IO – Ramen, the infamous Japanese common noodle, has gone places. The whole world knows that there are myriad regional variations in terms of noodle type, broth type, toppings, etc. One of these is Hakata-style ramen from Kyushu. Jakarta is not the only place where you can get good ramen: Hakata ramen is now available in Michi Ramen, Semarang.
There is nothing better than having a bowl of hot steaming ramen during a rainy afternoon in Semarang. A relative recommended Michi’s to me, and they were right! The space really has authentic Japanese vibes: the paper lantern inscribed with “ramen” in katakana script; the artificial cherry blossom branches in the corner; the tiny noren curtain over the entrance that serves as the place’s name plaque; the clean and austere toilet; the kitchen right behind the counter so customers can see the cooking process; the neat rows of bowls and cups lining up the counter.
I guess the only “non-Japanese” thing there is the breadth of the place. Everyone knows that Japan is a very compact country that optimizes the tiniest bit of space available, and that goes for its ramen stalls as well. Some of them can only seat three to five people at the same time. Yet Michi Ramen can seat at least 20 at a sitting. Even its menu is extensive. It’s pretty thick, and it tells you that even though it primarily serves Hakata ramen, it also serves other Japanese delicacies – including sushi. This is typical of Indonesian restaurants that serve different dishes, like our good old “warung Tegal” and “warung Padang”. In the old country, stalls typically sell only one type of food. For example, ramen stalls will only serve you ramen noodles and gyoza dumplings.
I took a furtive look at the next table. Most of them are young urbanites who ordered fusion sushi other than ramen, like their counterparts in the Capital city. Michi Ramen’s side dishes include gyoza and mushroom dishes. Gyoza, the usual side dish for ramen, is like our pangsit dumplings but plumper. And I tell you it’s extremely delicious and savory! We also got ourselves enoki mushrooms wrapped in meat and hot ocha or roasted green tea. I’m not sure what to think here, other than the ocha they serve seems to be darker than the common tea served in other places…and that it tastes more like our own plain oolong tea. But it’s still good!
Hakata-style ramen is well known for its thick pork broth, which is not halal. It might prove a bit inconvenient in this Muslim country. However, Michi Ramen also serves halal broth made out of chicken. All you need to do is tell them that you want the halal version when they ask. Furthermore, the waiters and waitresses will also ask you just how cooked you want your egg, or if you don’t want any egg in your ramen. Naturally, I ordered soft-boiled like the one they serve back in the Land of the Rising Sun. This is something that they don’t ask in Japan when you order a ramen, though, even though they will ask you the type and thickness of noodle that you want.
Finally, our ramen bowls arrived. They look like what proper Hakata ramen should: half-cooked egg, mushrooms, chopped spring onion, two large slices of meat, and toasted sesame seeds as topping. Our waitress also place a small plate of grated garlic and slices of red rawit chilies, which makes our hot ramen even better at warming us up during that dreary rainy Semarang afternoon. They also provided the usual Japanese condiments (soy sauce, mirin, wasabi, red ginger) on the table, as well as the very Indonesian chili powder and bottled chili sauce. (Caecilia Linggarjati)