Hot soup from Yoko­hama

In Que­zon City, a mod­est ra­men sta­tion of­fers bowls of all-nat­u­ral fla­vors

Northern Living - - CONTENTS - TEXT OLIVER EMOCLING PHO­TOG­RA­PHY PA­TRICK SEGOVIA

In the Philip­pines, pancit has sev­eral it­er­a­tions across dif­fer­ent re­gions; Iloilo’s la paz batchoy, for ex­am­ple, has dis­tinct char­ac­ter­is­tics from the pancit caba­gan of Is­abela. In Ja­pan, re­gional vari­a­tion also oc­curs in its ra­men, with Tokyo, Sap­poro, and Hakata each with their own ver­sions.

Yoko­hama-style ra­men, sim­i­lar to the medi­um­bod­ied Tokyo ra­men, gets an in­tro­duc­tion to Que­zon City through Ra­men Shokudo; trans­lated to English, the place’s name means “ra­men sta­tion.” Armed with three years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in cook­ing Yoko­hama-style ra­men, chef Wataru Hoko­sawa moved to the Philip­pines to en­sure the au­then­tic­ity and qual­ity of their ra­men. “My mas­ter in Ja­pan wanted me to move here and main­tain the soup’s fla­vor.”

Hoko­sawa de­scribes Yoko­hama ra­men as “very creamy and rich, and has a very strong taste.” The soup base is de­rived from the broth of chicken bones and pork bones, boiled for about five to six hours. In ad­di­tion, Ra­men Shokudo prides it­self on its use of hand­made in­gre­di­ents and the ab­sence of MSG in their dishes.

They of­fer four fla­vors: shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), tan­ta­n­men (spicy), and miso. As Hoko­sawa promised, the soup of all the four vari­ants is rich but not over­pow­er­ing. The tan­ta­n­men and shio, how­ever, are the easy fa­vorites, with the tan­ta­n­men driz­zled on top

with layu (chili oil), and juicy chashu and han­juku (soft­boiled egg) swim­ming in the broth. The pi­quancy of the soup re­mains tol­er­a­ble, re­veal­ing the dish’s nat­u­ral umami taste. The shio, on the other hand, has an aroma that is rem­i­nis­cent of the sea. Like the other vari­ants, a soft-boiled egg and chunks of chashu rest on top of its noo­dles, but it has the ad­di­tional gar­nish of ten­der bam­boo shoots. A quick slurp of the soup in­tro­duces a mildly salty taste to the palate, al­most sim­i­lar to home­cooked tinolang tahong or pesa. If you want some­thing to pair with the ra­men, the gy­oza is a safe choice.

“Filipinos like con­sum­ing the soup be­fore the noo­dles; I’ve seen a lot of peo­ple ask me for ex­tra soup,” Hoko­sawa notices. This is a din­ing choice par­tic­u­lar to Filipino cul­ture, as in Ja­pan, “when ra­men is served, we start eat­ing the noo­dles first. Af­ter we fin­ish eat­ing the noo­dles, that’s when we start drink­ing the soup. That’s the ba­sic flow for eat­ing ra­men for us.” There are no hard rules in eat­ing ra­men, though. Whether you want to fol­low the ra­men guide from Juzo Itami’s Tam­popo or cre­ate your own style, Ra­men Shokudo’s hearty soup de­serves a place in your stom­ach.

“When ra­men is served, we start eat­ing the noo­dles first. Af­ter we fin­ish eat­ing the noo­dles, that’s when we start drink­ing the soup. That’s the ba­sic flow for eat­ing ra­men for us.”

The tan­ta­n­men ra­men gets its spicy fla­vor from the layu.

Ra­men Shokudo. 401 Banawe Ave., Que­zon City. 247-7873. www.face­book.com/Ra­menShokudo.

The chashu is torched be­fore it’s placed atop the soup (right); Chef Wataru Hoka­sawa trains Ra­men Shokudo’s staff be­fore he re­turns to Ja­pan (ex­treme right).

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