Best Ramen in Singapore Contender #3: Santouka: The secret is Kurobuta!

Santouka's Shio Ramen with signature Umeboshi $13

Remember that in my previous articles I made the point that Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) style broth is found in Kyushu but not in Hokkaido?  There is one exception to that rule and that is the Ramen found in Asahikawa, the 2nd largest city in Hokkaido after Sapporo.  Here is an oasis where you can find the marriage of curly yellow noodles with Tonkotsu based soup which is the combination that is the favorite amongst Singaporeans.  It is said that Asahikawa is the only place in Hokkaido where Tonkotsu based soup is an acceptable variation.  But theirs is not purely Kyushu style Tonkotsu soup either, but rather it marries the Hokkaido style of a seafood based soup with the rich Kyushu style Tonkotsu broth to produce a hearty, muscular soup which is sweet and delicate at the same time.



Santouka is a major chain of Ramen restaurants which can be found around the world and like MacDonold's, the bowl of Ramen with its signature blue coloured bowl and Umeboshi (Pickled plum) served in Singapore looks exactly the same as the ones served elsewhere around the world.

Curly Yellow Noodles imported from Kobayashi Noodle Factory

The Tokusen Toroniku (special pork cheek) Ramen is the hot favorite amongst our kakis and is the one that we all go for when we eat at Santouka.  What is so special about this Toroniku you say?  Well, let's just say that if you enjoy the meltingly tender Japanese style Charshu, then this is XO version of it.  Toroniku is made from pork cheek and each pig has only two cheeks (on the head that is, there are two other cheeks found at the other end of the pig)  So everyday, the restaurant only has a limited number of portions available.  You might want to call up first if you are going there just to experience the Toroniku.

A slice of Pork Cheek (Tokusen Toroniku)

The Toroniku is served separate from the Ramen and the proper way to eat it is to soak the slice of Chashu into the hot soup so that the fats start to melt before you place it between your tongue and palate to dissolve.  Pork cheek is actually very tough because it is a very well exercised muscle since pigs are always piggin' out.   It was considered a cheap cut of meat until someone discovered that if it was cooked slowly over a long time, those tough strands break down into something gorgeously gelatinous and velvety which is unlike any other part of the pig.

The Toroniku can be slightly salty if it were just eaten off the plate. But when you leave it in the broth for a while, it adds an extra kick to your soup while at the same time warming up to the consistency of melting butter.   As far as I can see, everyone treats their Toroniku with the same respect as they would with a slice of Otoro (Tuna Belly).

Of the three different soups, Shio, Shoyu and Miso, the most popular is the Shio.  The Shio is essentially their Tonkotsu based soup with salt.  This Tonkotsu based soup is slightly different from the standard Kyushu variety in that it is sweeter because of the addition of seafood in the soup base.  This gives the Shio a bit of character and depth of flavour.  The manager here also tells me that they use Kurobuta (Black Pig) pork bones which are imported from the US to boil the soup!  Ahso!  That's why the soup is so shiok!


Charshu $7

It turns out that they also use Kurobuta to make their normal Charshu  as well, which, incidentally is one of the best in town.  The Charshu here has that fragrant nutty aroma, characteristic of Kurobuta pork which wafts up your nostrils when you savour the meat. 

Kurobuta Tonkatsu $11

But if you want to eat more Kurobuta Pork, what you should do is to order the Tonkatsu, which is also made from Kurobuta Pork.  For $7, you only get four slices of Charshu which is quite expensive. But for $11, you can get a thick slab of Kurobuta Pork Tonkatsu which is probably the cheapest Kurobuta Tonkatsu you can find in Singapore!  It is expertly done and is almost as good as the $26 ones that you get from the special Tonkatsu restaurants. Now this is what I call a lobang (special tip).

Noodles: 4.25/5, Soup 4.5/5, Chashu 4.6/5

Conclusion

One of the best bowls of Ramen in Singapore with an excellent Charshu to boot.  Santouka also offers excellent value as they use imported noodles as well as US Kurobuta Pork.  It's no wonder that it is the top Ramen joint among some of our kakis!

Ramen Santouka
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#02-76 The Central

Tel: +65 6224 0668

Have a look at Rameniac's Map of Ramen! Here is where you can learn about the regional variations of Ramen across Japan.

The Bank's biggest dining promotion is back again till 16 June. This means you can enjoy 15% CashBack on any meal, in any restaurant, at anytime, anywhere is Singapore! So charge your meal to your Standard Chartered Credit/Debit card to enjoy 15% CashBack at all Ramen joints from now till 16 June and another 10% to 15% off (almost 30% off) at selected merchants!  SMS GET15[space]card number to 78722 to register for this promotion!

The list of the Hungrygowhere Top 10 ramens can be found at the Hungrygowhere website.


This project is sponsored by Standard Chartered.  You can find out more about their excellent dining promotions at - www.standardchartered.com.sg.

11 comments:

Jyoan said...

Ate this today.

I like the view of Singapore river that the place gets. The furniture is spaced out though the place is not big. Good for normal date. =) I think the long row of seats outside is made for waiting??? Very considerate of them. It's even cushioned.

Yes, the pork cheeks are good. I must be quite lucky to have them today without calling up. =) Quite a lot, I'd say. Got something like 6 big pieces, and I only bite maybe 1/4 each mouthful of noodles I take. So by the time it finishes, I ate enough noodles and drank enough soup to be very full.

Okay, here comes the critic part. I am so sorry guys, but the taste, just the taste, did remind me of Narcissus brand canned stew pork (which I have love for 20 years already). But the texture and amount of fats (which is little and not visible, so is good grade meat) is definitely something you would not get outside. =) So yes, I do like the taste, and the meat as a whole.

I didn't find it that salty, and enjoyed the plain version. So I basically soaked half in the soup and ate half plain. (The soup is very hot, soak first, don't try to eat. The noodles also very hot. Got burnt a bit.)

The soup is tasty, and has that special a bit herb kind of taste. I know it's spicy miso as I ordered. But miso taste is always so refreshing I will be taken aback and trying to figure out what's so special, then realise it's miso.

I find the soup on the salty side and would advise not to drink it. Now I understand what choushouzi means when he says MSG. I drank a lot, and was very thirsty after that. It's not spicy as in spicy Singaporeans would probably expect. So I was a bit disappointed since I like to eat spicy food.

Yes, the noodles pass the QQ-test. =)

The green tea here is good, because you get a whole boiling teapot to yourself with the tea bag. I guess that means no free flow. But the two cups that the one pot poured was more than enough for me.

The half-cooked hard-boiled egg is good too. Very flowy yolk. But can be a bit messy if you hold it slanting. lol.

If you are looking for the same taste of soup (in fact, I think better), Beppu Japanese Noodles at Tiong Bahru Plaza is better. I drank up every drop, and if you choose spicy, it is really spicy. However, the meat and noodles are definitely no match for Santouka (which is also expectedly more expensive). =)

Service is pretty good too. So yes, will be back for the other ramen styles one by one. I want to try the pork cheek bun. And will recommend and ask my friend along too.

Jeff said...

I love the Tokusen Toroniku (special pork cheek) Shio Ramen here, one of my favourite ramen.

Anonymous said...

I tried their Ramen at the Liang Court Branch but find the soup base too saltish for my liking. However, I was told this is how authentic Ramen should taste.

Sumosumo said...

for the japanese, apparently the soup is not meant to be drunk completely. the noodles and ingredients are the main purpose of eating ramen. the soup base is deliberately salted more to give taste to the noodles.

Sumosumo said...

imo, the soup and chasiu is the best part of the ramen @ santouka. they use belly pork for the chasiu.

the ramen itself for me, i cant tell the difference between this and other chains.

dylan said...

The blog is really great. The foods are looking delicious. I like the green tea most.

Jyoan said...

Sumosumo, yes, it's for dipping. And I do not have the habit of drinking soups at all, especially not oil flooded ones.

However, when something gets to a certain level of good taste, people can't help but drink. I also wanted to taste out the secret in the soup. When I finally realised it's miso as I ordered, I drank too much. haha. Stupid, stupid.

About the noodles, you've described it better. Not distinctive is the word. haha, no wonder I couldn't find anything else to say other than "Q" and "pass".

Holy Drummer said...

Again, this is Number 1 for me.

I'd whack the entire bowl of noodles and drink up all the soup right to the last drop.

As it stands, nothing else beats the Toroniku Tokusen Shio Ramen. Best in SG for me.

ieat said...

Sumo is right, for the rich tonkotsu broth Japanese tend not to finish it. However, with Tokyo style ramen, they will.

holybro said...

Still the standard bearer of the tonkotsu broth, Santouka also remains my top Ramen place with it rich flavour and beautiful tokusen toriniku!! Pork cheeks are so meltingly delicious!

By the way, do try their tonkatsu too. Surprisingly good for $11+, they give you kurobuta. Quite juicy with a little fat to give it that extra OMMPH. And for some reason, it actually tastes better than most other shops in SG that specializes in tonkatsu.

Takeshi Saka said...

Santouka! they have a new facebook page and giving out 1 for 1 coupon!!
http://www.facebook.com/RamenSantoukaSingapore

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