It was the first thing that caught my eye at the Capas, Tarlac stopover on the way back to Manila from La Union.
I have a thing for rest stop food, especially if they look like were prepared on the spot, even if ‘on the spot’ means five hours ago.
It was a rainy afternoon, and the bus ac was freezing, so I had been dreaming of noodles all they way home. The mami, bowls filled with already portioned egg noodles topped with strips of raw carrot and pechay and sliced of boiled egg, was just the thing.
The lady behind the counter poured hot (alas, not boiling) chicken soup on everything. The guy beside me, who was eating arroz caldo (chicken congee) pushed a tray of condiments in my direction. I thanked him and proceeded to go to town.
I ate the mami the way they eat noodles in Cagayan Valley–with lots of soy sauce and vinegar. It wasn’t mind-blowing–in fact, it was pretty mediocre, and a bit salty from constant reheating–but I enjoyed the still-crisp vegetables and actually appreciated that the dish contained no meat. The noodles were springy, with the slight alkaline taste that characterizes egg noodles.
Sometimes, what a dish tastes like isn’t an issue; it’s the thought of it, the feeling that it evokes, that make you feel all gooey inside. Such was the case with this bowl of bus stop mami: it’s not the best mami in the world, but it was the best thing that afternoon.