Ramen Nagi, Please Keep Your Manila Kings on Your MenuAugust 3, 2017
- Pamela CortezWords
Staying away from meals that seem designed to please the Instagram food crowd is a wise decision. Every time a new dish that banks on either the use of a trendy ingredient, or sheer outrageousness appears, the likelihood of it delivering on edibility is probably zero. This did not make things easy for Ramen Nagi’s Filipino-themed kings, which is precisely the kind of attention-grabbing dish that us skeptics tend to stray away from. Bicol express, kaldereta, and binagoongan in ramen? It sounds like something that would be hard to swallow, made for those who want to snap their mildly exotic meal and push it away after a few likes.
We apologize for being presumptive assholes. 2 out of 3 of Ramen Nagi’s limited edition bowls are the sort of things that are genius, and deserve a permanent spot on a menu somewhere (we didn’t get a chance to try their binagoongan, but judging by the quality of these 2, it was also probably ace). They were memorable, inventive, and above all, infinitely delicious. Here’s to these bowls that were gone too soon, designed in the form of a plea to Ramen Nagi to bring back these bad boys.
Bicol Express King
The in-your-face umami of Ramen Nagi’s Butao Kings can translate to saltiness for some, but the addition of coconut milk to their usual tonkotsu broth tunes out some of the those brash savory notes without sacrificing flavor. The result is a more fluid version of Bicol express: porky, fatty, and pleasantly creamy. Instead of chashu, surprisingly crunchy lobes of lechon kawali adorn the bowl, together with slivers of their standard kikurage (wood ear mushroom) and an abundance of chopped fresh green and red chili. It’s a super potent combination that is identical to the stew that it’s supposed to represent, spice and all.
Cheesy Kaldereta King
This one is obviously the offering that’s made most skeptical, but surprisingly, Ramen Nagi has translated kaldereta into a super approachable bowl of ramen. They’ve added tomato sauce to their tonkotsu, cut up some chewy, crispy pork(which we suspect is the same lechon kawali recipe as the bowl above), and tossed it together with bell peppers to recreate the distinct taste of kaldereta. It is zero percent funky, and works extremely well. The grated Filipino-style quick-melt cheddar on top seems to be an odd choice, but it works—mixing it in manages to make an already thick broth even thicker, and adds a recognizable cheesiness to the whole thing.