Few things can beat a hot bowl of soup on cold, grey and rainy days in Bogotá. While Ajiaco, the typical dish of the Savannah is top on the list, there are other options that can please the pallet and make for a satisfying change from the potato-based stew. I’m talking about Ramen, the Japanese king of hot concoctions.
Ramen is a wheat noodle dish cooked in broth and served with different toppings, and Ramen-ya is the term given to ramen restaurants. Ramen-ya is also the name of the Bogotá eatery that offers four variations of the noodle, and the accompaniments that usually go with it such as gyozas or fried rice.
With two establishments in the city, one in the Navarra neighborhood, and the other on the limits of Zona G, in the Market Food Hall, which specializes in Pan Asian cuisine, Ramen-ya is a no-frills cafeteria that offers satisfying food, good service at the table and affordable prices.
The Pork Ramen ($22,000) will not disappoint, not even those who grew up slurping the broth, or those who have enjoyed a bowl of noodles in Tokyo’s many food stalls, where meals are paid for by using vending machines any hour of the day or night.
The umami experience
Knowing about ramen just makes it more fun. While its origin is Chinese, each region of Japan has developed its own distinct version. There are four major types of ramen: Shio, made with salt; Miso, cooked with soy paste; Tonkotsu, boiled with pork bones and Shoyu, prepared with soy sauce; yet, there are plenty of recipes that make this dish one of the most diverse of the Far East nation.
The umami or fifth flavor, which many still have to accept, with its distinct earthy taste, is characteristic of the broth base that makes up the different types of ramen, and is present in the kitchens of Ramen-ya. While shoyu is used in the chicken and pork ramens, miso is served in the vegetarian one.
The Udon Tonikatsu ($22,000) is a variation of the udon style noodle broth served with Katsu or filets of panko covered pork belly. Cooked with a dashi broth base (bonito flake fish and kelp) and rice wine, it was topped with shiitake mushrooms, scallops and mung bean sprouts. The soup was hearty and heavenly. The crunchy rind added flavor to the savory broth, delivering a true umami experience.
The pork and shrimp gyozas ($9,000) – a smaller variation of the Chinese dumplings – were cooked to precision, so too the spring rolls ($7,000) and the Vietnamese edition Lumpia Shanghai ($7,000), which were both tasty and crispy without being greasy. The pork bao ($18,000) with mayo, lettuce and cucumbers is also a good starter to the dining experience and an alterna- tive choice for those on the lookout for non-fried foods.
The chef with a toque blanche
The Vietnamese beef Poh ($20,000) and Thai based shellfish ($23,000) are both spicy noodle-based soups worth trying. Also available are Hawaiian poke bowls ($20,000-$25,000), donburi or rice bowls ($18,000-$27,000) and Pad Thai ($23,000).
Don’t leave Ramen-ya without having dessert. Try the passion fruit and black berry tapioca ($8,000), or the mochi rice cakes filled with ice cream assortment, which includes lychee, coconut, green tea and chocolate ($3,800 each). Delicate and sweet, these bites are a good way to end the meal.
Ramen-ya is one of five food stalls and a shop that makes up The Market Food Hall. Four of which – including the store – are owned by importer Best Choice. You might recognize the brand with the faceless white chef wearing a toque blanch behind a steaming bowl.
While the kitchens have distinctive identities, they provide similar dishes, one, Turo Turo, specializing in teppanyaki, wok and robata cooking techniques, and Banyan Tree catering to healthy conscious guests.
The Global Gourmet shop sells specialty foods, from Thai curries, Indian spices and Japanese accessories to noodles, rice, seaweed and beer. Prices are competitive, and the store is convenient for people who work or live in the area.
Having a serious patron with more than 15 years in the business backing the majority of the food court, and supplying most of the goods to the restaurants guarantees viability, and explains the consistent good quality food, the professional and attentive staff and the affordable prices. A good choice, regardless of rain, hail or sunshine.
The Market Food Hall Calle 69No 4 – 65 Zona G: 320 5334 / 317 368 1104
Global Gourmet Market
Calle 109 No 18b – 32 Local 2 Tel: 300 2271 / 315 358 1065