Sunday, February 19, 2017

Philippines-Inspired Ramen Dish Uses Aligi

The new aligi ramen of Uma Uma
The Japanese noodle soup, ramen, has become a popular item in Metro Manila dining landscape in recent years, catching the fancy of many Filipino food lovers. It paved a way for ramen restaurants, boasting to be authentic and having culinary heritage, to open branches in the Philippines. Ramen has actually been enjoyed in many parts of the world that it is now an international dish. Inevitably, it is going to have many versions, but still retaining the qualities of its Japanese roots and why it has become so well-loved. 
If ramen has a Philippine version, what will it be? For young Japanese chef Satoshi Nakamura, a Philippines-inspired ramen is flavored with aligi, which is well-loved by many Filipinos. Aligi particularly refers to the roe of the talangka or oceanic paddler crab (Varuna litterata) but many people now just call the “fat” and roe of any crab aligi.
Nakamura is now making aligi ramen for international ramen chain Uma Uma, which is one of the latest ramen restaurants to open a branch in the Philippines, indicating that the ramen has not died down yet. 
Uma-Uma itself is an international restaurant with Japanese roots. It traces its origin to Fukuoka, Japan. Wu Maru, a ramen shop, was established in 1953. The founder’s son Masahiko Teshima took over the business in 1994 and renamed it Uma Uma Ramen, a play on the original name of the restaurant as well as a pun on the Japanese word for “tasty.” The restaurant features dishes from old family recipes as well as dishes found in most izakayas in Japan. Singapore-based food-and-beverage company Iki Concepts became involved with Uma Uma, opening branches in the Philippines
Currently, Uma Uma has ten outlets spread across Asia: five in Japan, two in Singapore, one in Thailand and two in the Philippines. Uma Uma’s first Philippine branch opened in July 2015 at the S Maison at the Conrad Manila Hotel in Pasay City. When a second one opened at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City in December 2016, they introduced the aligi ramen with other new items.  
The original menu consists of six kinds of ramen—the signature Uma Uma Ramen (chasiu, spring onions, black fungus, spicy miso and egg); the dry Tan Tan Men (sesame base, minced pork, chilli oil, white onion and egg); spicy chasiu ramen (chasiu with spicy marinade, chilli oil, spring onions, black fungus and egg); tonkotsu ramen (chasiu bits, spring onion, sesame seeds and egg); garlic ramen (chasiu, garlic oil, white onion, bean sprouts, fried shallots and egg); and Mazesoba (spring onion, bamboo shoots, chilli oil, bean sprouts, sesame seeds and onsen egg). It also offers several side dishes or appetizers.
The noodles are said to be made according to the family recipe and complemented with a robust and aromatic tonkotsu stock.
“Our broth is made from a rich mixture of pork bones, slow cooked to achieve the umami rich and robust flavor Uma Uma has come to be known for. We’re also very proud of the fact our ramen is 100-percent MSG-free, with natural flavors and proper cooking methods being adhered to in order to ensure our customers enjoy the very best that can be offered,” said Russell Yu, director of Iki Concepts Singapore.
Yu revealed that they had to tweak the flavors of their dishes for the Filipinos who like them rich, in contrast to Singaporeans who want the flavors a little toned down. He also said that all ingredients are sourced locally.
The new aligi ramen is a dry ramen dish, sweet and having an unmistakable taste of the sea. It is topped with chopped spring onions, a couple of crab cakes, egg and fried battered prawn. 
“It was in our plans to release a ramen inspired by local flavors,” Yu explained. “We have been wanting to have a seafood-based ramen dish. Aligi was one of the ingredients that caught our chef’s attention. He first did a ramen broth flavored with aligi, which was pretty good but still did not convince him as a chef. He then experimented making it as a dry ramen—which turned out to be one of the best experiments that has come out of Uma Uma Philippines’ kitchen.”
Yu said that another Uma Uma original is the Mazesoba, which was created for the Singapore restaurants but is also offered in the Philippines. Actually, it was a such hit that it has been offered also in Japan.
Along with the aligi ramen, Uma Uma also introduced new side dishes or appetizers— gyoza chips (deep-fried gyoza wrapper) with two kinds of dips, wasabi and mentai (fish roe); buttered nori corn; takoyaki; and mentai cheese balls. The extended menu also includes yakitori, which has beef, chicken thigh, tsukune (chicken balls), butabara (pork belly), cherry tomatoes and shiitake mushroom.
The new branch at the second floor of Uptown Parade, a strip of restaurants, can seat about 60 people and exudes a casual ambiance. Actually, half of the restaurant is a bar, the Horse’s Mouth, harking back to ramen’s origin as an accompaniment to drinks. 

Uma Uma Ramen’s new branch is at the second floor of Uptown Parade, 8th Avenue corner 38th Street, Bonifacio Global City. It is open from 11 A.M. to 11 P.M. from Sunday to Thursday, and 11 A.M. to 2 A.M. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit You can also visit Uma Uma Ramen (@umaumaph) on Facebook and Instagram.

The newly-opened Uma Uma Ramen branch at the Uptown Parade of BGC

Uma Uma Ramen's new side dishes
Gyoza chips and buttered nori corn
Gyoza chips with wasabi and mentai dips
Uma Uma Ramen's Tan Tan Men
The signature Uma Uma Ramen

Uma Uma Ramen's chef Satoshi Nakamura and Russell Yu, director of Iki Concepts Singapore

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Worn Identities

Second skin, I remember one fashion designer described fashion and clothing. And like skin, clothing or attire serves a very practical purpose—as protection against the elements and the everyday assaults of the environment, as comfort from weather when it gets unpleasant, as a form of hygiene. But unlike skin, attire is changeable to suit situations, needs and even whims of the wearers. But attire is also an extension of the self and the society, reflecting culture, aesthetics and tastes, and thus in one way also an extension of the soul. Attire is one of the ways to express identity and to show identification with a group.
Aside from its practical uses, attire, especially the traditional ones, has been one of the most important means of artistic expressions among ethnic groups in the Philippines. Aside from indicating social status, gender and religion in a community, attire also makes manifest the native aesthetics, reflecting sensibility to colors and patterns, penchant for certain designs, and interpretations of everyday life as well as spiritual beliefs.
With more than eighty indigenous groups, there are as much traditional attires, resplendent in their colors, determined by the groups’ preference or their environments, and rich with embellishments, signifying the innate desire to make things beautiful as well as meaningful.
Traditional attire, like the cultures they belong to, is constantly evolving, adopting from other cultures as well as adapting to the times, but often these adopted elements are altered according to the native sense of beauty.  
Attire has become a mark of ethnic identity, and perhaps the most obvious and attractive one. With traditional attire, one declares his/her oneness with his/her own people, taking pride in the artistry and heritage that the attire so much holds.
Get a glimpse of different Philippine traditional attires from three indigenous groups—the Kalinga from Luzon, the Panay-Bukidnon from the Visayas, and the Blaan from Mindanao.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Native Mindanao Textiles Add Colors to Cotabato City's Shariff Kabunsuan Festival

From December 15 to 19, 2016, Cotabato City in the province of Maguindanao celebrated the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival, which the city in southwestern Mindanao has held for over a decade now. Although less grand than several festivals in the Philippines, the celebration had all the components considered de-rigueur in Philippine festivals, such as a fair, a street-dancing parade and shows, even fashion events.
        Despite its name, the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival is, in most parts, a secular event. It also has been consciously imbued with Mindanaoan cultures with nods to Muslim culture, being in a region of the Philippines where Muslims a have higher concentration than the rest of the country.  
The festival is named for Shariff Kabunsuan, or Shariff Muhammed Kabungsuwan or Muhammad Kebungsuwan, widely considered as the one who introduced Islam to mainland Mindanao, which is now the faith of about eleven percent of Filipinos, mostly in the Mindanao area. He is said to arrive in late sixteenth century, an Arab-Malay missionary from Johore, and land on the banks of the Masla Pulangi, now known as Rio Grande de Mindanao. According to local accounts, Shariff Kabunsuan established himself as a sultan in Malabang in what is now Lanao del Sur and married Maguindanao princess Paramisuli of Dulawan.
One of the highlights of the festival is the regular re-enactment of his landing on the banks of Rio Grande de Mindanao, which snakes across the city. This year, a grand parade on December 19 ushered in the re-enactment, which saw gaily decorated boats traversing the river in a fluvial parade. It culminated in a grand pagana or communal feasting.
The city also held a contest on the making of small guinakits, the local term for “boat,” and the entries, eye-catching and with flags like bright colorful spews fluttering in the wind, adorned the city hall grounds in the duration of the festival.
A bazaar was put up as well as a cooking competition and a sports event but the night shows at the city plaza were more interesting. Traditional musics and dances were performed by several ethnic groups of Mindanao such as the Teduray, Meranaw, Maguindanao, Tausug and Yakan.
The Kuyog Street Dancing Competition was held on December 18 where two groups competed, showing the cultures of the peoples of Maguindanao. The group of students from North Upi in Maguindanao was declared champion.
What made the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival more interesting that year was the Bangala Fashion Fair, an international fashion and textile event organized by the Department of Tourism Region 12 and the local government unit of Cotabato City, in collaboration with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, Mindanao Development Authority and the Bureau of Cultural Heritage of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It showcased a culture that is more ancient than the arrival of Shariff Kabunsuan.
The Bangala, which is a Maguindanao term for “attire” or “dress,” had several events a fashion show, an exhibit, a photo competition, and a heritage forum. It is part of the promotion of the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines-East Asean Growth Areas), and thus saw some participation from the involved countries.
In the past, the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival had a fashion and textile event such as the Inaul Fashion Showcase, which was mounted for several years. It featured the hand-woven textile of the Maguindanao. The fashion and textile event last year was wider in scope.
The Bangala Fashion Show on December 15 was held at the newly-opened City Mall Cotabato City and featured Muslim fashion, particularly the hijab. They invited hijab-wearing women who have become on social networking site Instagram. The hijabis were Dian Pelangi and Indah Nadah Puspita from Indonesia, Shea Rasol and Dayah Bakar from Malaysia and Ammarah Dumama from Cotabato City, and they were dubbed as the hijab ambassadress. The hijabis brought their collections to be showcased in the fashion show.
        Less showy but more intriguing was Bangala Fashion Fair exhibit at Al-Nor Activity Center.
Curated by Leonard Rey Carino, the exhibit featured the traditional hand-woven textiles of several Mindanao ethnic groups. This was complemented by a forum discussing Mindanao textile-making traditions.
The exhibit was beautifully crafted with sections made to look like portions of bamboo-made traditional houses on stilts. Lovely hand-woven textiles were draped all-over the place. Hand-woven fabrics of the Mandaya, Bagobo Manobo and Subanen were on display. At the each section, there were actual weavers going through the weaving process in their traditional attires, some of them respected masters. 
The Yakan weavers from Lamitan, Basilan, were Nur-aiza Atalan, Kijong Atalan, Vilma Ausalin and Ambalang Ausalin, who is known as the best weaver of Yakan cloth. They brought with them the intricate and colorful seputangan, a head covering for women, and the pis, head covering for men.
Lamina D. Gulili and Myrna M. Sarino from Landan, Polomolok, South Cotabato, demonstrated the making of the mabal tabih of the Blaan, a textile of abaca fibers dyed in the ikat technique. Tboli weavers Sima Mensun Bantal and Barbara Mensun Ofong from Lamdalag, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, showcased their t’nalak, also of abaca fibers and using the ikat technique.
Saida Abdurrahman Taher, Sambai Macaraya and Noraya Usman from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, represented the Meranaw weavers, known for the brightly-colored tubular skirt landap. Sittie Dumacil of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, showed how to weave the Maguindanao inaul.

For a few days, at a quiet part of a mall, these weavers kept alive dying crafts, fashioning age-old patterns of colors and designs of their peoples with their patient hands.

"Colors of Cotabato" show at the city plaza

The Kuyog Street Dancing Competition

The "Bangala" exhibit at the Al-Nor Acitivity Center
Different Mindanao textiles -- Maguindanao and Meranaw
Blaan, Bagobo Manobo, Suban-on, Tboli and Mandaya textiles

Yakan weaver Ambalang Ausalin from Lamitan, Basilan
Inabal of the Bagobo Manobo
Mabal tabih of the Blaan of South Cotabato and Sarangani

Blaan weavers Lamina D. Gulili and Myrna M. Sarino from Landan, Polomolok, South Cotabato

Maguindanao weaver Sittie Dumacil from the town of Sultan Kudarat 
A Mandaya dagmay 

Meranaw landap
A Meranaw weaver from Marawi City
A Suban-on textile
A Tboli weaver from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato