I remember back in like ’05, I used to love these 2 ramen joints in Singapore. One was Tampopo in Liang Court and the other was Ohsho @ Cuppage. I really liked the Kurobuta ramen @ Tampopo, which was still a novelty 5 years ago. Nowadays, it’s almost like if it ain’t Kurobuta, it ain’t good pork (excl other premiums of course). Ohsho’s Tamogo Ramen was really good too, a simple tonkotsu shio broth that had me licking the bowl clean.

I actually went to Tampopo last year and felt it wasn’t quite as good as before but still ok. Ohsho though, looked totally past it. It used to have queues but the lunchtime I had a browse, it was devoid of life. I haven’t been back to either joint this year but it isn’t because I think they aren’t good but it’s mainly because of the proliferation of really good ones. In fact, I had ramen twice in a day. Of course, I am a bit of a noodler. I had 2 (not 1) mega ramens after a friend bet there’s no way I could down 4x the regular noodles in one sitting. I like my ramen.

The first one I went to, my housemate was cooing about. Ippudo comes from Hakata but is so famous, it’s now totally international and you can find it not just in Singapore but NY and everywhere too. They do like this red and white color scheme and the location at Mandarin Gallery felt a lil’ too posh for a ramen joint. I got the Hakata tonkotsu shio ramen, which I think is their regular dish. It comes with thinner noodles and a lighter broth that is hella sweet and flavorful. Texture wise, it wasn’t like the thickass soup most people die for but it was quite beautiful. I was pleasantly surprised even if I hoped I would get even better in Japan. I think Ippudo is kinda pricey but good. Pictured below.

The other ramen I had was Santouka. Located at The Central Mall, it hails from Asahikawa in Hokkaido, which is more famous for a seafood x tonkotsu broth. Unsurprising given the abundance of seafood in Hokkaido. Strange though that they’d skimp out on the miso. Anyway, like Ippudo, it’s a bit of an international chain as well. I had the pork cheek/toroniku shio tonkotsu ramen. My god. That cheek was beautiful. Soft tender, almost melty but with a firmer fat texture that gives it just that barest hint of resistance to your teeth, confirming that yes, it was good. I found it curious that it came served on a platter, rather generous for portion size, but not in the soup. The noodles sat in the soup totally ungarnished. Bit strange presentation wise if you ask me. I found myself dunking all the ingredients in the bowl anyway. It was richer in flavor than Ippudo but make no mistake, both are excellent. However, I reckon Santouka gives slightly more value at 13 or 14 a bowl, bit less than Ippudo. I also reckon Singaporeans generally prefer bigger, more robust flavors, which explains the hour long queues at Santouka.

There’s more than the 2 I mentioned, other than the old guard places like Tampopo, Noodle House Ken (Orchard Plaza) and Miharu @ Gallery Hotel still going strong, there’s Aoba (Ion), Nantsutei (Millenia Walk), Baikohken (North Canal Rd) and Marutama (The Central). That’s pretty fierce competition and I haven’t included the many other rather decent ones too. I’m totally looking forward to my Hokkaido trip (like uh 48hrs aways!) so I can compare the ramen in Singapore with the real stuff.

It’s easy to see why ramen is so popular in Singapore. It’s not insanely expensive but tastes really good, much like our hawker fare. It’s not too hard for us to make the step up from $5 a meal to say $20. Still reachable despite being 4x the price. Also, you typically get at least some form of service and countless Irashai-masens being yelled your way. So it’s justifiable.