Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Want cheap ramen?

A noodle spree cannot be styled into a classy picture. Period.

Forget about my hunt for Singapore’s best ramen.

Why spend an average of $15 in one sitting, to pick out the subjective best from what seems to be dozens of new ramen joints flowering up all over the country, to guzzle high sodium, fat-saturated soups and slurp up ramen portions which are clearly out of my league? And they seem to all be, to quote Anthony Bourdain, “A hideous, generic sprawl of soul-destroying sameness”.

If I want to find the Best _______ (insert appropriate latest food fad), I’m not about to sacrifice my health thank you very much.

But that isn’t to say I’m never eating ramen out ever again, only that I’ll do so when I feel like it. And hey, if I happen to stumble across the ramen that blows my socks off to the Land Of The Rising Sun, well good for me. I’ll be sure to let you know all about it.  

In the meantime, I think my current ramen, udon, soba windfall from Scotts Isetan on Saturday should tide me over till my future fateful encounter.

Mom and I were supposed to be shopping for formal clothes for my interview on Friday. The operational word being ‘supposed’, of course. We ended up taking the forbidden step down into the basement of Scotts Isetan and let’s just say that the rest of my potential clothes shopping silently, wisely slunk away amidst the more intimidating presence of Japanese groceries.

More like it fled actually, white flag fluttering behind it when we came across air-flown Japanese ramen going for about $12, a pack of which contains three servings. That’s $4 for a bowl of reasonably portioned ramen for you. My mom being the woman that she is naturally bought at least one of each of the variety of soup bases they had on display. She stuck to the traditional miso and shoyu bases. I, however, almost went into a frenzy when I saw this:

Squid Ink Soba

As long as it’s Squid Ink Anything, I’m all over it. This entire pack shall all be mine. MINE! My precioussss…

I must snap pretty pictures of this when I cook it.

Then we took about two steps over to the soba and udon counter, and the spree continued with a frightening lack of restraint that I’ve come to associate with my mom and good food.

$10 for 3 packets of delightfully springy, chilled udon. I usually have no issues with descriptions, but here I come to a screeching halt at describing freshness. How else do I elaborate on that? It’s fresh. Nuff said. As fresh as frozen goods get anyway.

And the same goes for the soba and it’s wonderful earthy, full, buckwheat flavour.

All of the noodles come with packets of soup bases and seasonings.

The stingy ramen woman at the sampling counter informed us that they’d be selling the noodles till the 15th of April only. Well, what are you waiting for? I propose ditching that dinner at Ajisan (the bane of my love for Japanese food) for quality Japanese noodles from Isetan.

I’d just caution you about the Singaporean lady in charge of the ramen samples they were giving out. My mom and I had to stand there, in her face, for more than half a minute for her to look at us and stare, then an additional “Can we try?” finally got us pathetic sample portions. Why is it that Singaporeans don’t understand the power of sampling? It’s kiasu-ness through and through. I find it a shame that people don’t hand out sample often enough because of our inherent need to exploit such samples when they’re present, regardless of the absence of genuine interest in purchasing.

I hope the generous Japanese man hands out samples for you. Soothing, hot ramen and a sincere smile.

How to cook Japanese noodles

Cooking ramen, soba or udon from Isetan cannot be done the Maggie mee way (both soup and noodles in the same pot) because of how floury they are. I highly doubt you’d like your soup tasting floury. Think of those hawkers selling noodles in any hawker centre. They have to blanch noodles in boiling hot water in a net before serving it up.

Keep the noodles and their seasonings in the freezer.

Special Equipment:

  • Sieve/colander/noodle net

Directions:

1. Have enough boiling water in a pot for the amount of noodles you’ll be cooking.

2. In a separate pot, boil some water for the amount of soup you wish to have with your noodles. Add the seasoning that comes with the noodles into the pot and pour the soup into your serving bowl. I would recommend that you place all remove the solid, white fats from the packet before adding the seasoning into the pot. There’s just something about the visible fats that alarms me.

3. Place your frozen noodles in the pot with boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Test done-ness, then quickly fish the noodles from the water or drain the pot into a colander. Under running tap water, carefully wash the hot noodles to remove any remaining flour. Add your noodles to the bowl of soup, with additional bamboo shoots (which can be purchased along with the ramen at Isetan) or wakame seaweed or corn or hard boiled egg if you wish. I would encourage you to add plenty of veg of course.

Note: If you prefer your noodles cold, like cold soba, proceed with blanching the noodles, fishing them out, washing them and then quickly immersing them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and chilling the noodles. Serve up with a separate bowl of soba sauce.

2 responses to “Want cheap ramen?

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