Tag Archives: japan

WASHOKU Explorer’s Tonkotsu Ramen Set

1Yes, it’s been forever – and what better way to come up with a new post than from the comfort of my own home? Thanks to WASHOKU Explorer, who recently contacted me asking if I wanted to try their DIY tonkotsu ramen set, I was able to do just that.2^ Delivered right to my door, all the way from Japan!3I’m a big ramen freak, although I usually make a journey out to Ichiran in Causeway Bay whenever I have a craving. Making ramen at home is usually a sad affair (think Seven-Eleven), but WASHOKU’s set comes with all the fanfare to make your ramen bowl pretty legit:4Making it was a piece of cake – the only real preparation I needed to do was soaking the dried mushroom. 5After that, just simple boil + add ingredient procedure!6AND here’s the final result…8Overall, making and arranging the ramen was pretty fun. Apart from tasting yummy, I was also glad that the ramen wasn’t too salty and didn’t leave me with a thirsty feeling afterwards.79

^Hope you like my Star Wars chop sticks, haha!

Never thought I would have such a fancy ramen at home, so a big thank you to WASHOKU Explorer (www.washokuexplorer.com). Check out their site if you want to order a box.

If everything goes smoothly, I’ve got an interesting interview lined up for my next post…

So, stay tuned!

Bakker x

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Nagasaki’s Fascinating Food History

1It’s nearly the end of the year and boy have things been hectic! I’m so sorry for my lack of posts lately – but I’m recently back from abroad (you guessed it – Japan) and have a really interesting post for you today!2I’ve covered Japan on BBITES in the past (for my Crave Magazine Nakasendo feature), but this time I want to share a slice of the fascinating multicultural cuisine of Nagasaki with you, that I discovered while on my family vacation there this month.

Nagasaki has a really unique culture due to its history as a trading port and as Japan’s window to the outside world from the 16th Century onwards.
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Nations that made their way into Japan through Nagasaki were:

Portugal in the 16th Century. The Portuguese brought Christian missionaries with them and gained quite a foothold in Southern Japan. They were expelled from Japan by the Shogun, who disliked their growing power, in the mid-17th Century.

China in the 16th Century. The first Chinese ships arrived around the same time as the first Portuguese.

Holland in the 17th Century. The first Dutch ship, led by an English captain, arrived in 1600. After the Portuguese were expelled, only Dutch and Chinese ships were allowed to trade in Japan for almost two centuries.3With that (very condensed) bit of history out of the way, here comes the food photos!

One of our memorable meals was at a historic restaurant called Ichiriki (which means “one force”). Our dinner was called a ‘tafel’ meal – which means ‘table’ in Dutch – and indeed we ate sitting at a table and not on our knees, as is regular Japanese custom.

What followed was a culinary personification of the various fusions that have made their way into Nagasaki culture and food…4Meatballs are very Dutch. This amazing pie was served in a blue-and-white delft casserole.4bIn the photo above, the green candies reflect Nagasaki’s preference for sweetness (sugar was introduced to Japan through Nagasaki, and sweet treats there tend to be much more sugary than other parts of Japan).

An unagi-filled pastry is another fusion that I particularly enjoyed… note the sliced gherkins.5Chinese influences also found their way onto our plates, and nearby to Ichiriki (which is located on Temple Street), you can visit beautiful red temples built in the Chinese style, dating back hundreds of years.6The way in which these foods were presented is not typically Japanese, but more Chinese. Usually, Japanese meals are served on trays and each guest has their individual food laid out in front of them, instead of having to reach out and take from a communal plate.7During our stay in Nagasaki, we also paid a visit to the legendary Fukusaya Castella shop, which has been open since 1624, and is reputed to be the city’s best.

Castella evolved from Portuguese cakes brought to Japan in the 1500s, and is made with egg yolk. The natural rich yellow colour of Fukusaya‘s cakes is said to be thanks to their high-quality free range eggs.

The bat logo used on its store front and packaging is borrowed from a nearby Chinese temple; bats are an auspicious symbol in Chinese culture.

Another fascinating fact is that the quintissential Japanese food tempura was derived from a fried food batter introduced by the Portuguese!! Incredible…
8Thanks for reading, and enjoy your parties tonight for New Year’s!!!! If you still have some time to kill before heading out, here’s a link to my BBITES hangover cures that I posted this time last year: CLICK HERE.

May they come in handy, and see you next year!

Bakker x

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Dishes of the Nakasendo – My Crave Magazine Feature!

li meng de bakker crave magazine gastro travel walk japan nakasendoRemember when I went to Japan for that mysterious “non-BBITES writing assignment”? Although I did eventually share a photo diary of the trip, I’m now very proud to share with you what it was all for…

Keep an eye out for the March edition of Crave Magazine to find my first-ever feature story, published in the Gastro Travel section.

I hope you enjoy reading about the incredible food journey I undertook on Walk Japan’s Nakasendo Way tour.

But, before I sign out, here’s some additional eye-candy from my trip to get you motivated :):

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Bakker x

Hazel & Hershey – A New SOHO Café

1 hazel hershey hkHazel & Hershey is located at 69 Peel Street, Soho, Central. +852 3106 0760

On Sunday I enjoyed lunch at Brunch Club and shared a signature salad + burger with my bestie Sami. After the epic feast, we meandered down Peel Street to head towards Central, and I couldn’t help but stop in front of a new turquoise storefront I’d never seen before.

One of the several new cafés and restaurants on Peel Street (which will require me going back for more reviews!), is Hazel & Hershey, a quirky new coffee shop with character that opened two months ago.

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The interior is fresh, playful and modern. Lamp art on the ceiling turned out to be huge wonky clocks after a closer look, making me think of Alice in Wonderland, somehow…

A coffee bean grinder is a decorative (and functional) piece near the entrance, and sacks of coffee beans lie around it. The effect is charming and curious – makes me wonder whether they’re filled with real beans!3One of the most interesting design elements to the coffee shop is the section of wall made into an attractive shelving unit made out of cardboard, for the shop’s imported coffee-making accessories. 4The items, from Japan and Italy, are for sale and include coffee brewers, espresso cup sets, books and more… A lot of eye candy here.  5I was quite surprised to find that there were absolutely no food items available on the menu (a good croissant may have come in handy, for example). But, then again, it’s nice to see a venue choosing to focus on its concept without any distractions.

Espresso-based drinks were the house specials, but an extensive list of black/long coffee varieties were available on the other side of the blackboard (sorry, not pictured!).

So, when the coffees arrived I had high expectations and – I must admit – some doubts on if they would be worth the 35$ that Sami and I spent on a Macchiato and Hazelnut Cappuccino each.6Macchiato $35 : After my first sip I broke into a smile – *relief* – it was worth it! The texture of my Macchiato was rich, creamy and with a lovely smooth foam at the top. The taste was nutty, roasted and bold. YUMMY and served at a nice, hot temperature.

Cappuccino $35 : Sami’s Cappuccino was served with a pretty Latte art design that stayed in formation until the very end of the cup. She was nice enough to let me try a (long) sip of the Cappuccino and it was delightful: smooth and light (yet not too milky), the Cappuccino reminded me of a winter treat with the sweetness of the added hazelnut flavour ($5).

The atmosphere is calm and cheerful at Hazel & Hershey, and the staff were friendly. So far, I’m definitely in favour of the new café, with both orders I tried being well made and not a rip off by any means: when you consider a Starbucks coffee costs as much, it puts things in perspective! Here, for the same price you get an ambience and high-quality coffees made with care and passion.

Bakker x

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p.s. In more COFFEE NEWS: click here to check out my latest tasting visit with Nespresso (launching a new GRAND CRU capsule) on my Facebook page. Plus, read BBITES’ previous post on Coffee Culture @ Nespresso for more coffee…

BBITES in Japan: A Photo Diary

A few weeks and many bites later, Bakker’s Bites is back in Hong Kong and in the swing of things. If I had to describe Japan in a couple of words? Foodie Heaven.

I’m in the midst of preparing my non-BBITES Japan story, but in the mean time, I’ll let the photos do the talking (for the most part!) for my promised Japan post.

My first meal in Tokyo was memorable in that it caught me totally unawares. I really wasn’t expecting it to be that fresh and incredibly delicious… after all, we were just at a casual, neighbourhood restaurant.

This surprise at the sheer quality of virtually every meal was to become simple expectation; Japan has some seriously good food, all along the price spectrum.

Each bite of this first dinner was accompanied by ecstatic/eye-closing enjoyment. My host, Mattia, and I washed down our seafood meal with hearty jugs of Yebisu beer. Yebisu, as far as I know, isn’t exported to Hong Kong… 😦

The supermarket pictured above was in a rural area. Nevertheless, attention to detail and pristine presentation is clearly a nation-wide phenomenon.

Fruit in Japan are stunningly uniform; they’re so perfect they often look like they’ve been plucked from children’s alphabet cards (e.g. A for Apple; B for Banana…)

While in Narai, a preserved post-town, I enjoyed a steaming hot red-bean bun to ward off the evening chill. Yummy!

“Soft Cream” ice-creams are very popular in Japan. They come in a variety of interesting flavours in addition to the usual roster, including soba, macha (green tea), wasabi and more…

The last two days of my trip, spent in Tokyo, reminded me that although foreign, novel and often surprising to the visitor, Japan can be as metropolitan and familiar as Hong Kong.

Halloween parties all over Shinjuku caught me by surprise as I ventured out costume-less, but still enjoyed the sights, sounds and shots (of tequila!) with the rest of Tokyo’s party-goers.

As a guest of Japanese inns or hotels, you’ll often be given a light kimono (known as yukata) to wear after your hot bath.

My silly expressions (ranging from Samurai warrior to Smiley-face) can mostly be explained by the copious consumption of beer and sake at each night’s dinner. 😉

Thanks for reading 🙂 – Arigatou gozaimasu ありがとうございます。!!

Bakker x