Ramen Quest: Nantsuttei Ramen at Orchard Central

9 11 2014

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's Negi Ramen.  This almost overflowing bowl is layer upon layer of flavors and textures.  And if I may add, colors!

Nantsuttei Ramen’s Negi Ramen. This almost overflowing bowl is layer upon layer of flavors and textures. And if I may add, colors!

 

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.

Negi (spring onions, in two colors, two ways) generously tops two bowls of ramen.  Notice that my friend's has the requisite flavored egg.  But not mine.

Negi (spring onions, in two colors, two ways) generously tops two bowls of ramen. Notice that my friend’s has the requisite flavored egg. But not mine.

 

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.

It is necessary to start enjoying the ramen – any ramen for that matter – by first tasting the noodles.  Notice how I have carefully moved the negi to one side while I fish out the noodles.

It is necessary to start enjoying the ramen – any ramen for that matter – by first tasting the noodles. Notice how I have carefully moved the negi to one side while I fish out the noodles.

 

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.

A bowl full of bean sprouts, also known as - for all intents and purposes – "atonement."

A bowl full of bean sprouts, also known as – for all intents and purposes – “atonement.”

 

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.

Love it or hate it, a free lecture is always a good thing!  Haha!  I can do everything, except the slurp part.

Love it or hate it, a free lecture is always a good thing! Haha! I can do everything, except the slurp part.

 

Two big spoons, two big bowls, two huge appetites.

Two big spoons, two big bowls, two huge appetites.

 

My Malaysian BFF is back.  And so the gastronomic adventures resume!

My Malaysian BFF is back. And so the gastronomic adventures resume!

 

Malaysian BFF, thanks for this first in a series of your ramen recommendations!

Malaysian BFF, thanks for this first in a series of your ramen recommendations!

 

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





Tung Lok Seafood

31 03 2011

Tung Lok Chili Crab

THE DAY of my arrival in Singapore was a special day, the 13th of March being Brother’s birthday.  So dinner had to be special – but within my budget.  I knew I was to channel Rachael Ray circa early 2000’s in the coming couple of weeks (think “$40-a-Day”).

This being my first time ever, I had to rely on my Singapore-based best friends on where to grab something to bite, whether I’d be on the go (the “fast” food places) or I’d have time to lounge around (the “finer” dining haunts).  But for my first dinner, Friendship opted to google.  But not blindly key in a search string.  She had a place in mind.  We just needed the address.

That’s when we found Tung Lok Seafood – “The Singapore Taste” – at nearby Orchard Central.

The taste of Singapore has a lot to offer.  Not even with one foot in the door, I already got so overwhelmed with the themed menus the place categorically laid out on the table by the entrance.  There were menus for tasting, à la carte buffet dinner, à la carte buffet lunch, and even for a wedding.

All five of us decided on the à la carte buffet dinner.  What happened was we were made to select all that we wanted from the said menu.  I repeat – ALL.  It’s like an eat-all-you-can, only that it is managed because the food served will only be those you checked.  So if you would go to Tung Lok, go with a really empty stomach and with pen and menu in hand, just check away!  Though I did notice that three delicacies had limits per person:  The scallops at two pieces, the shark’s fin soup at one serving, and the crabs at 200 grams.  Still I say, at SG$ 38.00++ per head, not bad at all.

And order a lot we did!  These were all the items we checked:  Steamed Half-shell Scallops with Minced Garlic and Vermicelli, Salmon Sashimi, California Maki, Braised Shark’s Fin with Fish Maw Soup, Crispy Fish Skin with Salted Egg Yolk, Crispy Eggplant with Pork Floss, Tung Lok Chili Crab with Mini Buns, Crispy Prawns with Butter and Cereal, Poached Baby Kai Lan served with Chinchalok, Crispy Noodles with Fresh Prawns, Yang Zhou Fried Rice, and Chilled Almond Beancurd with Longan.

Steamed Half-shell Scallops with Minced Garlic and Vermicelli

 

Salmon Sashimi

 

California Maki

 

Braised Shark’s Fin with Fish Maw Soup

 

Crispy Fish Skin with Salted Egg Yolk

 

Crispy Eggplant with Pork Floss

 

Crispy Prawns with Butter and Cereal. The prawns are in ther somewhere.

 

Oh, here's one!

 

Poached Baby Kai Lan served with Chinchalok

 

Crispy Noodles with Fresh Prawns

 

Chilled Almond Beancurd with Longan

The steamed half-shell scallops were served with both the white adductor muscle and the bright orange roe nestled on the pristine white shell.  Sprinkled with golden brown minced garlic, with sautéed glass noodles tucked in and around, Tung Lok’s rendition was quite the departure from the simplicity of the usual buttered scallops.  I wasn’t crazy about the “coral” (that’s how the roe is more popularly known), but the adductor was just so sweet.

My first of two scallops

 

I gather that not only the actual scallops, but their shells as well are prized!

Together with the scallops, a couple of other items we ordered from the “Japanese Cold Cuts” section were the salmon sashimi and the California maki.  Tung Lok has all the right to claim that they use only the freshest ingredients because it was quite evident with the salmon they sent to our table.  Bright orange-pink, packed with omega-3 fatty acids and essential oils – it is after all a type of “oily” fish – the salmon was plump, juicy, “marbled” but not sinewy at all.  It was so fresh I had to do away with the dipping sauce on at least a couple of slices just so I could savor all of its freshwater goodness.  The California maki, I did check in honor of my good friend Green Lantern who loves this rice roll so much.

The braised shark’s fin with fish maw soup (“maw” is informal for mouth) was such a pleasant surprise – its gleaming bright yellow color belying just how naturally sweet, creamy and fresh it was as a subtle assault to a palate so used to “just add one egg” soup mixes.  Comparison to off-the-shelf concoctions may seem no contest so to appreacite just how insanely good this soup was, I have to say that everything else I’ve had before – in restaurants all over parts of the world I’ve been to – seem to pale in comparison.  It was that good.  I was craning my neck ‘round the dinner table to see if anybody didn’t bother with their share so that I could snatch it.  Suffice it to say, I ended up quite a sad boy.  Sad sad boy.

Before the pièce de résistance – the chili crab – arrived, I paced my gastronomic satiation with a forkful here and there of the very crisp poached baby kai lan with chinchalok (dried fermented shrimp) either on its own or taken with heaping spoonfuls of the yang zhou fried rice.  The baby kai lan, which I know to be some variant of brocolli leaves, wasn’t bitter at all.  I find that to be the true test of preparing these leafy greens.

Capping a sumptuous first dinner in Singapore was the chili crab, arguably the only dish in the spread that could lay claim to an authentic Singaporean provenance.  Plated in a wide-mouthed low-rise pristine white bowl, the crab’s caparace perched on top of its partially cracked claws and shells appeared to send the message that it was indeed the crowning glory of a luxurious Singaporean meal.  Bathed generously in a thick sauce of tomato, chili, and – in some recipes – orange juice(!), its already succulent white meat and deep-orange roe got even more infused with flavor.  No self-respecting gourmand faced with this chili crab had to feign propriety with cutlery.  Me, I reached out for the fried mini buns (mantou), began tearing it to pieces, then mopped up the sauce.  The more the sauce dripped all over, the more delicious the meal tasted.  Hahaha!

The chili crab makes it to the table!

 

The fried mini bun to mop up the sauce with.

After all the mini buns had been wiped out, I scooped myself another generous portion of the yang zhou fried rice, stained it with the chili crab sauce, and ate away.

Yang zhou fried rice stained with chili crab sauce!

 

One of my many portions of the crispy noodles with fresh prawns

I was with four great friends on this first dinner out and while some of them had moved to pocket discussions towards the meal’s end, punctuated with little scoops of the chilled almond beancurd with longan, I ended up looking in the ceiling wondering really hard where all my concept of moderation went.

I must’ve left all of it at the lift before we pressed “11”.

Tung Lok Seafood in lights

 

Proudly "The Singapore Taste"!

 

My best friends Friendship, Partner, and Brother.

 

Tung Lok has a lot of menus specialized to diners' needs or wants.

 

I checked California Maki in honor of Green Lantern!

 

Our order!

 

Roasted highland legumes... perfect while waiting.

 

On the escalator to the lift landing. Pressed "11" and we were in (gastronomic) heaven!

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.