Episode 45: Sidewalk Ramen

Since I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, I took the time to stroll around Malate, Manila again on the weekend after. I didn’t really feel like hanging out or even drinking (I haven’t had alcohol for about three months now), so I just walked. I find it therapeutic somehow.
I’ve been planning to look for some hole-in-the-wall establishments in Malate. There are a lot of new dining spots and bars in the area, but I was hoping I could investigate the old favorites, and probably discover popular but hidden ones. At the moment, I have neither clues nor funds, but I thought I’d press my luck.
As always, Malate is lively, noisy, and crowded. Even with its modern restaurants, bars, and other tourist establishments, the district remains to be a melting pot of sights, sounds, cultures and social strata.
A small ramen stall at the sidewalk caught my attention as I walked along Adriatico Street. It was built as an annex of sorts of one of the nondescript bars in the area.
This watering hole sells cheap liquor (read: affordable even with the new sin tax) and local beer mates. There’s a TV that shows sports programs or music videos while disco music plays in the background. Most of the customers are foreigners with their Filipina wives or girlfriends. Sometimes, walking vendors enter the bar, selling cigarettes, wallets, or belts.
But back to that ramen stand. The stall reminds me of one of those traveling ramen bars in anime and manga, except it doesn’t have wheels. It’s surrounded by small tables (presumably the bar’s). In the stall are the ingredients, neatly arranged – the piping hot broth in a drum, the bundles of cooked egg noodles, and small containers of meat, spices, eggs, and menma (bamboo shoots).
The ramen stand sells freshly cooked and surprisingly cheap noodles. Each bowl costs P60, and they’re served either plain or spicy. Add P10 and you get half a boiled egg; add another P10 and you get a few small slices of chasyu; and yet another P10 and you get a few pieces of menma. In short, a full ramen bowl is worth P90!
It’s been a while since I had ramen, and since I don’t have the cash to visit one of the bigger Japanese restaurants in the area, I decided to get one.

The serving’s actually small, about half the usual bowl you see in most ramen bars. Despite that, the hot broth enhances the spiciness, and the noodles are firm and tasty. The extra ingredients are also prepared just fine. Cheap ramen is cheap, but I find this one to my liking.

Which reminds me, what makes a good ramen? Is it the broth? The noodles? The meat and vegetables? Is it the spices that have melted into the main ingredients? Is it the way everything is cooked? I’ve asked those questions many times, but never took the time to ponder them seriously.
A long time ago, I wanted to seek out some of the best ramen in Metro Manila. Of course other blogs have done something like that, but I just felt like doing one myself. Someday.
In any case, it’s good to find a new place to try out in Malate. It will take a while before I could visit, much more discover other good places – and other great ramen. For now, I intend to enjoy every sip and slurp of this sidewalk ramen.

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