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Keep reading for our amazing food experience at Hokkaido Marche
On Wednesday, we were honoured to be invited to dine at Hokkaido Marche and taste the specialty ramens from “HAKODATE RAMEN” – AJISAI, and “A Legendary Miso Ramen” from Shirakaba Sansou.
AJISAI – “HAKODATE RAMEN”
AJISAI’s main store is in Hakodate, in the southern part of Hokkaido, luring people in with their famous (and extremely delicious) Shio ramen. Shio ramen is popular in Hakodate as the strong Chinese influence, coupled with the reasonably mild weather, allows for these lighter, salt-based soups to be enjoyed. AJISAI opened their first (and apparently only) overseas branch in Hokkaido Marche earlier this year.
The ramen was so good that we tried prying for their secrets, but they wouldn’t say it, simply telling us that their success lies in their base stock which is used for all the ramens.
They attributed the good taste to some of the ingredients, such as fish skin, pork bones, mushrooms, and of course, konbu, but never got around to revealing the secret ingredient that made their soup so good.
AJISAI’s most recommended dish is the ‘Ajisai Special’ made with konbu stock. It had a savoury broth, yet somehow remains light and refreshing. A beautiful union between land and sea, with the light seaweed soup and the delicate chashu that comes with the ramen.
We were also able to try a special variation of their Se’abura Chashumen – Squid Ink (Black). It is also offered with Shio or Shoyu base that are more common, but this is the first ramen I have seen with squid ink as an ingredient.
The squid ink in this ramen is just enough to be a good introduction into the amazing (and dark) world of squid ink cuisine. This ramen also has a meatier taste as compared to the Ajisai Special, as it has bits of lard in it to enhance the flavour.
Despite having both the squid ink and the pork lard, the soup is still quite light. No matter how much we drank, we were still not sick of it as some might do from stronger tasting broths.
We also got some complimentary Hokkaido-style fried chicken. It was so good! Well-seasoned, well fried, and best of all, it was so tender, thus assuring its freshness.
Before we left, the staff even told us:
“If you or your friends are ever looking for salty and clear soup ramens, come to Ajisai! You’ll never be disappointed.”
Shirakaba Sansou – “A Legendary Miso Ramen”
Shirakaba Sensou came from Sapporo, Hokkaido. Their speciality involves blending white miso with sesame oil, oyster sauce, garlic to create a tasty broth. The restaurant celebrated their 20th anniversary recently and its popularity is still ever high in Japan. Since the opening of Hokkaido Marche in Orchard Central at the start of the year, the local Singaporeans now have a chance to taste this authentic Sapporo styled ramen.
It was not a smooth road to success for the owners of the restaurant, as seen from their comic strip paste on the wall besides their counter seats. During the earlier days of the Executive Chairman, Shogun Suganuma, the company he worked before went into bankruptcy. As a fresh start, he attempted to try out in the food industry by opening a ramen shop. He trained under an acquaintance and was taught how to make a simple soup base.
Though after acquiring all the skills needed to set up his ramen shop, he was not able to attract any new customers. But with a strong determination, he decided to revisit his recipe and cooking method which he used for the noodles, and thus the miso ramen you now know and love today is created.
The Miso Aburi Special Ramen uses the thicker types of noodles that goes especially well with the thicker miso soup. After the ramen was assembled with all my favourite toppings, it was blowtorched, adding a slightly burnt layer to provide an additional smoky flavour to the fragrant broth.
The creamy butter and sweet corn acts as an enhancement to the flavour, cutting its way through the savoury saltiness of the broth. It provided a sweet, refreshing aftertaste different from the heavily flavoured pork broth.
The Karakuchi Miso Ramen is an alternative to the original Miso Ramen, and I would think is a fantastic addition to the menu as spicy foods are very popular within Singapore.
One interesting thing to note is that they used pork chunks instead of the usual chashu, providing a different texture and interestingly, a different flavour profile than usual. The thicker cut of the pork chunks complements the thicker soup completely, as it is soft and tender, yet holding its fort in your mouth.
They even offered a complimentary hard-boiled egg to each customer. Why the complimentary hard-boiled egg you might ask? According to Shogun Suganuma-san, the boiled egg has a special effect of restoring the taste/palate, so you can enjoy the taste of the ramen better.
To add on, our ramen came with a side of gyoza, a perfect side dish to end off the day. It was pan-fried to perfection and tasted just as good as the gyoza I’ve had in Japan.