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

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