Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Ramen Lessons

Lesson number one: never say "never". I had to eat my words earlier this year when I queued up to eat ramen... not just any ramen, it's Ippudo I'm talking about here (they have a "no reservation" policy). It was I who once boldly proclaimed, "I will never queue up for anything". Let me tell you how much I hate queuing, I simply don’t queue for anything! I believe there are always other available options that do not require me to stand in line. *Disclaimer: putting my name down for Hermes Birkins didn't count as I was not physically standing in a queue. Hah.

Lesson number two: it's about the timing. My first encounter at Ippudo started on the wrong foot, or shall I say at the wrong time. My friends wanted to try the super famous Ippudo Japanese ramen on a Friday night (yes! the worst night of the week to dine out without reservations) and managed to convince me to queue up with them, despite me being in my grouchy, hungry state. That was a feat! It took us one hour before we shown to a table. The queue is two-tier, one outside the restaurant, and then you "graduate" to the inside queue where you snake around a high table. So don't be too happy when you think you finally queued to the entrance, there's still another queue inside that awaits. *Tip: if you want to avoid queuing, the trick is to go before 11am, between 3-5pm or after 9pm.

Standing around this table means you are one step closer to getting a table. Yay!

Lesson number three: eat your vegetables. There are some yummy vegetable appetisers you ought to try. I personally like Goma-Q (Japanese cucumber with sesame) and fried lotus root chips. Start your appetisers light so you can pace yourself for a full meal here.


This is not the actual pic of the bowl of lotus root chips... but the chips look just like these.

Lesson number four : don't save the best for last. After your healthy vegetable appetisers, it is now time to savour the mother of all pork buns. I am usually not a fan of pork but this pork bun is simply amazing. The braised pork is so tender it will melt in your mouth. The lettuce adds a crunch and the dollop of Japanese mayonnaise makes every bite smooth. OMG! Writing about this makes me crave for a bite of this. *It's a must-try!

Lesson number five: add some spice to your life. I ordered the seasonal Ippudo karakamen, a spicy tonkotsu (pork based soup) ramen with minced pork and spicy paste. My friends ordered the shiromaru classic (original tonkotsu soup) and akamaru modern (original tonkotsu soup with special blended miso paste). My spicy soup base proved to be a big hit at my table, as my dining companions kept dipping their spoons into my bowl for a taste of the divine spicy broth. Hence, I highly recommend the spicy ramen if you love chilli like I do. It was definitely love at first taste with the ramen. The broth was rich in taste but did not overwhelm with any porky taste. For the noodles, you will be asked if you like them hard, medium or soft. That's a first for me in a ramen joint! I like the little touch of customisation.

Ippudo karakamen, a spicy tonkotsu ramen with minced pork and spicy paste.

Akamaru modern (original tonkotsu soup with special blended miso paste)

Shiromaru classic (original tonkotsu soup)

Lesson number six: don't go trigger happy. If you aren't willing to pay the price, then don't go crazy asking for additional toppings ($1.50 each). However, if you want to indulge, go on and add the chashu pork, scallions, flavoured egg...

I was told the the secret lies in the broth, which is perfected through an elaborate process of cooking pork bones for more than 15 hours and then blended with broth from three cooking stages to create a creamy delicate soup with a light aroma. Ippudo has specially set up a factory in Singapore to manufacture the noodles and prepare the soup to ensure only the freshest and best is being delivered to the restaurant everyday. Such dedication deserves a medal… and long queues! All together now... "Oiishi"!

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