Kuro-Obi takeaway ramen concept launches

Ippudo has launched its first Kuro-Obi takeaway concept in Asia, at Marina Bay Sands.

Its quick-service ramen counter is next to the new 90-seat Ippudo outlet beside the Rasapura Masters food court and skating rink.

Kuro-Obi, which means “black belt”, opened in New York two years ago, where it now has two outlets. Ippudo Singapore deputy GM Yota Shiiba says Singapore was chosen for its launch in Asia because it is a popular destination for business and leisure travellers.

Unlike New York, where the soup base is a mix of pork and chicken, the menu in Singapore focusses on tori paitan. Tori (chicken) and paitan (white soup) refers to a thick and creamy soup.

Shiiba says chicken-based ramen has become popular with chefs becoming more creative.

“Ramen has no guidelines,” he says. “As long as there is soup and noodles, you can create anything.”

Kuro-Obi’s version is cooked for six hours using chicken bones and meat, and topped with tender chicken chashu, chopped onions, egg and seaweed. The noodles are thicker and shorter than the usual noodles at Ippudo, and are made from tapioca flour.

Shiiba, who handles overseas openings for the group, says the soup for the tori paitan is more oily than the usual tonkotsu. For takeaway, the soup and ingredients can be packed separately.

Kuro-Obi is not the first takeaway concept by the brand for Singapore.

Ippudo was founded in Hakata in 1985, with its first Singapore outlet opening at Mandarin Gallery in 2009. Ippudo at Marina Bay Sands is its ninth Singapore store, with another scheduled to open at the new Tanjong Pagar Centre by March.

Shiiba admits the opening of Michelin-starred Tsuta Ramen at Pacific Plaza has affected the business of its Shaw Centre branch across the road, but says, “Tsuta may be our rival, but we are all selling ramen. We have to learn from each other and improve.”

There are now 63 Ippudo outlets outside of Japan in such locations as Paris, Hong Kong, China, Sydney, Thailand and the Philippines. In Japan alone, there are 119 outlets and growing. There are also udon, soba and bakery concepts under Ippudo’s parent company Chikaranomoto Holdings, all in Japan. Shiiba does not rule out bringing them to Singapore.


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