Ramen is probably the greatest challenge to Filipinos’ known love for rice. The things you can put in one bowl are limitless, and flavors stick like adhesive to noodles. Loud slurps have become less of a bad etiquette and more of a necessary expression—when you’re in a noodle bar, at least. Ramen is among the comfort food we seek on cold or rainy days. But—did you know?—there are also noodles perfect for easing the heat of summer in the Philippines.
Japanese noodles are such an adventure! And if you’re wondering what else there is other than ramen, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve listed down our favorite Japanese noodle dishes and where to eat them in Manila, starting of course from the good old ramen. Tabemashou!
Ramen is the Japanese’s answer to “the one food you can eat for the rest of your life.” Ramen alone has a plethora of cooking styles and flavors, and each region of Japan has its own unique offer. Shio, shoyu, and miso are the classics. Those who like stronger flavors go for tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen whose soup is usually very thick and creamy.
The Best Ramen in Manila:
- Butao King of Ramen Nagi (multiple branches) – The restaurant’s original, made with handcrafted noodles and tonkotsu broth.
- Shoyu Ramen of Yushoken in Molito, Alabang – Rich and umami-filled soy sauce-based ramen. You can also enjoy it at the open counter-style Mendokoro Ramenba, Yushoken’s sister restaurant.
Tantanmen is a common item on the menu of ramen restaurants. It technically is ramen, but it stands out for its distinct flavor and recipe. Influenced by the Chinese dandanmian, tantanmen is made with sesame or peanut paste along with various spices, creating a spicy, nutty, and fragrant soup. It’s also typically topped with ground meat instead of chashu.
The Best Tantanmen in Manila:
- Yushoken or Mendokoro Ramenba’s Tantanmen – Made with sesame paste, thick and heavy with flavor.
- Butamaru Alabang’s Curry Tantanmen – The answer to the hard-to-please adventurous eater, featuring a deeper and spicier kick with the addition of curry.
Soba is not the best crowd-pleaser, but it is definitely a must-try Japanese noodle dish. Unlike the more neutral ramen noodles that take on the flavor of the soup, soba has its own flavor to contribute. Made from buckwheat, this noodle is brown in color and has an earthy and nutty taste, best enjoyed with a dipping sauce.
The Best Soba in Manila:
- Ebi Ten Soba of Nadai Fujisoba in BGC– Filled with seafood goodness, from the crunchy tempura and wakame to the rich mentsuyu soup.
- Tokyo Mazesoba of Menya Kokoro in Uptown Bonifacio – The restaurant’s signature soupless soba mixed with a variety of ingredients. The noodles are coated with a flavorful sauce made with chicken paitan broth.
Yakisoba is Japan’s stir-fry noodle dish, which is a common sight at street food carts and izakaya pubs. Not to be confused with soba, it is made with wheat noodles similar to ramen. Enjoy sweet and savory flavors and a variety of meat and vegetables mixed in.
The Best Yakisoba in Manila:
- Pork Belly Yakisoba of Botejyu (multiple branches) – An Osaka classic. Savory and chewy yakisoba complemented by juicy pork belly slices.
- Yakisoba of Izakaya Kenta in Banawe, Quezon City – A best seller filled generously with meat and vegetables.
Udon noodles are a pleasure—compared with ramen, they’re much thicker and bouncier, therefore fun to chew. In a way, udon is a more versatile Japanese noodle, Just like ramen, you can enjoy it with a variety of ingredients. But also, it’s the best Japanese noodle to enjoy as a cold dish for summer.
The Best Udon in Manila:
- Beef Ontama Bukkake Udon of Marugame Udon (multiple branches) – Hands down, the best for flavor and affordability. Best enjoyed hot, but the cold version is also a must-try.
Tsukemen is a unique way to enjoy your noodles and soup. These two key ingredients are served separately, and you’re free to dip the noodles for flavor. The soup is more concentrated as it works more as a dipping sauce than soup for sipping, and the ramen noodles are typically served cold. Tsukemen is ideal for warm days when you want to avoid the sweat-inducing hot ramen.
The Best Tsukemen in Manila:
- Marutoku Tsukemen of Mitsuyado Sei-men (multiple branches) – A good start for the uninitiated. Choose your noodles hot or cold. Enjoy the tonkotsu broth for dipping, alongside tender chashu and ajitama.
For the ultimate Japanese food and culture lover, make your dine-outs more fun and impress the chef by learning Japanese expressions in this online class.
*Featured image via Ramen Nagi / Mitsuyado Sei-men