Ichiban Boshi, Vivocity

We stopped by Ichiban Boshi for a quick, low-fuss lunch. The food's far from the best, but prices are relatively cheap, and makes for a reasonably value meal if you stick to a few tried-and-tested basics. 

The Chicken Katsu Toji ($10.90), a moist chicken cutlet was slathered with a slightly overdone scrambled egg and sweetish brown sauce.

The Dobinmushi ($7.90), a teapot soup of dashi stock flavoured with a melange of seafood like prawns and white fish, and sweetened by enoki and shitake, was intensely umami. 

The Hotate Kinono Kaminabe ($17.90), a paper hotpot laden with scallops, salmon, prawn, beancurd, enoki, shitake in a shoyu stock, was rich and robust.

Ichiban Boshi
1 Harbourfront Ave
Vivocity B2-07
Tel: 6376 8318
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 10pm;
Sundays from 11am to 10pm
Website: www.ichibanboshi.com.sg


Ramen Bari Uma

Bari Uma Ramen, a specialist in onomichi ramen, marries the heady saltiness of shoyu and the robust depth of tonkotsu. A Hiroshima import with branches all over Japan, they've recently opened their second outlet in Singapore along the sleepy end of Orchard that is Tanglin Shopping Centre.

The offerings here are mostly variants of the onomichi ramen, doctored with nori, chillis, or a medley of toppings. In addition to the ramen and the ubiquitous gyoza, they also serve up a small selection of yakitori, so the cosy little izakaya-styled joint may seem a little smoky.

The Kara-Uma ($16) was the spiciest ramen I've had to date. The shoyu-flavoured pork-based broth was liberally spiked with dried red chillis for an intensely rich heat. The chashu here, I noticed, was thicker than most other places, but wonderfully tender and imbued with a smoky charring. The refreshingly clear Corn ($2) helped to somewhat alleviate the spiciness.

For those who prefer their flavours clear and delicate, the Shoyu-Uma ($12) was like a beta version of the standard shoyu-flavoured pork-based broth. The thick-cut flamed chashu was served in a half-portion as well, but we also added Corn ($2) and a marinated soft-boiled Egg ($2). Ramen just wouldn't be complete without an egg.

We supplemented our ramen with some Pan-Fried Gyoza ($6.80 for 5pcs), delightfully chewy with a beautifully golden and crisp side, and stuffed with juicy chicken mince and spring onions.

Ramen Bari Uma
19 Tanglin Road
Tanglin Shopping Centre B1-01/02
Tel: 6887 4484
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm


Fatboys The Burger Bar, Far East Plaza

The Burger Bar is a scaled-down version of the Fatboys' chain of burger bars strewn across the island. A hole-in-the-wall of teeny bopper hangout Far East Plaza, this tiny diner is manned by a satellite crew. It's entirely self-serviced (you place your orders through the ipads and make payment at the cashiers), and clearing up after oneself is de rigueur.

The menu here is, likewise, downsized, so expect a decidedly limited choice of burgers, sides, and canned and bottled drinks. At least they've retained their build-your-own-burger (aka '"BYOB") option, I'm a big fan of customisation. 

The Beef Cheeseburger ($7.50) laden with Bacon ($2), Fried Egg ($1.50), Caramelised Onions ($1), with standard toppings such as tomato, cheese (monterey, in this instance) and gilded with a premium Smoked Chipotle Sauce ($0.50), wedged between pillowy sesame seed buns, was a sinfully delicious greasebomb. Really awesomesauce, but best eaten piping hot when the oil hasn't soaked through and wilted everything out.

The Chicken Cheeseburger ($7.50) comprised a succulent chicken fillet grilled to a perfect smoky hue, brushed with a premium Smoked Chipotle Sauce ($0.50) and layered with Bacon ($2), Honey Baked Ham ($2) alongside standard garnishes such as shredded lettuce, tomato slice, cheese (cheddar) sandwiched by fluffy sesame seed-studded buns. Excellent stuff. 

The Burger Bar, a Fatboy's Concept
Far East Plaza #01-16A/B
14 Scotts Road
Tel: 6737 3315
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm


Outram Park Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh, Keppel

This Bak Kut Teh institution on the fringes of the CBD is a branch of Ya Hua at Havelock Road, but unlike the Havelock original, this is completely non-air-conditioned. It's got a bigger space and larger capacity, but it's not the most conducive of environments to be indulging in refillable bowls of piping hot soup, so it's best to hit this place up on overcast, drizzly days.

We opted for the Spare Ribs Soup ($8) over the shorter pork ribs version; it's more satisfying and succulent. There are 2 options for the long ribs: the lean or fatty. My advice is to pick the fatty spare ribs. My mantra, when it comes to food, is to always pick the fatty one. Don't worry, the "fatty option" isn't as fatty as you'd think. It's just the right proportion of fat, and a little fat goes a long way in greasing up the meat. Otherwise, you end up with a dry piece of meat that's tough to get through. The soup isn't the most full-bodied, but I appreciated that the peppery overtones weren't overwhelming. 

Lazybums will likely prefer the Sliced Pork Loin Soup ($7), because, the tender pork slices are boneless, so your fingers stay clean.

The Sliced Fish Soup ($7) may be a tad overpriced compared to other fish soup stalls, but at least the fish was fresh and smooth.

Instead of steamed white rice, the Mee Sua Soup ($2), soft and silky strands of flour vermicelli dunked in pork-based soup and garnished with fried shallots and spring onions, was a popular alternative pairing with the pork ribs.

The Braised Peanuts ($3), while pedestrian, were velvety and rich.

Ditto for the Braised Tau Pok ($3), these were fluffy and chewy.

The crunchy Salted Vegetables ($3) provided a bright contrast and cut through the heavy drudgery of the braises and stews.

The Oyster Sauce Chye Sim ($7) the obligatory green fibrous showing of lunch, was enlivened by lashings of golden fried onions.

The wilted and limp Fried Dough Sticks ($2) had evidently been sitting out for some time, but were (somewhat) revived when dunked into the hot soup. 

Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha
7 Keppel Road
Tanjong Pagar Complex #01-05/07
Tel: 6222 9610
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 7am to 4am; Closed on Mondays
Website: yahuabakkutteh.com


Janggut Laksa vs 328 Katong Laksa, Queensway Shopping Centre

Queensway Shopping Centre, where locals flock to for all things sports and optical-related, is also known for good laksa. There are 2 laksa stalls, within a stone's throw of each other, both claiming to serve up the best. Both tout to be affiliates of world-famous Katong ones, and the accolades, writeups and publicity plastered all the utilitarian facades will attest to the fierce competition.

Seating at both eateries is cramped and constrained, so dining is really a touch-and-go affair. Both are manned by efficient, if a little curt, bevy of staff, and so turnover is high. Good news for the 5-minute-on-average long line of diners waiting their turn.

The menu is similarly limited, with laksa being the primary dish of choice, and its fixins' like otah and lime juice as regular side orders. Curry chicken, Chinese-style, is also a popular option.

Janggut Laksa 

The Laksa ($3.50 for small) here was disappointingly lackluster. It was insipid, and the milk had obviously curdled badly. I needed a lot of sambal to get through this.

The Curry Chicken ($5) was a lot more palatable. Robust and creamy, this had a lovely homecooked taste.

Janggut Laksa
#01-59 Queensway Shopping Centre
Tel: 6440 4633 / 9622 1045
Open daily from 10am to 9pm


328 Katong Laksa

The Laksa ($4) here was significantly better. Lively and spicy, and with bouncier prawns, this was a joy to eat.

The Otah ($1.10), while pedestrian, was fleshy and moist. A great complement to the laksa.

The stall facade for reference.

328 Katong Laksa
#01-60 Queensway Shopping Centre
Open daily from 10.30am to 9.30pm
Website: www.328katonglaksa.com.sg


Ajitsuke Tamago (Japanese Marinated Soft Boiled Egg)

Cooking is an art mostly based on "agar-ation" (slang for estimation)., which is why recipes blogged about here are seldom exacting. But this recipe for soft boiled ramen eggs is probably the most precise cooking I've ever done. Just about everything, from the timing to the marinade seasoning, is drawn right down to the wire.

The tip here is to start with regular, Goldilocks-sized eggs: not too small, not too big, not the atypical low cholesterol or high vitamin ones; they have to be just right. And, try not to use ultra fresh eggs. I find that the ones that are about 4-5 days old produce the best results.

One last tip: always overbudget your eggs, because there will be some that won't make it out of the deshelling. We started off with 10 eggs, and only 7 survived! 

Ingredients (feeds 4; estimate 1 egg per person):
4 eggs
1 cup water
1 cup sake
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup light soy
1/2 cup sugar

1) Put the water, sake, mirin, soy and sugar in a container and whisk till homogenous.

2) Heat water in a pot till a softly bubbling boil, and lower the eggs into it. The fire has to be at a consistent, softly bubbling heat, and not a rolling boil.

3) Remove eggs from heat at the 6-minute mark, and shock them in an ice-bath for about a minute or 2, until fully cooled.

4) Gingerly deshell them, taking great care while peeling because the eggs, with their soft centers, will be delicate and wobbly. The eggs should look like this on the inside.

5) Marinate them in a covered container for at least 4 hours but no more than 5 hours. You want the marinade to season outer lining of the eggs, but not soak all the way through and overwhelm the eggs. Because the eggs will float, place a small light lid over the eggs to sink them so the marinade covers the eggs entirely.

6) Remove from marinade, and store them in the fridge for use up to 3 days later.

Variation to make this Muslim-friendly (i.e. no cooking alcohol):
Swop out the mirin and sake with 2 tbsp oyster sauce and 1 tbsp thick black soy, heat the entire mixture to activate the flavours, and let cool before marinating eggs.

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