Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Ramen Trend

I did a sharing recently about my amateurish observation on the ramen scene in Singapore as a ramen blogger. It was quite well-received!

As 2010 is coming to an end, I thought that it will be timely to share the top 3 ramen trends in Singapore on this blog too.

The first obvious trend is the continuous influx of Japanese ramen brands to Singapore.

Just in 2010 itself, 6 ramen brands came from Japan into Singapore - Nanttsutei, Keisuke, Sanomaru, Ippudo TAO, Kusabi and Kura. This excludes the expansion of ramen brands that are already in Singapore (e.g. Santouka, Baikohken, Marutama) and home-grown ramen stores. Compared with about 2-3 years ago when ramen is pretty hard to find, it is now very much within reach of everyone; most of the major malls in Singapore will have 1 ramen store. Good news for ramen fans like me!

But competition is definitely getting stiffer. There should be more new entrants to the market in 2011, and the existing players have to continue to maintain their quality and offer new products to retain and grow their customer base.

Next, we now see the formation of 2 "ramen clusters", i.e. areas with a high concentration of ramen outlets - one in Orchard and one along the Singapore River.

Just like how fashion brands like to open their flagship store along Orchard, ramen brands also clustered along Orchard road to maximise their exposure and establish themselves. With more than 12 ramen outlets along Orchard, you can drop by one easily when you crave for it when you are shopping.

The Singapore River area is where many Japanese expats live, and ramen outlets thrive there I presume with the higher demand. Its also a good place to be for a chill out session with your friends at one of the pubs, and then ending the day with a bowl of ramen - the Japanese way!

Last but not least, with increasing competition, the ramen brands in Singapore have evolved and try to cater more to the local Singaporean taste.

With our liking of all things spicy and with chili, thats what they've given us!

Can you guess where are they from?

Influx of Japanese ramen, formation of ramen cluster and localisation of ramen.
These are the 3 trends that I observed this year.

As a ramen fan, these are great developments - more to choose from, easier to find, and more new products to spice up the ramen scene.
Looking forward to see how these trends will evolve in 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

White Miso Ramen - Kura (久楽) Plaza Singapura

This weeks' ramen adventure brings me to Kura (久楽) at Plaza Singapura.

Japan Food Holdings, the company behind the ubiquitous Ajisen Ramen and other Japanese restaurants, opened a multi-brand Japanese food concept call "Tokyo Walker" in Plaza Singapura in November.

Sounds like the name of my blog? Yes it does!
They, just like me, were "inspired" by the series of popular magazine " Walker" in Japan that reports about cool happenings in the cities in Japan.

Interesting that the restaurants inside are not totally Tokyo ... Champon is a dish from Nagasaki, a Udon restaurant is from Osaka...

... and Kura is a Hokkaido ramen franchise!

Kura serves miso ramen in 3 types of misoes - red, white and spicy.
Interestingly, while Kura comes from Hokkaido in the north of Japan, its founder, Okuhara Souji, came from Okinawa that is all the way in the south.
He went to Hokkaido and started trial and error of creating his ideal bowl of ramen.
That explains why Kura doesn't call themselves Hokkaido-style ramen, but rather Okuhara-style (奥原流) ramen.

I've also wrote an email to Kura in Japan, asking them if there are anything in particular that they have customised their offering for the Singapore outlet.
Glad to hear that they have chosen to offer exactly what they are offering in Japan to deliver us the authentic taste.

I ordered the white miso ramen ($12.8) this time.

The ramen has a variety of toppings - char siew, tamago, chopped leek and onion, tenkasu (天かす), minced meat, seaweed and a dash of spicy miso paste. This gives the ramen a range of taste and texture when you eat it together with the yellow curly noodles. The white miso soup base, with a mix of pork and chicken stock, tasted good but might be slightly salty for me.

What it could have done better is how they serve it. When the ramen is delivered to me, the seaweed was already soft and sinking. Similar to other concepts that are brought in by franchise, the presentation is far from what the photo shows... making it looks less delicious as it should.

Overall, it is a good bowl of ramen, much better compared to its neighbour. But among the many other ramen stall in Singapore, it might not be the among the top in my list.

View Ramen Walker's Ramen Map in a larger map

Ramen Data - Kura @ Plaza Singapura
Address: #04-01 Plaza Singapura
Types: Miso
Price: S$12.8
Rating: 6.5/10

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ramen in Jakarta! Marutama Ramen - eX Plaza Indonesia

This week's ramen adventure takes me to Jakarta!

Guess what I've found?

the orange basketball...

Marutama Ramen!!!
Didn't know that they have expanded to Indonesia too.

Curious to find out how it fares compared to the Singapore outlets that many Singaporeans like, I have chosen to have lunch here instead.

Marutama ramen already has 2 outlets in Jakarta - one in eX Plaza Indonesia and the other Sentral Senayan I.

I spoke to store manager about the ramen scene in Jakarta. Currently, there are still only 2 ramen chains in the market - Marutama and another one call Ramen 38 (Sanpachi). While the number of shops is still small, its definitely getting popular there.

Interestingly, the manager was trained in Singapore's Marutama, and was well-versed with the other ramen competitors in Singapore!

Back to the main topic, the decor of Marutama's Jakarta outlet is exactly the same as that of Singapore.

stylish and dim interior

The Jakarta menu has some interesting difference, which I guess is to cater to local taste.

For the ramen, you have a choice of whether you want it spicy or not, and whether you want your char siew to be pork or chicken char siew. The Indonesians must like spicy stuff more than Singaporeans (we don't even have this distinction here), and of course they have a larger muslim population too.

... and there are more chili to come.
After you've ordered your ramen, the will give you a small plate of chili padi too. Interesting.

I've ordered the Ebi Ramen (69,000 Rupiah, about $S10), which is a dish not available in most outlets in Singapore.

The soup tasted almost the same as those made in Singapore, but I have a slight feeling that the Singapore branches are better and have a clearer taste. The noodles and char siew were good. The only area that I wish that it could have been better is the prawns. The prawns used were not that fresh.

I'll try to go to Ramen 38 next time I'm in Jakarta.
From Marutama's manager, the best outlet of Ramen 38 is in Kamome Building!

View Ramen Walker's Ramen Map in a larger map
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