[SG] Ramen Champion | Ramen Champion Tasting Competition 2015

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

For one who would never say no to a bowl of ramen, we continue our hunt for the best ramen be it in Hong Kong or Singapore. What Ramen Champion offers us is that you can try out different styles of reputable ramen brands originating from various prefectures of Japan at one place in Singapore, either Bugis+, Great World City or Changi Airport T3. At present, they have 11 ramen brands across Singapore.

To celebrate Ramen Champion's evolution since its opening in July 2011, I was honoured to be invited to the Ramen Champion Tasting Competition 2015 event to vote for my favourite ramen. Held at its first outlet at Bugis+ where six contenders, five located at Bugis: Buta God, Menban Yamagishi Kazuo, Menya Ryu, Riki and Shodai Koji and a new brand Tonkotsu Ikkyu at Changi Airport T3 were judged by a panel of opinion leaders.

Special Tonkotsu Ramen by Tonkotsu Ikkyu | S$15.80/-

This was probably the highlight of the day as it is a new brand at Ramen Champion created by ramen chef and producer of Ramen Champion Singapore, Chef Koji Tashiro, upon the request of Eric Tsang 曾志偉, a renowned Hong Kong celebrity. Known as the "son" of Ramen God, though not biologically related, Chef Tashiro is a disciple of Yamagishi Kazuo, the legendary ramen chef credited for inventing the wildly popular Tsukemen (dipping noodles). Chef Tashiro first launched Tonkotsu Ikkyu in July last year at Ramen Champion Hong Kong outlet.

The uniqueness of this beautifully flower-like plated ramen was the chashu made using pork collar cooked sous vide style for three hours at 68 degrees celsius. The flesh was cooked through with a pink blush in the middle. Adopting this western style of cooking allows higher retention of moisture, resulting in juicy and tender meat. Kyushu noodles were used to quickly soak up the milky and creamy Tonkotsu-based (Pork Bone) broth that was boiled over high heat for many hours, and paired with toppings such as sliced black fungus, soft-boiled egg and spring onions.

Special Taiko Performance of HIBIKIYA
Photo Credit: Ramen Champion

God Ramen by Buta God | S$15/-

My personal favourite had to be this rendition! Though it may not be the traditional form of ramen, it reminded me of the classic Yoshinoya's beef bowl, only better! A really simple bowl of thin ramen complemented with sliced marinated pork belly and poached egg, I liked the lighter and slightly sweet Tonkotsu broth which stood out from the standard heavy savoury broth of other contenders', at least I was not craving for water after tasting their broth.

Buta God was also the winner of Ultimate Ramen Champion 2013 Singapore in August 2014. The winner was determined based on sales takings and customer votes at the end of June every year, in other words, it is the most popular ramen brand in Singapore! The champion will also be invited to set up a stall in Ramen Champion outlets or "stadiums" in Singapore.

The Buta God Crew!

Original Tsukemen by Menban Yamagishi Kazuo | S$15/-

As mentioned above, Tsukemen was invented by Ramen God, which is a type of ramen eaten after dipping in a separate bowl of soup. Opened by the successor of Yamagishi Kazuo, he has added his own twist to Yamagishi's secret recipe. I actually liked this medium-sized noodle the most amongst all as it was springy and despite its thickness it could still adhere to the vegetable and pork soup. One drawback was the broth that was too salty to consume on its own and the taste of bonito flakes was too strong, though it is flavourful as long as you just dip your noodle in without drinking the soup.

Sapporo Miso Special Ramen by Menya Ryu | S$15.80/-

This ramen place retains the original flavours from Sapporo, Hokkaido - the capital of ramen in Japan. The chef spent seven hours on making the broth daily and used three kinds of miso (red, white and black) like what a traditional miso ramen of Sapporo has to have. This was actually my second favourite as the soft ajitama egg was cooked to perfection. The bouncy outer layer and flowy orangey egg yolk was just what I was looking for in a good bowl of ramen.

Riki Chashumen by Riki | S$16/-

The generous toppings of this big bowl of ramen justified the name Riki meaning "Energy Boost", expect loads of bean sprouts, cabbages and five slices of torched pork belly chashu were served. In fact, I liked the charred fragrance came off from the grilled chashu, it has good balance of fat and meat that made every mouthful a joy. I haven't tried ramen with thick noodle, to one's surprise, it's acceptable with its chewy elastic texture. Broth was boiled for more than eight hours daily to achieve milky-white umami flavour, personally I would not add in too much of its chopped garlic to the broth to prevent overpowering taste.

Triple Chashu Ramen by Shodai Koji | S$16.80/-

Chef Koji Takano, a disciple of Chef Koji Tashiro, who intended to challenge the traditional lekei ramen norms. Combining the elements from new generation and traditional Yokohama-style ramen, his ramen was a good demonstration of it by obtaining three kinds of chashu - chicken thigh, pork belly and pork collar. The creamy thick broth that was boiled with vegetables, pork and chicken bones was specially made light for local taste buds. However, the egg was slightly overcooked and we did not quite enjoy the slight but noticeable seemingly ammonia smell that was associated with the noodles.

So here're the results!
Ramen Champion Tasting Competition 2015 

CHAMPION: Tonkotsu Ikkyu 
Runners-up: Menban Yamagishi Kazuo 
Media's Choice: Buta God, Menya Ryu

Over 22 brands have participated in the Ultimate Ramen Champion Singapore, I'm really glad and appreciate that Ramen Champion continues to bring authentic and high quality ramen brands from Japan to Singapore every year. It's the gourmet's luck for Ramen fans like me as we don't have to travel all the way to Japan to indulge in these reputable ramen!

On a side note, photos were taken with Nikon D750, thanks to Nikon Singapore for the loan! 

Ramen Champion
#04-10, Bugis+, 201 Victoria St
+65 6238 1011

P.S. Special thanks to Velda for the invitation and Ramen Champion for having us!

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