Monday, June 29, 2009

The market rate of a bowl of ramen

Just read an interesting article (in Japanese...) about the market rate of a bowl of ramen in Japan.

According to the article, in a "retail price survey" published by the Japanese department of statistics in May 2009, an average bowl of ramen in Japan costs 588yen (about S$9). Comparing that to the average price of a plate of curry rice (755 yen, about S$11.5) and a sushi set (1358yen, about S$20.7), it is a cuisine with high cost performance.

Because the data might be skewed by the cheaper ramen chains, the author did another survey from a directory of the recommended ramen stores. The average came up to 754yen (S$11.5). As expected, it is higher than he average.

Some ramen industry insider in Japan said that the market rate of a bowl of ramen in Japan is usually pegged to the flagdown fare of a taxi. The flagdown fare is 710yen (S$10.8) now, proving the theory right!

Being a ramen walker in Singapore, I've done up the Singapore figures too.

With 8 data points of the ramen places that I've been too, the average price of the "non-chain" ramen store is S$11.4 for the most basic bowl of ramen.

This is almost the same as that for Japan! What a coincidence.
But the flagdown fare for the taxis in Singapore is S$2.8... so a bowl of ramen is about 4 times that.

With the higher manpower cost in Japan, I guess we are paying a slight premium if the ramen costs the same here compared to Japan.

But interestingly, if we peg it to the wonton mee / ban mian at hawker center, we can draw the Singapore version of the analogy too! I have not done a proper research but I think the average price is about $3.

An interesting discovery for today.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Baikohken (梅光軒) Singapore

My ramen expedition this week brings me to Baikohken (梅光軒) at Raffles Place.
Wanted to visit this place for a long time and its great that I finally got to try it.

Baikohken Singapore

Shop Interior - waiters dressed in uniforms!

Baikohken comes from Asahikawa, and it one of the famous ramen stalls in the city. Started some 40 years ago, it won the top prize in the "Asahikawa Ramen Award". Currently, Baikohken has 6 outlets, and the Singapore outlet was their first overseas foray! We are quite privileged to have them here!

Baikohken's ramen is typical Asahikawa style, made with double animal-based and fish-based soup as well as medium chijire noodles.

I tried the standard Shoyu Ramen ($12), keeping my policy of trying the store's most basic item.

Shoyu Ramen

Two things about Baikohken's ramen that stood out are the giant menma (Japanese bamboo shoot) and char siew! The size of the menma and char siew gives them a very good texture when you eat it, Both are tasty too! The char siew especially is tender and falls apart when you put it in your mouth.

Giant Menma!

On further research, the giant menma and char siew are actually a signature of Baikohken's style. Baikohken also prides itself on the 100% company-made chijire noodles, which contains no additives and egg, making it safe for people with allergies to eat.

Something interesting about the Singapore store also is that it has a very clean toilet :P

For those restaurants that are in a shophouse in Singapore, my impression is always that the toilet is wet and dirty. But for Baikohken its different. The entrance to the toilet has a little Japanese stone garden and a pond releasing a mist. The toilet itself is very cleanly maintained and spacious too. This gives an excellent "total experience"!

The only complaint that I might have that the store is a little hot.

Overall, the food was great and the overall experience was good too. Its attention to details such as the noodle, menma, char siew and even the toilet is truly Japanese. I recommend this especially for those who likes char siew (and menma)!

In addition to its 3 stores in Hokkaido (2 x Asahikawa and 1 x Sapporo), you can also find Baikohken in Tokyo (Shinjuku Lumine Est 7F) and Hakata. I've marked Baikohken's Asahikawa outlet in my Ramen map.

View Singapore Ramen Map in a larger map

Ramen Data
- Baikohken (Singapore Branch)
7 North Canal Road
: Asahikawa Ramen (double soup with Shoyu/Shio/Miso flavours)
: $12-17.5
: 7.5/10

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ramen Zun-dou (らーめん家本舗 ずん・どう) at Isetan Hokkaido Fair

I went to the Isetan supermarket in Orchard, and found that they are having the Hokkaido Fair now.

The word "Hokkaido" can really pull in the crowd... the supermarket was jam packed with little space to walk. But the food looks really good! There are crabs, seafood chawan mushi, cakes, etc etc. So tempted to buy a few things from there.

Anyway, back to the my main topic, a ramen stall names Zun-dou (らーめん家本舗 ずん・どう) has an outlet in this Hokkaido Fair too. I've seen them coming to Singapore a few times for the past Hokkaido Fair. They are here to sell their frozen-packed ramen from their stall.

Zundou Ramen (for 2), in Shoyu, Shio and Miso flavours

As an inquisitive ramen eater, I went on googling a little on who their background

Zundou comes from a city call Hakodate (函館) of Hokkaido. Its specialty is Shio Ramen, which is what Hakodate is famous for.

Whats more, Sundou has been voted as one of the top 10 ramen stalls in Hokkaido! Didn't know that its so famous. I was staying in Tokyo so I'm not that familiar with the stalls up north.

Will try to grab a packet before the Hokkaido Fair ends. And in the same fair, there is also a stall that sells char siew and marinated egg for the ramen!

The Hokkaido Fair will end on 29 Jun in Isetan Orchard, thereafter it will move to Isetan Tampines from 3-12 July.

You can see how the ramen at Zundou looks like at Zundou's website.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jiro Ramen (ラーメン二郎)

Want to write a little about a type of ramen call Jiro ramen that I ate the other day at Menya Shinchan.

I've heard a lot about a style of ramen call Jiro many times when I was studying in Tokyo, but somehow never tried it. My impression then was that...

It has HUGE servings!

Because I'm not a big eater I dare not venture down that path....
But my big-eater classmate loves it! He was telling me fondly about the long queue of hungry guys lining up for it, and how you can skip a meal after eating one.

Back to Jiro, I did some searching over the net about it after having my first encounter...

Jiro Ramen originated from a ramen stall Ramen Jiro that is located in Mita of Tokyo. Its characteristics are:

1) Its GIANT serving!
2) Uses Shoyu-Tonkotsu Soup Base, and comes with a generous layer of lard on top
3) Uses thick noodles
4) Topped with a pile of fried vegetables (cabbage and bean sprout) and char siew
5) Eaten with chopped garlic

Due to its distinct style, Ramen Jiro has built up for itseful a strong following, with its lovers calling themselves "Jiro-rean" (c.f. Singaporean).

Many stalls under the name Ramen Jiro have also been opened in Tokyo, mainly by fans who love it so much that they want to set up a stall by themselves to spread the goodness. Its really a cult following like Apple!

For the benefit of those visiting Tokyo and would like to try out the real thing, here's where it is.
It is actually just outside the main gate of Keio University, the No.1 private university in Japan.

A normal bowl of ramen costs only 600yen, and a large double char-siew ramen is just 850yen. I'm sure we can get our money worth!

Ramen Jiro - Mita (Original Stall)
2-16-3, Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Nearest Metro station - Mita (三田) on Toei Mita Line (都営三田線)

View Singapore Ramen Map in a larger map

Friday, June 12, 2009

Menya Shinchan - Pumpkin Ramen

Tried the Pumpkin Ramen ($15) at Menya Shinchan today.

Pumpkin Ramen

A limited-period only creation by Menya Shinchan, I wanted to try it very much after my visit last week.
Pumpkin with ramen, sounds like a strange combination, but I gotta try it!

The soup is a creamy pumpkin soup, similar to what will be served at a western restaurant. It is amazing that the soup, which is sweet due to the pumpkin taste, went along very well with the noodles! The noodles used are narrow straight noodles, which provide more surface area for the soup to coat the noodles. Topped with chars siew, fried bean sprout and 1/2 an egg, it is quite an amazing blend of ramen and western soup.

Still have to say that its the ramen stall in Singapore that I like most. Its creative for the owner to come up with such a fusion. It shows that the spirit of innovation is still in him.

The pumpkin ramen is only available until 31 Aug 2009, so go down and have it while its available!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Menya Shinchan (麺屋しんちゃん)

Went to my favourite ramen place in Singapore over the weekend, Menya Shinchan.

Menya Shinchan, exterior

Tucked away in an alley in Robertson Quay, the store is quite hard to find.
It is on the left side while you walk towards the river from the open space where the bars / restaurants are at.

Menya Shinchan is set up by a Japanese businessmen, who quit his job as an expatriate to pursue what he loves - ramen!
The tag line for Menya Shinchan is" ラーメンは芸術だ", meaning "Ramen is an art". Something that I identify with very much too! A good ramen stall will look into everything from the source of ingredients, the soup composition and the water content of the noodles. So sophisticated!

Anyway, back to ramen, I tried their signature ramen Shinjiro Ramen (新次郎ラーメン) ($13) today.
If you cravings for vegetables and ramen at the same time, this is the place for you!!

Shinjiro Ramen!!

This is originated from the Jiro-style ramen in Tokyo, which I'll probably write more in detail in my future blog entry.

The soup is a tonkotsu shoyu soup, with a generous layer of lard on top to keep the soup hot. Without doubt, its very tasty! The noodles are thick chijire noodles. Topped with a mountain of fried cabbage + bean sprout and juicy pieces of char siew.

The volum is HUGE, and I advise that you should have a very empty stomach before taking this. I couldn't finish even it was very good. Its just huge!

It comes with additional garlic and sauce for the vegetable that you can add to your liking.


Menya Shinchan has a large variety of ramen, including tan tan men and tsuke men, and is also innovative in developing new ramens too. Would love to visit this again to try something new next time!

View Singapore Ramen Map in a larger map

Ramen Data - Menya Shinchan
Address: 30 Robertson Quay, #01-05 Riverside View
Types: Tonkotsu, Fish stock
Price: $11-15
Rating: 9/10

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Menya Manpei (麺や万平)

Checked out the a new ramen shop recently in Iluma at Bugis call Menya Manpei (麺や万平).

Menya Manpei resides inside a Japanese marche-like concept call Ebisboshi Shotengai (another one?), which contains Tsubohachi (A large Japanese Izakaya chain) and other stalls selling tonkatsu, shabu-shabu (+ french maid) and sushi.

Menya Manpei Stall

On the menu, it is written that Menya Manpei serves Sapporo ramen, and its specialty is its tonkotsu soup that is made from pork and chicken bones boiled for more than 16 hours. It is supposed to have come from Hokkaido, but I couldn't find any information of it from Google. Maybe I'll sent in an enquiry to the company to ask.

Back to the ramen, I ordered their specialty Sapporo Tonkotsu Miso Ramen ($12.9), marked "激旨" meaning "ultra-delicious" on the menu.

Sapporo Tonkotsu Miso Ramen

First impression, the presentation of the ramen could be much better. The ingredients are places quite randomly in the bowl, so different from the photo in the menu. The char siew is sinking in the soup. I really think that the notion of "presentation" is still not entrenched in people preparing food here in Singapore.

Then I took a sip of the soup. The taste is quite ok but personally I prefer the miso tonkotsu soup to be thicker. The temperature of the soup can also be hotter. The rest of the ramen is ok too - the char siew is quite tender and the noodles ok.

In general, it is not a ramen that "wow"ed me, but it was reasonably ok.

Because it is inside a marche-like place, Menya Manpei offers a mini version of the ramen so that you can try other things too. A mini tonkotsu miso will cost you $7.8.

According to the menu its side dish "Pork Belly Don" is also supposed to be good. Will try that another time.

View Singapore Ramen Map in a larger map

Ramen Data - Menya Manpei
Address: 4F, Iluma @ Bugis, inside Ebisboshi Shotengai
Types: Tonkotsu with miso, shio, shoyu
Price: $7-9 (for mini ramen) and $12-14 (for full size ramen)
Rating: 6.5/10
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