Saturday, September 24, 2016

Japan: Hakata Ippudo in Fukuoka

Our Japan espionage concluded with a 2 day stopover in Fukuoka prior to departing to Hong Kong. Home to hakata ramen, a ramen dish that utilizes thin ramen in a rich, creamy pork broth. Most of us may have already tried hakata ramen in our own countries without realizing it.

I had my eyes set on trying at least an original version whilst in Fukuoka and after a few random turns in the city area, we stumbled upon Ippudo ramen! Having had a good experiences both in Sydney and in Kuala Lumpur, we were eager to pay homage to its originators.

Mentaiko is a spicy type of fish roe that is used a topping for rice dishes or as a seasoning due to its saltiness. I am not a fan of fishy types of food and so, allowed the sister to gorge at it all by herself. Worth a try if you are in the region as it is a Fukuoka specialty and if you really do love it, why not grab it as a take home souvenir?

Shiromaru classic - after brewing in the pot for a good 18 hours, the pork broth is left to mature for an additional 24 hours to extract all the porky goodness from the bones. Creamy and rich, this would be the literal translation of pigs having a bubble bath. Noodles were thin and cooked al dante whilst chashu was soft and tender.

Gyoza - a lesser known specialty and one that surprised me. I loved how crisp the side of the gyoza that touches the pan is and am amazed that the meat filling in it is not dry at all. Simplicity done well and easily polished off by yours truly and co.

Akamura modern - blended with miso paste, this tonkatsu broth was not as creamy and the previous one but it is slightly oilier, in a good way. Noodles used here were of medium thickness, giving diners that extra bite-y texture. Two thumbs up from me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Crazy Wings, Glen Waverley MELB

As a child, I have always been more fond of Western food than Asian food and would often reach out to a danish pastry as opposed to a traditional Chinese biscuit. I still love Asian food but perhaps it's because I only saw it as a form of comfort rather than luxury. Getting my parents to bring us hungry kids to McDonalds or KFC was an accomplishment on its own.

When I was feeling under the weather last Sunday, the one thing I wanted to eat was Chinese food which was what I managed to bring myself too despite having to brace the bitter cold Melbourne weather.

A busy little establishment that sits no more than 20 patrons, the "buy one free one" deal is always turned on although the flavours do alternate. Also a hot pot $25 for 2 diners deal which includes a a plate of thinly sliced meat, a plate of veggies and either a spicy or non-spicy broth to go with.

Fried rice - albeit oily, I didn't mind it and found it seasoned to my liking. Pretty good for a simple dish:)

Honey soy chicken wings - ranging from $2 to $2.20, depending on choice of flavour, there is definitely meat on each skewer. Pretty tasty and a bargain if going for the chicken wing deal.

Crazy wing - the ultimate "treat" of the day. In short, it lived up to its crazy expectations and probably surpassed it for at least 3 minutes. Not something for the faint hearted. Not as yummy as the other flavours though.

Crazy Wing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, September 19, 2016

BBQ Code, Glen Waverley MELB

While I fancy the "one bowl" concept, popularized by Asian countries, I am a lot more reserved when it comes to barbeque meals because often enough, the protein is not well prepared (imagine overcooking a thin piece of meat or undercooking a thick slab of pork/chicken) and I usually leave the establishment with a toasty scent that ensues a bath soon after.

At BBQ Code, I am glad that my concerns are addressed - staff came around to cook our meat for us and cleaned each hot plate prior to cooking subsequent types of protein. No burnt aftertaste ever again nor any unwanted residues sticking to our food.

One cannot say no to the unlimited refills of side dishes which consisted of kimchi, mashed potato and slices of fish cake. A plate of corn topped with melted cheese arrived at our table and upon querying it's presence, we were told that it is a complimentary dish for every table. Thank you!:)

Beef ribs - I was reluctant to order this initially but no regrets whatsoever once I sunk my teeth into it. Tender, juicy and marinated to perfection. Thumbs up!

Japchae - I cannot go to a Korean restaurant without trying out their japchae. This one was generously coated with shredded carrots, spinach, mushroom slices and pieces of beef. Bonus points for being extra tasty too!

Yuk Jeon - pan fried sliced wagyu beef with salad.

Overall, I would highly recommend this place if you love both Korean food and BBQ. Prices may be slightly expensive but it is well worth it as you do get excellent service and good quality dishes:)

BBQ Code  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, September 16, 2016

Japan: Himeji Castle

Unlike the European castles intended as a leisure escape for royalty, Japanese castles were designed more so as a defense fortress during the warring states. After the feudal period, World War II and a few natural disaster incidences, many of these castles had been destroyed. Himeji castle is one of the last few remaining castles in Japan and is currently undergoing restorations.

We were able to visit the castle in April and even climbed up the castle, which was a daunting task on it's own. I can only imagine the lives of the castle guards working tirelessly around the clock ensuring the safety of it's residents.

Well worth a visit and visitors can still spot imprints from the castle's previous owners on rooftop tiles. Be sure to check out every floor of the castle as it does vary and is an experience on its own.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Japan: Takayama and Hida beef

Woke up early in Kyoto to catch a ride to Takayama, a city located in the mountainous region of the Gifu prefecture. A city suited for travellers wanting to get away from the bustling city landscape, train rides here are not scheduled on a frequent basis and one may need to catch public transport in order to explore the area better.

The sister and I chanced upon festival floats, known as yatai, around the busier parts of the city and each float carried a different symbol. Whilst we did not stick around long enough to witness the procession which is carried out in the afternoon and evening, it was still a lucky encounter for us.

Hida beef buns are a must try in Hida. Meat was soft, succulent and definitely tasty although not sure if I would rate it within the same category as wagyu.

The sister and I may have gotten a little ripped off when we walked into what appeared to be a popular local restaurant serving good quality cuts of Hida beef. My cuts of beef were a little overcooked and dry whilst her's was probably harbouring around the same standards as mine. Would appreciate other recommendations for future visits:)

Japan: Atsuta Horaiken Restaurant, Nagoya

As I child, I cringed at the sight of eels being randomly selected from a sardine packed eel only aquarium and being slit opened after an order is placed. Such was a sight that had petrified me as a child and I was adamant on not putting any on my palate.

Until I tried out unagi aka the Japanese method of preparing eel flesh. I was hooked onto the slightly sweet charred taste of the sauce used to coat the meat and soon after, overcame my fear of eating eels.

I have read that Nagoya is well known for its "eel three ways" aka Hitsumabushi bowl and insisted to the sister that we both try it out for ourselves and see if its well worth the hype. Atsuta Horaiken Honten is the original creators of this dish and is still being made, probably more popular than ever with the aid of social media.

There are two outlets in Nagoya, one being the original spot near the Atsuta temple and the other, right in the middle of the city inside a shopping mall along Otsu Dori. Be sure not to miss this!

As per the instruction card placed on each table, 1/4 of the bowl is consumed on its own without any sauce or soup whilst the other 1/4 is mixed with the provided seasoning, 1/4 with the seasoning and broth and the last 1/4 of the bowl is enjoyed in whichever method preferred.

The eel had one of the best caramelized sauce to accompany it and was extremely soft to taste. Served atop a bowl of steaming hot rice,a bowl of broth made out of eel bones and sauce dish containing wasabi, shredded seaweed and chopped spring onions. Extremely worth the hustle to get to this place and while there's really not one method to suit every palate, I liked mine with the seasoning as it allowed the subtle aroma of the unagi to appear more dominant and indirectly, upped its textural profile with a bit more crunch and peppery taste from the wasabi.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hong Kong: Mido Cafe, Yau Ma Tei

As Hong Kong's tropic weather continued to drown us on our final day here, I was a little upset at the thought of leaving this country. After all, it was one of the first few countries that I have embarked without parental supervision or funds and a place where I feel at home - perhaps due to my Cantonese background getting excited from hearing its mother tongue spoken on a daily basis.

Mido was conveniently located a street away from our hotel which made it an excellent spot to grab breakfast before we depart to the airport. We were greeted by an elderly man clad in a white singlet , heavily engrossed in his newspaper. A swift turn to look at us curious looking tourists followed by a instructions to head upstairs for service.

Both the sister and I cannot read Chinese letters and were glad there's an English option available. We each ordered a cup of piping hot milk tea followed by a warm, toasted polo bun stuffed with a slab of butter, a bowl of egg and lotus seed soup and pork chop with macaroni in broth.

Wouldn't go as far to claim that its excellent cha chaan teng but it was strangely satisfying. Don't think I will be ordering the lotus seed soup again in the future but possibly will be back for that polo bun. I still have problems denying bread products access to my tummy. Darn.