[编辑 Editor 吕大人 英译 Translator 刘大人 摄影 Photographer 刘大人]
If you’re anything like us, then you probably won’t make good foodies, or really?
Imagine us with a pesco pollo vegetarian who avoids red meat but eats chicken, fish and loves all kind of seafood, while another is allergic to shellfish and deprived of some of the best culinary treasures in life but remains thankful to be spared of the rashes that come with every crustacean. As all great minds taste alike, we managed to overcome our personal shortcomings and band together as one of the most inquisitive food & beverage investigators in town (FBI)!
Then again, some people around us react with hypersensitivity when eating certain foods or additives. Surprisingly, it is ordinary foods like lactose found in dairy products, gluten (protein) from wheat, bread or baked goods, caffeine, fructose, MSG, alcohol and even eggs that can cause reactions such as bloating, migraines, bowel irritation, or simply feeling under the weather. You can imagine our food options to be very much restricted when gathering everyone for a good meal in town, catering to their every whims and desire so much so that we almost gave up, until someone mentions Samurai Ramen Umami Premium.
The name Samurai Ramen certainly rings a bell, as we look recalled an “omiyage” we received more than a year back from our tomodachi from Japan that’s made without any poultry, pork or beef products whatsoever. To us, Japanese ramen is inherently comforting, with warm, creamy soup paired with springy noodles and delicious ingredients that never fail to make our day better, but surprisingly, this “meat-less” ramen still has the authentic Japanese flavour that we can safely enjoy at home and turn us into an instant master chef in no time.
To be honest, Japanese food still has plenty to offer for vegetarian and vegan eater! If you’re a raw-fish hater or have vegetarian friends, then Samurai Ramen is now right up our alley. As a strong advocate of whole food which contains NO Animal. NO Fish, NO MSG and NO Alcohol, we don’t have to be a meat eater to enjoy Japan’s favourite comfort food, thanks to our friends from Funfair Co., Ltd from Japan. Since 2014, Samurai Ramen has been a vegetarian restaurant that specialises in modern meatless cuisine, which is quite affordable. With the growing popularity of plant-based diet and its benefits within and outside of Japan and in anticipation of the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics, locals and visitors can now enjoy Japanese food at its best, vegetarians and vegans alike!
If you find the name familiar, that’s because Samurai Ramen is available at two locations – AEON Mall Tebrau City and now in R&F Mall. Thanks to Miho Yano, our tomodachi from Japan who first introduced us to the original Samurai Ramen, we can now savour an array of traditional Japanese food made with high-quality ingredients that are bound to leave us with happy tummies.
Genmai Cha & Grape Green Tea
For a start, we were served pots of refillable Genmai Cha and Grape Green Tea and were pleasantly surprised by latter, in particular, its aromatic yet subtle hint of sweetness as a bitter tang took centre stage after every sip.
As we cosy up in this new 40-seater and quaint restaurant on Level 1 of R&F Mall that boasts a clean, Japanese-inspired minimalist feel, our foods are bound to look even more appetising and “atas” (hopefully) when photographed against the interior. Before we knew it, Miho-san has spent nearly two years in Johor Bahru, with regular trips in between to and fro Japan to work with the chefs in keeping up with the food trends. We were also given a massive tip-off that the third iteration of their famous Samurai Ramen instant noodles specially created for the Malaysian market will soon hit the shelves in late June!
If you think that vegan and vegetarian food equates to a boring menu, Samurai Ramen will prove you wrong, with its vast array of vegan options on their menu, ranging from bento to noodles.
Onmen Lunch Set (Mushroom Clear Soup Noodle)
Being devoted Buddhists who observed eating vegetarian food on the 1st and 15th of the lunar calendar, “find-dining” on these days can be a real challenge. Incidentally, our visit to Samurai Ramen Umami Premium falls on Vesak Day so we couldn’t be more “lucky”.
With a plethora of dishes on its new menu, we have a hard time deciding what to order, so Miho-san recommends getting the highly-rated lunch set that comes with a side of saito soup, sairyoku salad and a glass of houjicha. All we need now is to take our pick from six noodles and six rice main courses and sit back for our food to arrive. Take note, however, that the lunch set is only available daily from 10am to 4pm only.
O-M-G, what a spread! Just by the look of this set, we wouldn’t know that the dishes are meatless, but we liked that the ingredients were fresh and it came in a generous portion. Our choice of their signature Onmen Lunch Set is rather substantial and features tangy homemade noodles, loaded with textural toppings in steamy, aromatic mushroom dashi clear soup that’s good to the last drop – with the added bonus of not leaving us feeling as heavy by the time we get to the bottom.
To aid digestion, take a sip of the complimentary saito soup made from an espresso of vegetables, before indulging ourselves in a crystal salad ball with multi-grain rice sauce boiled with roasted green tea that’s reminiscent of smoked salmon! 😋
Unaju – Japanese Special Eel Rice Bowl
Just marvel at how beautiful this bento box looked and guess what’s serving? It was almost too pretty to eat, but our hunger hesitated no further. The Unaju comes with a satisfyingly generous portion of “unagi”, with the fillet size something we don’t usually get at many Japanese restaurants, not for that price at least! That said, the “fish” made from tofu and seaweed was delightfully tender and sweet, the slight char on it made each bite smoky and umami. We can also turn this into a lunch set which also comes with a side of Saito soup, Sairyoku salad and Houjicha for a more hearty meal, as this Japanese Special Eel Rice Bowl convinced us that this bento without a slab of succulent unagi can be just as tasty and filling.
Samurai Curry – Special Spices Curry Rice
If you think tonkatsu is no off limits in a plant-based restaurant, think again. Ideally suited for our local palates with a blend of ten kinds of special spices, the “meat” in this Samurai Curry dish taste uncannily similar to actual cutlets, even without the help of pork. The secret? A mushroom and soya patty mixed served with fried beancurd, lotus root, lady finger, pumpkin, capsicum, cherry tomato, purple cabbage and yet more mushroom, we’ve no qualms about polishing every item in the bowl to the last bit. The only gripe we had was that the curry gravy could be more generous with their serving.
とり天ぷら & 焼き鳥
Tori Tempura & Yakitori
What is Japanese food without tempura and Yakitori, right? Even if we avoid fried foods, tempura is light and crisp, rather than greasy, and it only fries for a minute or two, rather than until inundated with oil. Made using finely cut vegetables and even without our common seafood variant, these crunchy Tori Tempura are absolutely addictive. And YES, the crisp pieces of green grapefruit tasted refreshing and unique too.
Likewise, the Yakitori is not just catered primarily to carnivorous folks but can also be skewered toward non-meat eaters as well. Made using king mushrooms and best enjoyed with sanshou and ichimitougarashi seasoning, the “skewers” still retain a chewy and springy texture. Oiishii ne!
To all our non-vegans friends out there, have a try at these plant-based foods if you haven’t, before passing any judgement. From ramen to unagi, to tonkatsu curry – almost anything can be vegan-ised! Though we’re meat-loving carnivores, the thought of turning vegan isn’t impossible now, after realising how diverse plant-based diet can be.
Yes, Japanese cuisine without meat is a sin, but thanks to Miho-san and the folks at Funfair for saving us and our vegan friends from J-culture deprivation, at least where food is concerned, Samurai Ramen Umami Premium is definitely our go-to when cravings for Japanese cuisine without risking an expanded waistline.
And Happy Vesak Day (on the date of our visit) to all fellow Buddhists too!
Samurai Ramen UMAMI Premium
📍 Lot-105, Level 1, R&F mall, Tanjung Puteri, 80300 Johor Bahru, Johor
📞 +6017-713 2316
🕙 Daily from 10.00am – 10.00pm
💻 Samurai Ramen UMAMI Premium
🍽️ NO PORK, NO LARD; NO MSG, NO meat, NO egg, NO garlic, NO onion!