Flown-in flour for his ramen
Specially imported flour from Japan is the key to Ramen Taisho's bowl of slurpy smooth ramen
Barely three weeks into their business and there are already snaking queues at their foodcourt stall in Clementi.
The demand for their ramen is good but the work involved is more than what he bargained for.
"I should be clearing 200 bowls a day but I am struggling because I can't keep up with the demand," says Mr Tan Hock Soon.
He starts with a lot of pork bones which, he says, need six hours of boiling.
But he has a pressure cooker that reduces the job to an hour.
The stock is then poured into a huge pot to extract and stabilise the flavour.
These two pieces of equipment cost Mr Tan $50,000.
Then, there is the shiny $35,000 Japanese ramen machine at the front of the stall - so everyone can watch the noodles being made.
The secret to his winner of a ramen?
DELICIOUS: (Above) Mr Tan Hock Soon with his stock pot and pressure cooker which cost him a total of $50,000. PHOTOS: KF SEETOH
The flour. Mr Tan says the flour is way better in Japan.
He should know - he spent three years in and out of Japan to attend ramen classes.
He even checked out the trash dumped behind one of the top Osaka ramen joints, Ide Shoten, just to see what goes into its recipes.
Two years ago, Mr Tan and his wife Kalene attended Street Food Pro 360, a course by Makansutra with the support of the Employment and Employability Institute.
DELICIOUS: (Above) The noodles are made fresh in front of the stall.PHOTOS: KF SEETOH
He knew he needed more than a good recipe to create a successful street food business.
"Customers ask me how many outlets I have after they see how I lay out my stall, our uniforms and our professional stall design and display," says Mr Tan.
These are things he learnt at Street Food Pro 360. The course also taught the use of social media and how to listen to customers' feedback.
Back then, I had felt that Mr Tan should not offer the clear stock shoyu ramen, as heartland diners would see his stall as a simple wet market food stall offering cheap soy and MSG-laden noodle soup.
He tested my theory, and within a week, took it off his menu as there was very low demand for it.
He now focuses on and offers only one item at the stall, the Tonkotsu Ramen soup ($6.90).
So how does it rate?
The noodle is slurpy smooth without being mushy and the char siew is melt-in-the mouth soft, not over-braised till the thin layer of fat evaporated.
The all important soup has a whiff of roastiness from the pork bones and is subtly robust and milky.
I agree with Mr Tan who feels he needs more work on the emulsification process in the soup by balancing the use of collagen (he uses pork skin for this process).
His proudest discovery is a local brand of soy sauce which he uses to make the secret black sauce recipe or "tare".
Tare is used to flavour the broth and Mr Tan says the version he has come up with is better than the Japanese version he was taught to use.
And his parting shot?
"Give me some time, I will diligently introduce the black garlic and miso ramen soon."
Clementi Mall, 3155,
Commonwealth Avenue West
- 10am-10pm daily
Makansutra, founded by KF Seetoh, is a company that celebrates Asian food culture and lifestyle. It publishes food guides in and around the region, produces a food series, develops interactive mobile content and services, operates foodcourts and eateries, organises food tours and events, and consults on culinary concepts.