Keisuke Tonkotsu King | Tanjong Pagar

I can still remember my first visit to Keisuke Tonkotsu King.

It was noon, and I had come from what I thought were good interviews with The Rake and Esquire. And while I didn’t get the job, the latter position went to Wayne, a good friend of mine, and the former referred me to another title. Keisuke had just opened the outlet, and unlike the first concept in Millenia Walk, this one, Tonkotsu King was popular from day one, and still very popular till this day.

I suppose, the main reason for Keisuke’s success in Singapore is its undying commitment to authenticity – it actually tastes like something you’d find in Japan. That, and free flow of hard boiled eggs and pickled beansprouts.

I didn’t exactly plan to come here, to be honest. Ever since I’ve committed to living healthy and keeping fit, I’ve become conscious about what I eat. I used to exercise so that I could indulge, but that, as I found out, is not good either. Alas, I was feeling a little restless, and felt like doing something. It was almost a coincidence that I bumped into Kellen, an ex-colleague after work, and she invited me to dine with her friends.

Tonkotsu, meaning pork bone in Japanese, is a specialty of Kyushu. It’s similar to the Chinese baitang (white soup) which gets its name from the thick broth of collagen that arises after long hours of boiling. Following the trends in Japan, ramen has been seeing a certain degree of sinification, embracing flavors that are more Chinese in nature. Some developments include the use of mayu, or sesame oil in Japanese, which is a blackish oil made from crushed garlic and sesame seeds, and its spicier counterpart. Together, the three variants are sold at Keisuke Tonkotsu King. I had previously tried the original and mayu, and was curious to sample the chili mayu version.

I do remember the bowls being a lot larger previously – I usually vomited after, or felt like vomiting – but I thought that the current size was just nice. The broth is thick, milky and tasteful, and while the “authentic” version could be considered somewhat oily for many Singaporeans, I savor it to get my money’s worth of collagen content.

The “red” version – I’m going to call it spicy, because it’s barely hot – was quite interesting. As a ramen flavor purist, the original can sometimes be too rich, so the chili here provided an extra layer to the otherwise one-note flavor. Three years in, and I still think this is one of the best places in Singapore for ramen.

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