Baikohken (梅光軒) was a name I have never heard of until a Japanese associate introduced it to me. At this moment, I only know of two outlets in Singapore, in Boat Quay and Takashimaya respectively. And since then, I had been to Baikohken 3 times, all at Takashimaya food court.
So, what makes it stand out from the likes of Santouka, Ippudo, and Aoba? I tried to ask my Japanese associate, but he didn’t elaborate in detail, merely strongly recommended Baikohken. To be honest, I have not tried Santouka, and only tried Ippudo & Aoba once. Ippudo has thick tonkotsu broth, typical Kyushu (Hakata, to be exact) styled Ramen with lots of innovations! I can’t comment on Santouka since I have not tried it. But Aoba? Quite simply, forget it. It’s pricey and the quality is over rated. To this, even my Japanese associate explained, their quality is mediocre from the authentic Aoba Ramen in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. And I confess, not only it’s not worth its price, but the broth was really terrible! I thought they probably used sea water as the base of their broth. Yes, it’s too salty. I had been to Japan on 4 separate occasions, been to Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shinshu (Nagano), Shikoku, Chugoku, Kansai, Tohoku, and of course Kanto, and trust me, never had I tried any ramen as bad in Japan!
So, back to Baikohken… Japan is famous for ramen, which they inherited and transformed from traditional Chinese noodles. There are now two distinct region of ramen, namely the Kyushu and Hokkaido styles. And in Hokkaido, it’s further divided into Shio (Salt), Shoyu (Soy), and Miso ramen, of where Hakodate (函舘), Asahikawa (旭川), and Sapporo (札幌) are the respective regions famous for it.
Baikohken, originated in Asahikawa, naturally is famous for their Shoyu based ramen, but they do provide Miso and Shio ramen among others to cater for different appetite as well. And their serving comes in half portion or full portion, in most cases, half portion is more than enough for me, and that literally already serves a larger portion than what most hawker centers noodles vendors are offering.
It’s still a tonkotsu broth, not as thick as the Kyushu styled, while I’m not sure whether Baikohken do it the Hakodate* way, the broth does taste naturally sweet, not overdoing it. And the generous supply of spring onions spiced up the soup much to my desire.
(* Traditional Hakodate Shio Ramen are not so much as in adding salt, most vendors add seafood with tonkotsu while preparing the broth, resulting in a mild salt taste)
As the name suggests, Sanzai (山菜) ramen is probably more famous in Japan’s mountainous region than in Asahikawa. Though I don’t know whether the ingredients are grown in Japan (I seriously don’t think so), the veggies are more generous than the noodle enclosed. Cabbage, carrot, leek, bamboo shoot, bean sprout, and fragments of shredded pork made up this entry. This is my mum’s favourite, and I must admit, the portion of bean sprouts are more than the noodle itself. And I almost think this ramen should really be renamed accordingly. But nevertheless, thanks to the broth, this entry tastes less dry than I anticipated.
Baikohken is an unfancied ramen outlet, at least at the Takashimaya branch, they don’t offer much side dishes other than the few types of ramens. This is a pretty small outlet, and most of the time, it’s quite occupied, though meal hours apart, usually doesn’t have to wait long. In addition to the ramens, spices such as Miso, chili powder, garlic, and pepper (all from Japan) are provided on the table to tilt the taste to individual preference.
I’m pleased to learn (much afterward), that many diners find Baikohken among the best Ramen restaurants in Singapore despite their humble existence. Their presence might not be as established as Ajisen Ramen, but their unassuming effort is fast earning accolades.