Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ramen ranks No. 2 in the ranking for the most loved Japanese food by tourists!

Just caught a report released by the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) about a survey conducted to 15,355 foreign tourists to Japan.

On the question of "Which was the most satisfying food that you've had in Japan", ramen came in as No. 2!! Very interesting results from the perspective of a ramen fan.

Sushi was No.1 with 42.1% of vote. Pretty much expected, as Sushi is usually the first thing that comes to a foreigner's mind when we talk about Japanese food. And the sushi in Japan is definitely good too! Even chains such as Tenka Sushi serves decent sushi.

Ramen is No.2 with 20.8% of the vote, closely followed by sashimi at 19.8%. In 4th place is Tempura, 11.1%, and Udon at 8.9%. This is an encouraging result (for me), as ramen is a much younger cuisine than sashimi, tempura and udon. I doubt many foreigners will know what ramen is 10 years ago, while sashimi, tempura and udon are fairly common.

Isn't it amazing that ramen rose so fast through the ranks of Japanese food?

Some other interesting results are:

- For Taiwanese, Ramen is actually No.1! The ramen culture must have already been widespread there.
- For Singapore, the percentage of the top 3 of Sushi, Sashimi and Ramen are pretty close.
- German loves sushi? About 63% of them answered that it was the most memorable.

I'm sure in years to come, it will become as popular, if not more, than sushi!
Looking forward to the 2010 survey to see how the result will change.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Crab Ramen - Keisuke Tokyo (けいすけ東京)

Visited Keisuke Tokyo a while ago, and found that they have updated their menu with a few new items - the basic-styles of Shio Ramen and Shoyu Ramen.

But what caught my eyes among the new edition is the Crab Ramen (S$15.8)!
This should be the only place in Singapore that is serving this ramen (except for the $30+ ramen at Aoba and Kaiko that has half a crab on top of it... not sure how many bowls of those do they actually sold), so I gotta try it out.

Kani Ramen

Topped with a large piece of char siew, 2 halves of an egg, naruto, menma, onion, shreds of chilli and seaweed, the ramen is arranged in the usual keisuke aesthetics. The aroma of the crab can be smelled immediately when the ramen is dished in front of me. The soup stock is very thick and dense, which I guess was meant for it to serve as more of the sauce of the "dry noodle", for it to hang onto the noodles.

According to an interview that owner-chef Takeda had with Zaobao, the soup is made by first frying the crab. The fried crab is crushed and blended with onion and carrot, and the mixture is again fried. Chicken broth is the mixed with the paste to create the soup.

I also noticed that for the Crab ramen, the flat noodles is used instead of the usual rounded ones.

All in all, its another good bowl of ramen. It will be suitable for those who likes it rich and thick.

In the interview, Takeda-san also shared that he will be releasing new items on his menu every 2-3 months for this Singapore outlet. Looking forward to his new creations for Singapore.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Kusabi (くさび) - Tokumaru Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen

This week's ramen adventure brings me to Kusabi at Central, the latest edition to Singapore's ramen scene.

... taking over Kyoto Sabo’s space

Kusabi (くさび) comes from the Fukushima prefecture of Japan, about 2 prefectures north of Tokyo. It is a relative unknown prefecture in Singapore, but from the ramen world, it is home to one of the famous ramen styles call Kitaka Ramen (喜多方らーめん). But Kusabi does not serve ramen of that style.

The word "Kusabi" means "a wedge" in Japanese, which is a tool that is used to fill up a gap, and it is what the store hopes that its ramen will do. Kusabi was voted as the #5 ramen places in Fukushima prefecture in the 2008 Yahoo Japan ramen ranking. But it seems that it has slipped off the ranking in 2009.

The interior is brightly-lit, clean and neat. The staff were friendly and polite too, most probably trained in the Japanese way by the owner. Something that I found interesting was the chopsticks that it uses. The tip is made in such a way that the noodles doesn't slip by having grooves at the front of the chopsticks.

Spiral groove

Kusabi serves tonkotsu-based ramen with shoyu, miso or fish oil. Its also serves dipped noodles (tsuke-men, or つけめん), which boasts a 1.5 times serving of noodles, as well as a series of ultra-spicy (Gekikara, or 激辛) noodles, with 3 levels of spiciness to choose from.

A key selling point of Kusabi that is different from other ramen places seems to be the use of fish powder (魚粉/魚節, or Gyofun). Made from fish flakes (e.g. bonito flakes) crushed into power form, here in Kusabi it is kneaded into the noodles and concocted into fragrant oil to add a seafood / fish flavour into the noodles. Especially for the noodles, the taste that is kneaded into it is supposed to seep out and enrich the taste of the soup, creating a different taste as you progress in your ramen. It is the only place in Singapore that offers this type of noodles now, but in Japan it seems that several other ramen shops use this technique too.

I tried the first item on the menu, the Marutoku Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen ($19), which is actually a set with a bowl of ramen and an extra set of toppings.

The ramen is topped with a generous amount of shredded leak and chopping onions, as well as char siew, seaweed and bamboo shoot. The extra serving of toppings include 2 halves of aji-tama, 4 large pieces of char siew, seaweed and bamboo shoot.

The tonkotsu shoyu soup is well-made, with the right saltiness and flavour that I like. I slurped in a mouthful of noodles, and indeed there is a slight fish flavour that comes with it. As I progress through the ramen, I tried to sense if the taste of the soup changed ... but I guess my tongue is not sensitive enough!!

I tried its gyoza ($6) too. It was large and juicy with a lot of fillings. Not bad.

All in all I had a good experience at Kusabi and would like to go back again to try the other flavours and some of its signature side dishes such as the Pork-wrapped Rice Ball and the Nita-rice ball. Its a store worth trying, and next time I'm in Central, there is another choice that I can choose from in addition Santouka and Marutama.

View Ramen Walker's Ramen Map in a larger map

Ramen Data - Kusabi @ Central at Clarke Quay
Address: 6 Eu Tong Seng Street, #01-68/69, The Central @ Clarke Quay
Types: Tonkotsu
Price: S$13.5 - S$19
Rating: 8/10

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ramen Walker Feature @ WAttention

Not sure if some of my readers have already caught it....

Ramen Walker has done a ramen feature for the latest edition of the free magazine WAttention, which was released today!

 On one of the racks at JTB

The 4th item on the front page, "Slurping Life" :)

WAttention, a word made from combining "Wa" (= 和, meaning things that are Japanese) and "Attention", is a free magazine that talks about Japanese culture and traditions to the Singapore audience. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by WAttention a few months ago to have me as the guest writer for a feature of 13 ramen places in Singapore. The shops selected by WAttention covers most of the prominent ramen places in town.

Featuring places such as Shinchan, Keisuke, Tampopo, etc

As it is a good opportunity to share with more people about ramen, I took it up, ate my way through many ramen places, and recently completed the feature!

There are limited spaces that I could write for each shop so the description may not be that detailed, but it was fun finding out about the ramen store, speaking to some of the owners, and penning down my observations. For example, I managed to speak to Mr Tajima, the owner of Menya Shinchan, that I wrote about in a previous blog entry, and Mr Tsutsumi, the franchise manager for Sanomaru, who shared with me his challenge during the set-up stage. These encounters would not have been possible if not for this opportunity.

Anyway, an interesting assignment that helped me discover more interesting facts about the Singapore ramen scene. And it is exciting to see it coming out in hardcopy too!

Will continue to slurp away this delicious delicacy of Japan.

Last but not least....

Grab one copy of WAttention!!
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