I was invited to the media launch of Ultimate Ramen Champion 2013 at Bugis+ recently, which got me all excited as I am a huge ramen fan. The media launch was a grand affair complete with a delightful Japanese dance performance and interviews with the chefs of the respective Ramen outlets. We were also treated to a sumptuous ramen tasting adventure that absolutely tantalized our taste buds.
Established in 2011, the Ultimate Ramen Champion competition has since become a favourite among fans of Japanese cuisine. In every competition, the brand that is able to sell the highest number of bowls of ramen during the year would be crowned the winner. The judging criteria also includes sales takings, votes on Facebook and onsite voting.
Thus far, over 13 brands have participated in this competition and the spirit of competition has propelled the quality of ramen to new heights. This is certainly something for ramen lovers like me to rejoice about!
Here's Koji Tashiro san, producer of Ramen Champion, kicking off the media launch with a warm welcome.
The 3 chefs on the left are the winners for the Ultimate Ramen Champion 2012, which took place from 1st Aug 2012 to 31 July 2013.
The leftmost chef represents Ikkousha, which sold 118,500 bowls of ramen and became the reigning champion for 3 years in a row! Gantetsu (whose chef was standing beside Producer Koji Tashiro san) sold 64,300 bowls and came in second, while Bario (the chef is in red) came in 3rd with 60,600 bowls.
At the same time, we were also introduced to 3 new competitors from Tokyo, namely Muso, Menban Yamagishi Kazuo and Buta God.
The Ultimate Ramen Champion 2013 will take place over a period of 1 year from 1 Aug 2013 - 31 July 2014. Other than these 6 brands from Ramen Champion's Bugis+ outlet, an additional 3 brands from its Changi Airport Terminal 3 outlet will be participating in this competition as well.
How will these 9 brands fare? Will Ikkousha be able to defend its title as the winner? Only time will tell. ;)
Here's Karen and I with the Producer Koji Tashiro san before we embarked on our ramen tasting adventure.
The line-up of piping hot ramen was a feast for our senses. We had a slice of Japan right before our eyes and the glorious presentation was an amazing sight to behold. I had a really light meal before the media launch to ensure that I had sufficient stomach space to devour these delicacies.
1) Buta God: Nikumashi Ramen (S$15)
The first bowl of ramen that we tried was the Nikumashi Ramen by Buta God. Buta God is a new contestant that specializes in Pork ramen with a unique Tonkotsu broth. Buta God's Nikumashi Ramen is unique in that it comes with a poached egg instead of a soft-boiled egg, which adds to the intensity of flavours.
Everyone at my table agreed that the star of this ramen was the noodles, which were cooked to a wonderful springy consistency and the perfect complement to the exceptionally flavourful broth.
I also enjoyed the thinly sliced pork belly. The meat was lean, tasty and absolutely delectable!
We were greeted by Chef Mamoru Kanaya as we were savouring every bite of his lovely gastronomic creation. He opined that his Japanese customers found this particular ramen too sweet for their liking, but was relieved when all of us begged to differ. I think the hint of sweetness that came from the pork gave the broth a burst of flavours that was absolutely divine.
This beautifully executed bowl of ramen left me feeling so satisfied, I was ready to proclaim it my favourite out of the lot. In fact, I personally think that Buta God is one of the strongest contenders for this year's competition.
2) Menban Yamagishi Kazuo: Special Ramen (S$14.50)
Next up was Menban Yamagishi Kazuo's Special Ramen. This was good, but not spectacular, especially if you prefer lean meat. The cha shu meat is lined with sinful layers of soft, tender fats which melt in your mouth. If you love fatty cha shu meat, then this is the ramen for you. :) The light sprinkle of spring onions also enhanced the flavour of the broth and added a delightful touch to the dish.
3) Gantetsu: King Chashu Ramen (S$15)
The broth in Gantetsu's King Chashu Ramen was infused with a very strong chashu flavour. What I liked about this ramen was the generous portions of lean chashu meat, which are hard to come by these days.
4) Ikkousha: Special Ramen (S$16)
We finally got to taste the highly raved Ikkousha Special Ramen. It came as no surprise that Ikkousha won the championship 3 years in a row. The Hakata style ramen is an instant hit with Singaporeans.
Did you know that the broth is cooked for 12 hours and the pork bone is changed every few hours? You can definitely taste the essence of the pork bone in the flavourful broth. Yummy!
5) Muso: Special Cha Cha Ramen (S$15)
Muso's chef, Masaaki Kawamura, was crowned the number 1 ramen chef in Tokyo and Hong Kong. That got us excited and we were all waiting in anticipation for Muso's Special Cha Cha Ramen to be served.
What hit me first was the rich and tasty broth which clearly distinguishes the brand from the rest of its competitors. An ingenious concoction made from chicken, pork and vegetable broth, the ramen broth was absolutely unique and a delight to savour. The thick slices of cha shu were very lean and fresh, just the way I like it. I also loved the eggs and the springy noodles (albeit slightly less springy than Buta God's). I honestly couldn't decide if I preferred this or Buta God's Nikumashi Ramen. I think Ikkousha is going to be up against some tough competition this year!
6) Bario: Ajitama Ramen (S$14)
Bario's Ajitama Ramen was listed as one of the top 50 things to eat in the world by The Guardian UK. Cooked over 12 hours, the broth is very thick and rich in flavour. As delicious as the broth may be, what really makes this bowl of ramen stand out from the rest of its competitors is its noodles. Bario uses very thick, chewy and flat noodles, similar to 'Meepok'. It was surprisingly scrumptious, especially when paired with the garlic and chili flakes that accompanied this bowl of ramen goodness.
Are you all psyched up for ramen now? Head on down to Ultimate Ramen Champion today and take your pick!
Ramen Champion is currently running a photo contest in conjunction with ASUS too!
Here's how you can take part to stand a chance to win an ASUS Fonepad:
2) Head on down to either of the Ultimate Ramen Champion outlets
201 Victoria Street, Bugis+,
#04-10, Singapore 188607.
Operating Hours: 11.30am to 10.30pm (Daily)
Changi Airport Terminal 3 Outlet
65 Airport Boulevard,
#B2-58 Terminal 3, T3,
Singapore Changi Airport,
Operating Hours: 10.30am to 11.00pm (Daily)
3) Creatively snap photos of the ramen or the interior of the shop and post them up on Ramen Champion's facebook page to participate and win an ASUS Fonepad!
The contest ends today!
If you haven't made lunch or dinner plans, you know where to go!