Friday, April 26, 2019

Heaven in bowl of ramen

TAKE a moment. Before slurping away, one has the name of the father, and of the son, and of the recipe caretaker to thank the heavens for.

In Japan, a certain Kazuo Yamagishi is considered the “ramen god.” The tsukemen (dipping ramen) that ramen aficionados have come to love up to this very day, was invented by none other than Yamagishi himself.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, Ramen Yushoken was set up in Alabang, Muntinlupa City in 2012. Since the ramen house’s opening, it has pulled in crowds by the hundreds coming not only from Metro Manila but from all over the country who were in town either for business or pleasure.

Yamagishi’s main successor, Koji Tashiro, is referred to as the “son of the ramen god.” In the same year Yushoken opened, Tashiro himself was in the restaurant to train the staff, ensuring that the flavors are at par with what’s served at his champion ramen houses in Japan. Yushoken’s caretaker, however, is ramen champion Hideaki Aoyama. Aoyama known to have a “golden tongue,” is known for his unique ability to adapt to any of the 22 known styles of ramen in Japan. Aoyama visits Yushoken very regularly.

Therefore, for a ramen recipe to have such a rich history, it is easy to presume that good taste is simply one of Yushoken’s marketing strengths. Three years later, it opened its second shop here in Metro Cebu, more specifically at Oakridge Business Park in Mandaue City, Cebu.

Yushoken, considered one of the best ramen houses in the country, specializes in tonkotsu, or pork-bone broth, which boils for 12 hours. All its soups have tonkotsu and what differentiates Yushoken’s four main dishes is the taré (base sauce). These are shio (salt-based), shoyu (soy sauce-based), tantanmen (sesame paste with chili oil and ground pork) and miso (soy bean paste). These are ranked according to their flavor profiles from the most basic (shio) to the most rich (miso).

Tsukemen, on the other hand, is a modern-day ramen dish of dry ramen noodles with dipping sauce on the side. This is done so that the noodles don’t get soggy; thank Yamagishi.

There are four options classified by its dipping sauce. There’s tonkotsu, which is pork-broth; gyokai, which is tonkotsu with bonito flakes; tokusei, which is stock made from konbu (kelp), fresh bonito flakes (skipjack tuna) and dried mackerel mixed with tonkotsu broth, then served with ground pork simmered in chicken broth, chashu, and half an aji tamago; and finally karai tokusei, a spicy version of tokusei. This last one boasts 24 ingredients, including the miso base and several types of chilies, truly a complex creation. Side dishes are available as well like the aji tamago (marinated half-boiled egg), gyoza (pork dumplings), karaage (fried boneless chicken thigh) and chahan (mixed fried rice).

When dropping by during peak hours for lunch or dinner, expect to wait in line before being seated. Also, the interior design, which is sleek and well-lit, features pieces by celebrated Cebuano designer Vito Selma, adding to the total experience.

But important to note is the way the kitchen was designed. In its branch in Alabang, a prep station stands between the hot kitchen and the service counter where some of the diners choose to enjoy their bowls of ramen by the bar. Here in Cebu, management opted to incorporate both cooking and preparation into a single space. This is done so that customers can experience the freshest and hottest ramen possible; literally served straight out of the kitchen and on tables.

Generally speaking, “hot” is a very important word in the ramen world. At Yushoken, customers are encouraged to consume their ramen as soon as possible when the broth is piping hot, and noodles, al dente (the noodles are made daily using flour and kansui (alkali water) imported from Japan).

This might prove to be a challenge for Instagram addicts, who have to learn how to shoot fast and eat even faster on the spot. Of course, proceed—rather, slurp with caution.

Ramen Yushoken is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at Oakridge Business Park, 880 A.S. Fortuna St., Mandaue City, Cebu.

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