Friday, July 15, 2011

Ramen Champion at Iluma

Ramen Champion, Bario
Hey, the annual Ultimate Ramen Championship has made it to our local shores down at Iluma (201 Victoria Street, ILUMA @ BUGIS, #04 – 08/09/10). Seems that six stalls located in a "stadium" will be around until this time next year vying for our votes so that the winner is able to set up their ramen shop. 

The above was a bowl of Bario ramen from the stall of the same name. This stall from Tokyo featured semi squiggly noodles made from bread flour. What's visible from the above picture was but the proverbial tip of the iceberg for the amount of bean sprouts that went into the bowl of noodles. There's more of them sprouts in this bowl than a single serving in some chicken rice stalls!

I sampled more than a few spoonfuls of the garlicky broth before mixing in the grated garlic that one could help themselves to from the stall. The original broth tasted much like a hearty minced pork soup. 

What I liked about this particular bowl was the play of textures from both the thick chewy noodles and the crunchy bean sprouts. The former when put in a local context, was akin to lor mee noodles - albeit with more bite and none of that yellow noodle taste. I'm thinking this was very much like a Japanese lor mee. Guardian UK apparently put it as "50 best things to eat in the world" list. While I don't know if I would agree to that statement, I also do not think I would mind at all giving this a another go. With much less garlic the next time. On the side, Bario does have some crispy skinned and meaty gyozas which I found to be pretty good.

Ramen Champion, Ikkousha
By a stroke of chance, Ikkousha that does my favourite Hakata styled tonkotsu ramen was just next door to Bario. Didn't have to navigate too far away through the lengthy queues/crowd. What stood out for me in their bowl of creamy broth was a depth of porcine smokiness that created a pretty unique flavour I've not encountered. Their thin noodles were sadly overcooked and weren't as firm and chewy as I liked.

I would like to give this stall my vote since I feel that they're definitely on a toe to toe with Nantsuttei, but I'm also keen on giving some of the others in the competition a go before I decide on it.

Ramen Champion, Illuma
What was universal for both ramen stalls were the aromatic char shu that were so tender that they fell apart easily in the mouth. What's sad was that the aji tama from both stalls did not have the molten yolk and the shoyu flavors that I was expecting to be seeped into the egg.

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