Are you a fan of ramen? I know that I am! So, when I received the invitation to a tasting session to Ramen Champion in Iluma, Bugis, I was sincerely elated. So what is the idea behind Ramen Champion? Simply put, Komars Group invited 6 of the best ramen restaurants from 4 major cities in Japan to compete for the title of Ultimate Ramen Champion 2011. Judging criteria for this competition include sales takings and vote counts via SMS, Facebook and onsite voting.
All the 6 restaurants, namely Iroha, Bario, Gantetsu, Tetsu, Ikkousha and Taishoken, will each have a stall in ILUMA @ BUGIS. The competition will run from now to 30th June 2012. The winner will then be invited to set up a restaurant here in Singapore by Q3, 2012.
The first ramen that we tried was the Mori Ramen from Taishoken (Tokyo)
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Taishoken is one of the most famous ramen shops in Tokyo. Founder Kazuo Yamagishi is the inventor of tsukemen (dry ramen with dip broth).
The broth comprises of pork, chicken, anchovies, and other ingredients and is then boiled for more than six hours, reduced to a thick consistency used as a sweet dip. The special ingredient lies in the sweet vinegar that lends a natural sweetness to the shoyu broth.
Name: Chef Iino Toshihiko
Number of shops: 100
Specialty: Mori Soba
The second ramen that we tried was the Toyama Black Ramen from Iroha (Toyama)
Iroha is from Toyama city and specializes in 2 types of ramen, namely the Black Shoyu Ramen and Shiro Ebi Ramen.
The secret to the fragrant Toyama Black Ramen is the black soybean that imparts a slight nutty finish. The broth is made from both pork and chicken and when paired with the spring onions (sauteed with sesame seed oil) accentuates the light aromatics of the sesame seed.
The chef mentioned that he currently has 12 restaurants, 10 in Tokyo, 1 in Beijing and the his latest venture, here in Singapore. The broth which requires 8-10 hours to cook, is very light tasting – one that you could easily finish. (Looks can be deceiving, heh!)
Quick Interesting fact: At the recent Tokyo Ramen Show, Iroha recorded sales of 13,555 bowls of ramen in 5 days. The company is pending a Guinness World Record for the most ramen sold in 5 days.
Name: Chef Kiyoshi Kurihara
Number of shops: 10 in Japan, 1 in Beijing
Specialty: Negitama Ramen
Following the Toyoma Black ramen, we tried the Gantetsu (Sapporo).
The Gantetsu Special Miso Ramen emphasises on the natural sweetness of the ingredients. Ginger paste is the secret ingredient in this ramen dish, which is ideal for the cold weather in Hokkaido and matches very well with the pork and miso broth.
This ramen would definitely be ideal when the weather turns cooler and you’re in need for some inner warmth. 🙂
Quick Interesting fact: Gantetsu has been the winner of ramen champion in Sapporo (a.k.a the city of Ramen) for three consecutive years. Gantetsu means stubbornness in Japanese. The chef’s stubbornness in using only the freshest ingredients is also the reason why the ramen enjoys such popularity.
Name: Chef Masaki Yorozu
Number of shops: 8
Specialty: Special Miso Ramen
Note: Personally, this was my favourite out of the 6 ramen. If only 1 of the 6 were to remain in Singapore, I earnestly hope it would be the Bario ramen.
Subsequently, we were served the Bario ramen (Tokyo).
Bario’s ramen is listed in The Guardian (UK) as one of 50 best things to eat in the world. From chef Iwasaki-san, Bario, which means big, strong man in Japanese.
The serving portion from Bario is definitely not for small eaters; Besides a generous serving of vegetables, meat and noodles, the noodles are of the futomen (thick ramen) type, which tends to fill up the stomach faster. Even if not physically, it does so psychologically.
When the chef came around, we found out that there are currently 3 Bario ramen outlets in Tokyo as well as the reason behind the idea of using thick noodles. He replied, “Thick Noodles = Manly!”
Bario Ramen is a pork shoyu based ramen made from 7 secret spices such as chilli powder, pepper and garlic (to name a few) and has a spicy aroma and sweet garlic taste, complemented by thick slices of chashu that have aromas of anise and cinnamon.
Name: Chef Makoto Iwasaki
Number of shops: 3
Specialty: Bario Ramen
Fifth on the list was Ikkousha (Hakata)
Ikkousha is one of the most celebrated ramen restaurants of Fukuoka in Hakata.
The pork based broth is as described in the menu – very rich and salty pork. Fungus and spring onions add to the delicious aroma. Sweet tasting and melt-in-your-mouth slices of pork belly, a boiled egg and firm noodles round off the dish.
Name: Chef Kosuke Yoshimura
Number of shops: 16
Specialty: Hakata Ajitama Ramen
Concluding the tasting session was the Paitan Tsukemen from Tetsu (Tokyo)
Rated as one of the best tsukemen by Tokyo Times, Tetsu popularised tsukemen in Tokyo. The original Tetsu location is in the Sendagi area. Now, Tetsu has expanded and has become a highlight along ramen roads and theme parks across Tokyo.
It takes a total of fifteen hours to prepare the broth and to reduce it to a well-balanced thick sauce, ready for the noodles to be dipped into it. Tetsu’s famed broth has the sweetness of bonita in the chicken and pork stock.
Chef informed us that some ingredients used in preparing the broth include, pork leg and bones, chicken head, pork, fish and vegetables. It is in his opinion that the most important factor in his ramen is the sweetness of soup!
Name: Kazunori Komiya
Number of shops: 12
Specialty: Paitan Tsukemen
Note: HungryEpicurean dined as a guest of this restaurant.
The Ultimate Ramen Champion 2011
Date: 1st of July 2011 to 30th June 2012
Time: Daily – 11.30am to 10.30pm
Address: 201 Victoria Street, ILUMA @ BUGIS #04 – 08/09/10 Singapore 188607