Exploring Kyoto: Nishiki Markets, Gion and Kaiseki

It’s been a while between Japan posts but I’m trying to get through everything before I head to Japan again in less than 30 days! (not that I’m counting). After travelling through Hokkaido and catching a quick flight to Osaka, we used Osaka as a base to explore other areas in the region. After travelling through Hokkaido and catching a quick flight to Osaka, we used Osaka as a base to explore other areas in the region.

Entrance to Remm Shin-Osaka

We stayed at the remm hotel in Shin-Osaka station which was a clean and ultra modern hotel within the station building. Being at a major train station that had several train lines going through it meant that it was a great location to travel easily to other cities via the shinkansen, which also made good use of our JR passes.

We had to be quite ruthless in whittling down our itinerary seeing as we only had a few days in Osaka. Since neither Sir D nor I were particularly interested in sightseeing temples and stuff, we decided to do a couple of touristy sightseeing things before spending time on the more important things – food!

1000 torii gates

On our way to Kyoto, we stopped at Inari station to see the Fushimi Inari shrine. As we walked up the mountain, the torii gates became smaller but more numerous, until we got to senbon torii (thousands of torii gates), where the trail split into two pathways. It was quite a breathtaking sight to walk through a tunnel of bright orange, with the rays of sunlight filtering through the small spaces between the dense torii gates and reflecting off the wood to give an orange glow.

Inscriptions on each torii

The shrine is dedicated to the god Inari, the god of kitsune (foxes), fertility, rice, sake, agriculture and industry. It’s no surprise then that there are fox souvenirs and statues scattered around the shrine.

Kitsune fortunes
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Papi Chulo, Manly

When I think of Manly, I think of eating fish and chips by the beach, and soaking up the sun with an ice-cream in hand, trying to eat it all before it melts. I certainly didn’t think of American BBQ, but that’s all changed now that Papi Chulo is in town.

Part American grill and smokehouse, part South American cantina, Papi Chulo is definitely a people pleaser with its vast array of dishes ranging from BBQ meat platters to empanadas to even some Asian-inspired dishes like green mango salad. It’s location on Manly Wharf makes it perfect for idling the weekend away with some cocktails and a long lunch, while watching the boats drift by on the water.

Pea guacamole with tortilla chips – $14

We start off with a few snacks. The pea guacamole doesn’t sound particularly interesting on the menu but this is a damn good dish. The guacamole is smooth and creamy and the addition of peas adds a bit of sweetness. Crunchy tortilla chips are provided to scoop up the dip and it pretty much disappears in a flash.

Ceviche of kingfish – $17

The kingfish ceviche has tangy cubes of raw kingfish that has been lightly ‘cooked’ in lime juice, making each piece tangy but still retaining the texture of raw fish. There’s also some jalapeno in there for a spicy kick and pineapple pieces for a bit of sweetness. My favourite bits are the crispy corn kernels which have been deep fried and seasoned which add a nice crunch and textural interest.

Smoked hot wings with comeback sauce – $17
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Yasaka Ramen, Sydney

No Ramen, No Life. It’s pretty much a mantra I live by, as I find myself getting insatiable cravings for ramen every couple of weeks. I was pretty excited to hear about yet another ramen place opening up in the CBD – and run by an ex-Gumshara chef as well! We found ourselves heading over to Yasaka Ramen a few weeks after it had opened to check out what the fuss was about, and to see if chef Takeshi Sekigawa had brought the infamously rich Gumshara tonkotsu broth with him.

Making takoyaki

The first thing you see when you walk into the restaurant are several takoyaki cast iron moulds where a chef is busily turning the octopus balls to make sure they get just the right amount of crispiness. It’s just as well that they have several of these moulds along one wall of the restaurant as there’s lots of different takoyaki to choose from including wasabi soy, teriyaki sauce with egg salad, and grilled cheese!

Takoyaki (8pcs) – $10

We have to order some takoyaki after seeing them being freshly made out the front. The takoyaki are nicely cooked and creamy on the inside, with a touch of ginger and lashings of takoyaki sauce, kewpie mayonnaise and bonito flakes.

Menu

But the focus here is, of course, on the ramen. A full page of the menu is dedicated to three variants of thick tonkotsu pork bone broth – tonkotsu shoyu, tonkotsu shio, and tonkotsu miso – with a variety of toppings. The ramen noodles are also made in house and sometimes you can see them being cut into thin strands out the front of the restaurant.

Egg ramen (tonkotsu shoyu base) – $14.80
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2014 Roundup

It’s been quite the year, with lots going on and a lot of time spent travelling, skiing and just living life in general, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging! I say every year that I hope to blog more, but I guess it’s not a bad thing that I’m spending more time living life rather than writing about it. There’s still plenty of blog posts in the pipeline though, and with 2014 almost done and dusted, it’s time to revisit some of my favourite moments from the year.

Peach picking at Pine Crest Orchard, Bilpin
Peach picking at Pine Crest Orchard, Bilpin

I kicked off the year with something I’d always wanted to do – fruit picking! Sir D and I spent the day in Bilpin picking some of my favourite stone fruits and eating pies at roadside diners. It was a great day out and something I’d definitely recommend.

Mini-don set at the Nijo Markets, Sapporo
Mini-don set at the Nijo Markets, Sapporo

In April, I visited Japan for the first time and realised that I would never, ever get sick of Japanese food. Continue reading 2014 Roundup

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I can’t believe it’s Christmas already! The year has flown by, especially the last few months which have been crazy busy for me. I’ve been lucky enough to have some time off work before Christmas so got stuck into the Christmas baking straight away, starting off with the usual gingerbread.

A photo posted by Jacq (@jacq_in_a_box) on

I’ve still got a couple of desserts and things to make over the next few days, but I thought that I’d revisit this flourless chocolate cake that I made last year for Christmas (but never got around to blogging about…. oops). Flourless chocolate cake was a cake I made from the first cookbook I was ever gifted, and probably kick-started my love of baking and cookbooks.

This flourless chocolate cake is adapted from a recipe from the queen of delicious, fattening things and midnight snacking from the fridge, Nigella Lawson. It’s a rich, fudgey cake that I think sums up well what Christmas feasting means for me – indulgence and a little bit of gluttony. Don’t be surprised if you find me piling my plate high with glazed ham, turkey and fresh prawns, and then collapsing onto the sofa for a well-earned post-feasting nap.

You could make this cake any time of year really, but a few strawberries and a dusting of icing sugar turns it into something a bit more festive. Even if you’re greeted with a few groans from people who have over-eaten when this cake is brought out, don’t pay attention to them and make sure that everyone has a slice. They won’t regret it.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas with their family, friends and loved ones over a delicious meal! Continue reading Flourless Chocolate Cake

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