A piping bowl of ramen is probably the go-to Japanese comfort food for many Singaporeans, especially if it’s sweater weather.
TBH, nothing beats the authentic experience of noisily slurping down ramen at a hole-in-the-wall joint in a Kyoto alley.
Also TBH, many outstanding Japanese ramen brands have made their way to our shores, so there’s nothing stopping us from recreating that comfort eating (or should we say, slurping) experience in the most genuine way possible.
Here are our top picks of Japanese ramen restaurants in Singapore to get your fix.
1. Afuri Ramen
This Japanese ramen chain’s signature dish is its ramen with yuzu. The light and citrusy broth – made with chicken, katsuobushi (bonito flakes), dried kombu (kelp) and vegetables – is the highlight of the dish. Each bowl also comes topped with a slice of charcoal-grilled pork, a piece of seaweed, and a ramen egg.
The first store opened at the foot of Mount Afuri in Kanagawa prefecture in 2001, where it was known as Zund-Bar. The name Afuri was later established in 2003 when it opened in Ebisu, Tokyo, and as a testament to its popularity, it now has 15 stores worldwide.
#B1-29 Funan Mall, Singapore 179105
2. Konjiki Hototogisu
Hailing from Tokyo is Konjiki Hototogisu, a soba house that started out as an eight-seater shop founded by chef Atsushi Yamamoto.
From 2015 to 2018, it was consecutively awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand title before achieving one-Michelin-star status in the 2019 Tokyo Michelin Guide. What makes Konjiki Hototogisu unique is its soup base, which is cooked with pork broth and Hamaguri clams for a refreshing yet full-bodied flavour.
Its Shio Hamaguri Soup Signature comes with white truffle oil and black truffle paste in the broth. Bonus: Every order of ramen comes with a free bowl of delicious Fukugawa Meshi (clam rice).
#01-17 Chijmes, Singapore 187996
3. Ramen Nagi
It took almost a decade for Ramen Nagi to set up shop here, but the wait has been worth it. Founded by chef Satoshi Ikuta, this famous ramen chain from Fukuoka won the Tokyo Ramen of the Year Championship for three consecutive years and has more than 50 outlets worldwide.
The reason for its roaring success? Customisable bowls – you can choose the richness of the broth, its level of spiciness, the firmness of noodles, etc. – fresh ingredients and generous toppings (think juicy slabs of Nagi pork chashu), and, of course, their award-winning tonkotsu pork broth.
#01-512/513, Suntec City Tower II, Singapore 038989
#B4-54 Ion Orchard, Singapore 238801
As one of the most popular ramen restaurants in the world with over 175 stores globally, and headed by the Ramen King Shigemi Kawahara (who won the nationwide championship thrice), Ippudo Ramen easily lives up to its reputation.
This Japanese ramen chain is best known for its Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen, where the broth is creamy and fragrant, enhanced by a special blend of miso paste and garlic oil.
You can even choose the hardness of your noodles, and request for an extra serving for just $2 if you have leftover soup.
Ippudo has eight stores islandwide.
5. Hokkaido Santouka Ramen
Santouka Ramen came about when its founder, Hitoshi Hatanaka, decided to make good ramen for his family after a particularly underwhelming meal they had.
Having won over his family with his creation, Hatanaka decided to open his own ramen joint, using the exact same recipe featuring thin noodles served with generous slices of char siew and pickled plums.
He later introduced the tokusen toroniku (pork cheek) ramen that has become the chain’s signature. You can choose from four pork-broth soup bases: shio (salt), shoyu (soy), miso or kara-miso. The meat is served separately from the noodles to preserve the original taste of the broth, and the moreish soup will have you slurping down the entire bowl in no time.
#02-76 The Central, Singapore 059817
6. Marutama Ramen
Instead of the regular pork-based broth, Marutama Ramen serves chicken broth. Going against the grain seems to work for them. The chicken broth is lighter, but nonetheless packed with a heartiness that appeals to a good number of local palates.
To maintain the quality of its dishes, the MSG-free broth is freshly simmered every day for about five hours and the noodles are made from flour imported from Fukuoka.
Of worthy mention is its half-boiled egg, which is thoroughly steeped in a special soy-based seasoning, which earned the chain the “Best Tamago” award in Japan.
Marutama Ramen has five locations in Singapore.
7. Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King
The Keisuke chain does not repeat its concepts, so each of its ramen outlets specialises in different types – such as tonkotsu (pork broth), tori (chicken), duck, crab and even the decadent lobster.
Its outlets are relatively small, which partially explains the queues. The other reason – which is also its biggest draw – is its tonkotsu broth that has been simmered for hours to reach a milky consistency. You also get to customise your bowl by choosing the noodle texture, the richness of the soup, and the amount of toppings.
Overall, the chain has 20 outlets, with no less than 16 concepts. Aside from ramen, they have speciality stores that serve tendon bowls, hamburg steaks, and gyozas.
8. Sanpoutei Ramen
Aside from its classic shoyu ramen, which hails from Niigata, Sanpoutei is also best known for its house special: the Niigata Shoyu Ramen, which comes with a clear fish stock instead of the regular tonkotsu fare.
The broth, which is boiled for about six hours with chicken, pork bones, vegetables, and dried sardines – all imported directly from Japan – is what sets Sanpoutei apart from other ramen joints. Fresh batches of noodles are also handmade daily for maximum springiness and freshness.
#01-01 Holland Village, Singapore 278982
#B1-04/05 Shaw House, Singapore 238868
9. Menbaka Ramen Singapore
Ignite your cravings, ramen fans, for the famous Kyoto-based Menbaka Fire Ramen has reached Singapore’s shores; this is the brand’s the first and only international outlet. The brand was started by Masamichi Miyazawa in 1984 near Nijo Castle, and the Singapore branch is currently helmed by his son Shin Miyazawa.
Every bowl of ramen served here comes with a literal dose of fiery passion. Try the signature Shoyu Fire Ramen, where the umami broth was coaxed out of chicken bones, and a blend of bonito and mackerel flakes. Then, watch as your bowl – covered with a layer of green onions – is set on fire with the help of green onion oil poured on top.
#05-03 Cineleisure Orchard, Singapore 239695
Tetsu at JEM’s Don Don Donki is one of the ramen brands that helped spark a tsukemen (dipping noodles) revolution in Japan.
The noodles are made from a mixture of bread and udon flour, and are cooled and tightened with cold water after boiling. This results in a chewy texture that allows the slivers of the rich broth to cling onto.
The broth meanwhile, is made with pork bones and various seafood, complete with a subtle yuzu kick. After you’re done with your noodles, ask for hot dashi broth to pour into the remaining dipping sauce that will result in a warm, comforting bowl of soup.
Aside from its signature tsukemen, the shop also serves a tonkotsu-based alternative.
#02-24/26 & #03-27/29 JEM, Singapore 608549
11. Kanshouku Ramen Bar
While a majority of ramen brands here have their roots in Japan, there is one local entry on this list. Started by a pair of good friends, Kanshouku is the go-to place if you’re craving that truffle kick.
Kanshoku’s signature is a bowl of dry ramen tossed in truffle oil and bits of real truffle, topped with an onsen egg, more truffle shavings, and two slices of blow-torched char siew.
Jazz your bowl up by adding a marinated ramen egg, corn, or even more slices of char siew. Among its soup-based ramen options also sits a truffle broth ramen, that has a milder-yet-equally-good truffle taste to its dry cousin.
Kanshoku Ramen Bar has three outlets in Singapore.
12. Ramen Kiou
Hailing from Osaka, Ramen Kiou’s first outlet in Singapore was at Jurong Point, before it opened up a second at Great World. Both stores are part of &JOY Dining Hall, a Japanese multi-concept food court.
There are several conventional options on offer such as the Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen, but what stands out is the Tomato Cheese Ramen. Thin ramen noodles are placed in a rich and tangy tomato broth, topped with a piece of cheese that is torched. There is also an option to make the soup cheesier.
The taste is akin to eating to pasta with a tomato-based sauce, complete with that basil punch. Very appetising.
#B1-49 Jurong Point, Singapore 648332
#B1-133 Great World, Singapore 237994
13. Kanada-Ya Singapore
Established in 2009 in the small town of Yukuhashi in Fukuoka, Kanada-Ya now has close to 20 outlets worldwide, in major cities such as London and Hong Kong. They currently have four outlets in Singapore and have plans to open more.
Kanada-Ya’s pride and joy is its pork bone broth that is boiled for 18 hours, before a secret sauce – handmade by the founder and imported directly from the original restaurant in Japan – is added, to bring out the richness of the broth.
Go for the Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen, which is the original recipe promising thin Hakata-style noodles in a luscious, creamy broth accompanied by tender pork slices and a flavoured egg. If you’re feeling fancy, go for the Truffle Ramen, of which only 20 bowls are available daily per outlet.
14. Menya Kanae
At Novena MRT is this small Japanese cafe that transforms into an izakaya by night, bringing with it a menu filled with Hokkaido-style miso ramen and sandos (sandwiches) that revolve around the humble ebi (prawn).
The highlight here is the signature Tokusei Sapporo Ebi Tonkotsu Ramen, which comes in both spicy and non-spicy versions
Regardless of the version, Menya Kanae’s broth is a blend of prawn heads, lobster bisque, seafood sauce and pork-bone broth, left boiling over the stove for four hours.
In addition to tender slices of char siew, this surf-and-turf dish also features two fresh, chargrilled tiger prawns and a handful of crunchy Sakura ebi tempura bits – giving you the best of both worlds!
#01-08, 275 Thomson Road, Singapore 307645
This article was first published in Her World Online.