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Singaporeans love their ramen. Savoured at restaurants, slurped at hawker centres, or scoffed down from instant packs at home as a late-night snack – ramen is enjoyed in every manner in this country. In fact, we have hundreds of ramen shops with more sprouting every other month.
We take you on a ramen tour of the island to taste-test some of the most varied and authentic Japanese noodles.
Source: Gonpachi Ramen & Eatbook
A ramen meal need not set you back by much. While the average bowl of ramen at a restaurant costs upward of $15, you can get a decent bowl of steaming wheat noodles for well under $10 and we are not talking about those from hawker centres or food courts.
Walk too quickly and you might miss Gonpachi Ramen. This ramen shop at the heartland of Kovan has noodle bowls that start from as low as $7. The average price of their ramen is $7.80. For that modest sum, you can get ramen topped with two thick slices of smoked duck (Smoke Duck Cha Shu); seven toppings that include a large prawn, half an egg, bamboo shoots, minced meat, corn, black fungus and green chilli sauce (Seven Wonder); braised pork belly (Miso Kakuni) or sake infused pork chop (Sweet Sake Marinated Pork Chop).
For $7.90, you can get a bowl of the titular Takagi Ramen which features firm Hakata-style noodles in a Tonkotsu (pork bone) broth seasoned with shio and topped with slow-braised chashu pork slices. At just $7.50, the Tantanmen is a steal. This one is for those who like it hot – the Tonkotsu soup is flavoured with sesame chilli oil, peanuts and fermented beans, turning it a fiery orange.
Another place you can get ramen for $7.90 is at Ramen Monster. Their Tonkotsu Ramen has a creamy, buttery broth that is still light. The noodles are topped with char siew and a perfectly soft-boiled egg.
Source: Daniel Food Diary
Singapore has its share of Michelin-starred eateries and ramen restaurants are no exception. Tsuta Japanese Soba Noodles is opened by Chef Yuki Onishi who created the world’s first Michelin-starred ramen restaurant. Since 2016, his eatery has been awarded a Michelin star every year. This is the second Tsuta in the world, after the original in Japan.
The ramen here is known for its dashi (soup broth), oils and sauces for that blend to create that complex umami flavour. Be warned though – the restaurant has only 18 seats and two types of ramen: shoyu and shio.
Konjiki Hototogisu was founded by Chef Atsushi Yamamoto in 2006. In 2019, he was conferred a Michelin star, an honour to add to his consecutive Tokyo Michelin Bib Gourmand from 2015 to 2018. The original shop in Japan has just eight seats but that has not stopped it from being dubbed “No.1 Ramen in Japan”.
At the Singapore outlet, which is much larger, you can sample their signature Sawara Oyster Ramen. Oyster paste and oyster oil are used for an intense taste of the ocean while the Iberico cha shu is cooked at a low temperature so that it is soft and succulent.
Seizan Uni Ramen is the off-shoot of the two-Michelin star Seizan in Tokyo, a kaiseki (multi-course meal) restaurant. Possibly Singapore’s first uni (sea urchin) ramen joint, this place uses the same dashi as the award-winning one served in the original Tokyo shop. The broth is the result of years of experimenting and requires 10 hours to prepare. Quality kombu (dried kelp) is soaked overnight in spring water from Mt Fuji, then brought to a boil and flavoured with katsu (bonito flakes) and maguro (tuna flakes) to yield a delicate and fragrant soup. The star of the menu is their Uni Ramen which uses premium Japanese bafun uni, a sea urchin harvested from deep in the ocean and is, therefore, richer and bolder in taste than regular uni.
Source: Miss Tam Chiak
Then, there are the ramen shops that do not have Michelin stars to their names but are still wildly popular in Japan. Their arrival in Singapore are usually highly anticipated. ICHIRAN is one of them. Between 3 and 20 October 2019, ICHIRAN set up a pop-up stall at the Japan Food Matsuri in Takashimaya. Only 700 bowls of their famed tonkotsu ramen were served every day, each topped with their original aged spicy red sauce made with chilli powder and 30 different ingredients.
Ramen Nagi is another famous ramen shop from Japan that has made it to Singapore’s shores. This ramen chain is helmed by Chef Ikuta Satoshi who made a name for himself by serving a different type of ramen each day of the year. Creating 365 varieties of ramen is no mean feat and he eventually won the Tokyo Ramen of the Year Championship three years straight, beating some 30,000 other chefs. At Ramen Nagi, a must-try is their Original Butao King ramen. The award-winning tonkotsu pork broth is served with handcrafted hoodless and Nagi pork chashu.
Finally, there is AFURI Ramen. Named for a mountain known for its fresh water which is used to make their ramen in Japan, this eatery is famous for their yuzu ramen. Dripped into their chicken broth, used as a garnish for each bowl, the citrusy note gives their ramen a distinct refreshing taste and complements perfectly the charcoal-grilled pork that is served with the noodles.
Source: Daniel Food Diary
While most ramen centres around pork broth, Jimoto Ya’s ramen uses amaebi (sweet shrimp) instead. This adds a sweetness to the broth that works beautifully with the pork. They have another permutation of the regular ramen – Yamazaki Ebi Miso Ramen which uses premium Japanese malt whisky fat-washed (adding liquid to the alcohol at room temperature) with ebi oil to enhance the sweetness of the shrimp broth.
Kamo Soba, a branch of Keisuke, offers another take on the ramen – duck ramen. Their Hybrid Duck Broth Ramen comes in two variations – rich and clear broth. The clear version requires a whole duck be simmered for about five hours to create a lovely stock. This soup is then left to simmer for another eight hours to create the rich broth.
For an explosive meal, try Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen’s volcano ramen which is both a meal and a show in itself. The ramen is served in a pre-heated stone bowl. At the table, a calcium and collagen-infused soup is poured into the 300-degee Celsius stone bowl which is then covered by a funnel-like lid. As the dish heats up, steam spouts from the lid much like an erupting volcano. When this happens, you know it is time to tuck in.