My friend D is a living example of cosmopolitanism – he comes from Italy, studied in Ireland and the UK, lived for a year in Japan, works across Europe, is in love with a Singaporean. More to Babette’s point, he knows and loves eating. He can hold forth on the virtues of Italian food today, and be a partisan in the Fukuoka ramen chain rivalry tomorrow. (He supports Ichiran. They aren’t in Singapore, unfortunately.)
So when he proposes a ramen joint – especially one that his friend from Japan recommended – I’m all too happy to go along.
Ikkousha is a relative newcomer in its native Kyushu, seeing as its founding date was during the Heisei era. But in Singapore, it’s been around since 2014, which would count as ‘established’. The Chijmes branch, nestled in along a whole stretch of Japanese joints, puts out an open welcome with its warm lighting and wood-based decor.
Ramen is itself a relative newcomer on the list of Chinese imports into Japanese culture, and yet it has evolved a bewildering variety in the century since its arrival. Ikkousha is, as its name suggests, of the Hakata style.
And you can tell just from the tableside accompaniments, as I learned from our Japanese companion. There’s sesame in a mill, beni shoga (shreds of pink pickled ginger), and most intriguingly karashi takana – pickled, wilted mustard greens. Eaten alone, the takana packs a surprising wallop of spice. But in the soup, their salt-sour flavour shows up more as the chili dissolves into the cream-white broth.
The chili barely makes a dent in the richness of the broth. Milk-white from all the emulsified pork bone fats, it buries rather than bathes the noodles, which are thin and snappy. Cha shu is also thinly sliced, the tendons translucent and nicely gooey. Because the soup holds heats so well, ordering kaedama (another serving) is standard practice; the noodles are dunked in after a brief blanching, and the broth does the rest.
Well, no. The broth does the cooking. We do the rest – we the diners, eating and chatting in piecemeal English (hey, at least they know English, I don’t know Japanese at all). We eat so much that my other good friend, famously walk-averse, agrees we need to hoof it to our next venue to aid digestion.
We meet people in our corner of the world, who’ve come from all the other corners; we meet good ideas, slurp them, revel in them. These encounters underlie our entire world. But more to the point, they make our lives vivid and worthwhile.
30 Victoria Street
Contact no.: 6338 8460
Mon – Sat: 11.30am – 10pm
Sun, PH: 11.30am – 9pm