Gaz, Persian nougat

I received a box of Shervin Gaz from a friend who had just returned from Iran. Gaz is a popular Persian nougat made with the white milky sap found on the angebin plant along with egg white, sugar, rose water and pistachios. It’s sweet, milky, soft and chewy with a subtle hint of rose water. It is one of my favorite sweets!

 

My first meal in Kyoto

image via google maps
image via google maps

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My first meal in Kyoto was dinner at this small homey Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) restaurant on Sanjo-jingu-michi. The owners were two lovely elderly couple.  The menu was simple with a variety of Okonomiyaki, noodles, and stir fried dishes. There is no English menu available. Luckily, my sister could read and speak Japanese.

My sister and I were tired after a day of traveling, so we did not order too much. We ordered a stir-fry vegetable, fried kimchi udon noodle, and a seafood Okonomiyaki. The fried kimchi udon noodle was better than I expected.  It was a mixture of sweet, salty and sour (from the kimchi).  The pork slices in the fried udon were especially tender and savory, it had absorbed all the different flavors.

It was our first time having Okonomiyaki. It was intriguing watching the man make it. We were full of anticipation. When the Okonomiyaki was placed in front of us, we were as if two children who could not wait to dig into a bowl of cookies. 🙂

I could only taste the sweetness of the Okonomiyaki sauce on my first bite, but as I ate on, the other flavors (the vegetables, egg, shrimp, and squid) began to present itself. It was a savory pancake indeed and also very filling!

This is a good place to eat if you are in the area and looking for something less commercial.

 

 

Meijiken, Osaka

image via https://tabelog.com/osaka/A2701/A270201/27001834/dtlrvwlst/B208949884/
image via https://tabelog.com/osaka/A2701/A270201/27001834/dtlrvwlst/B208949884/

Meijiken is a Japanese Western restaurant located in Shinsaibashi. This restaurant serves omu rice (omelet rice), cutlets, curry rice, soups, and steak. There are English menus available but it does not consist all the dishes that is on the Japanese menu and they do not accept credit card. When we were there, there was a waiter that could speak sufficient English.

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My sister ordered the omu rice with a chicken cutlet. She enjoyed it, she thought it was delicious. For me, it just tasted like tomato rice and egg. It was decent but nothing special about it. That is just my personal opinion. The chicken cutlet was nice and crusty on the outside, the inside was pretty flavorful.

 

 

 

I ordered the steak set which came with a soup (of your choice), salad, and bread/rice. I ordered the creamy corn soup which was light and creamy. The salad came with a thousand island dressing. The bread was lightly toasted, fresh, and warm with a hint of sweetness. I ordered my steak well done, it came with a brown sauce which I was not too fond of, it did not agree with my taste bud. The steak, however, went really well with the two paste that was served on the plate – mustard and pepper (I think).

 

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Nearing the end of our meal, my sister was craving for something more. So she ordered the beef stew. The stew was hearty and delicious! It was full of flavor. The potato, carrot and beef pieces were tender. It would go lovely with rice.

The total was around 5300 yen. I would say this is a restaurant worth exploring.

 

Japanese confections

Here are a few Japenese confections that I liked during my trip to Osaka and Kyoto:-

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Warabi mochi

This is one of my favorite confection to eat when I was in Osaka. Unlike the traditional mochi which is made of glutinous rice, warabi mochi is made of bracken starch covered in kinako (toasted soybean flour) and its texture is more jelly like and translucent.

 

 

 

Matcha ice cream

If you love matcha and ice cream then you have to try the matcha ice cream! It is sold pretty much everywhere.

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Mitarashi Komochi

Mitarashi komochi is a famous mochi in Osaka. The mochi is filled with mitarashi (sweet syrup made from soy sauce).  An important note about the mochi is that it has a relatively short shelf life.  I was not aware of this, kept a box for almost 2 weeks before deciding to open it, only to find out that it had already expired. So pay attention to the expiry date!  I bought this at a shop in Dotonbori.

 

Mon loire financier

I first got a box of Mon loire financier as a gift from a friend who traveled to Japan. The one  I was given had three flavors – matcha, plain, and chocolate. The cake was light and moist.  The cake was finished within a day (I shared some with friends), it left me wanting more. When I finally planned my trip to Japan, I made sure that it was on my itinerary.  I bought mine from Takashimaya department store in Osaka.  Mon loire specializes in chocolate. If you are interested in trying out their chocolate, you can look up for their store locations on their website https://www.monloire.co.jp/shop.html. Also, note that not all stores sell the financier.

Soda crackers (tansan senbei)

Tansan senbei is a specialty of Arima onsen, a famous hot spring area in Kobe. These crackers are fragrant, savory, sweet, crispy, and crunchy and taste a little bit like waffle cone. They are lovely with a cup of tea or coffee. I bought mine at  Mitsumori Honpo which is along the path on the way up to Rinkei-ji temple. We were looking at the making process of the crackers, and the guy came over and gave us each a freshly baked cracker to sample – nothing like a freshly baked cracker. There are a few other popular stores selling tansan senbei along that path – Izumido factory and Yunosato Honpo.


Wired Cafe, Osaka

 

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The Wired cafe is located on the 7F of the Lucua mall at Osaka station. It is a vibrant, cozy, and work-friendly cafe, also a perfect place to chill and hang out. There are power sockets and free WIFI available. There is also an outdoor smoking dining area which overlooks the inside of the station.

The cafe offers a rich menu of rice bowls, pasta, soups, sandwiches, desserts, and a variety of drinks. Set meals are also available.

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The cappuccino was not how I liked it. It was somewhat bland and the taste of the milk was overpowering. I am sorry to say I did not enjoy it.

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The nachos came with beef sauce, sour cream, lime, corn, tomato, and lettuce. The nacho chips paired with the beef sauce and sour cream was delicious.

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The clam chowder soup set came with bread, ham, and salad. The clam chowder was decent. I would say this was an average dish.

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The cafe offers a variety of interesting rice bowls. I ordered the white gravy hamburger steak combo. I was impressed that it had a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables.  The potato chips were good, it had a natural potato sweetness to it. The vegetables were lightly sauteed, seasoned with salt. The white gravy wasn’t too rich, it went well with the rice, egg, and steak (that’s how I ate it).

Some dishes here are good, I would definitely recommend the rice bowls. The atmosphere is definitely a plus.

Marufuku coffee (Sennichimae branch), Osaka

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This photo is not taken by me. This is someone’s post on Instagram.

Marufuku coffee is one the oldest coffee shops in Osaka. I found this place by chance. I was getting some groceries the night before at life foods market near Namba walk. Before heading over to the cashier, I stopped by the pudding section to pick up some pudding. A particular one stood out – Marufuku coffee pudding.  What caught my attention was “since 1934” and I thought to myself, “let’s see how good this pudding is”.

I tried the coffee pudding the next day after lunch and absolutely loved it. It was creamy and sweet with a hint of bitterness from the coffee. I looked up for more information about the brand and found out that there is a long history to the brand and they have coffee shops in Osaka. My sister suggested that we give it a try and I quote “We’d be a fool not to try it”. We went to the main branch in Sennichimae.

Marufuku coffee shop is a short walk from Dotonbori and Namba station. When we entered, we were greeted by a strong presence of cigarette smoke. There is no non-smoking area in the shop. If I weren’t adamant about trying the coffee I would have walked straight out. The interior was old French cafe style.

My sister ordered a set which includes a cup of their blended coffee, coffee pudding, and two kinds of cake. I ordered the Ice cafe au lait (milk coffee) and the cheese toast (Marufuku’s specialty). The blended coffee was sharp and strong. It had a kick to it.  The iced cafe au lait had a well-balanced flavor – smooth, fragrant and bittersweet.  The cheese toast was a delight! The bread was ultra soft and fluffy. It had the right amount of cheese that it did not overpower the natural flavor of the bread. The bill came to slightly over 3,000 yen.

If you enjoy coffee and want to try something different, do give this cafe a visit. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

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Fukiageya (Oyakodon), Osaka station

My sister and I had lunch at the Fukiageya restaurant.  Fukiageya is located on the 12th floor of the Hankyu Umeda Main Store at the Osaka station. This restaurant serves various Oyakodon (chicken and egg rice bowl) with good quality locally bred chicken. It was stated on the menu what type of chicken they use and where it is bred but I can’t remember the name.

We did not have a lot of time to fully enjoy our meal as we had to catch a bus to the airport. We ordered whatever stood out for us on the menu and below was what we ordered.

Chicken breast katsu Oyakodon set for  1,450 yen.

The chicken cutlets were fried to perfection! It was fragrant and delicious, the inside was succulent.

I would definitely make a trip back just for those chicken cutlets 🙂

Yuki no Sakurajima Oyakodon set for 1,550 yen

This dish is also one of their famous dishes and I can see why. I have never seen a dish quite like it – rice topped with chicken and egg white meringue.

I have to say, though, that’s a lot of egg in one dish ..haha

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Tsuruhashi Koreatown, Osaka

Tsuruhashi Koreatown in Osaka is the largest Koreatown in Japan. You can pretty much find anything Korean there. It was not part of my itinerary to visit this place because there are many Korean shops and restaurants in the city where I currently work (Beijing) due to the large population of Koreans working and residing in the city. I would prefer to explore places that are more local. My sister, who currently resides in Malaysia, was craving for Korean food. So I said I will take her there for dinner. We got to the Koreatown around 6:30 pm, a lot of the shops (except the restaurants) were already closed. It was raining so we couldn’t really explore either. We just found a random restaurant to have dinner.  We also got to sample various Korean pickles. My favorite is kimchi and there was a store that had pretty good and spicy kimchi, so I bought some to take home.

For those who are not familiar or enjoy Korean food, this is a good area to visit.

Kaiseki

One of Kyoto’s specialty is Kaiseki, a traditional multi-course meal, also known as the Japanese haute cuisine. The prices vary depending on where you dine.  Lunch is cheaper ranging around 4,000 to 10,000 yen, and dinner from 10,000 yen onward.  I had my first Kaiseki experience at a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Kobe. I was initially planning to have a Kaiseki meal in Kyoto, but since Kaiseki was part of the Ryokan package, I decided to just have it at the Ryokan.

The Ryokan I stayed at was the Negiya Ryofukuka at the famous hot spring town – Arima Onsen in Kobe.  The Kaiseki dinner was served in the room and 20161220_145935breakfast at the public dining hall. The Ryokan provided a set of yukata for me and my sister to wear during our stay. It was so comfortable and wearing the yukata while dining made the experience extra special. The staff who served us our dinner was really friendly and warm. She introduced every meal to us. The presentation of the food was simple yet enticing. The ingredients used were very fresh. Some dishes were an acquired taste for us and some were delish. My favorite were the tempura and matcha jelly with cream.  The shrimp tempura was scrumptious! the shrimp was cooked perfectly, the outer layer was crusty and crispy. The outer layer of the tempura was different from what I usually have. It was flaky and reminded me deep fried wontons. The baby eggplant was so cute!

The kaiseki dinner was truly an amazing culinary experience for both me and my sister.

This is the public dining area where we had our Japanese breakfast.

 

Nishiki market, Kyoto

Nishiki market is a four-hundred-year-old market. It has both modern and traditional shops selling fresh seafood, vegetables, souvenirs, local sweets, pickled vegetables, popular local food and etc. The market is very clean and packed with locals and tourists. It is a great place to explore local produce and savor Kyoto specialties. It is definitely worth visiting.

One of my favorite store at the market is the Aritsugu knife shop.  They are one of the oldest and most famous knife makers in Japan.The knife selection was impressive and amazing handiwork. You can even have your initials carved onto the knife. A household kitchen knife would cost around 10,000 yen. They also sell other cutting tools such as scissors, pots, and pans. I regret not buying a knife when I was there. I will put that on my list of things to buy on my next trip.