Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ramen Champion: Mendokoro Aoi versus Tonkotsu Itto

[Photo & Text by Guest Writer Kerri]
It was a yummy mid-week for me with an exclusive Blogger Food Tasting session at Ramen Champion Bugis+. For those who have yet been to Ramen Champion, this place feels like a Japanese version of Marché restaurant, but it brings several different famous Japanese ramen brands together to satisfy the cravings of ramen lovers! I am one of the lucky ones who gets to savour the two popular new Tonkotsu brands from Japan, namely Mendokoro Aoi and Tonkotsu Itto, which Ramen Champion has handpicked from Gunma and Tokyo respectively. 

We had quite a good start with the appetizers, Prawn Dipping Sauce with Cracker($4) from Mendokoro Aoi and Gyoza ($6) from Tonkotsu Itto. The Prawn Dipping Sauce tasted quite mild (didn’t really have the prawn-like flavor), but overall it still tasted good with the cracker. 

The gyoza was pretty good, considering the fact that it specialize in ramen though I would prefer gyozas at Osaka Ohsho.

Next up, one of the highlights at the food tasting, Mendokoro Aoi’s Tonkotsu-Ramen Champion ($16.50) by Chef Kazuo Sakuraoka. The ramen presentation did reduce my excitement a little, however the white cloudy ramen broth was nice, light, flavorful. It does not contain the smell of pork bones. It’s one of the lighter tonkotsu broth which I’ve tried thus far. If you love tonkotsu but don’t like some of the heavier, oilier versions elsewhere, you might like Mendokoro Aoi. 

Perhaps one of the few minus points would be it was served rather lukewarm, not piping hot as I expected. The Chashu was slightly overcooked thus a tad too soft for my preference, though the thin layers of fat literally melts in my mouth. Well, at least the noodles were not too overcooked. Strangely, the Ajitama (flavoured egg) was under-cooked with runny egg whites. 

Malcolm( Senior Marketing Executive of Komars Group, mentioned that unlike the traditional tonkotsu, Mendokoro Aoi’s broth is cooked with a big flame over shorter hours, thus resulting in a smooth broth. The added pork and chicken feet also provide extra collagen giving the broth a creamier taste. Spices such as garlic, ginger and chilli are added for a mild spicy flavour which masks the smell of pork bones.

In contrast, Tonkotsu Itto’s Special Tonkotsu Ramen ($16.50) (by Chef Yukihiko Sakamoto) is prepared in the traditional tonkotsu way where the pork-based soup is cooked for several hours to allow the essence of the pork bone to fill up the base.

The ramen looks very appetizing (as compared to Aoi) and the portion was generous here, with big slices of tender Chashu conquering half the entire surface of the bowl. I felt a tinge of disappointment after tasting the broth though this Hakata style of ramen (albeit originated from Tokyo) boasts the taste of rich pork-bone tonkotsu broth with rather thin, non-curly, resilient noodles. 


Like in most ramen-ya,  the use of Chashu is not restricted to ramen. A pretty good side dish was Mendokoro Aoi's Chashu Carpaccio($7)--a sliced chashu salad garnished with tomatoes, onions and peanuts.

What’s beneath the dried bonito flakes? Takoyaki balls? NO, it’s POTATO!! Or more correctly, Garlic Butter Potato Wedges ($5), an East-meets-West fusion dish which was one of my favourites that evening.


The deep-fried Tofu (Agedashi Tofu) with Japanese Sauce($4) was warm and tasty. The Japanese shoyu was not too salty and would be ideal with sprinkles of dried bonito flakes. That siad, it still tasted great.

Bearing strong resemblance to Chinese Style Braised Pork Buns (Kong Bak Bao/扣肉包), the Sukiyaki Bun ($3) from Buta God contained thin, wiggly slices of pork belly and lettuce sans the dark braised sauce. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on this dish because I was too full to gobble down the whole thing and too paiseh (shy) to eat just the sliced pork belly. I’m full of regrets looking at this photo right now!

Currently, the 6 ramen brands that we have are Tonkotsu Itto, Mendokoro Aoi, Menban Yamagishi Kazuo, Buta God, Gantetsu and Bario! For this latest battle between Mendokoro Aoi and Tonkotsu Itto, my vote goes to Mendokoro Aoi’s for its broth as well as its springy, chewy noodles which were a notch above Itto's. I could not get used to the taste of egg noodles in Itto's version though its chashu won me over

Who’s the Ramen Champion in your heart?

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ABOUT RAMEN CHAMPION SINGAPORE
Since it started in 2011, the ULTIMATE RAMEN CHAMPION competition has established itself to be a favorite amongst lovers of Japanese cuisine. Over 13 brands have participated and the spirit of competition has brought about the desire to produce high-quality and good-tasting ramen to the delight of ramen lovers everywhere.

Currently one of the largest ramen operations in Singapore, it has served over a million satisfied customers from its 2 outlets in Changi Airport and Bugis+, with new outlet at Great World City opening in early November 2013. Despite its success, Ramen Champion still continues to strive to provide for the best in order to satisfy the cravings of its customers.

Ramen Champion at Bugis+
201 Victoria Street, Bugis+ #04-10,
11.30am-10.30pm Daily

Changi Airport Terminal 3 Outlet
#B2-58 Terminal 3 
10.30am-11pm Daily

www.ramenchampion.com.sg/

Special thanks to Komars Group and Ramen Champion Singapore for the kind invitation and great hospitality!

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