The Ramen Craze Hits Manila

I don’t recall when this ramen obsession in Manila started but lately, it’s been all the rage. I must admit that I only jumped on the ramen bandwagon recently. You would never find me excited to order a bowl of noodle soup when Japanese dining. A fellow parent in my daughter’s class strongly suggested I go to Butao Ramen when I visited Hongkong last year. She was adamant and even told me to brave the line. This set the bar quite high for me. It was my first real go at ramen and it was wonderful. I remember expecting fireworks when I first sipped the thick, piping hot broth and chewed on the fat noodles. But truth be told it did not happen in that initial moment. But as I kept eating it, I kept wanting more and more until I wiped out the entire bowl. I was so full I felt as though I had to be rolled out of there. Then the cravings started. I was desperately looking for that fulfilling satisfaction that ramen delivers so as soon as I returned home from my trip, I tried all the places that came highly recommended.

My PEG – Butao Ramen in Hongkong

Here, I did a comparative study to find which local ramen house suited by taste buds best. I asked many ramen lovers and ALL had different favorites. Needless to say, all these places have all been recommended. But now, I definitely know which ones to return to and which ones still need improvement.

My first stop was Ukokkei Ramen Ron. I decided on this because I was told it was the most authentic. I liked that the place was small and that it gave a simple eat and run vibe. The menu was straight to the point, ramen choices, toppings and sides, drinks. There is also only one size for the ramen, which is big, so come hungry… It will definitely fill you up. The soup also came out really fast, always a plus! The Tantanmen was perfect. I loved the flavor of the broth. If I’m being honest, I was so excited that I forgot to snap a photo of it before digging in. This one is definitely the best broth they have and the only downside is that they only start serving it at 6pm because it takes a whole day to make. This was a disappointment when I returned for lunch and could not have it but it also gave me a chance to sample some others. A close second is the Miso Ramen. I really enjoyed the one with only vegetables. It was delicious and offered a healthier option for customers. I was also able to try the Shio Ramen (with pork), which is a salt based broth. This I found boring. The soup is clear and though it is tasty, it is not quite as satisfying. They have one generic noodle size for all their ramen. I prefer the choice but at least it is handmade there so it is fresh. I love the crispy fried onions, which top your soup. It adds the perfect little sweet crunchy bite.

My Setting

Ukokkei Condiments

Ukokkei Miso Ramen

Ukokkei Shio Ramen

The next place I tried was Mitsuyado Sei-Men. I liked the atmosphere as soon as I walked in. I loved that the place was bright and well lit. This place too, gave a low-key vibe but at the same time, it did not feel like an eat-and-run type. I was comfortable so I was okay to sit and take my time. The menu here definitely had more options, good for a big group wherein not everyone will order ramen. I also found this place child friendly. Asides from having staple Japanese dishes that kids prefer the ramen came in quantity options: a regular size and a large size. It also had wide spaces between tables. Though I tried many items on the menu, I will focus on the ramen, which I thought was spectacular (both times I went). I loved the thickness of the noodles. The broth was also superb. I sampled the Char-siu Ramen and the Tsukemen, which has the broth, noodles and toppings separated, almost like a deconstructed meal. I loved this because the noodles stay firm with every bite. I have heard great things about the cheese ramen but that is one combination I am not quite ready to explore yet. Maybe in the future as this is one place I plan to come back to.

Mitsuyado Gyoza

Mitsuyado Ebi Tempura – Perfect for the kids!

Mitsuyado Char-siu Ramen

Mitsuyado Tsukemen

My next stop was the newly opened Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. This place definitely had a more sit down feel. The interiors and the lighting are set on the dimmer end, using darker hues for their wooden tabletops and décor. I liked that it is accessible, located in the outside of Glorieta 4 so that you don’t even need to enter the mall. The menu gave a wide array of options but not your regular Japanese dishes. This one had salads, rice bowls, curries and even set menus to give diners a variety with each meal. Their ramen comes in small, medium and large. Since it was my first time to try, I decided to go with the Char-sui Ramen because it was one of the best sellers. While the broth had nice flavor, something about the noodles reminded me of instant noodles. I personally prefer thicker noodles with a bite. The pork was tasty so and added a new flavor level to the dish so I can see why this one came recommended. I also sampled their Miso Ramen, which also had nice flavor.

My Setting

Santouka Condiments

Santouka Char-siu Ramen

Santouka Miso Ramen

Last but definitely not the least, I had to try Ramen Yushoken. To most people, Alabang may seem far out of the way but I grew up there so to me, it is home. If you need to be further convinced to make the trek, Yushoken is the Ramen house of Elbert Cuenca, the man behind Elbert’s Steak Room and Cheeseteak by Elbert’s. His other 2 restaurants are favorites of mine so I came in with high expectations. These were definitely met. The place had a long line but forgivable because most Ramen houses do. Our orders were taken while waiting and when we were seated, we were served tight away. Again, The menu was quite straight to the point, which I like. They have hot ramen and tsukemen, a cold ramen and sides. I opted to try their Tantanmen and Miso Ramen. Both were excellent. The noodles may not have been as thick as I like but they were firm and luscious. I liked the Miso ramen a tad bit better because the miso and pork were just so perfectly balanced. This is now one of my favorite village restaurants when back home for the weekend.

Yushoken Gyoza

Yushoken Tantanmen

Yushoken Miso Ramen

I am obviously sold on Ramen now. In a recent trip to Singapore I tried Ippudo Ramen, which was really special. What I like about it is that it is hard to get it wrong. All these places had something special to offer. I also find ramen so reasonable. Most bowls are priced between Php250-Php450 and it is a complete meal. I hope this helps you all find your special bowl of Ramen!

A Special Treat – Ippudo Ramen in Singapore

Store Locations

Ukokkei Ramen Ron

Tesoro Building, 822 A. Arnaiz Ave.

San Lorenzo, Makati

Mitsuyado Sei – Men

22 Jupiter Street

Bel – Air, Makati

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

G/F Glorieta 4, Hotel Drive

Ayala Center, Makati

Ramen Yushoken

Molito Mall, Madrigal Avenue,

Alabang, Muntinlupa

Butao Ramen (Hongkong)

G/F Wo On Building

8 – 13 On Lane Street

Lan Kwai Fong, Central

Hongkong

Ippudo Ramen (Singapore)

207 River Valley Rd

UE Square, Singapore

 

A Local Gem

I am not going to lie there are many things about this country that I dislike… The constant traffic, the humidity, the lack of efficiency in systems, the very sad overwhelming amount of poverty… I guess these are things that most of us wish could improve. But when it comes down to it and I think of the actual land and its fruitful beauty, there is nothing I can complain about. No beach or mountainside has ever disappointed me. I am one of those people who enjoy the drive because I get to look out my window and relish in the magnificent views. Our local trees and plants are stunning, my favorite being the anahaw. And of course, one cannot talk about the wonders of the Philippines and not bring up the illustrious mango.

I don’t believe any other place in the world produces mangoes quite like we do. They are sweet and juicy, just bursting with the most refreshing flavor. Now that it is summer, I find them to be the most satisfying dessert. My favorite way to have them is completely frozen. A few weeks ago I was given a kaing of fresh and ripe mangoes flown in from Guimaras. This province has 8,000 hectares of mango orchards, which is why it is also known as “Mango Country.” I knew I would never be able to eat them all before they went over ripe so I peeled them and threw them in the freezer. Now I get to have a delicious cold treat, perfect for when the heat becomes too much to bear.

Another treat I make with mangoes are popsicles for my kids. When I was young, my Yaya and I would make the same recipe but stick it in a plastic bag and call it ice candy. Because I am working with children, I like to get a bit crafty. Here is a fun activity that will not only keep them occupied but assure you of a healthier alternative to store bought frozen treats. These homemade goodies have no added sugar or preservatives. It also allows you to control the amount of added fat and how many ounces per pop.

Ingredients:

2 ripe mangoes

2 under ripe mangoes (I like those that are already yellow in color but still firm and with a hint of sourness to the taste)

½ cup evaporated milk (feel free to substitute skim milk or even water for a healthier alternative)

Procedure:

  1. Slice mangoes and remove meat from skin. (I save the meat on the seed and consume it separately)
        2. Blend mango with milk until it becomes a smooth consistency.
        3. Pour equal amounts into 6 small plastic cups.
        4. Cover each cup with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. (This will keep the stick in the center)
          5. Insert popsicle sticks.
         6. Freeze overnight.

Lunchtime at The Office

I have known my boss Raul Manzano for quite sometime now. I can’t remember the exact moment that we met but I do recall when we got to know each other. We were both invited to go to Bangkok with a side trip to the island of Kho Samui on a press junket. At the time he was representing the publication Metro Society and I was with Metro Weddings. Asides from having writing in common, I soon realized that we both shared another passion, food. And what better place to discover that than in lovely Thailand? We bonded over street food on the island and the best restaurants the city had to offer.  We liked so many of the same things and shared that same excitement when we tasted something pleasing. His palate was a lot more resilient to heat than mine but still, we were able to share many things.

From then we remained close and I began contributing to his magazine. Then late last year the managing editor position opened so when Raul called me for the job, I gladly took it. Since I have started working there, I can’t count the number of times he has fed me and the rest of the staff lunch. Sometimes, when we need a break, we trek from the office to a nearby mall to all dine together, usually on him. If not, he comes to the office with a whole meal, which we just have to heat up. Anything from roasted lamb ribs to chicken pastel to amazing pasta dishes. And as the popular saying goes “beggars can’t be choosers” that we are not because everything he has brought thus far is really delicious. He is a fantastic cook.

There are also those moments when our job gets quite stressful and instead of leaving our office TV on a news station, he puts on a cooking show and we all sit back, relax for a bit and watch together. I remember last week we saw Tyler Florence make a chicken paillard and the next day he came to the office with a whole pound of it for us, side salad and bread pudding for dessert included.

This is definitely not a part of his job description but he continues to do it because of his innate need to go the extra mile for our staff. I not only feel so blessed to have such a wonderful boss but a true foodie friend whom I can always share my experiences with.

Raul and I during our press trip to Thailand

Much love dear Raul, you are truly a treasure…