content note: pandemic
In Nihongo, ramen o tabemasho means ‘let us eat Japanese noodles.’ With the COVID-19 pandemic, I miss eating ramen because my favourite ramen restaurant, Ippudo, is temporarily closed. When I went to Japan in 2017 to visit my sister, she brought me to the Ippudo ramen house in its Roppongi, Tokyo branch. My sister thought that eating ramen would be perfect, as its warm and tasty pork broth and chewy egg noodles would comfort my growling stomach and soothe my aching body, tired from the long walk from the Ueno Park.
At Shin Yokohoma, you can find the Ramen Museum. Visitors can learn about the history of Japan's ramen. The museum also shows the different kinds of noodles, soups, and bowls used all over Japan. There are regions in Japan that are known for their ramen dish.
I like eating ramen because of its sumptuous pork both with a generous serving of pork belly chashu, kikurage mushroom, and scallions. Specifically, I like tonkotsu ramen. In Nihongo, tonkotsu refers to pork, while ‘ramen’ means ‘noodles’.
Due to the restrictions on going out during the pandemic, local government units in the Philippines give food rations to each house in the neighbourhood. Instant noodles are one of the staples in these food packages because they are easy to cook. But instant noodles are no match for the authentic Japanese ramen.
Apart from the larger serving, butaniku (ぶ た に く), or pork, ramen, and gyuniku (ぎ ゅ に), or beef, ramen are tastier than instant ramen, and include other fresh vegetables such as spring onions and carrots. In our area, the relief food packages are mostly local brands of instant noodles like Lucky Me or Ho-Mi. One time, our neighbour knocked and asked if we would like to barter the Ho-Mi chicken-flavoured instant noodles he received for the Lucky Me calamansi-flavoured instant pancit canton we got. 
The instant ramen, aside from its small serving, is also very salty. One time, while eating Lucky Me beef-flavoured instant noodles for three days in a row for breakfast, it dawned on me that while Mama and I may survive the pandemic, our kidneys could be in danger and get kidney stones, as the relief goods we receive are mostly instant and too salty.
In some cities from the provinces, they receive either fresh fruits or vegetables. I wouldn’t mind eating boiled potatoes and yams, just like people during World War II, as it is much healthier. With a little imagination, peeling boiled potatoes gives a ‘Princess Sarah’ vibe.
Aside from instant noodles, canned sardines are a staple in the relief food packages, as they are cheap and easily sourced. In three rounds of the food ration from our local government unit, there was one instance when a nearly expired can of SPAM was included in our bag of “goodies”. I then missed musubi, my favourite Japanese snack – a rectangular rice maki with spam on top, which is then wrapped in nori (seaweed). Eating canned sardines with ohashi (箸), or chopsticks, I just imagined that it was tuna or salmon.
When I was in Japan, I always ate sushi and sashimi as an appetiser before having ramen for my main course. In Japan, sushi and sashimi are so fresh and tasty compared to the local Japanese restaurants here in the Philippines, where they are frozen. During the lockdown, I suggested to Mama that she use the canned sardines to make a gourmet ramen. Mama’s attempt to make the fancy ramen failed because the instant noodles we received were nearly expired.
Mama’s been contemplating opening a canteen with instant noodles as the special menu when the lockdown is lifted. Ramen o suki desu. In Nihongo, this means ‘I like ramen.’ Once it is safe to travel overseas, Mama and I will eat at our favourite ramen house with my sister.
 Calamansi is a small lime, about two inches in size, common to Southeast Asia.
 Pancit canton is a local Filipino version of stir-fried noodles, with soy sauce and sesame oil.
 Princess Sarah is the main character from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess. When she becomes “poor”, Ms. Minchin, the headmistress, makes Sarah an errand girl, and asks her to do odd jobs – including peeling potatoes.
has a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education (BSEd) from the University of Santo Tomas, and is currently pursuing an MA in Araling Pilipino from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She was a fellow at the 6th Angono Writers’ Summer Workshop and 9th UST National Writers’ Workshop. She is a copy editor for the UP Press.
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Issue 1 © SPOONFEED Magazine
SPOONFEED x New Writing © Caitlin Allen
Issue 2 © Louise Crosby