Monday, August 13, 2012

Ramen Champion 2012 Season starts!

Ramen Champion...a very interesting concept...choose 6 or 8 top ramen makers from Japan, set up stalls in one location in a foreign our case Singapore. Create an environment for the locals to taste and experience ramen, and vote on who they think is best. Brilliant! I covered many of the ramens in the 2011 season of Ramen Champion Singapore earlier. Today we talk about who won, and the 2012 season.

The 2011 Season was won by Ikkousha who was crowned Ultimate Ramen Champion 2011.

There to accept the prize was Chef Kosike Yoshimura, who was visibly emotional when he stepped up to accept the challenge trophy from the organizer of Ramen Champion.

And the eating began...we were served all the 8 ramens featured for this season's Ramen Champion. A judging panel of illustrious individuals ranging from a minister from the Embassy of Japan to famous local and Japanese chefs, and also spotted this gentleman who goes by the name Ramen Freak:

Real name: Ishiyama, a writer from Ramen Freak...and a true ramen freak.

First off the bat, Riki, a new contender for 2012, who served their Tsukemen

With a name like riki, meaning power in Japanese, this new contender specializes in Tokyo/Jiro style ramen. The pork broth is very thick. Noodles thick and chewy. Very good start to the season.

Next up, we were served the offering from Taka no Tsume, also new this year

Called ramen deluxe with sichuan style sauce, the sauce was rich, milky, and had a beautiful aroma and kick of Szechuan peppercorns. Also added are brinjals, black fungus, cabbage, bean sprouts and spring onions. A thick, crispy chicken chop is slapped on top, and provided a beautiful tender, crisp counterpoint to the broth.

The Spicy King's ramen from Iroha was next

Spicy! The soup is based on miso. The thick slices of char siew was excellent - flavourful and tender.

Another spicy ramen followed...this one from Ikkousha

From the 2011 winner we get this magnificent interpretation...relatively light broth, homemade spicy takana (a preserved Japanese vegetable) provides a crunch and spice kick to the rich broth, which is cooked for some 12 hours, with fresh pork bones added in exchange for the older ones every few hours. Thin, wiry Hakata style ramen is used, and according to the chef, the special texture allows soup to be absorbed by the noodle.

Gantetsu served their ramen next, a King Chashu ramen

Mild broth, with 200g of chasiu...tender, well marinated. The egg was also beautifully done...just right amount of doneness...and a large piece of seaweed on the side.

Taishoken presented their Tsukemen next

Interesting in that its the only cold option,. The noodles slightly transluscent, with chilli oil and vegetables. The dippping sauce is light, spicy, and cold. A very refreshing taste due to the cold noodles and cold sauce.

Bario's offering looked like a mountain of vegetables, with some very thick, sinful pork belly peeking out from the side.

Called the Ajitama Ramen, it features thick rich broth, with fresh cabbage and bean sprouts. Signature Bario noodles - thick and chewy characterise this bowl.

Ayoyama served super rich broth with black pepper

The noodles were thin, and garnished with leek and bamboo. The half boiled egg was perfect, almost runny, and the fatty pork was not marinated to allow the taste of the broth to shine. Magnificent ramen. One of my personal favourites

Tasting 8 bowls of ramen is a challenging the end, we were somewhat confused as there were so many to try. And had to rely on tasting notes to write this post. But I thouroughly enjoyed the ramens...all very good in each their own way. For me the standouts were the Special Tonkotsu ramen from Aoyama and the King's ramen from Iroha. With the chicken chop topped ramen from Taka no Tsume just close by.

The judges, remember them, also tasted the 8 ramens, and gave their scores...and right off the bat,for Season 2012, they awarded the Judge's Choice to Ikkousha

and the entire team of chefs, being presented with the judges

Do go down to Bugis+ or Changi Airport Terminal 3 to do your own investigations on the best ramen from Japan. Certainly worthwhile experience for the ramen lover.

I attended the media event to announce 2011 winner, and also to introduce the 2012 session. Thanks to Ling of BrandInc for the invitation.

Ramen Champion
201 Victoria Street
#04-10, Bugis+ (formerly Illuma)

Ramen Champion Airport
#B2-58 Terminal 3, Changi Airport

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