A piping bowl of ramen is probably the go-to Japanese comfort food for many Singaporeans.
From the richness of the broth to the texture of the noodles to the quality of the condiments, there are many things that can make or break a bowl of ramen.
Although there's nothing quite like the authentic experience of noisily slurping down ramen at a hole-in-the-wall joint in, say, an alley in Kyoto, sometimes, we just can't get away.
And that's okay, because thankfully, many Japanese ramen names have made their way to us.
With a proliferation of these chains in recent years, we're guaranteed a great number of options to enjoy this comforting, delicious Japanese dish in the most genuine way possible - without actually having to travel.
Here are the top Japanese ramen chains in Singapore where you can get your ramen fix.
1. AFURI RAMEN
Fans of this Japanese ramen chain, rejoice. Come June 28, you'll get to indulge in its signature yuzu-scented ramen. The broth is arguably the highlight of the dish - light but flavourful, rich but citrusy, made with chicken, katsuobushi (bonito flakes), dried kombu (kelp) and vegetables - and the charcoal-grilled pork that tops each bowl is easily the icing on the cake.
The first store opened at the foot of Mount Afuri in the Kanagawa prefecture in 2001, where it was known as 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, including Lisbon, Portugal and now, Singapore.
Afuri Singapore is located at #B1-29 Funan, 107 North Bridge Rd, Singapore 179105, tel: 6970 1386.
2. KONJIKI HOTOTOGISU
Hailing from Tokyo, Japan is the renowned 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 stand out 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 Fukugawa Meshi (clam rice).
Konjiki Hototogisu is located at 30 Victoria St, #01-17, Singapore 187996, tel: 6256 3155.
3. RAMEN NAGI
It took almost a decade for Ramen Nagi to set up shop on our shores, but the wait has been well worth it. Founded by Chef Satoshi Ikuta, this famous ramen chain from Fukuoka has won the Tokyo Ramen of the Year Championship for three consecutive years and now has over 50 outlets worldwide.
The reason for its roaring success? Customisable bowls (you can choose things such as how rich you want the broth to be, level of spiciness, choice of meat and vegetables and firmness of noodles), fresh ingredients and generous toppings (think juicy slabs of Nagi pork chashu), and, of course, the award-winning tonkotsu pork broth.
Ramen Nagi is located at 9 Temasek Boulevard, #01-512/513, Suntec City Tower II, Singapore 038989, tel: 6821 1601.
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 has a lot to live up to. And it does. Best known for its Hakata (tonkotsu) ramen, it boasts a unique broth enhanced with a special blend of miso paste and fragrant garlic oil that's light, yet flavourful, and not in the least cloying.
You can even choose the hardness of your noodles and request for an extra serving of noodles for just $2 if you have leftover soup after finishing your noodles.
Visit here for store locations.
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 together. Having won over his family with his own creation, he decided to open his own business, using the exact same recipe featuring thin-noodle ramen served with generous slices of char-siu and pickled plums. Later, he introduced the tokusen toroniku (pork cheek) ramen that became the highlight of the chain. 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 broth will have you slurping down the entire bowl.
Hokkaido Santouka Ramen is located at The Central, 6 Eu Tong Sen St, #02-76, Singapore 059817, tel: 6224 0668. Visit www.facebook.com/SantoukaSG
6. MARUTAMA RAMEN
Instead of the regular pork-based broth many ramen stores go with, Marutama Ramen serves chicken broth instead. Going against the grain seems to work for them, though, as its broth is lighter than the tonkotsu but nonetheless packed with a hearty flavour that appeals to the local palate - a worthy alternative to the pork-based ramen.
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, earning Marutama Ramen the "Best Tamago" award.
Visit here for store locations.
7. RAMEN KEISUKE TONKOTSU KING
The Keisuke chain does not repeat its concepts, so each outlet in Singapore specialises in different types of ramen - tonkotsu (pork broth), tori (chicken), gyoza (dumplings) and lobster, to name a few (it has 17 concepts, and counting!).
The joints are small, seating only about 20 people, which partially explains the queues. The other reason - which is also its biggest draw - is the tonkotsu broth, which is boiled for hours to reach a milky consistency that makes you want to slurp everything up. You also get to customise your bowl by choosing the texture of your noodles, the richness of your soup, and the amount of toppings.
Visit the website for store locations.
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 bone, vegetables, and dried sardine – all imported directly from Japan – is arguably what sets Sanpoutei apart from other ramen joints. Fresh batches of noodles are also handmade daily for maximum springiness and freshness.
Visit here for store locations.
This article was first published in Her World Online.