By Sol Vanzi
Filipinos are known to eat rice five times a day—for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between. On top of that, many of our favorite desserts are made from rice. During rituals and celebrations, our upland brothers drink rice wine, spilling a few drops in honor of the Rice God. Our penchant for rice is often blamed for rice shortages, prompting serious, but unsuccessful attempts to convince Pinoys to eat less rice and consume locally produced alternatives such as ground corn, boiled sweet potato (kamote), taro yam (gabi), and boiled green saba bananas. But all is not lost.
A ramen conquest
A recent Banawe food crawl showed us that change has finally entered the Philippine culinary landscape in the form of a Japanese dish that has conquered the world. Ramen has captured the hearts and taste buds of Filipinos who appear to have quickly adopted the hefty Japanese noodle soup as a suitable replacement for regular rice-and-viand meals. This is very evident at the intimate, where young and old alike are flocking in daily until midnight for the big bowls of collagen-thickened broth laden with semi-soft boiled eggs, freshly made noodles made from scratch using imported Japanese flour, topped by slices of fork-tender roast pork belly. There are only 23 short but comfortable bar stools set around the open kitchen, and they are always occupied by customers watching the uniformed kitchen staff preparing everything from scratch.
The real thing
Ramen Shokudo’s dedication to authenticity is shown by the giant cauldron of broth from pork and chicken bones simmering in the kitchen and the fresh noodles made right in the premises. The noodle-making machine costs as much as a brand new car, an investment that other ramen shops do not commit to. Thus, while other ramen eateries order noodles from suppliers on a per-need basis, Ramen Shokudo makes its own noodles several times a day. The freshness is obvious in the taste of every bowl of ramen. Ensuring the right ambiance, a Japanese chef designed the restaurant to look and feel like a typical ramen place in Japan. Videos about the food play non-stop on screens, allowing diners to acquaint themselves with Japanese ramen culture. The short menu is displayed prominently and clearly, with each item explained to interested diners by well-informed staff.
Unbelievable bargains are seasonally offered by Ramen Shokudo. People are still talking about its unprecedented Unli Ramen promo, which thousands lined up for. It became a test of skill, timing, will power, and physical ability.
Another exciting bargain is the P50 Ramen, where a diner pays only P50 for his/her second bowl of ramen. The Buy-One-Take-One Ramen deal also became a colossal success, as customers packed the place waiting for their turn to be seated.
As these promos are offered only on special occasions such as holidays and anniversaries, clients are advised to inquire personally from the staff or through the phone for promo advisories.
It took several visits to enable us to sample all the ramen flavors and variants. We started with the basic Shoyu Ramen, flavored mainly with Japanese soy sauce, and Shio Ramen accented only with salt. The two basic ramens best highlight the restaurant’s rich broth which requires a minimum of 16-hours of slow cooking.
Miso Ramen, flavored with imported fermented soybeans, shows off the kitchen’s prowess with traditional Japanese ingredients. Tantanmen’s spiciness, on the other hand, provides a surprising twist welcomed by spice lovers.
And then there’s Black Garlic Ramen, featuring slowly-cooked garlic bulbs whose aroma and flavor are at once intriguing and satisfying.
Shokudo’s simple menu offers some of the best side dishes in town. We devoured the huge pieces of Gyoza, which were bursting with filling and went perfectly with the house dip.
Next, we attacked the Curry Cheese Rolls, which were lumpia wrapped melted cheese and Japanese curry gravy. Both dishes were served piping hot straight from the stove large enough to share.
The other Japanese dishes to be enjoyed with friends were: Chicken Karaage, Gyudon, Katsudon, and Cha-shu Don.
Ramen Shokudo is located at 401 Banawe St. Quezon City, is open Monday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. For inquiries, call tel (02) 2477873