While the breath of Japanese cuisine kept advancing in Malaysia, there’s a segment of this food that alienate majority of the population here in Malaysia. See, you can find sushi, sashimi, and yakotiri that are suitable for most everyone to consume for the most part, but when it comes to proper Japanese ramen, the pork free or halal version proved to be a bit of a challenge to locate.
Kagura Chicken Ramen is hailed from Tokyo with the name of Seimenka Kaguraya, and even back in Tokyo, the recipe has always been pork-free and lard-free. Rare but still pretty popular at the same time.
There’s a selection of different soup base and ingredients, ranging from RM 12.88+ to a maximum of RM 22.88+. When it comes to proper Japanese ramen at these type of set up, I’d say they’re very competitively priced.
While the base is chicken, there’s a choice of shoyu, miso, and “rich” soup. They also serve gyoza, fried rice, and a limited choice of tempura (menu below)
Kagura Chicken Ramen
So how do they taste like?
We tried the “rich” and shoyu ramen together with their dumplings, and I gotta say that the soup base rivals the pork based ramen, with a slightly less greasy note. They also did a good job with the chicken base chasiu, but I do feel that the texture of pork chasiu is still superior. Overall though, this is a more than decent version of ramen that certainly did not make me regret having it for sure.
The dumpling though was sort of average, I guess perhaps it’s the lack of fatty bits that failed to bring it to my expectation.
fancy some dumpling to go with your ramen?
Skip the dumpling unless you are way too hungry, otherwise, this ramen is fit for anyone who loves ramen, even if you’re not specifically avoiding pork for whatever reason.
Ampang Park is said to be the oldest shopping mall of such set up in the country. First opened its door in 1973, this place has been in existence since our current Prime Minister’s father was in office as the Prime Minster.
Recently, my office moved to Intermark, which is located just right across the road from Ampang Park, so naturally I went to check out some of the lunch options at this place since the two buildings are connected by a skybridge.
food court at Ampang Park, the oldest shopping mall in Malaysia
As it turns out, the oldest mall also has one of the oldest food courts at the top floor. There are a variety of hawker stalls at the area, but two that caught my eyes were the Korean and the Vietnamese food outlets.
Both of these places are pork free, and offers exceptional value.
Vietnamese beef, chicken or fish noodle at RM 5.00 to RM 6.00
The Vietnamese dishes are typically made from the same soup base, you can get beef noodle, beef stew noodle, beef ball noodle, chicken noodle, and like the example above, fish noodle for the price of RM 4.50 to RM 6.00.
There’s mint leaves, fish sauce, and a soup base that’s undoubtedly Vietnamese, but don’t expect great cut of beef or beef tendons in them. A pair of spring rolls here goes for RM 2.50 and they are rather decent too.
The Vietnamese lady who operate this place doesn’t speak much English, but can converse in Malay, and of course in Vietnamese.
kimchi soup ramen for RM 7.00
If you fancy some cheap Korean food, just look at the busiest stall in this food court.
The menu here includes Korean glass noodle with soup (RM 6.50), seafood noodle soup (RM 6.50), mixed vegetable rice (RM 6.50), kimchi rice roll (RM 6.50), bibimbap (RM 7), kimchi pancake (RM 6.50), kimchi soup rice (RM 7), kimchi fried rice (RM 6.50), and more.
Most of these dishes come with side dishes that includes kimchi, vegetable, bean sprout, and an omelette lookalike thingy.
the ramen noodle comes with a side dish of 4 too
My favourite dishes from the Korean food stall is the kimchi ramen noodle that also comes with side dishes that goes for RM 7. The soup isn’t very intense, but for the price you can’t really ask for more. There’s plenty of kimchi and overall taste is rather decent.
The only complain I have is that the portion is perhaps overly huge though.
If you work or happen to around the area and want something cheap and decent for lunch, here’s a food court to check out.
Address: Ampang Park Food Court Level 2 Ampang Park Shopping Centre Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur GPS: 3.16054, 101.71947 Hours: weekday lunch
Hailed from Hakata, the supposed ramen capital of Japan is Ippudo, the latest international Japanese ramen chain to arrive on our shore. The founder Shigemi Kawahara started selling ramen at a ten-seater stall in Fukuoka some 28 years ago, and has since expanded to some 10 cities around the world, serving up piping hot tonkotsu (pork bone) based ramen to eager diners.
We were invited for a tasting session last week ago to find out what the fuss is all about.
Hakata Ippudo Ramen at KL Paviliion
Ippudo Ramen is located just a floor up from the semi-alfresco dining area and a floor below the GSC cinemas. The ramen shop itself is pretty compact in size and could probably cater to around 40 pax or so.
The interior decoration is modern, and they even include “handbag drawers” under some seats, something I’m sure most ladies and dudes with man bags approve.
curry cheese haru maki, pork bun, spicy shrimp mayo
If you’re a fan of rather unique Japanese appetizers, you’re in luck. Ippudo carries quite a few dishes that goes well with hot green tea (or beer) before the main meal.
Curry Cheese Haru Maki (spring roll, RM 10) is indeed cheesy inside with a crispy skin as its exterior, delicious while hot, but you gotta find a balance and not let the melted cheese burn your taste buds.
Spicy Shrimp Mayo (RM 15) is beautifully presented and reminds me of those fried shrimp and mayo dimsum dishes that you could have for half the price.
Goma Q, Crispy Corn, Hakata Style Soup Gyoza
If you prefer something cold to start with, Goma Q (Japanese cucumber, RM 9) will fit the bill. This is very similar to those cold cucumber dishes served in some Chinese restaurants such as Private Kitchen at Uptown, or Hong La Qiao at Pudu.
Crispy Corn (RM 8) is something that I haven’t seen before and find myself liking it. The sweet corn seemed to be seared with a healthy dosage of paprika and other seasoning on top, giving the kernels a pretty unique taste. A serving is only 4 slices of corn though.
Hakata Style Soup Gyoza (RM 15) is an alternative to the usual pan fried version. It is served in the same tonkotsu soup with a bit of ginger in it. The gyoza was decent, but not something I’d get excited about, the soup is nice though.
akamara shinaji, shiromaru motoaji, and karaka-men ramen
Then came the ramen.
Ippudo serves three basic variety of ramen with noodle much thinner than most other places. Much like Italian food, you can also choose to have it al dente (cooked to be firm, but not hard).
Most basic is Shiromaru Motoaji with original tonkotsu broth, belly chasiu, bean sprouts, kikurage (black fungus), and spring onion. Akamara Shinaji has the same core ingredients but enhanced with special blended miso paste and fragant garlic oil. For those who like their ramen spicy, there’s the Karaka-men version, which incorporate special spicy miso and ground pork.
KY & Haze at Hakata Ippudo Ramen, KL Pavilion
I find myself enjoying the original broth most, and have a bit of a mixed feeling for the other two miso infused soup as I think it somehow dilutes the essence of the pork bone taste (which takes 15 hours to cook, as I was told). I’m also not a fan of making ramen spicy, for that I’ll have my kimchi soup instead.
The chasiu at Ippudo is easily one of the best I’ve yet. Premium cut and prepared to perfection, this is the part I like most.
Over all though, I find Ippudo pretty decent and will certainly face strong competition from nearby ramen places within walking distance (Marutama at Fahrenheit 88, Hokkiado Santouka at Pavilion, Ton Chan at Cosway). While having the best ambiance among the competitions, Ippudo is also the priciest, expect to pay RM 26 for a basic bowl to RM 36 with everything in it.
Hokkaido Ichiba at One Utama and Mid Valley Gardens are two of the latest restaurants to be opened up by one of the largest Japanese restaurant chains in the country – Super Dining.
The group started out with their Raku Zen restaurants at SS 15 and other locations, then ventured into lower end conveyor belt style restaurants in Sushi Zanmai, a Japanese pasta chain in Pasta Zanmai, a higher end hotel-restaurant in Kura, and now, sitting between Zanmai and Raku Zen – Hokkiado Ichiba.
Hokkaido Ichiba, One Utama branch
The menu at Hokkaido Ichiba is rather extensive, there are sushi, sashimi, various bento, maki, ramen, udon, and even small side dishes that you normally wouldn’t find in ordinary Japanese outlets.
California temaki, anglerfish liver, spicy oyster ramen
For the two of us, we ordered an oyster ramen, a chirashi sushi, California temaki, and something that I haven’t eaten since 5 years ago in Vietnam – anglerfish liver.
The service was pretty brisk on a weekday night at One Utama, and we got our dishes within 15 minutes or so upon ordering.
The California temaki was Haze’s appetizer and reportedly quite tasty. The anglerfish liver though, was a tad too dry for me, though still retaining that distinctive taste that I can only describe as a blend of liver with a fishy (in a good way) undertone and has a texture between that of foie gras and pork liver. If you haven’t tried it before, this is a place to do so in an affordable way.
The spicy oyster ramen was a pretty decent dish as well, spicy and rather flavorful, though slightly lacking when compared to dedicated ramen shops such as Santouka or Marutama. This is perhaps due to the home made ramen used in other outlets, or the amount of effort poured into the making of ramen broth.
chirashi sushi, with scallops, amaebi, salmon, ikura
My chirashi sushi though, was a steal at RM 30. It has two amaebi (sweet shrimps), hotate (scallops), ikura (salmon roe), salmon, and a couple crab sticks. The ingredients were pretty fresh and I thought it was a very good bowl of chirashi sushi especially considering the price point.
Haze and KY at Hokkaido Ichiba Japanese restuarant
Overall, Hokkiado Ichiba really does find a niche in this pretty saturated Japanese restaurant market. The food is pretty good, prices reasonable (RM 77.70 for everything, including green tea). If you are at One Utama or Mid Valley Gardens looking for reasonably affordable Japanese food and not wanting to fight with the crowd at Sushi Zanmai, this is a place worth checking out.
Address: Hokkaido Ichiba Lot T-201, 3rd Floor, The Gardens, Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra, 59200 KL. Tel: 03-2283 1060
Hokkaido Ichiba Lot LG 101, Lower Ground Floor Promenade, 1 Utama Shopping Centre, No 1, Lebuh Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama Damansara, 47800 PJ. Tel: 03-7727 0020
For a very long time the section of Pavilion KL on the 6th floor right above Harvey Norman was sealed off for renovation. The site is now reopened to public in a pretty radical transformation that is Tokyo Street, with 32 new outlets of Japanese themed products and services.
Tokyo Street at Pavilion KL
With this, I think Pavilion has successfully beefed up the previously lackluster 6th floor. It now at least sits on even keel with the dining options at basement, albeit catering to a slightly higher market.
One of the new restaurants at Tokyo Street is none other than Hokkaido Santouka Ramen, the famous ramen chain hailed from Hokkaido and was previously only available closest to us in Singapore. I had it there a couple years ago and at the time. It was a … “life changing” experience that left me wondering why we don’t have them here.
Well, now it is here, so I just had to check it out.
Santouka Ramen, now in Pavilion KL’s Tokyo Street
I guess I was not alone, there seems to be quite a lot of people who are dying to get a taste of Santouka’s famous ramen. Over lunch time, the line just for getting into the restaurant can be quite daunting.
As of 2nd August, 2011, Santouka was still operating with limited menu, but the dishes that I was eyeing was there – the pork ramen, of course.
pork ramen with salt (left) & miso (right) pork broth
There were four types of pork ramen with different broth (all pork base) – shio ramen (salt flavor), shoyu ramen (soya sauce flavor), miso ramen (soyabean flavor), kara-miso ramen (spicy soybean paste flavor).
The ramen comes in 3 sizes, S, M, and L. We were advised to pick M size since it was only RM 2-3 more at RM 25 and comes with 2 pieces of pork instead of one. Not too sure if L size comes with even more pork, hmmm…
check out the pork, the ramen, and of course, naruto
I had the classic shio ramen that came with the sliced pork (not chasiu), bamboo shoots, leek, narutomaki, and ramen noodle soaked in the salt flavored pork broth. There’s also a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and that is all, no eggs, no fried garlic, or any other condiments.
The verdict – wow, the soup, and the pork, they were superb! I probably still favors the hand made noodle from Ton Chan at Wisma Cosway just across the road, and kinda miss the fried garlic and egg at Marutama, Fahrenheit 88 (also just across the road), but as far as soup goes, Santouka takes the crown for me right now, though I would still continue to visit the other two outlets.
The more choices the better. Bukit Bintang area now has at least 3 pork ramen places within a stone’s throw away from each other.
KY & Sheng at Santouka Ramen, Pavilion KL
Note: I was wrongly given only 1 piece of sliced pork for my M size ramen, but upon notifying the waiter, I was given 2 replacement pork instead! Service – *like*!
Address: Hokkaido Santouka Ramen
6.24.03, Level 6, Pavilion
Jln Bukit Bintang
Kuala Lumpur GPS: 3.148872, 101.713368