Market City food court has always been good for cheap Asian lunch time eats, but if you didn’t know, you can find a very well priced and delicious ramen place called Hakata-Maru Ramen. It specialises in tonkotsu ramen serving a couple of differing variations yet still retains the low prices found else where in the food court.
The store is immediately to the left of the food court (second on the left) and is hard to miss with the Japanese styled decorations and large sign
The stall is quite open and behind the counter is the kitchen where the magic happens. Chefs preparing the noodles to perfection while quick and delicate hands work to put together the bowls of ramen.
The result is a moderately sized bowl of ramen with a few toppings. I opted for the red tonkotsu which is just the addition of a chilli sauce/paste.
A small condiment bar allows for some sauces and toppings like sesame and pickled ginger. A few sides are available to go with your ramen, my choice? The chicken wings with coleslaw for $4. Cool thing is that one bone is removed, allowing easy consumption like a drumstick.
Well onto the ramen, i personally think its quite delicious. The pork flavour is present and not too strong and the soup has a nice golden flavour. Its not overly thick which would appeal to those who cant handle a heavy thick broth like Gumshara’s.
Unfortunately the toppings are a little lacking from the stock menu with only half an egg and few bits of pork. To help fill you up though, kaedama (or an extra serve of noodles) is available for $1. Be careful to ensure the cleaning saff don’t take away your bowl.
Overall its a great place,good food and staff with smiles in their faces makes for a good meal. You also cant beat a genuine bowl of tonkotsu for less than $9.
So there was a whole heap of hype about this new ramen place called Ramen Ikkyu opening up in Chinatown inside the Sussex centre, I remember the week of it opening, there were waits of up to an hour before you’d get your food. While I’m a bit late to join the bandwagon, I’ve finally had a chance to try this place out.
So where is Sussex centre? It’s on 401 Sussex street with an alternative entrance in the back from Dixon St next to the Chatime.
Most of this hype came about from an article in SMH’s good food guide. To be honest, I’m not familiar with the actual terminology of Ramen, the type of soup they prepare here is known as ‘Paitain Soup’ which I understand means a white soup.
The store is placed in a food court which means a rather minimal shopfront, there’s a single waitress whom assists with ordering at the front counter while the back kitchen is hidden away.
Ordering is performed using iPads and allows for you to customise your order as you please. Order, pay, grab your receipt and then wait for your delicious noodles. As you can see my choice was the pork rib ramen and I decided to add some Cha Shu slices and get some chilli oil to spice things up a little.
Great thing about this place is the many options to top your ramen and get and assortment of sides to match your preference. Toppings include extra Bamboo shoot, butter, corn as well as sauces like black garlic oil or chilli oil.
I’ve seen what comes out for the pork rib and I was rather excited, but for those who haven’t heard of this place, the pork rib is HUGE and completely overwhelms the bowl. Just imagine, it’s $14 for just the rib. The bowl is beautifully presented with a rich vibrant colour.
The default option provides plenty of toppings; bamboo shoots, ontama egg, black fungus, shallots and seasame. With the rib, it came as 2 whole ribs with meat up to the fatty layer. The best thing about the rib is that it just comes off the bone and is super tender, however it is sprinkled with good chunks of sea salt so mix well before consuming.
So what are my thoughts? It’s pretty yummy, the hand made noodles have a great texture, firm and springy but not so much resistance that it feels tough. The broth flavours are nice, it’s on the light side compared to a thick tonkotsu broth and is lighter. The pork rib is delicious and amazingly soft where the cha shu also has a delicious sweet sauce glazed over it.
The overall meal was huge and with the extra free serving of Kaedama (which is always awesome) was really filling, fantastic food coma after the meal. To be honest though, I don’t think it lived up to the hype and for the price would prefer Gumshara which has a really rich pork broth – for those that find this a little too much, you may find Ikkyu more appealing.
Verdict: Good place, but personally prefer Gumshara and Ramen-kan for a cheap eat. Cost: Somewhat expensive, you do get a lot though. More info:http://menikkyu.com.au/ Location: Shop F1A, 401 Sussex Street, Sydney, 2000.
For father’s day I decided to cook up a storm and the choice of dish would be Singaporean chill crab with a side of stir fried Hokkien noodles. The last time I tried the crab was for dinner with some friends and that ended up a disaster with me close to slicing off my finger with the cleaver (4 weeks later and it’s still not completely healed).
Well it’s actually very simple, you’ll obviously need a crab, here’s the one I got, unfortunately it was missing a claw, but it will do.
If you’ve bought it live (which you should), you’ll need to kill it, remove the head, break it in half remove the claws (or claw in my case). Chop the body and legs into two pieces and the claw into two pieces at the elbow joint. A full crab should give you 8 pieces of meat, enough for 3 people. You’ll also need to smash up the shell of the claw pieces a bit, use the cleaver sideways or a hammer, be careful not to go too hard, you’ll still want it to look like crab pieces. Place on some paper towels to dry.
What you’ll need for the crab (amounts are for 1 full crab):
1 live (or freshly killed) mud crab
2 brown onions (roughly chopped)
8 red chillis (roughly chopped) (make sure they actually have a bit of kick to them)
Belacan or some shrimp paste (tiny bit)
1/2 tbspn vinegar
Approx 6tbspn oil
1 tbspn tomato paste
2 tbspn tomato sauce
300mL tomator puree
3 tbspn light soy sauce
1 tbspn chilli sauce
4 tbspn sugar
1/2 cup warm water with 1/4 tspn corn starch
First blitz the onions and chilli in a food processor until its pretty fine but not too mushy (about 20 – 30 seconds).
A little extra step I like to do is to lightly fry the crab pieces, place a wok on high heat and wait til its very hot, pour in some oil and once it smokes, place the crab pieces in, be careful as the crab may still be wet and oil will fly. Cook roughly for about 30 seconds to a minute, remove and set aside.
Get the rest of your ingredients ready in preparation to make the sauce.
With a hot wok, pour the oil in, immediately after place the chilli and onion mixture/paste in and cook until it looks somewhat dry, the onion contains a fair amount of liquid which you want to evaporate. Next you’ll be adding the vinegar, tomato puree, paste, sugar and salt.
Next add the tomato sauce, soy sauce as well as water and starch mixture. let it simmer for a little bit to get the flavours out. Bring the sauce the boil and place in your crab pieces. Cook until the shell is a consistent red colour, once achieved, crack an egg in and stir to spread the egg uniformly. You’re done.
I personally don’t think crab is enough on its own, so to compliment it, I made some stir fried Hokkien noodles to go along with it. Like with any stir fry, they’re simple, but the key is maintaining high heat for the smokey flavours, this means moderating the portions you cook with so the heat doesn’t dissipate too quickly.
For my stir fry, I had the following:
Garlic (finely chopped)
2 tbspn oyster sauce
1/2 tbspn seasame oil
1 tbspn oil
With stir fry, you want to arrange your ingredients in a logical manner for when you throw them in.
To make the stir fry, have your work hot and smoking, add the oils, they should smoke immediately. Add the chopped garlic and stir immediately, do not stop! Next add the capsicum, onions, chilli and carrots, keep stirring. After about 20 seconds you want to add the fish balls and fish cake, this is also the time to add the oyster sauce.
Next is to add the noodles, make sure when you dunked them in hot water you didn’t leave it too long, otherwise you’ll be left with mushy noodles. Give it a good stir then finally add the cabbage and bean sprouts, once they soften you are done and should end up with something like this:
So because we couldn’t get good view of Kurashiki by night, we decided we would get up early and see it in the morning light, as you can see, the sun was barely up when we left the hotel room.
We basically walked to the same shrine and explored around there and could see where we walked passed during the previous night. There were actually quite a few cemeteries around the place and they’re all quite small, with only a few burial plots.
We also saw a few of these little ‘poles’ in the ground which I didn’t really understand, not sure what it was actually referring to.
With an early morning start, we began our departure from Osaka to make our way up to the Tokyo area, there’s a couple of photos below of the place we stayed and it really shows how small the room is. With all our luggage, there was seriously no room to move, understandable for ~$20 a night but also lucky we weren’t staying there for too long.
Our method of transportation to Tokyo would be the famous “Shinkansen” or a bullet train you all associate Japan with. The front of the train has a very peculiar look as it’s designed to go fast. It’s also very long and seated 16 carriages, and they weren’t small either.
Unfortunately for this trip, most of the reserved seats were taken and we were stuck in a smoking carriage. Initially for us it wasn’t too bad as the carriage wasn’t very full, but as it filled up, people were smoking left right and centre. Left a terrible smell on my coat and the first breath of fresh air as we exit the train would be heavenly.
The trains themselves go rather quick, with my phone out and a GPS-based speedometer application, we saw speeds around 250 – 270 km/h but it didn’t appear to be going that fast, most likely because the trains themselves travel very smoothly.
After arriving, we made our way to the Hotel we were to stay at, the Weekly Dormy Inn in Naka Megaro, getting a little confused with the transition from the JR line to the Metro lines, we ended up being about 50 minutes late, we were supposed to arrive at approximately 10am. When we arrived, we couldn’t check in til 3pm and the other boys had already left to head out for lunch. Luckily they were sweet enough to leave us a note at reception, signed off with a lovely ‘Love Louis and co.”
We would then go out to lunch as well, no idea what the place was called but we had a little difficulty understanding the lady working there but we did manage to pick up one thing, “Karai” which meant spicy as Ed wasn’t keen on anything spicy. Not having the phrasebook with us either meant we didn’t know how to ask for a recommendation either, so we resorted to just randomly pointing to something on the menu. Fortunately for us the food turned out to be rather good but we’re still not sure what it was. If you know, let us know :).
We hit up a convenience store for some Japanese snacks and found this funky looking thing. It was a bun which was black and rippled, and with the packaging made a complete guy with an afro. Looked hilarious and tasted rather nice.
After meeting up with the others, we explored the area of Shibuya, known primarily for it’s large crossing which is always filled with people. Personally, I didn’t feel impressed by it at all, sure it was a big crossing, but it wasn’t as big as I had expected. I had expected a sea of people, so many that when you cross it, you can’t even see in front of you because it’s all full of people. So yes, a bit disappointing.
Shibuya itself was rather nice, quite busy with plenty of shops around. We went into ‘109’ which was 7 floors of mens clothing, unfortunately I found nothing that was nice, the style was rather weird, lot of Goth-like clothing and nothing rather stylish. Only thing I found really appealing was a pair of Hello Kitty undies and a Chuppa Chup pair. Not sure if we missed something, but overall, it wasn’t that great.
Next was brunch, we went to this little restaurant next to a KFC with an statue of Colonel Sanders in a Santa outfit, rather funny looking. Dumplings, beer, nuts and noodles for not too much over $10, rather good in my opinion. As it was getting rather bland and the same, we headed back to check into our hotel room and explored the local vicinity
We had a tiny “dinner” at the hotel room and a short walk away was a large store which sold all kind of things, from food and snacks to alcohol and hardware tools. Anything you needed really as well as some stuff you wouldn’t. More on that below.
We also had a little dress-up party using some cute hats of various animals and characters, don’t I look cute below? I’m sure Jap girls would dig it if I wore it on the street. The other thing that was rather funky about the store was the availability of some sex toys, we found a vibrator that would go off when you call it and another one shaped like an egg described as “Special feeling vibrator”. Nice.
Booze was cheap and we bought a bottle of Sky Vodka and Chivas Regal as well as some green tea, all for about $50. So good, unfortunately for us, we didn’t realise that the green tea in Japan is unsweetened an had to get some sugar after dinner. Turning our room into a make-shift meth lab was a success and we had some nice Chivas and Green Tea.
Dinner was at a small Ramen joint called Paimen, we found it rather odd that the shop operates until 26:00, not sure if the shop sits in a time rift or something, but this wasn’t just written once, it was stuck onto the door with a proper sticker thing. Ordering from this shop was new to us as well, instead of someone taking your order, you hit up the vending machine and get a ticket which you hand over as your noodles are made.
The noodles weren’t too bad, but the Ramen was very very oily and salty. The boiled egg with the runny yolk was delicious, the rest wasn’t that great. After dinner was preparation for a night of clubbing at Club Asia, with an event called “Affection” on that Thursday night. We mixed the Chivas and the Green Tea and mashed down a couple of drinks before heading out. Being a bit happy and drunk, we decided to run, this lead to Gavin having a asthma attack and the two sober boys Edmond and Louis would take him back to the room without us knowing. We pressed on into the club.
Upon entering, we were greeted by a completely empty room, seriously about 6 people in there around the bar. WTF we thought, but we decided whatever, we’ll have fun with our own company. We used up our free drink voucher and found out there were more rooms, and this wasn’t the main room. Thank God we thought, until we walked over there to a large room with a stage at the front, this was getting even worse. The room had about 5 people, all of which were guys. Still having no idea what was wrong with this place, we just kept drinking, and out of nowhere, people just started to come in and fill the club.
Soon after this girl comes onto stage and starts to sing, half the people in the place are sitting down watching while everyone else was standing. The singer was rather pretty and we got right into it, probably looking like a bunch of douches as we were the only ones waving our hands. Here I ended up dancing with some girl and then somehow managed to get lost and lose the group. Ended up just watching the performances with her in my arms 😉 unfortunately then, (still don’t know how and when) I lost her. Next thing I know, I’m being woken up by security and told to leave because the club was closing. How cool’s that? They were perfectly fine with me being knocked out, love it. Couple of videos of the kinda performances below:
Spent a couple of minutes waiting around to see if anyone else was coming out before deciding to walk back to the hotel room, confused and unsure as to where everyone went and what happened that night. The sun was already starting to rise and it was quite cold. Upon returning, Tang was nowhere to be seen, after about 20 minutes, just as Gavin and Ed decide to go look for him, he comes home with a similar confusion.
I did a little video blog of my adventure home, little warning, I swear a fair bit (yes, I was still drunk) and the camera work is very shoddy :).
So after boarding a plane from the Gold Coast where a fellow traveller snapped like 10 photos because the camera was on continuous mode (while claiming he didn’t think it worked, it just vibrated a lot), we were off to Kansai International Airport. The flight was Jetstar’s JQ19 with rather comfortable seats for a budget airline.
Slept through most of the flight, probably about 6 hours of it until enjoying a nice chicken wrap and Asahi beer (expensive though at $15 all up). There was a rather nice skyline view as the sun began to set as well.
Landing in Kansai was an easy experience with plenty of English signs to lead us where we needed to go.
There was a short shuttle train trip to get out of the airport and through customs/immigration where we then headed to the JR train station to collect our JR passes and book a seat for the trip to Tokyo the next day, unfortunately we’re stuck in the smoking carriage as the train is full, hopefully it’s not too bad.
I forgot to take a picture of the JR pass, was expecting a techy kinda plastic card, but it’s just a nice folded cardboard kinda thing. Plenty of vending machines around, and I decided to buy something, ended up being a coffee, had no idea what it was looking at it. Quite nice, but wasn’t really after a coffee at that time.
After an hour trip to our stop, Shinimamiya (which I’m still having trouble pronouncing) we wandered the streets to find our hostel. Was a bit hard because when we printed the directions, it didn’t include the Japanese characters making the directions a bit empty, but in the end we made it to Hotel Mikado. Place was rather warm inside and the rooms were actually quite small (I’ll take a picture tomorrow), but the inclusion of a hairbrush, towels, toothbrush, etc was surprising considering the tiny cost of $20ea for the night.
After dropping our stuff of we headed to eat, the hostel recommended this Chinese place nearby and the noodles there were rather good, not too badly priced either, with my bowl costing 680 Yen. No idea what it actually is, but it had a variety of veges, some seafood and meat in a rather thick sauce.
Post dinner we walked around the area finding this nice little dessert joint called ‘Petit Young squared’ with a charismatic old woman running the place, we found it hard to avoid purchasing something from her. I settled for a simple ice cream while the others went for a crepe.
We also walked into a 100 yen shop which was a bit deceiving seeing as everything was 105 yen.
Ended up buy some random things, not too sure what everything is supposed to be. The chip-like things in the middle were rather nice and the candy was rather ordinary, nothing too unique. The Chelsea thing had ‘Yoghurt Scotch’ written on it and had a interesting taste, kinda nice but kinda not. We’re yet to try the chocolate but Gavin said it’d be good.
Bought myself a pair of gloves here as well, not bad for 105 Yen, or a little over a dollar.
We also ventured into a Lawson Station which was some type of convenience store where we bought some water and some alcohol to try out. Kirin Strong, Kiring Strong Zero and a Pink Squash, none of them were very tasty in my opinion and the Kirin’s were bitter with a hint of lemon, not really something I enjoyed. They were cheap though at 148 Yen, equating to less than $2. Not bad for 8% alcohol content.
Anyways, that’s the first night here and the plan for the trip is going to be:
Land in Osaka
Kurashiki, Okayama and Naoshima Island
Hiroshima and Miyajima
Back to Osaka and back to Sydney by midday on the 9th of December
Looks like it’s going to be a very tiring trip with minimal sleep to ensure we have the maximum amount of time available for travelling. Also think we’ll be hitting the clubs tomorrow night so you probably won’t get another post for another couple of days.