Bowls of ramen (and a drunk man’s rice bowl) from Ramen Nagi and Hanamaruken Ramen

When the new year came, so did the significant dip in temperature. It reached a cool 17.5 degrees Celsius in Metro Manila, which for our tropical country meant one of the coldest temps in recent history (mountain cities like Baguio, even registered 8 degrees). It also meant you didn’t have to turn on the air conditioning at home, you could take out those jackets out of your closet, and it was the perfect weather for a hot bowl of ramen.

Just a few weeks ago, the weather went back to ‘normal’ (hello again, 30-degree weather), but this shouldn’t stop any self-respecting ramen fan to go out there and have a bowl or two, particularly when there are several relatively new players in the hot ramen scene in the metro. Here are two of them, which I’m finally getting to blog about.

Hanamaruken Ramen

A three-decade old ramen chain from Osaka opened shop in TriNoMa mall in Quezon City late last year. It’s known for its Signature Happiness Ramen (P480), which is a big bowl of shoyu-tonkotsu broth and an even more overwhelming slab of slow-cooked pork rib. Quite a monster, that even the hubby, who can usually put away huge chunks of meat, found it too much. But don’t get me wrong, it was good, the broth was balanced and the meat, fall-of-the-bone tender and flavorful. Just order it when you’re hankering for meat and lots of it.

Signature Happiness Ramen

Signature Happiness Ramen

Or you can order their other varieties of ramen (which will likely provide the same amount of happiness). A less daunting bowl would be the Chasyu Ramen. It has the same steady tonkotsu-shoyu broth but with usual braised pork belly slices and aji tamago (which was just a wee bit overcooked). Continue reading

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Rainy days and ramen

What’s better than having ramen? Slurping ramen during a rainy day.

Manila and many parts of the country have been inundated by rain since last month and aside from slurping local favorites such as sinigang, batchoy, mami, champorado and arroz caldo, the Japanese noodle dish is gaining more following in the country.

While a few years back, Japanese restaurants serving good authentic ramen in Manila were not abundant, nowadays you could find one in most parts of the metro. Take Ramen Yushoken in Alabang.

Ramen Yushoken probably tops the list of ramen-ya these days. I know it tops my list. Before it opened, we were already hearing some buzz about it as restaurateur Elbert Cuenca had traveled to Tokyo to go and try bowls and bowls of ramen (lucky!). Months later he opened a ramen-ya serving ramen derived from Japan’s “Ramen God” Kazuo Yamagishi, inventor of the tsukemen (dipping noodles), proprietor of the legendary Taishoken ramen shop in Ikebukuro, and adorable-looking old man who regularly sits outside his restaurant. His successor (or “son of ramen god”) came to the country to make sure that the different varieties of ramen to be served in Yushoken are at par with ramen god’s champion ramen houses. What a build up, right?

Since a queue often forms outside the resto during lunch and dinner hours, we were there even before it opened at 11 am. Yushoken serves ramen in a rich, thick tonkotsu broth base (made from boiling pork bones over several hours). Being a fan of miso (soy bean paste), I stick to my favorite even if it’s described as the most rich soup in the menu; the hubby got shoyu.

Ready for my ramen

Ready for my ramen

Understandably, expectations were high. It opened December last year and it didn’t disappoint as fellow ramen-loving friends kept singing it praises. Because it entailed a bit of a drive from where we lived, P and I only got around to trying it, five months after it opened. And it was worth the long drive, the gas and the toll fee that Saturday morning. Continue reading

Follow that Japanese

Last Saturday for lunch, P and I were going down along Arnaiz Ave. in Makati City looking for Ukokkei Ramen Ron, a Japanese ramen restaurant that’s been hailed by many to have the best ramen in Metro Manila. We only knew it was along Arnaiz Ave. so we were both on the lookout for it. On a stoplight, I then saw a Japanese guy walking on the curb and joked that maybe we should just follow him. A hundred or so meters later we saw Ukokkei and who should be walking inside in front of us, the same Japanese guy I pointed out to P a few minutes earlier. (Hee!)

The place was almost full, mostly with Japanese, expats, and (judging from the amount of SUVs and luxury vehicles parked in front at the time) a number of well-heeled Filipino families. When we got our seats, we immediately scanned the menu. As other Ukokkei fans have told us, the ramen comes in three different kinds of broth–shoyu (soy), shio (salt) and miso. Mostly everyone we’ve talked to recommends getting one of the miso variants. But P and I had agreed we would get two different kinds of ramen. He ordered the miso butter corn (PHP360) and I ordered the shoyu chashu (PHP380).

Miso butter corn ramen

The miso butter corn certainly lived up to the hype. The broth had a rich, buttery and salty flavor that went well with the sweetness of the miso, corn and slice of pork. For P, the broth was just as just good as the broth of the ramen we had in Tokyo on our first night.

Shoyu Chashu Ramen

While the shoyu chashu ramen I got was also good, I didn’t think it was just as good as the Tokyo ramen. The broth seemed one note and the menma was a bit tough. The thin slices of chashu (char siu or barbecued pork) were excellent though. As for the noodles, they were firm, toothsome and flavorful on their own.

Because “when there’s ramen, there’s gyoza” (credit to my favorite manga, Oishinbo!), after P finished off his bowl of ramen (and mine) and he was still hungry, we ordered some of the Japanese potstickers (PHP120). Ukokkei’s gyoza was soft, succulent and satisfying. I would easily order it again for my next visit. That along with a bowl of miso ramen.

G/F Tesoro Bldg., 822 A. Arnaiz Ave., San Lorenzo Village, Makati City

Oishinbo is a manga on the “fascinating, addictive journey through the world of cooking and food culture”