bag in a towel to protect the dough in case the bag rips) and kneaded using your feet. Since it can be quite tough without any eggs, this is easier than using your hands. The resulting dough should be smooth and silky to touch. Place back in the bag, seal, and allow to sit for an additional 3 hours to let the gluten rest and texture develop.
A Few Tips for Udon
Before folding and cutting, coat the flattened dough well with cornstarch and sprinkle additional cornstarch before wrapping in individual bundles to keep the noodles from sticking together.
If one large sheet of dough is too much to handle at once or you have a smaller workspace, divide the dough in half after kneading and resting, then roll out and cut one section at a time.
Use a sharp knife to cut the noodles quickly. Keep in mind as you cut that the size of the noodles will nearly double when cooked.
Allowing the dough to rest is important to help develop the texture and make it easier to roll out.
The Udon can be cooked and served immediately after cutting or they can be arranged in bundles, placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and frozen until solid. Transfer to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to a month. Boil straight from the freezer, though you may need to add a couple of minutes to the cooking time.
Cook the noodles in a large pot of water (DO NOT ADD SALT). Gently stir, especially the bottom, to keep the noodles from sticking together or to the bottom of the pot. Udon takes a bit longer to cook compared to other fresh pasta. They should take about 10-12 minutes to create that springy, chewy texture.
After boiling, drain the noodles and rinse well with cold water to remove excess starch. Cook the homemade udon noodles separately from desired soup.
Looking for ways to use the Homemade Udon Noodles?
Homemade Udon Noodles Recipe
Adapted from The Japanese Larder
Homemade Udon Noodles
- 3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (237 milliliters) water plus up to 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) more as needed
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) salt
- Cornstarch or potato starch for dusting
- Place the flour in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the water and salt until the salt is dissolved.
- Slowly pour the water into the flour, mixing with your hand, to bring together the dough. If needed, slowly add up to 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) more water.
- Knead the mixture briefly to form into a smooth ball and place into a large plastic bag. Push any air out of the bag and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, press any air out of the bag and seal tightly. Wrap the bag in a large clean kitchen towel and place on the ground. Knead the ball of dough with your feet until smooth and completely flattened in the bag (this usually takes 30-40 steps).
- Gently remove the flattened dough from the bag and form back into a ball. Place back into the bag, seal, and repeat stepping on it until flattened. Remove and form into a ball for a third time. Press with your feet again until flattened. At this point, the dough should be completely smooth and silky to touch.
- Form the dough back into a ball, place back in the bag, push out any air, close, and allow to rest at room temperature for 3 hours.
- Dust a large work surface with cornstarch. Remove the dough from the bag and place on the work surface. Dust the top of the dough with cornstarch.
- Roll the dough into a large square about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Dust the top with a layer of cornstarch. Fold the dough into thirds.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the folded dough into strips about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Shake gently to separate, coating with more cornstarch if needed.
- Arrange the cut noodles into serving-size bundles and arrange on a cornstarch-dusted, parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Either cook the noodles immediately in a large pot of water (DO NOT ADD SALT) or freeze until solid, then place in a freezer-safe bag and store in the freezer for up to a month.
- Cook the noodles at a low boil until tender with a chewy, springy texture, about 10-12 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water to remove any excess starch.
- Serve immediately with desired dipping sauce, in soup, or prepare in a stir-fry.