Category Archives: Travel

Warming up in Sapporo – Ramen, Soup Curry and Potatoes

Our time in Hokkaido wasn’t all about seafood and dairy. When we visited Sapporo in April, the weather ranged from about 9ºC to a chilly -2ºC, with snow still lining the footpaths. Even though we rugged up with thermals, scarves and coats, the cold weather made us search for warming, comforting foods and luckily these are in abundance here in Sapporo!

Sapporo city with the Sapporo TV Tower to the right

Hot food (and sleep) were the first things on our mind after arriving in Sapporo after an overnight flight. After checking into our hotel, we went in search of lunch. At first, we found navigating Sapporo’s underground passageways to be rather confusing as the shopping centres seem to merge into one another so before you know it, you’re in a completely different mall! Once you familiarise yourself with the shops and the direction you’re travelling, it’s much easier to figure out where you are and where you need to go.

Outside of Ramen Kyowakoku

We meandered through the shops until we came across ESTA Sapporo which I recognised as being the home of Ramen Kyowakoku or Ramen Republic (札幌ら~めん共和国). Ramen Republic is a ramen theme park that brings together ramen shops from various regions around Hokkaido, including Sapporo, Asahikawa, Hakodate, and Kushiro. The 8 shops change every depending on popular vote, so it’s a good bet that the ramen there will be pretty good.

Picture menus outside each ramen restaurant

Language barriers are no problem here as there are plenty of picture menus outside each shop. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you know what’s in the ramen though, so I left it to Sir D to pick a random one for us to try.

Shio ramen at Ajisai – 780JPY (approx $8 AUD)

We ended up at Ajisai, a ramen shop from Hakodate, which is known for its shio ramen. This a simple ramen dish with a salt-based broth of pork, chicken, konbu and vegetables and is clear and light. The ramen noodles are relatively straight, and come topped with slices of chashu, negi and menma (bamboo shoots).

Seabura ramen at Ajisai – 850JPY (approx $9 AUD)
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The Land of Seafood and Dairy – Hokkaido, Japan

It’s no secret that Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan, has some of the best seafood and dairy. The northern island of Japan is surrounded by cold ocean waters which makes it the perfect habitat for seafood, and the large countryside in Hokkaido also allows space for dairy farms to operate and produce some of the creamiest dairy products I’ve ever tasted. It might be no surprise then that as part of our two-week Japan trip, Sir D and I headed first to Hokkaido to… well pretty much all we did was eat. And walk to other places to eat some more.

We spent the majority of our time in Sapporo, the capital of the Hokkaido Prefecture which is about a 40-minute train ride from New Chitose Airport. We stayed at the Richmond Hotel Sapporo Ekimae, which was a comfortable hotel that came to about $65 per night for two people. The hotel was conveniently located right next to Exit 22 of Sapporo JR station, as well as being a few blocks away from Exit 3 of the Sapporo Ekimae, the underground walkway that connects Sapporo’s major public transport hubs (also great for escaping the cold!).

Nijo Markets

Being in Hokkaido, one of the things we made sure to do was eat lots of seafood. On the top of my list was to visit the Nijo Market (二条市場, Nijō Ichiba), which is a public market in central Sapporo that sells a wide variety of crab, scallops, fish and other seafood as well as fresh local produce. I was pretty excited to see shako (mantis shrimp) which is something I’ve only ever heard about in this comic!

Seafood at Nijo Markets: Shako or Mantis shrimp (left) and crab (right)

We walked around the markets looking for some donburi (rice bowl) to have for breakfast. It was a little early so not all the stores were open yet, but we stumbled across one that had a few people dining in it already. Best of all, it had mini-don set where we could try a bit of everything.

Mini-don set at Nijo Markets – 2900JPY (approx 30AUD)
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Peach Picking and Pies at Bilpin

Millions of peaches, peaches for me
Millions of peaches, peaches for free!

Ok, so they’re not exactly free but they were for me! I’ve been wanting to go fruit picking for a long time, so the summer break seemed to be the perfect time to do it since my favourite stonefruit, peaches, were in season. We looked up some fruit picking places on the interwebs and the ones in Bilpin seemed to be the closest to us, so Sir D and I road tripped it out one sunny weekend.

The drive took us about an hour and 15 minutes (via M2 and M7) and by the time we got there, we were feeling peckish. On the way to the orchards, we stopped by this Pie in the Sky roadhouse on Bells Line of Road. I’m not sure if it’s affiliated with Pie in the Sky in Cowan but it was a similar set up. You can park your car pretty much anywhere around the little shed that houses the pie shop and head in to select your pies and drinks from the counter.

Steak and mushroom pie – $5

There’s a selection of savoury pies that are mainly chicken- or beef-based, and they’re all made in-house. We chose a steak and mushroom pie from the warmer which had a delicious flaky, buttery puff pastry on top and a thick gravy with tender beef cubes inside.

Apple pie with ice cream – $4.50
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Pei Modern, Melbourne

Ok, so I don’t usually take photos of the bread basket, but how could I resist when 4 warmed slices of sourdough were swaddled up in a white napkin? This is how we began our dinner at Pei Modern, sister restaurant of Mark Best’s Marque in Sydney’s Surry Hills where I’ve had some great meals. Just before our trip to Melbourne, Pei Modern was also named Best New Restaurant of 2013 in The Age Good Food Guide so that definitely sealed the deal and we promptly made a booking.

Brandade croquettes – $8 for four

To start, there was a choice of selecting a few bar snacks or proper entree dishes. The brandade croquettes was one of the bar snacks – 4 perfect quenelles of salt cod brandade shaped and deep fried to a crisp and served with a creamy mayo-like dipping sauce.

Wood grilled prawn with pork salt – $6.50 each
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Melbourne Snackage – Round 2

One of the dangers of going on holiday is that there are always so many places I want to eat at. Three square meals a day just isn’t enough time so I manage to squeeze in a few snacks here and there, leaving me ridiculously full after each day. Oh well – it is a holiday after all! My last trip to Melbourne included snacks like fries, cupcakes and chocolate. Round 2 of Melbourne Snackage is about all things sweet… get ready for some macarons, doughnuts, cakes and more macarons!

Our first stop is LuxBite in South Yarra – and the first thing that catches my eye is the rainbow of macarons in the glass cabinet. There are lots of flavours, several of which are unique to LuxBite, which makes it difficult to choose just a few.

Endless Love – $8.50

Near the macaron display is a wall of pretty cakes. We ogle at the cake display for a while before choosing a pretty ispahan-inspired dessert called Endless Love. It’s sweet but not overly so, with a delicate lychee ganache, rose cream, chunks of lychee and fresh raspberries providing a bit of tartness.

LuxBite macarons – $2.50 each
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