Fresh wild mushrooms with oyster sauce

29 10 2014

THERE COMES a time in a culinarian’s life when recipes he can put together on auto–pilot need to finally be committed to paper.  Or, a blog post.

One such time is when one of my dearest friends – all the way from the City of Trees – hit me up with, “Any ideas on what to do with fresh mushrooms?”

"What to do with fresh mushrooms?! "  Here is a pile of fresh shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

“What to do with fresh mushrooms?! ” Here is a pile of fresh shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

 

Something about the sight of a pile of fresh mushrooms always just...  gets me!

Something about the sight of a pile of fresh mushrooms always just… gets me!

 

Slice the fresh shiitake mushrooms – caps, stems and all.  Do the same for white button, Swiss brown, baby bellos, and creminis.

Slice the fresh shiitake mushrooms – caps, stems and all. Do the same for white button, Swiss brown, baby bellos, and creminis.

 

As will be mentioned in the recipe below, all – except the oyster variety – should be sliced.

As will be mentioned in the recipe below, all – except the oyster variety – should be sliced.

 

I couldn't help but take an aerial of this beautifully, randomly piled sliced fresh shiitakes.

I couldn’t help but take an aerial of this beautifully, randomly piled sliced fresh shiitakes.

This – not the mushroom cream sauce – first came to mind.

 

Bertolli® Classico “Mild Taste” Olive Oil, a thin film on the pan

Garlic, six cloves (or to taste) finely minced

A medley of fresh wild mushrooms, 500 grams

Lee Kum Kee® or Woh Hup® Oyster Sauce, two to three heaping tablespoons

 

Heat a heavy bottom skillet over low–medium flame.  I prefer to use the ones that are really wider than they are taller.  Add a thin film of the Bertolli® Classico “Mild Taste” Olive Oil or any vegetable oil.  In it, sauté finely minced garlic.  I go crazy with the garlic sometimes and it could be really strong.  So err on the side of caution.

Once the garlic has (been) cooked through – I do not recommend browning the garlic at all – add the mushrooms in one layer as much as possible, or at most two.  I usually go with a mix of “wild” mushrooms – white button, Swiss brown, shiitake, cremini, baby (porto)bellos, and rarely, I would throw in some oyster (still, the mushroom, not the mollusk).  At two vacuum–sealed packs at 250 grams each, we are talking about 500 grams of mushrooms.  But you know me, I do tend to go crazy sometimes with eyeballing stuff and I’d end up throwing in more than that – putting a huge dent on what should be for the following day’s menu.

Allow the mushrooms to get heated through without stirring.  Once the sauté comes back to a sizzle, stir the whole thing to mix everything up.

At this point, add the magic ingredient – really good oyster sauce.  It has always been Lee Kum Kee® or Woh Hup® with me.  But feel free to use any brand you prefer.  Two to three heaping tablespoons should do it.

Fresh mushrooms do not take long to cook.  So I guess this should take all of only 10 minutes from when the minced garlic hits the heated oil.

I have this with lots of steaming hot white jasmine rice or Japanese pearl rice and I’m tremendously pleased – both by how satisfying this simple meal is and how quick it took from stove to stomach.

"Once the garlic has (been) cooked through – I do not recommend browning the garlic at all – add the mushrooms in one layer as much as possible, or at most two."

“Once the garlic has (been) cooked through – I do not recommend browning the garlic at all – add the mushrooms in one layer as much as possible, or at most two.”

 

"I usually go with a mix of “wild” mushrooms – white button, Swiss brown, shiitake, cremini, baby (porto)bellos, and rarely, I would throw in some oyster (still, the mushroom, not the mollusk)."

“I usually go with a mix of “wild” mushrooms – white button, Swiss brown, shiitake, cremini, baby (porto)bellos, and rarely, I would throw in some oyster (still, the mushroom, not the mollusk).”

 

"Once the sauté comes back to a sizzle, stir the whole thing to mix everything up.  At this point, add the magic ingredient – really good oyster sauce."

“Once the sauté comes back to a sizzle, stir the whole thing to mix everything up. At this point, add the magic ingredient – really good oyster sauce.”

 

eNTeNG's Mushrooms with Oyster Sauce is ready to be served!

eNTeNG’s Mushrooms with Oyster Sauce is ready to be served!

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Here for #28: NamNam Noodle Bar at Raffles City

28 10 2014

I NEED a really good lemon sorbet at this point, before I talk about the next ramen place on my quest.  That or a seat at the bar – right in front of the cooks – at NamNam Noodle Bar at Raffles City Shopping Centre, #B1-46/47, 252 North Bridge Road, Singapore 179103.

They can try but they can't take noodles away from me.  Haha!  This is NamNam Noodle Bar's “Phở Beef Steak Slices” (S$ 8.90).

They can try but they can’t take noodles away from me. Haha! This is NamNam Noodle Bar’s “Phở Beef Steak Slices” (S$ 8.90).

I can read the thought bubble above your head, “It is still noodles.”  Yes, but it is definitely a flavor 3368 km West Southwest of Japan.

I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to Vietnam.  Thankfully, its flavors are no stranger to me.  Unlike that of the Philippines’ (so far… it’ll change soon enough), the fate of Vietnamese cuisine isn’t one that has sent it to oblivion.  Rather, to me it stands proud as one of the more definitive Asian cuisines.

And wherever I go, I’d manage to find a Vietnamese place that captivates my palate – then my heart –   be in Folsom (California), Burlingame (California), Chicago, Boise, and of course, Manila.

I start with my Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) of choice (S$ 6.90).  On to the inside of a crusty–outside–airy–inside single–serve French baguette, I asked for cold cuts, caramelized five–spice pork belly, and chicken floss, smothered with their regular fixings pork pâté, mayonnaise, hot chilli peppers, pickled carrots, daikon radish, cucumber and lots of fresh cilantro.

My Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) of choice (S$ 6.90) – cold cuts, caramelized five–spice pork belly, and chicken floss, smothered with pork pâté, mayonnaise, hot chilli peppers, pickled carrots, daikon radish, cucumber and lots of fresh cilantro, in a French baguette.

My Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) of choice (S$ 6.90) – cold cuts, caramelized five–spice pork belly, and chicken floss, smothered with pork pâté, mayonnaise, hot chilli peppers, pickled carrots, daikon radish, cucumber and lots of fresh cilantro, in a French baguette.

 

NamNam Noodle Bar prides itself for bringing in the taste of authentic Vietnamese street food.  When the Banh Mi came in on this newspaper-print paper, in a wicker basket, I see the effort.  If it were brought to me by a waiter on a high-speed motorbike, that would've hit it our of the ball park.

NamNam Noodle Bar prides itself for bringing in the taste of authentic Vietnamese street food. When the Banh Mi came in on this newspaper-print paper, in a wicker basket, I see the effort. If it were brought to me by a waiter on a high-speed motorbike, that would’ve hit it our of the ball park.

The flavors going into the sandwich are quite traditional but what sold me to this savoury combination is the five–spice powder (star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, and fennel) that I highly suspect is used as a dry rub on the pork belly before it is either slow–roasted in the oven or braised on the stovetop to caramelized perfection.  It becomes fork tender and is the succulent star of this delectable, edible colonial influence.  In between bites, I’d sip my iced Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk (S$ 2.60).

I meant this pit stop as a respite from ramen – or, noodles in general.  So I thought all I needed was to finish my Bahn Mi and ignore the call of freshly cooked rice noodles in a broth that is equal parts rich– and clean–tasting, the layers of flavors mirrored by the layers of textures as thinly sliced white onions and a bunch of fresh herbs give off their crunch as your chewing finds its way to the tender beef slices.

But that wouldn’t be an eNTeNG thing to do.  Besides, I’d be totally remiss if I’d pass up on Vietnam’s ubiquitous culinary export – the Phở (or, pho).  I asked for the “Phở Beef Steak Slices” (S$ 8.90) which comes with the promise that the meat is served medium rare.  In my head, I went finger–snappin’ and head–bobbin’, almost singing, “That’s the way uh–huh uh–uh / I like it / uh–huh uh–huh, mashed up with…  “#Turnip for what?!”  Haha!

I squeezed the lime wedge into the broth, took a sip, closed my eyes, and savored the goodness.  I opened my eyes and knew that the world is as it should be.  Or maybe not.

I realized I should at least be wearing a nón lá – or be on a street somewhere in Hanoi – to be enjoying food this good.

Seated by the bar, I had a full view of how my steaming hot bowl of “Phở Beef Steak Slices” was prepared.

Seated by the bar, I had a full view of how my steaming hot bowl of “Phở Beef Steak Slices” was prepared.

 

I had my eye on the beef the whole time.

I had my eye on the beef the whole time.

 

I'm amazed at how much work is needed to fill a large pan like this with really thinly sliced onions and herbs.  I just had to pile a lot of this into my “Phở Beef Steak Slices”!

I’m amazed at how much work is needed to fill a large pan like this with really thinly sliced onions and herbs. I just had to pile a lot of this into my “Phở Beef Steak Slices”!

 

I love the rustic feel this metal cup brings to the table.  And the fact that it holds the order slip, which I do intend to go through completely soon enough.  Check away!

I love the rustic feel this metal cup brings to the table. And the fact that it holds the order slip, which I do intend to go through completely soon enough. Check away!

 

The “Phở Beef Steak Slices” bowl makes it to the table!  The beef steak slices are medium rare as promised!

The “Phở Beef Steak Slices” bowl makes it to the table! The beef steak slices are medium rare as promised!

 

I asked a little fresh cilantro on the side from the young chef and this was how much he gave me!

I asked a little fresh cilantro on the side from the young chef and this was how much he gave me!

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Ramen Quest: DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining at Raffles City

27 10 2014

THE NEXT stop on my ramen quest is a place, yet again just a two–minute walking distance from the nearest train station, that it offers yet another clue to my steadily expanding girth.

In an island–state as tiny as Singapore, it is both utmost convenience and the bane of one’s existence that making it to your destination doesn’t offer the prospect of benefitting from at least a 20–minute brisk walk, the daily minimum the cardiologist recommends.

"Be still my heart.  Lately it's mind is all its own."  And head over heels over ramen!  Here is the classic one  I always order at DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining.

“Be still my heart. Lately it’s mind is all its own.” And head over heels over ramen! Here is the classic one I always order at DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining.

DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining at Raffles City Shopping Centre, #B1-13, 252 North Bridge Road, Singapore 179103 promises a broth that’s thick and creamy, spiked with special homemade fish spices.  Any attempt to keep me from this – including lack of exercise – would be an exercise in futility.

The broth rivaled my forehead as it glistened under the intense table lighting.  It was slightly thick, not at all milky white, but quite flavorful, something that could only come from simmering pork and pork bones for hours.  The noodles would be what I’d call by now as of medium thickness.  I wish they were thinner.  I wish I had asked for more bamboo shoots, and had advised that I would be passing up on the flavored egg.  I swear, ignoring those egg halves surrounded by ramen noodles, conjured up a 27–year–old cinematic image that nagged inside my head with, “I’m not gonna be IGNORRRED!”  (Insert evil laughter here.)

After having consumed bowls and bowls of ramen, it has become necessary to order a side dish – of a less sinful provenance – as if it’s atonement for my gastronomic sins.  So I asked for silken tofu doused in a soya–based sauce, and topped with shards – no, pretty ribbons – of yummy bonito.  I swirled a little of the sauce in my mouth and espied a slight kick of mirin.

To atone for my sinful ramen cravings, I turn to tofu.  The bonito ribbons melt in the mouth into a salty, nutty goodness.

To atone for my sinful ramen cravings, I turn to tofu. The bonito ribbons melt in the mouth into a salty, nutty goodness.

For the tofu side alone, I’ve gone back to DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining.  Clearly, this place was not gonna be ignored.  (Cue again the evil laughter.)  Sadly, the flavored egg, unlike the dining place, had met a different fate.

Welcome to DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining!

Welcome to DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining!

 

After a sinful dinner, the vicinity of DAIKOKUYA allows for some leisurely walk (or should it be "brisk"?) to burn some of the calories.  This store is a favorite.  Haha.

After a sinful dinner, the vicinity of DAIKOKUYA allows for some leisurely walk (or should it be “brisk”?) to burn some of the calories. This store is a favorite. Haha.

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





The Blue Kitchen angel hair aligue pasta

26 10 2014

THIS RECIPE is so good it will make you want to reach for your cholesterol–lowering medication just by reading it.

But at the same time, it is quite simple that it wouldn’t drive you nuts to curl your culinary biceps (if there’s such a thing) a hundred of times just to build the muscle needed to whip this dish up.

Today’s six–ingredient fix is my The Blue Kitchen Angel Hair Aligue Pasta, the result of still having a stash of a bottle of The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue.  To someone not Filipino, “aligue” is simply crab fat, which if we’re being very specific, is not actually fat, but the heptopancreas, the innards that performs the function of both liver and pancreas.  Crack a crab open and it would be the stuff that lines the shell.  In lobsters, this is the tomalley.

Another one of my quick fixes involves a maximum of six ingredients.  This one features a new favorite bottled product – The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue!

Another one of my quick fixes involves a maximum of six ingredients. This one features a new favorite bottled product – The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue!

 

I made the acquaintance with The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue by way of a gift that found its way to the dining table at home.

I made the acquaintance with The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue by way of a gift that found its way to the dining table at home.

And to anyone Filipino or otherwise, I have to say that The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue is simply the best.  The operative word here is “pure”.  Topped off with just a tiny film of oil – it’s the perfect sunset orange hue, rife with the promise of almost buttery smooth goodness.  You taste the hint of saltiness – but not the salt.  They are online at http://www.thebluekitchen.com.

For this simple dish, all you need are

 

Bertolli® Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic

The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue

De Cecco® or San Remo® Angel Hair Pasta

Fresh Kalamansi (Small limes, or calamondin)

Millel® Parmesan Cheese (optional)

 

I add up to six tablespoons of Bertolli® extra virgin olive oil  to a heavy–bottom pan over medium heat.  I use that much oil as this sauce tends to be on the dry side, with just the pure aligue alone.  Using my handy IKEA® garlic press, I mince five large cloves of garlic directly on to the oil.  All I need is to infuse the oil with the essence of the garlic.  The moment I catch a whiff of it – which should be within mere seconds from when the garlic hits the oil – I add about three heaping tablespoons of the The Blue Kitchen Pure Aligue.  The moment the whole thing comes back to a slight bubble, I squeeze in the juice of three fat kalamansi.  All that’s left to do is to tumble in al dente De Cecco® or San Remo® angel hair pasta, which has been cooked according to package directions.  Once the pasta is completely stained with the sauce, it is ready to serve!  This one doesn’t even call for a sprinkling of salt at all.

This next step is totally optional (as I am very old school about the use of cheese on seafood–based sauces), grate – not shave! – onto this, as much Millel® parmesan cheese as you like.  Enjoy!

This has got to be one of the yummiest pastas I've ever had!  I would sometimes eat this straight out of the pan, standing by the kitchen counter.

This has got to be one of the yummiest pastas I’ve ever had! I would sometimes eat this straight out of the pan, standing by the kitchen counter.

 

All I prefer to add to my sauce is a squeeze of these fat kalamansi!

All I prefer to add to my sauce is a squeeze of these fat kalamansi!

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Pasta as a judicious use of scarce resources

23 10 2014

THE THOUGHT of having breakfast fare three times a day frees me from the constraints of the orthodox timetable.  While it is to me the perfect excuse for all places that serve “all–day breakfast”, I find that the concept of freeing oneself from these constraints allow me to fling open the pantry and the refrigerator door and let my often scarce resources yield to my culinary creativity.

That, and feeling unapologetic for having pasta first thing in the morning.

My Mushroom Cream Pasta is obviously not timid, obviously not shy.  When I need an instant high, this is what I would OD ("overdose") on – fresh wild mushrooms in various states of doneness, swimming in cream.  Heady with the hint of garlic.  Kissed by salty goodness of parmesan.

My Mushroom Cream Pasta is obviously not timid, obviously not shy. When I need an instant high, this is what I would OD (“overdose”) on – fresh wild mushrooms in various states of doneness, swimming in cream. Heady with the hint of garlic. Kissed by the salty goodness of parmesan.

Today’s six–ingredient breakfast fix is my Mushroom Cream Pasta, the result of having a stash of

 

Bertolli® Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic

Fresh Heavy Cream

Fresh Cremini and Shiitake Mushrooms

De Cecco® Angel Hair Pasta

Millel® Parmesan Cheese

 

I add two tablespoons of Bertolli® extra virgin olive oil  to a heavy–bottom pan over medium heat.  Using my handy IKEA® garlic press, I mince five large cloves of garlic directly on to the oil.  All I need is to infuse the oil with the essence of the garlic.  The moment I catch a whiff of it – which should be within mere seconds when the garlic hits the oil – I tumble in the sliced fresh cremini and shiitake mushrooms.  I make sure that I keep the mushrooms – caps, stems and all – in one layer.  I allow the mushrooms to sizzle away, stirring only at the moment when they’ve given up most of their yummy juices.  At this point, I pour in the heavy cream.  If you’d ask me how precise the measurement is, I’d say, put just enough to cover the mushrooms.  The moment the whole thing comes back to a bubble, turn off the heat and tip this sauce over waiting al dente De Cecco® angel hair pasta, which has been cooked according to package directions.  Shave – not grate! – onto this, as much Millel® parmesan cheese as you like.  Enjoy!  (Before any one of you accuses me of not seasoning the sauce with salt – knowing well enough that any underseasoned food is vile – the cheese takes care of this needed flavoring.)

By the way, a word of caution along the lines of the orthodox, this time with regards to preparing vegetables.  While everything else calls for thorough washing under running water, please do not do this to mushrooms!  The best way to prepare them is to wipe them clean with a slightly damp cloth.

For the mushrooms I cook into the sauce, I'm perfectly fine with keeping the stems.  For the garnish on top, just before serving, I just use the caps.  By the way, do you notice those plimp cloves of garlic peeking from behind the earthy brown pile of umami goodness?

For the mushrooms I cook into the sauce, I’m perfectly fine with keeping the stems. For the garnish on top, just before serving, I just use the caps. By the way, do you notice those plimp cloves of garlic peeking from behind the earthy brown pile of umami goodness?

 

Six ingredients.  10 minutes to prepare.  Five (or so) easy steps.  One bowl of goodness.  You eat this and you will realize that the world is as it should be.  That all is good.

Six ingredients. 10 minutes to prepare. Five (or so) easy steps. One bowl of goodness. You eat this and you will realize that the world is as it should be. That all is good.

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Ramen Quest: RAMEN KEISUKE TONKOTSU KING at Orchid Hotel

22 10 2014

HAND ME a step–by–step checklist – “Make your own RAMEN ! !” – and I’m instantly a happy boy.  It saves not only time, but also another tired take at placing my food order, which, if you know me, sometimes turns into a spectacle on its own – I enunciate each word into pieces, complete with elaborate hand gestures.

Before I commit, hand me a checklist...  and I'm yours!

Before I commit, hand me a checklist… and I’m yours!

Thank RAMEN KEISUKE TONKOTSU KING at 1 Tras Link, #01-19 Orchid Hotel, Singapore 078867, for reducing “eNTeNG, the One–Man Act” into four easy steps.  Hunched over my slip of paper at a small corner square table with one end pushed to the wall and another against the seat at the next table, I was a microcosm of how cramped – ok, “quaint” – this ramen place feels.  I caution to say that I had to toil over my options.  I mean, when you know what flavors you like, you just check away.

Step 1Please choose the RAMENBlack Spicy Tonkotsu King (S$ 11.80), check!  Of the two spicy variants, I chose black over red.  I’ve always associated something spicy with being red hot.  So why not black hot for a change.

Step 2 – “Please choose your favorite ToppingSeaweed (S$ 1.00), check!  This one’s a no–brainer.  I’ve never been a fan of “flavored” egg.  And whenever a menu screams, “Recommended!!”, the more I’d veer away from it.

Step 3 – “Please choose your favorite flavor.  Taste of the soup – Strong, check!  Chicken oil – More, check!  Noodle texture – Hard, check!  Not one to shy away from the extremes, I guess my lips just had to break into a half–smile as I checked away options that celebrate the funambulism with which my palate approaches flavors.  A one–line disclaimer says, “’NORMAL’ will be the Authentic JAPAN Taste’”.  With the choices I made, I clearly had waived all rights to being the boy who cried inauthentic!

Step 4 – “Please tell me which ingredient that you ‘don’t’ want.  Who doesn’t want spring onionPork chasyuBlack fungus?  Not me!

I almost specified "VERY HARD" on my preference for noodle texture!  On my next visit, I will!

I almost specified “VERY HARD” on my preference for noodle texture! On my next visit, I will!

At this point of my quest, it has all come down to two things – the broth and the ramen noodles.  And oh, every chance I get to spike my bowl with the hint of sesame oil that makes any ramen experience feel like a throwback to my childhood.  Here, it took an artisanal approach – I had my own mortar and pestle to grind lightly roasted black and white sesame seeds before I tip them over to my bowl.

For that hint of a little sesame goodness, a seeming throwback to my childhood, I had to exert a little work.  So artisanal, with my own mortar and pestle.

For that hint of a little sesame goodness, a seeming throwback to my childhood, I had to exert a little work. So artisanal, with my own mortar and pestle.

The broth was slightly thick, milky white, and quite flavorful.  I could tell that this robustness could only come from pork and pork bones simmered for hours, and seasoned by a ramen chef so good that he could very well be wearing a crown on his head instead of a chef’s toque or a Japanese headband.  I wish the noodles were thinner.  But that didn’t win over my heart’s desire for an extra serving.  Unlike at IPPUDO, no one checked my bowl if I still had some broth left before they acknowledged my hankering for the extra helping of noodles.

My BLACK SPICY TONKOTSU KING RAMEN!

My BLACK SPICY TONKOTSU KING RAMEN!

 

I know I did check seaweed as my choice of topping.  However, when I saw how it made it to the bowl, it almost had the look of an afterthought - like, all was done and perfect and then someone said, "Stick a seaweed sheet in it!  Go!"  Haha!  It does have the look of a breakwall.  It was as if it would come in handy with the (eventual) uncontrollable slurping of the noodles and the broth.

I know I did check seaweed as my choice of topping. However, when I saw how it made it to the bowl, it almost had the look of an afterthought – like, all was done and perfect and then someone said, “Stick a seaweed sheet in it! Go!” Haha! It does have the look of a breakwall. It was as if it would come in handy with the (eventual) uncontrollable slurping of the noodles and the broth.

 

The requisite extra bowl of noodles!!!

The requisite extra bowl of noodles!!!

If it were not for the very limited space, I would’ve kicked my shoes off, rested my feet on a stool, and with one hand on my tummy and the other holding on to my cold Keisuke (Japanese) Green Tea Cola (S$ 3.00), admire the mishmash of retro Japanese art and calligraphy on the wall, thank the fact that this had got to be the shortest walk from my commute to an awesome meal – only two minutes from the Tanjong Pagar MRT station – just in time before I will have realized that I should behave more appropriately.

The mishmash on the walls gives the place some more of its authentic Japanese feel.

The mishmash on the walls gives the place some more of its authentic Japanese feel.

 

This SEISUKE (Japanese) GREEN TEA COLA is just...  what's the word...  oh, fab!

This KEISUKE (Japanese) GREEN TEA COLA is just… what’s the word… oh, fab!

This place, after all, is home – for the broth alone – to a TONKOTSU KING.

Here resides the TONKOTSU KING of the BROTH!!!

Here resides the TONKOTSU KING of the BROTH!!!

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Ramen Quest: IPPUDO SG at Mandarin Gallery

20 10 2014

THE TROUBLE with starting with the best – or at least what all others think so to be the best – is that you would end up in just either one of two situations, neither one a total win–win.  If it’s good, you start on a quest with the bar set so high, everything else just pales in comparison right after.  If it’s not good, you will have yet another conjured–up image of perfection come crumbling and crashing down.

I decided to fan the flames of my rekindled passion for ramen with a (first ever) visit to IPPUDO SG on 333 Orchard Road (Mandarin Gallery).

I saw this signage while on queue and I couldn't help but chuckle and half-expect that a French Canadian superstar would manifest her presence to me, and with a loud chest thump sing, "'Cause I'm your laaa-aaa-dyyy!!!"  Haha!  Well, you've got to entertain yourself to kill the wait.

I saw this signage while on queue and I couldn’t help but chuckle and half-expect that a French Canadian superstar would manifest her presence to me, and with a loud chest thump sing, “‘Cause I’m your laaa-aaa-dyyy!!!” Haha! Well, you’ve got to entertain yourself to kill the wait.

 

Ramen is the LOVE.  And the SMILE.  It has to be said that this is brought to life by the Service/Wait Staff at IPPUDO SG.  Everyone just has a genuine smile on.

Ramen is the LOVE. And the SMILE. It has to be said that this is brought to life by the Service/Wait Staff at IPPUDO SG. Everyone just has a genuine smile on.

The experience begins with a line that starts way outside the restaurant and continues inside as if it is a line at a movie theater box office on the opening night of a big hit.  This queuing up can make or break you – especially when you’ve reached the front of the line and some of the diners would be staring back at you and you know exactly what’s in the thought bubbles above their heads.  “You are not getting this seat.”

Finally seated!  Gotta love the stark place setting.

Finally seated! Gotta love the stark place setting.

 

It's dinner time!

It’s dinner time!

It sounds like it’s a test.  And it is.  It is one of patience.  This to me fits right in in a place that serves food steeped in the oldest of traditions, something that others may argue to not be the case when it comes to the interiors.  Yes, the ubiquitous multi–hued bowls belong, rather, are the reason for being of this place.  But as design elements on the main red wall, they’ve taken a more edgy, contemporary vibe.

The very first time I laid eyes on this wall, I knew I would want it for my bedroom.  Haha!

The very first time I laid eyes on this wall, I knew I would want it for my bedroom. Haha!

I mentioned patience belongs here, and this is primarily an allusion to that virtue being needed to achieve the perfect ramen broth.  I remember hearing from those Japan TV documentaries that used to air on RPN9 or IBC13 that in Japan, some ramen restaurants would refuse to open for business if the chefs thought that the broth – which they had started to prepare the night before – was not up to their standards.  They would turn people away!  In Manila, I’ve been told about the strive for perfection a particular ramen chef had that if any customer would ask the wait staff for condiments, he would emerge from the kitchen to ask explicitly if there was anything wrong with the broth.

Not the whole ramen dish itself, but specifically the broth.

The menu at IPPUDO SG was helpful, quite descriptive actually.  And before long, I had zoomed in to the operative words, “Ippudo’s original tonkotsu broth.”  It was a no–brainer.  I asked for the AKAMARU SHIN–AJI, enhanced with a specially blended miso paste and fragrant garlic oil.  I proceeded reading through the menu, salivating.  I had to make sure that my right hand was ready to reach for my handkerchief just before my synapses would’ve exploded from the intense pleasures derived from reading the descriptions and having them run around in my head.

I read this and I didn't need any further convincing.  But oh, yeah, I just had to close my eyes when my field of view caught the right side of the page.

I read this and I didn’t need any further convincing. But oh, yeah, I just had to close my eyes when my field of view caught the right side of the page.

The red bowl that arrived at my table, with the first sip was so Japanese; it could’ve very well been the shores of Yokohama, as the sea breaks against the rocks and the bridges.  The broth was cloudy white, always a good sign of excellent pork–based goodness.  The flavor was strong, but not arresting to the palate.  It had a clean quality to it, a flavor that’s almost subdued but full–bodied.  And as promised, kicked up a couple of notches by the miso paste – prettily perched on top of the organized chaos of noodles and ingredients – and the fragrant garlic oil.

The AKAMARU SHIN-AJI has landed!  Notice that I did other a side of ... the yummiest bamboo shoots!

The AKAMARU SHIN-AJI has landed! Notice that I did other a side of … the yummiest bamboo shoots!

 

This photo doesn't do the ramen justice.  However, it does highlight how the miso paste sits beautifully on top of all the chaos.

This photo doesn’t do the ramen justice. However, it does highlight how the miso paste sits beautifully on top of all the chaos.

I would almost always forget to acknowledge the presence of the thin strips of tender pork belly deliciously swimming in the broth because next to the latter, the actual star of the whole thing was the noodles.  Originating from Hakata, they are quite thin, white (as opposed to “yellow” noodles), and perfectly done as any ramen should be.  And rightfully so, because even without the menu encouraging it, I would always specify how I like my noodles done – plunged into a rolling boil, swished around for exactly three seconds, drained, and then shocked in ice cold water.  Two words – very hard.

Which, ironically, is something so untrue about falling in love with Ippudo ramen.  The bar has been set so high.

You specify the hardness of the noodles.  In the end, what this means is that you don't have anyone to blame but yourself.  Haha!

You specify the hardness of the noodles. In the end, what this means is that you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself. Haha!

 

I read this part of the menu and suddenly felt awash with conflicting emotions.  Excitement at the prospect of an extra serving of noodles.  And an itch to reach for a red pen and...  edit!  Note to self, READ YET ANOTHER ONE OF THE RULES!!!

I read this part of the menu and suddenly felt awash with conflicting emotions. Excitement at the prospect of an extra serving of noodles. And an itch to reach for a red pen and… edit! Note to self, READ YET ANOTHER ONE OF THE RULES!!!

 

The ramen noodles at IPPUDO SG are the LOVE.  It's the star.  Here is my first of two extra servings.  I dunk this in to my bowl humming, "'Yes, I'm saving all my broth for youuuuu..."

The ramen noodles at IPPUDO SG are the LOVE. It’s the star. Here is my first of two extra servings. I dunk this in to my bowl humming, “‘Yes, I’m saving all my broth for youuuuu…”

 

IPPUDO SG at 333 Orchard Road (Mandarin Gallery) kicks start my quest for the ultimate ramen.

IPPUDO SG at 333 Orchard Road (Mandarin Gallery) kicks start my quest for the ultimate ramen.

 

What to wear to the first ever trip to IPPUDO SG?  Something as Japan as...  ASTROBOY!

What to wear to the first ever trip to IPPUDO SG? Something as Japan as… ASTROBOY!

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