New & Noted: Butao Ramen

What: Fantastically fresh ramen from famed Hong Kongese brand
Where: 1/F, 88 Tongren Lu, near Yan’an Lu. Web: 
Why: To try out the new soup base specially designed for Mainland China

Luckily for Shanghai, Butao Ramen has arrived just in time for the city’s residents to slurp up steaming bowls of the award winning ramen during the colder months. Offering authentic and traditional Japanese Hakata ramen, this is the first Mainland store to be opened.
The recipe for the brand’s signature bowl, tonkotsu ramen, comes from Kyushu, in Japan’s southern-most island, and is a creamy pork bone soup. Japanese staff members from the Butao Ramen brand have been flown over to Shanghai to ensure the quality of the ramen bowls, and they make new pork soup stock every day – even using specially treated water, rather than Shanghai tap water – to ensure the authentic taste. It takes 12 hours of tender loving care (as well as top quality secret ingredients) to produce one vat of soup, which can serve up to 280 people, and as a result, bowls of ramen are limited throughout the day. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
There are currently six different bowls of ramen on the menu, and there will be limited edition bowls brought out in the near future. Diners can customise their bowls by choosing the cooking time of the noodles, toppings and spice levels. Each variety uses the fullbodied tonkotsu soup as the base and adds different layers of textures and flavours.
We tried the Butao Original (RMB 62), squid flavoured Black King (RMB 65), hot and spicy Red King (RMB 65) and the East-meets-West Green King (65). Starting with the original flavour, we began to appreciate the rich and creamy taste of the pork-bone broth before moving on to the Black King. With the addition of “black sauce”, made with squid ink flavouring, and a “black ball”, made from minced pork, squid ink and vegetables, it is a thick, garlicky and nourishing bowl, which one must be careful not to spill. The Red King was specially developed for the Mainland market and boasts three types of chilli toppings; vinegary Guilin chilli with minced pork, mouth numbing Sichuan pepper along with garlic and chilli paste. Finally, although initially apprehensive about the Green King and its addition of olive oil, basil leaves and Parmesan to the original tonkotsu base, it turned out to be a favourite of the table, with the Parmesan topping oozing perfectly into the creamy broth.
Side dishes, such as secretly marinated eggs (RMB 13), BBQ pork (RMB 22), marinated cuttlefish with taro (RMB 22) and marinated white radish with pork (RMB 22) are also extremely flavourful and round out the soup bowls. We just advise glugging up the tonkotsu soup quickly before it gets too cold and thick.