Lately Metro Manila has been flooded with ramen restaurants—all of them claiming to be authentic and the best.
“Authentic” is such a strong and overused word. But nobody can tell authentic noodles except those from their country of origin.
There are about 20 ramen places all over the city today. Competition is stiff. When the smoke clears, I believe only a handful will be left standing. I have been to most of them, but have gone back to only two.
I wasn’t sure I liked the first one I tried; I wasn’t particularly impressed with the broth but almost everyone I spoke to raved about it. But I still go back for its hot dried noodles and tantan mien spicy noodles.
In the other place, I go back for the black noodles. The broth is rich and flavorful; I love the No. 4 spice level I choose to have it with. I noticed, though, that the broth is so rich, full of floating unsaturated pork fat that I can have it only in two-month intervals.
Ippudo in Osaka
Early this year I was in Osaka, Japan, with my son Franco and some badminton friends. We walked and searched for ramen. We found a few good ones in our adventure, but nothing much better than what I’ve tried back home.
But we were asked to look for a ramen place called Ippudo. I was told it has been making waves in Asia and more so in Japan where it originated. We went early to avoid the lines.
It was a cold afternoon and there was nothing better than the refreshing aroma and taste of ramen.
The soup was hot and tasty. The gyoza was good and so was the chahan or fried rice. My buddy Edwin Francisco and I agreed that the chahan was one of the best we’ve had. Sarap!
Ippudo at Megamall
Last Saturday I was looking forward to the opening day of Ippudo at SM Megamall. The guests were excited to meet its Japanese founder and creator Shigemi Kawahara, known in Japan as the Ramen King.
He personally made the ramen for us, demonstrating the art that goes with it. The broth has to be extremely hot; the noodles can be regular, soft or firm.
Before the ramen arrived, some appetizers were served. The Ippudo Pork Buns were similar to cua pao. The Dashimaki Tamago, or rolled eggs with tamago sauce, was good.
There was Ippudo Hakata-style Gyoza, which traditionally accompanies the ramen. Watching the Ramen King make the noodles, I couldn’t decide which of the three varieties I should eat.
A server said Ippudo Megamall owner John Concepcion preferred the first one, Shiromaru Motoaji or ramen with white broth. So that’s what I ordered. Fresh garlic, added to the already delicious broth, heightened the flavor.
Later on, as John walked by, he told me his preference is actually the second variety, Akamaru Shinaji. This was a bit more spicy and garlicky. I got a second bowl. Super sarap!
I wondered how I could try the third ramen variety, Karaka Men. So I told the server that my friend Mario wanted it. Turned out that Karaka Men was the spiciest. Each bowl had slices of very tender, melt-in-your-mouth pork, chopped greens, veggies and seaweeds.
I found out that the broths of all three varieties were so rich and flavorful yet you could not see or taste any pork fat floating on top.
So, the main difference between the good ramen places that I’ve tried and Ippudo is the broth. And the key to enjoying ramen is the slurping sound you make while enjoying it. The Japanese call it zuzutto.