SINGAPORE â€“ MSG, or monosodium glutamate, typically found in processed foods, is often added to ramen broth to achieve that savoury flavour. But we all know that it is unhealthy for our bodies when consumed in excess.
Tsutaâ€™s founder-and-chef Yuki Onishi, who is based in Tokyo, was presented with a challenge. He observed that virtually every ramen establishment has MSG content and artificial flavouring in their ramen bowls.Â
He wanted to continue upholding his philosophy of using only fresh ingredients.Â
Taking one full year and over two hundred trials, he finally came up with not one, but three equally-tantalising Tonkotsu flavours â€“ Tonkotsu ($12, $13.80 with egg), Kurobishio ($13, $14.80 with egg) and Mala ($13, $14.80 with egg) â€“ sans the MSG and artificial flavours.
Comprising premium black pork bone and trotter, the Tonkotsu broth is boiled for over 5 hours to achieve a fragrant and collagen-rich flavour. Hokkaido Kelp and Shiitake mushroom is added to the broth towards the end to enhance the natural umami flavour. The essence of the dish is further amplified with their special blend of tare, creating a creamy and hearty concoction with a savoury pork-taste.Â
Chef Yuki was not available for an interview during our visit to Tsutaâ€™s restaurant but we spoke to the man who brought in the worldâ€™s first Michelin-starred ramen place into Singapore, Brian Chua, the CEO of Tsuta Global.
â€œFor Chef Yuki, he is very adamant about his style of cooking. He only uses fresh ingredients. In fact, the ramen we serve here are almost identical to Japanâ€™s. Ingredients used in Japanâ€™s outlets are used in Singaporeâ€™s outlets too,â€ said Chua, who also helped bring in Vietnamese restaurant Mrs Pho.Â Â
â€œI have been challenging the chef, saying we need to create new dishes for local palates. Thatâ€™s why we created the Duck and Chicken ramens,â€ continued Chua. Chef Yuki created these ramens specially for the Singapore market.
He likes to travel to different countries to understand their different food preferences by eating local food. For example in Singapore, he tasted the black pepper crab and Bak Kut Teh.Â
â€œThe Black Garlic flavour is usually just a burnt garlic taste. But he (Chef Yuki) recognised that in Singapore, we like the black pepper taste. He tasted the black pepper crab and Bak Kut Teh and he added a hint of pepper so that you donâ€™t just taste the black garlic but also the peppery taste, said Chua, referring to the new Kurobishio ramen (the Black Garlic flavour of the new Tonkotsu flavours).
The Tonkotsu series will be a mainstay in the menu, said Chua. They are also looking to relaunch the Duck and Chicken flavours in Singapore in 2020.
Besides looking into opening more outlets in Singapore, Brian has also set his sights on Thailand and the US.Â
â€œWe will be opening in Bangkok, Thailand at Central World. We last opened in San Francisco,â€ said Chua excitedly.Â
The new Tonkotsu series is available at Tsutaâ€™s outlets from $12 – $14.80, namely Funan Mall, Vivocity, Tai Seng Street and Jewel Changi Airport.