IN THIS age of globalization and melting pots – and foodies all around, myself included – it no longer comes as a surprise that with one look at the food you’ve ordered, you see beyond what the menu tells you and find the manifestation of a seeming microcosm of flavors and textures, almost deconstructed. And almost equal parts groundbreaking and cliché as these flavors and textures burst on your mind before they even do in your mouth.
Nantsuttei Ramen at Orchard Central, #07-12/13, 181 Orchard Road, Singapore 238896 takes pride not only in using the freshest but also – and seemingly, more importantly – the healthiest chickens in creating “a ramen with a purely chicken–based” broth with a touch of a “shiodare (salt sauce) base that is creamy with a touch of sweetness.”
I grew up believing that the authenticity of ramen is anchored on a broth made from simmering pork and pork bones for hours. Nantsuttei clearly steers away from this norm, but the way they market their ramen unequivocally declares that the foundation of (their) awesome ramen is still the broth – only thing is, they have chicken, again only the healthiest, as its cornerstone.
I opted for the Negi Ramen (S$ 15.00), which is essentially the basic ramen but with a generous topping of negi (spring onions) served in two colors in two ways. The white part is first cut into three–inch pieces before being shredded. The green are chopped really thin. Both are then piled high on top of the ramen that actually already fills the bowl to the rim.
And that’s what your attention panning hits right past the pile of negi – the ramen noodles, the broth and the chasu (tenderly simmered pork) fill the bowl all the way to top. But before I get to enjoy this rendition of a classic, I first have to pierce through the film of black ma–yu oil – my choice over the red oil – which is exactly a flavorful oil blend of high quality chicken fat and roasted negi.
I started by tasting the ramen noodles, first on their own. I wish they were thinner that their medium thickness. I wish that the doneness, which was something they don’t ask about at Nantsuttei, was very hard – almost raw. But what the noodles lacked in texture, it more than made up for through coats of the black ma–yu oil, suffused and redolent with the sweetish robust aroma of slow–roasted garlic.
I would leave the chasu soaking in the broth, simply for two reasons. First, I’ve always approached my eating with thoughts of deconstruction – paring down, layer by layer, ingredient by ingredient. Second, I believe that it allows the chasu to become more tender and more flavorful, the operative words being “soak up.”
In time, I got to the chasu and I finished the soup, my atonement for my gastronomic sins being the extremely generous side portion of fresh bean sprouts I asked for.
How I ate my bowl of Negi Ramen is actually how Nantsuttei recommends it should be done. While it wasn’t intentional on my part, somehow a thought bubble formed above my head saying, “I’m a good boy and I do as I am told.” Haha.
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