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拉面 La Mian World

the quest for the perfect noodle

Tag Archives: Ramen

The courageous Swiss races down the steep asphalt alley with his city-bike. I am impressed with the bar tender’s pisco sour in the Grande Bar and the fact that every city shines magically on a sunny day. The glittering rays of light on the surface of the lake. Friends having a sun-downer in a classic wooden motor boat. The mountain peaks covered in some left over ice and the hills close by in the evening light: Zürich. What connects Japan and Switzerland is the tolerance of their inhabitants for noisy train tracks leading through their living rooms.

Berlin feels familiar and far away at the same time. Disgusting, sometimes without soul and then again full of magic and miraculously pretty. At night still creepy Reichshauptstadt. During the day surreal memories of the capital of the GDR at the abandoned orphan’s home in the rain.

The English library in dark wood in the luxury apartment of the friend in Hamburg. Champagne in the back yard while the blackbirds sing a spring song about the absent summer.

A travel through time and three cities. Europe untangles the Ramen for me. Change is slow and sometimes invisible. Back in the Far East things are different. Change is fast and invisible too sometimes due to its speed.

The four seasons don’t exist close to the equator. You can eat them now at Keisuke Tonkotsu Four Seasons at Bugis Village in Singapore. Four distinct styles: spring, summer, autumn and winter, but I still prefer the tonkotsu pork broth Ramen.

Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King Four Seasons, 158 Rochor Road, Bugis Village, Singapore

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Sapporo in Winter! We all know Sapporo had hosted the winter Olympics of 1972 and so you would expect some snow. And snow I got when I visited Hokkaido’s major metropolis this February exactly 41 years after this historic event which marked the first time any winter Olympics were happening outside of Europe and North America. 1972 is an auspicious year for me. This Chinese year of the rat is my year of birth and the (unfortunately overshadowed) summer Olympic games took place in the city where I was born, Munich. I immediately felt at home in the snow covered Sapporo.

What I did not know, and only found out while warming up in my hotel room from the snow blast outside, is that Sapporo has a so called Ramen alley in its entertainment district of Susukino.

Since this year was not the first harsh winter that Sapporoans have experienced, they were smart enough to dig a lot of tunnels underneath the city. So you can practically walk all the way from the main JR railway station to Susukino underground. It is nice and warm and of course features a multitude of shops along the way. Resurfacing at Susukino subway station it is just a short slide on icy roads to the original Ramen alley.

The alley is more like a small passage way between two high rise blocks which is plastered with a long row of small Ramen restaurants. At eleven in the morning most of the eateries were still closed. I imagined that in the evening you will be pushed through this Ramen tunnel as two man can hardly pass here.

Entering one of the restaurants my lovely travel companion and I were obviously the first guests of the day. The open kitchen of this place showcased a massive mess and was in fact not the usual Japanese eyecandy. However, the old man in the kitchen prepared our meal in his lifelong routine way. He produced a beautiful bowl of Ramen and lit a cigarette after his five minutes of hard work while we slurped the noodles as loud as possible to show our appreciation.

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August is over. I did not eat La Mian this whole month (I think…) and betrayed the objective to find the best hand pulled noodle by eating tons of Japanese Ramen.

I remember eating again at the Ramen Champion in Terminal 3 at Changi Airport after I arrived back from somewhere around noontime. I had tried the Hakata Ikkousha stall last month and featered it in the previous post. Now I went for Gantetsu from Sapporo. The latter was definitively not my personal Ramen Champion.

Tonkotsu King Keisuke was good for another visit since they simply have the best, most tasty and outstanding Ramen in Singapore. I went to Marutama in The Central shopping center at Clarke Quay which has very decent servings of noodles. In Orchard Road just opened Uma Uma Ramen in Forum Shopping Mall, which is a bit overpriced most likely due to its location. Also Square 2 at Novena has a new Ramen place called Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen. Kazan translates as volcano as they explain. Their specialty is this Ramen served in a super hot stone bowl. Soup is poured in and they put some volcano shaped lid on. It starts steaming of course. Very interesting but I still had just the simple and basic Tonkotsu Ramen. Basic is best!

Keisuke Tonkotsu King, 1 Tras Link, #01-19 Orchid Hotel, Singapore

Marutama Ra-Men, The Central, 6 Eu Tong Sen Street #03-90/91, Singapore 059817 – they also have outlets in Liang Court and United Square shopping malls

Ramen Champion, Bugis+ Level 4 and Changi Airport Terminal 3 Basement 2, Singapore

Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen, 10 Sinaran Drive, #02-68/69 Square 2 @ Novena, Singapore

Uma Uma Ramen, 583 Orchard Road, Forum the Shopping Mall, #01-41/42/43, Singapore

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Ramen is the Japanese version of La Mian. Although there seem to be different schools of thought whether the word Ramen is actually derived from the Chinese La Mian or some other words of Mandarin or Cantonese dialects,  fact is, it is a fantastic dish. In the very rare case I might get tired of La Mian, Ramen is a perfect substitute.

Ramen comes in a very wide variety. The soup base can be predominantly pork (Tonkotsu), “all in” (Shio), Soya Sauce (Shoyu), Miso or a combination of the before. The noodles may have different shapes and the toppings of the soup may include seaweed, flavoured eggs, corn, spring onions, ground sesame and many more. Basically every Japanese region, subregion and town seems to have its own version of Ramen.

Singapore is a very good place to eat different versions of really good, original tasting Ramen. One place is the Ramen Champion that features different famous Ramen stalls in one spot and I talked about before. There are many, many more:

The other day I walked through Mandarin Gallery on Orchard Road. This up-market mall is usually quite empty and you rarely see the usual long queues during lunch or dinner at the restaurants. This particular evening I ventured to the end of the fourth floor and was met by this massive line of people waiting for a seat in Ippudo Ramen Noodle Restaurant. I just learnt from a friend that in Singapore people sometimes queue up for what they think must be an amazing food stall, only to stand in front of Tom Cruise for an autograph after some hours of waiting.

Since I was sure that this line would guarantee me some good Ramen I was taking my place at the end of the corridor. Only forty-five minutes later I was shown to my table and I ordered the Ippudo Original Tonkotsu Ramen Shiromaru Motoaji with flavoured egg. I love eating my Ramen with loads of sesame on top. At Ipudo they have one of this mini pepper mill like sesame grinders, so I could add and add and…

I ordered my noodles hard. They came fairly al dente but could have been a bit more to the point for my taste. All in all the broth was very tasty, the egg o.k. and I finished it almost to the last drop.

To the last drop finished and additional noodles (kaedama) ordered is what happened at another, and for me the best, Ramen place in Singapore: Tonkotsu King Keisuke. Talking about queues this is the place you can witness lunch queue craziness every day of the week. I outsmarted the long wait (with a special VIP pass) two days in a row because the food is just so fantastically tasty.

This small restaurant is very simple and down to the basics. Only Ramen, Tonkotsu based, and in just some little variety. You get presented with a small piece of paper where you mark your choice of dish, choose how strong you want your soup, how oily and what consistency the noodles shall be in. Then you can use the waiting time to grind some sesame in your grinding bowl, eat some free eggs or watch the chefs preparing your bowl of wonderful Ramen. Wow, I love it!

Ramen Champion, Iluma Bugis Level 4 and Changi Airport Terminal 3 Basement 2, Singapore

Ippudo @ Mandarin Gallery, 333A Orchard Road, #04-02/03/04, Singapore 238867

Keisuke Tonkotsu King, 1 Tras Link, #01-19 Orchid Hotel, Singapore

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During my recent trip to Japan I suffered from a Ramen overdose. A serious overdose. Although I spent the day skiing down the Niseko Annupuri mountain in perfect sunshine and acquiring a reasonable appetite for dinner I could not manage the massive portion of Ramen at Asahikawa Ramen Tozanken in Hirafu.

Everything was perfect about the dish of special Asahikawa Ramen. The soup was well-balanced, the pork tasted like the best Bavarian pork roast and the Ramen noodles were excellently cooked al-dente. I could not finish the bowl although I tried Saporro beer and Sake as supporting acts, the portion was simply too massive. So if you are looking at value for money for an outstanding energy boost after a day in the wild outdoors this is your place to go.

Luckily I recovered from this noodle shock in the meantime and I am ready to head back to the Ramen Champion in Singapore. This excellent collection of eight of the best Ramen restaurants (so they claim) from Japan is located at Iluma Bugis shopping centre and in Changi Airport. I only visited the Iluma outlet so far. It is a nice set-up of original styled Ramen shops with the typical flags, counters and lots of steam from the boiling water and soups. Indeed you get some Ramen varieties here in one spot in Singapore that you normally don’t find so easily elsewhere in the city. You should visit a couple of times to try the different Ramen styles – it is worth it.

Once in a while you might want to diversify your diet or just need to eat some really good dessert. Then you should try the J.S. Burgers Cafe in Tokyo. Burgers Cafe does not sound like the right place for dessert but in this case it is. I tried the cheesecake and the chocolate cake. I have no idea what their burgers are like but the atmosphere of this place on a rooftop in Shinjuku is great and the cakes tasted  just outstanding. After two slices of sweet cake I am sure ready for more salty noodles!

Asahikawa Ramen Tozanken, Hirafu, Hokkaido, Japan

Ramen Champion, Iluma Bugis Level 4 and Changi Airport Terminal 3 Basement 2, Singapore

J.S. Burgers Cafe, 3F, 4-1-7 Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan (third floor of the Journal Standard fashion shop)

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As we all (didn’t) know, the noodles used for Japanese Ramen are not hand pulled but, according to the universal brain wikipedia, cut with a knife. Pho is the name of a Vietnamese dish which contains noodles made from rice and not from wheat flour. There are a lot of people writing about, taking photos of and running blogs about Ramen. Pho on the other hand is less talked about and also it may be harder to find a specialised Pho than a Ramen restaurant around the world. I love Pho and I enjoy Ramen. But: Nothing beats hand pulled La Mian.

After leaving Hong Kong and enjoying a relaxed flight on ANA to Haneda airport I stayed in Tokyo for two days. Since I had no time to research on La Mian availability in Tokyo I forced my Japanese colleague to take me to a nice Ramen shop. Tokyo is an amazing city and I like to walk and explore its different quarters, little alleys and massive boulevards. At the very point when we decided to head for Ramen, no appropriate place could be found. August in Tokyo is very hot. It was extremely hot on that day and after we finally found the right, tiny little Ramen restaurant I was already drenched. With the nuclear crisis and savings on electricity still in full force there was no air conditioning available. We settled down at the bar and watched the Ramen chefs prepare our orders of 900 Yen Ramen per bowl. The Ramen was great and on the street later I showed off  my new wet-style see-through white shirt.

One week later in Vietnam the great challenge for me was to not eat Pho three times per day. It is a marvelous breakfast, a good lunch snack and a light dinner. If you happen to be in Hanoi try Mai Anh’s chicken noodle soup, it is fantastic.

Actually I prefer the soup with thinly sliced beef fillet called Phở Bò Tái. The meat comes almost still rare and is all soft and tasty. So far all the Pho’s I tried in Vietnam were so good that I had to finish even the broth to the last drop. Hardcore Pho enthusiasts will probably hate me for saying that I also really like the Pho at the chain eateries of Pho 24.

Mai Anh Restaurant, 32 Le Van Huu Street, Hanoi

Pho 24, many outlets across Vietnam, see website

or try in Singapore:

Pho 99, 57 Amoy Street, Singapore

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