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The difference between good ramen and great ramen

Singapore’s top ramen chefs weigh in

By Bite! Japan Staff | Jan 25, 2017

  •  The difference between good ramen and great ramen
    Kuro-Obi

Singapore is awash in ramen options, and the trend is showing no signs of slowing down. If you’re suffering from ramen fatigue, or just want to know how to discern the difference between what’s great and what’s less great, fear not. We’ve spoken to Singapore’s top ramen chefs for their input.

Balance

Who better to ask about the nuances between good and great ramen than Yota Shiiba, the deputy general manager of probably Singapore’s most beloved ramen chain, Ippudo. Shiiba reminds us that despite its apparent simplicity, ramen is actually a very complicated dish. “Ramen involves stock, broth, noodles and toppings, and a great bowl of ramen achieves a good balance among all the components.”


Spicy Chilli Boss Rib Ramen at Buta Ramen

Keeping it Together

Ippudo has been in the news lately in Singapore, for the launch of Kuro-Obi, a sister concept previously only in New York City, specializing in a chicken-based broth. When asked what is so great about the signature broth, Shiida says it is the emulsification. “Similar to salad dressing, a perfect chicken broth needs to ensure both chicken soup and chicken oil are well-mixed,” he explains. If salad dressing cannot be mixed well, the oil will be separated from others.” 


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Speed Eating

It doesn’t matter how good the noodles are, or whether you like them springy or soft. If they sit in the bowl, too, long, a great bowl of ramen runs the risk of becoming just so-so. This seems to be a problem in Singapore, says chef Sandy Yeo of Buta Ramen, a CBD gem famous for its unusual additions and creative takes on ramen. “Many Singaporeans like to put their noodles in their soup spoon and then into their mouth, but by then it becomes soggy. It’s totally different from how the Japanese eat it, which is to slurp it directly from the bowl.” 


Chef Sandy Yeo of Buta Ramen

 

The Unexpected

Ramen chefs can debate endlessly about the finer components of technique: the ingredients of the stock, whether to simmer or boil, et cetera. But sometimes the best ramen involves an entirely unexpected technique. Asked about the most unforgettable ramen of his life, Yeo remembers a bowl at Kyoto’s famous Gogyo Ramen. The secret is the “burned broth” which is cooked in a wok after pork lard is heated to the point of flames, about 300C. “It’s an umami bomb. It hits you hard.”

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