Challenging the deadly fugu fish – Tokyo Day 2 (part 2 )

*cue melodramatic music* 

I tried the deadly fugu fish.

And I survived.

ok, I guess its actually not that great of a deal- but, ever since I was young, I had always heard horror stories (namely from one older male cousin of mine) about people who have died at the hands of the deadly fugu toxins whilst attempting to eat this Japanese delicacy.  I was relieved to hear that Japan tightly regulates the preparation of Fugu, requiring chefs to undergo rigorous training and certification before they are allowed to serve their customers (phew).  With my mind at ease, we visited Tora-Fugu Tei, a fugu specialty restaurant which serves ‘Tiger Blowfish’- which, according to their website, is ‘the finest of all blowfish varieties’ at much more affordable prices considering historically fugu meals used to cost between 30 000 to 100 000 yen.!

Since Fugu dishes are only really found in Japan (apparently China has started to serve this fish too, but I’m not sure to what extent I would trust Chinese chefs at the moment) we ambitiously decided to try their 8 course item menu:

Kawa-sashi (sashimi of par boiled skin)
Usually I hate eating fish skin due to its slimy texture.  However, fugu skin took me by surprise- it was thick but crunchy and the vinegar sauce it was marinated in helped to removed the fishy taste I associate with fish skin, making it a light and refreshing starter.

Oyogi – Tessa (Tiger Blowfish sashimi)
Unlike hamachi (i compare EVERYTHING to hamachi) there is a reason why fugu is sliced so thinly- you are mainly eating the fish not for flavour but rather than texture which is springy; similar to fresh raw octopus but not as hard on the jaws.  I liked the texture so much that I ate half of my dad’s portion too.

Sumibi Yaku- Fugu (Charcoal broiled blowfish)


Fugu Tempura

Yaki Shirako (Broiled * ahem male genitalia)
DSC03277A Japanese delicacy and the most expensive part of the blowfish- it was creamy and… odd. – not a fan and definitely an acquired taste

Oyogi- Tecchiri (Hot pot)

Collagen – to make it extra nutritious

Dipping sauce

The delicious broth left over from the hot pot is made into Zo- Sui (a rice porridge)



And it flavours are expertly adjusted by your server

The final product- the most delicious rice porridge I’ve ever had.

To end it off- perhaps the best red bean ice cream I have ever had.

They even had Fugu- drinks! –Fugu Sake– served warm (you get a brief 2 seconds of excitement from a fire show that is provided as they light the fugu fish fin to warm the sake)

Another meal where we will never ever forget.  This is definitely a must go for foodies- fugu fish is not commonly found and to try all it has to offer, the prix fixe menu can let you have a sample of all its preparation forms, from raw, fried, grilled to boiled!

I tried to scare these fugu on display in hopes they would puff out.   Alas it didn’t work.

Challenging the deadly fugu fish – Tokyo Day 2 (part 2 )

Tokyo- Day 2 (part 1)

With only four days to spend in Tokyo, I really wanted to maximize the time we had there.  Ambitiously setting the alarm for 6:30, I was not only shocked and slightly annoyed to see the clock reading at 9:30 when I had decided  to open my eyes, I realized that I must have developed a high functioning reflex with the capacity to instinctively switch off TWO alarms after all those years of struggling to wake up for morning classes (oops).

Anyways, who can stay frustrated for long when you can wake up to this view?
DSC03295After leaving the hotel late – we decided to start the day with a good dose of sushi at a restaurant called Umegaoka Sushi No Midori Sohonten located within a large shopping complex called Mark City near Shibuya Station.  Not only is it a must visit for tourists, even locals that we spoke to (more on the later… on day 3… ) had highly recommended this small sushi joint for its fresh selection of fish.

Even though it was only 10:40 am when we arrived, a long queue had already formed by eager customers anticipating for the 11:00am opening.  Luckily we were the last pair to be admitted for seating for the first round of diners.
My dad ordered hot sake which immediately helped to warm our bodies up against the weather whilst we were also served complementary starters of soup, chawanmushi and a salad topped with a green paste made of crab innards as dressing.
DSC03240I’ve never been particularly found of crab innards, but it has always been viewed as the ‘best part’ of the crab in many Asian cuisines.DSC03244 (2)As if we weren’t going to have enough sushi from the mains that we ordered, we decided to add a plate of hamachi as an appetizer.  If you can recall from my post about London’s Roka, hamachi is my favourite slice of fish.  Having devoured many hamachi slices before, never had I had such flavourful and fresh sashimi as the one presented here- the fish was firm and had a nice delicate finish of sweet and citrus flavours. This start made me even more excited for the main platter.
My jaw dropped when I saw our mains come.
DSC03246Oh my.  I think I could come here everyday.
DSC03247Even such a simple side such as the tamago was executed with fine precision as no single layer of the egg was burnt or browned (apart from the outside) giving a soft and smooth texture.  My only disappointment if I had to be extremely picky was the eel which did not have the nice charcoal taste that I prefer (but that may be just personal preference).

Bellies EXTREMELY FULL (each of the sushi platters offered about two bowls of rice) we waddled back onto the streets to head towards the Cup Noodle museum  in the newly developed Yokohama district.

Yokohama feels like a suburban escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.  The air here is fresh,
DSC03256and the area is much more spacious.
Definitely reminded me of London’s Canary Wharf.

Unfortunately, somehow the days that we were in Tokyo coincided with the closure dates of the Museum!  I guess another good reason for me to return in the future… Nonetheless, the time at Yokohama did not go to waste!
DSC03257After a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood (to burn off all the food during lunch) and some light shopping later, we headed back towards Shinjuku for another epic feast for dinner.  Living life a bit more on the edge – we decided to challenge ourselves towards eating the deadly Fugu (aka Pufferfish).  And of course we survived – or I wouldn’t be here typing about it!  but more on the later about the experience in the next post ;)

Tokyo- Day 2 (part 1)

Back on the blog! Tokyo – day 1

I think after the blogging hiatus – i’ve reached a writer’s block (ie. slightly rusty on letting the words just flow as I type) anyways.  with so many things that have happened during the new year… shall we kick off the first post back with lets say…  Tokyo, Japan?

Although having been to this city three times during my childhood, revisiting again was yet another reminder of how amazing the city is- the lights, the atmosphere, the food (which was pretty much life-changing) and how this city nurtures and appreciates my love for cute characters…DSC03197

Despite the early morning start to catch our flight, the trip started off on a high note with an upgrade to business class!  With the flight being four hours long, food was served continuously- starting with wasabi peas, to a gorgeous appetizer platter that was already satisfying enough for lunchIMAG0098

served with either homemade Japanese curry ( no cheating with those pre-packaged cubes here!) or if you still fancied some Chinese food, braised pork ribs
IMAG0100 IMAG0099
And to top it off the meal concluded nicely with a cheese platter, haagan daaz ice cream, and an assortment of pralines (hmmmmm) – unfortunately as I was slowly trying to wean myself off of sugar from overindulging during Christmas, I reluctantly said no to these offerings.

Once landed, we decided to take the shuttle bus straight to Keio Plaza Hotel  (instead of taking the narita express from the airport – as the bus offers a door – door service) And sorry to make you jealous, but we were somehow… SOMEHOW … awarded with a second upgrade for our hotel room.  Shocked but like little kids giddy with happiness at our incredible luck, we quickly dropped off our bags to explore the city!DSC03165

To have a better overview of the city, we thought stopping by at Skytree was an appropriate choice for our first destination.   Skytree is the world’s highest free standing broadcasting tower –DSC03166and even from our flight, it was the first landmark immediately spotted from our window apart from the iconic Tokyo tower.DSC03169


Now, a visit to Skytree is definitely not like a visit to any other tower.  We made the mistake thinking that 2 hours was more than enough time to go up and down the tower + viewing time- HOWEVER, just adjacent to Skytree is an overwhelmingly large shopping complex filled with unique boutiques that you could spend hours just browsing through. And not only that, if you ‘somehow’ end up losing track of time being distracted by all the shopping (ahem not me here), the complex has a plethora of dining options too.DSC03182

As we were in Japan, I was intrigued to try their okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancake) and a tokyo regional version, the Monjayaki.  Although a word of warning… male patrons MAY require additional sustenance after this meal…DSC03204

We ordered a seafood okonomiyakiDSC03207

Cooked on the spotDSC03212

And a cheese based MonjayakiDSC03214

Again cooked right before youDSC03215


sizzle (for sound effects) DSC03225

the difference between the two?DSC03227

the Monjayaki had a more glutinous texture whilst the okonomiyaki felt it was more loaded with vegetables.  Whilst our server suggested that the Monjayaki be eaten plain with a simple sprinkle of dried seaweed DSC03228

I preferred having it with the brown okonomiyaki sauce as it provides a nice contrasting tartness to the savoury and cheesy flavours of the MonjayakiDSC03230
For customers (like me) who have a tendency to ‘play’ with their food, you are provided with your own mini-scrapers to eat with for the ultimate interactive experience. DSC03229

With my belly full and my dad’s perhaps about 3/4 of the way there, we wandered back out into the cold, ready to hit the pillow in preparation for day 2!

Back on the blog! Tokyo – day 1

hello again

After a seven month hiatus, I’ve decided to take up blogging again.

Why did I stop?  Why am I starting again? Well, lets just say the last seven months have been tough trying to figure out what I wanted to do, where I was heading next.   As I had eluded in an earlier post, April was going to be a big month of change.  I cannot say that I have figured out all the pieces to the puzzle – and to be honest, I don’t think i ever will – which was something I had to also come to terms with.  But, I realized that my blog (although with its small viewership) was what helped me appreciate and reflect on things that have happened- it served as a reminder of what was good amongst the bad somewhat like the 100 happy days project – but to a more extended -long term extent.

One big leap I took was quitting a career that I had dreaded and now starting a new one but in completely different city…. Hong Kong!   I’ve been judged and criticized for throwing away a very promising career- one which would bring job and financial stability but as those who are close to me have helped remind me, I wanted to be happy, and staying in that career was not going to bring me happiness at all.

I am excited to share my experiences of now being able to call Asia home and of course looking forward to the travel and the amazing food here.

hello again

My idea of a perfect Sunday

The sun was finally out for Sunday after days of gloom. gloom and more weather gloom.

What better way to kick off a Sunday than with a nice hearty bowl of ramen? We ventured to Yukitei, a small independent Ramen shop in Wanchai.

Green tea was served.
Traditional Tonkotsu Ramen – I didn’t get to try the broth, but apparently it was quite concentrated in pork flavour
Black Garlic Ramen- the broth had a strong flavour of garlic accentuated by the drizzle of black garlic oil
I ordered my go to order at any Japanese noodle shop…. the Tsukemen or any form of noodles requiring dipping. The tsukemen was quite good- the pork belly had a very good barbecue flavour and I loved the touch of salmon roe which adds extra texture to the dish! All three of us also LOVED the onsen egg. It was cooked perfectly (mine here is cut in half) and you could really taste the marination down to the level of the yolk as the entire egg had a subtle sweetness. GAHH. I could just eat these eggs every day. My only complaint was the amount of oil drizzled on top of the noodles. By the time I got to the end of the bowl a good amount of oil had accumulated slightly ruining the rest of the noodles left over.
The tangy dipping sauce to go with my Tsukemen
Like many traditional ramen shops, you can customize your ramen order- noodles can be hard, normal or soft; soup base can be adjusted based on concentration etc. I chose my noodles to be hard and it was done perfectly! However there was little difference between my dad and my mom’s noodle texture despite the former requesting ‘hard’ and the latter for ‘normal’.

Bellies full, we drove up to Sai Kung and decided to venture out onto surrounding islands for their unique architecture created from years of sedimentary rock formation and volcanic activity.

Prior to boarding the boat, we just couldn’t resist buying a pineapple bun from the Sai Kung Cafe and Bakery as it was fresh and piping hot from the oven! (in keeping with my pineapple bun obsession)

So we eagerly joined the line
and saw that there were also piping hot portuguese tarts!
You can tell they are fresh as the egg custard is nice and plump – having an egg tart straight out of the oven along with a piping hot pineapple bun is one of my most favourite eating moments if I had to name a few.

Unfortunately as we were going to spend 2+ hours on a boat, we sadly just opted for the fresh pineapple bun for safety measures.

With all the hype around this pineapple bun, we were extremely disappointed upon the first bite. Although it ticked all the boxes in the aesthetic department, the bun was as light as a feather unlike my favourite ones from Kam Wah, making it difficult for the crust to complement well with the bread. Sigh.

Despite the pineapple bun let down, we still had our voyage around the surrounding islands near Sai Kung to look forward to!
Our first stop was at an island famous for the ‘pineapple bun rock’ due to volcanic activity thousands of years ago.
Doesn’t it look like a pineapple bun?
We passed by many caves – including one that apparently resembles an elephants trunk (although there was quite a debate whether it does)
small islands – this island is supposed to look like a fish tail from an aerial view

We also stopped off at a local fishing village- back in the day before Hong Kong became a metropolitan city you can really see its humble roots from these few remaining traditional villages.
Just as we were heading back to Sai Kung we heard bad news that one of the boat’s gears had broken off and that there was a slight possibility the boat may give out leaving us stranded in the middle of the sea! Luckily the boat sluggishly propelled itself back to the harbour and with the aid of an another boat, we were guided safely back to shore. *phew

The entire boat trip lasted more than 2 hours and only costed 80 HKD! (which is a real bargain)- however note that its not exactly a guided tour so you are mainly paying for the transportation service. But the boat drivers are extremely friendly so if you strike up a conversation with them they end up becoming your own personal guides so my advice is to sit near the front of the boat on these trips!

To finaaalllly top it off, we took a quick walk into the town centre since we heard about a small shop selling imported authentic french goods called D’Oli. After a long chat with the friendly owners and bonding over the frustration of a lack of good European bread in Hong Kong (like here and here in London) we found ourselves bringing home a sample of complimentary baguettes and viennoiserie!

These are my favourite kind of days- good weather, good food, good company with family , good laughs, all with a little adventure thrown in the mix!

Yukitei Ramen- Shop C2, G/F, Lun Fat Street ,118 Queen ‘s Road East , Wan Chai 灣仔皇后大道東118號聯發街C2舖
Sai Kung Bakery and Cafe – G/F, 6-7 Kam Po Court, 2 Hoi Pong Square, Sai Kung 西貢海傍廣場2號金寶閣6-7號舖地下
D’Oli French Gourmet and Wine Cellar – 21 Sai Kung Tai Street, Sai Kung

My idea of a perfect Sunday

April showers… remedied by food at Vegi Dining Kitchen

April showers is certainly not holding back on its spell over Hong Kong.  Apart from the lovely past Friday from Easter weekend, each day has been dominated by smog.   This is the lovely view I’ve been receiving the past few days.

Spring gloom aside, I decided to venture to Causeway Bay for some comforting home-styled Japanese food.  Remember my previous post about the amazing sashimi rice I had?  Again, the best place to look for amazing Japanese food in Causeway Bay is up!

Vegi Dining Kitchen is located in a small building on the third floor.  Don’t let the name deceive you though (as it did for me)!  Their menu mainly consists of dishes containing meat, although they are known for their fresh vegetable produce featured in each of their dishes.

Lunch sets are quite a deal ranging from 90 -140 HKD with quite hearty (but healthy) portions bound to keep you well fuelled till dinner!  My mom opted for a Japanese Curry set whilst I chose their assorted bento box set.

Here comes the salad to start.

The curry set
Fresh vegetables piled on top with the curry set aside for one’s own choosing of the amount they wish to ladle on.
The  bento set.

Grilled Mackerel
Oden with lotus root, yam, bamboo shoot and porkbelly

Fresh Sashimi – Tuna, sashimi and… the surprise dish to the palate: aloe vera.  The aloe vera is the translucent piece on the plate and had a strange, flavourless texture which I was not a fan of.

Dipping sauces

I enjoyed my meal at Vegi Dining Kitchen- the dishes were simple but delicious and the environment was a nice escape from the shopping crowds of Causeway Bay as it was small but cozy.    I would highly recommend this restaurant for anyone looking for a lighter meal in an authentic Japanese setting.

Vegi Dining Kitchen3/F, L’Hart, 487-489 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay銅鑼灣駱克道487-489號駱克駅3/F



April showers… remedied by food at Vegi Dining Kitchen

Easter Sunday

Growing up Easter treats in Canada consisted being showered with giant chocolate Kinder surprise eggs, Lindt chocolates, peep marshmallows and my favourite pillsbury easter cookies which I had the superability to demolish over a dozen cookies in one single sitting.

Fast forward to 2014.  Although the same Easter treats are no longer an annual tradition, my treat this Sunday was spending time with family for a sit down dim sum.   We decided to escape the hectic ‘Island side’ of Hong Kong and ventured over to Kowloon in Lai Chi Kok.  The initial plan was to eat at a small independent restaurant followed by shopping at several Korean boutique stores that had opened in the area’s industrial buildings.  Unfortunately, we had to resort to another option since both were closed for Easter holiday and hence stumbled upon a Chiu Chow dimsum restaurant.

I cannot say the food was amazing.  However, it did have some dishes not typically served for dimsum which I hadn’t had since my childhood years.

Here are some of the standard dishes we had:

Cheung fun – my mom’s dim sum staple.
Claypot rice

with salted fish and pork cakes
Cow tripe

Chiu Chow Fun Guo (my staple which I think has been featured on every single dim sum blog post)
Some greens needed to be in the picture- stewed melon with fungi

Ok. now all the ‘regulars’ are out of the way, here are some of the more unique Chiu Chow styled dishes that we sampled with some that were available at their pick and choose station
Boiled peanuts – peanuts are boiled in a soy based broth so that it is no longer crunchy but rather extremely flavourful if steeped in quality soup.
Cow innards– this dish is one of Hong Kong’s signature street foods.  The process to prepare this dish is extremely meticulous requiring the patience not only to carefully wash the innards, cooking the meat is an extremely lengthy process as well.  The top slices are spleen- which weren’t my favourite as its taste reminded me of liver.  There were also an assortment of  tripe, large intestine and lung hidden under the pile.  For those of you are a bit more curious, lung actually tastes quite good!  It has a springy texture with each bite and soaks up the flavour of the sauce quite generously.  I do prefer the street food version of this cow innards dish though as the sauce is more flavourful (although probably more laden with chemical additives…)

Big Chicken Bun– this bun was just bursting at the seams with the abundance of ingredients! Back in the day if people wanted to save money dining out for dimsum, ordering this dish ultimately kills your appetite with all the starch and carbs!
Pan fried Egg noodle pancake – this is a signature Chiu Chow dish often eaten for dessert.  The noodles are dipped in either vinegar or sugar or both.
Any Chiu Chow meal always concludes with kung fu cha served in shot sized cups to aid digestion.  I recommend not drinking more than one, since not only is it strong in flavour but the caffeine content will keep you up for the entire night!
I wouldn’t highly recommend this restaurant, however if you are curious, it will give you a good introduction to some Chiu Chow eats if you are in the area. After lunch, we resorted to venturing towards Tai O – but I ended up succumbing to a food coma and fell asleep in the car (and could not be roused) when we arrived at Tai O…. (oops)

Hover City Chiu Chow Retaurant1/F, Cheung Sha Wan Plaza, 833 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Lai Chi Kok. 

Easter Sunday