Hidden at the back of many menus in ramen places are other finds such as gyoza, some appetizers and salads, karaage or boneless crispy fried chicken, and chahan or smoke-scented fried rice.
Diners tired of ramen or who just aren’t in the mood for it can turn to these other goodies.
Or look at other ramen variations.
A few weeks ago, friends Ricky and Myrna invited me to lunch near Edsa Shangri-La in Mandaluyong. We were going to try a fairly new fine-dining restaurant.
Ricky and I had just finished our Saturday morning badminton games. With my empty tummy, worked up appetite and hungry eyes, I was ready to do battle on the dining table.
But the restaurant was closed for a private affair. So we thought of going to another place. Myrna wanted Green Pastures, which sounded fine since I wanted to eat healthy but Ricky wanted to satisfy his craving for Ikkoryu Fukuoka’s Ramen No. 8—grilled or smoked chashu (tender pork with sticky fat) with creamy, sticky pork broth. He swore by it.
I prefer Ippudo, Hokkokei and Ramen Nagi, but Ricky’s preference prevailed.
At Ikkoryu Fukuoka, we ordered gyoza and chasu maki salad. I had Ricky’s No. 8 ramen.
The gyoza was a winner; the salad, a surprise.
Trying my best not to eat pork, I ordered the bestseller and found out it was chashu wrapped in lettuce with a dipping sauce.
It was good, but next time, I’ll order it with the chashu broiled like the ramen.
You know how one swallows often when hungry. Well, I kept doing that and noticed my badminton buddy doing the same.
When the No. 8 ramen arrived, I swallowed air for the last time because right in front of me was piping-hot noodle soup with a perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg, its yolk a bright yellow.
On the side was a sheet of nori and in the middle were two slices of tender pork (the chashu) with wobbly fat embracing it.
When I saw the burn marks on the pork, it reminded me of dinakdakan, an Ilocano pork dish we serve at Wooden Spoon. The burned flavor and aroma gave the dish a whole new dimension.
My first noisy slurp of the broth sent me to paradise. My friend was right. Even the grilled taste flavored the broth. I was in for a new discovery. It was excellent.
A slice of pork, soft noodles wrapped on my chopsticks and some piping-hot broth on my oversized spoon were such a perfect combination. I kept on talking to myself about how good this ramen was.
Two days after, I was back at another branch of Ikkoryu Fukouka Ramen just across Wooden Spoon in Rockwell, texting Rick to make him envious. It worked because just a few days after it was his turn to tease me back.
But Myrna seemed to tire of ramen. I told her to try the fried rice and the karaage.
Maybe other ramen places can have their chashu grilled, too. It makes a huge difference.
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