[UPDATE] Yaki Tate Melon Pan (焼きたてメロンパン)

From a few posts before, I wrote about Yaki-tate melon pan which is a fresh-from-the-oven melon bread sold in bakery vans. It is not widely sold but the soft hot bread is worth trying and definitely not a regular hard sugary melon shaped bread sold in any supermarket.

In Tokyo and Yokohama where I used to live, the bakery van chain I always bought melon pan is called ‘Happy-Happy‘. Happy-Happy has a few flavors if I remember right: Hokkaido, butter, original, and probably more.

After finding one melon pan van around my place here in Osaka, I have been going there almost every Monday and Thursday according to their schedule. Now, I have tried every flavor! Original (オリジナル), butter(バッター), strawberry(ストロベリー), caramel(キャラメル), and strawberry chocolate(いちごチョコラー)!

And what’s the best flavor? Guess…*drum rolls*……..The ORIGINAL! 🙂

Caramel and butter are also yummy. Strawberry and strawberry chocolate are so-so. But still, original is always the best!

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Yaki-Tate Melon Pan 焼きたてメロンパン – Not a normal melon pan!

What’s a Yaki-Tate melon pan (焼きたてメロンパン)?And how is it different from the normal melon pan sold at convenient stores and supermarkets?

As you may know, melon pan is a melon-flavored bread. Bread in Japanese is ‘パン’ pronounced as ‘pan’. It is a round-shaped bread with rough sugary texture that looks like checker prints. I personally love this ever since I came to Japan. But last year, I found something even better than normal melon pan-Yaki-Tate melon pan 〔焼きたてメロンパン)!  This literally means it is a melon pan that is fresh out of an oven. It may seem to be not so different from the normal melon pan, but I can tell you it really is.20130429-111350.jpg

One day when I came out of my station and about to walk home, I saw this melon pan van. The smell was mouth-watering but I did not pay much attention and just walked away. 20130417-184712.jpgThe second time this van, there were so many people waiting in line and I thought…maybe this is good. So I bought one melon pan just to try if it was special. There were Hokkaido and butter flavors. I chose the butter one. The bread was freshly-baked from the oven. I took a bite and then…I LOVED IT! So soft and it tasted really good. Since then, I loved it and I looked forward to this van coming to my station every week. This is definitely different from normal melon pan sold at supermarkets. Obviously, it is sold in a van and since it is fresh out of the oven, it is hot, soft and just yummy!

This just started to sound like a confession from a FAT GIRL AT HEART. 😉

Apparently, it is not that easy to find this melon pan van. After I moved from Tokyo to Yokohama, I never saw this again until last month when I went to view sakura in Naka-Meguro 〔中目黒). That’s when I found this van again. Judging from the long line of people, I guess I’m not the only one who love this!20130417-185259.jpg

I also found a website with schedules of this melon pan van ‘HAPPY HAPPY’. Check the schedule to see if you’re close by. It’s delicious. Definitely my favorite although some people may find it too sweet. (I have a sweet tooth) 😉 Website: http://www.happy-happy.jp/

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Other than the van HAPPY HAPPY in Tokyo, I also found one right near my place in Osaka. This van has even more flavor…even strawberry flavor. They also sell apple pie and others as well.

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If you haven’t tried, I suggest you do so. 🙂

Company food (社食-shashoku)!

This is one of the things I love about my company – the food! We have a cafeteria where we can have lunch and dinner in a very cheap price. Not to mention that we don’t have to go out, find restaurant, order, eat and run back to the office. We can eat right away and still have a bit of time to do something else like going to the bank or convenient store.

The food here is great. The price is also very good-always less than 500 yen (mostly 400yen in my case). They also care very much about our health. Moreover, they do take requests, too! I requested for kimchi fried rice once and they actually made it. Sometimes they also have special occasions such as gratan week, Indian curry fair, and others. This is so cool since eating good, cheap, and quickly is so helpful in a working life. Big Japanese companies usually have this support. They also give a small amount of money every month to support our food expense.

My colleagues told me that company’s food is called “社食” (shashoku). Not all companies have this so I consider myself very lucky. Eating out everyday in Tokyo would cost me tons of money!
Also, remember that taking care of your health is super important!

Here are some photos of the cafeteria food I’ve been collecting. 😉

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CUP NOODLES MUSEUM – Make your own Cup Ramen!

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This museum is the coolest museum ever! Everyone who visits here would definitely enjoy the experience at this cup noodle museum. This museum was established by Nissin, a company that produces many of our favorite instant noodles such as Chicken Ramen, Cup Noodles, UFO, and even the space ramen for astronauts!!

The inventor of instant noodles is Ando Momofuku, one of the Japanese heroes! He was well-known all over the world as Mr.Noodles. His story is inspriring. I really enjoyed learning about how he created this invention very much. I have heard of him many times before since he was a PhD graduate from Ritsumeikan University, a mother university of my university and Nissin gives scholarship called Ando Momofuku scholarship to our students. But I’ve never really knew who he was and it was very interesting to hear about his stories!

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I live very close to this museum which is located in Minato-mirai, Yokohama but I’ve never really got a chance to visit since it is always full and I couldn’t make my own cup noodles every time I went there. This time, we went early in the morning around 10.30 and there was not many people so we got in a paid 500 yen for the tickets. Then we went upstairs to reserve a session for making our very own CUP NOODLES! We decided to go for the cup noodles and not chicken ramen since Chiken ramen takes a lot of time making it from the scratch. And cup noodles are fun!

So, let’s talk about how to make your own cup noodles!

First, after getting our 整理券 (sei-ri-ken), we waited a while and went up there when it was our time (11:30). We got in line and paid 300 yen for a blank cup, wash our hands and then we were led to our seats where we can decorate our cup noodles.

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It didn’t take very long to finish drawing and painting our cups. It was very fun! Here is the front part of my cup noodles.

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When we finished, we took our cups and lined up to get the cups filled. First, we put the noodles into the cup! This one is another one of Ando Momofuku’s big innovations.  He thought of how to put the ramen in the cup in a good shape and he came up with the idea of putting the cup over the ramen, then roll it over so that the ramen goes in nicely. We got to experience this as in the pictures!

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After putting in the noodles, it was time to choose flavor and toppings! There are many choices of stuff to put in but we can only choose 4 toppings with 1 flavor (normal cup noodles, spicy tamato, curry, seafood!). I chose the original flavor with shrimp, eggs and others. 🙂

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After filling in the flavor and the toppings, it’s time to put the cover and the package! The first put on the cover and then a plastic bag that became flat and stick to the cup after heating it up.

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And then…Tadaaa! We put our cup noodles inside a plastic bag and pumped some air inside and then it’s done. 🙂

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After making our own cup noodles, we went to look around the museum for exhibitions. It was very cool to see the development of instant noodles from decades ago. I found many that I absolutely love including instant ramen in other countries as well!

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The room next to the instant noodles showroom is Momofuku Theatre. There, we watched the origin of Momofuku’s life and how he invented this instant noodle in a cartoon version. It was pretty impressive! After failing everything with only his house left for him and his family, he still able to find ideas right out of the kitchen when he saw his wife making tempura which sparked the idea of frying the ramen and then put in water again.

We got to see the model of his house where all the ideas happened too. 😉

20130306-104114.jpgAfter that, we saw many stories on the wall in chronological order. Apparently, Ando Momofuku san lived a very long and happy life after all his hard work and died when he was 96!! We got much information about instant noodles industry…It’s unbelivable how so people people in the world are consuming cup noodles these days.

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Having seen all the exhibitions, we went up to get some lunch. There is a cup noodles park right beside the restaurant.

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The restaurant was quite fun as well. I never imagine a restaurant in a museum would be like this. In front of the restaurant, there is a Tuk Tuk (three-wheel car), the famous vehicle from my homeland-Thailand. Inside the restaurant, everything is decorated as if it was Thailand or somewhere in South East Asia. I have to admit that it really felt like home. We had a few cups of noodles-Tom Yum noodles, Mi goreng, etc. *happy*

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We can go out to the balcony and see the view as well!

Don’t forget to visit this cup noodles museum in Yokohama if you have a chance. You won’t regret it! 🙂

More information on the Website –> Click here

For interesting discounted day tour of Yokohama from Klook, click here! (Also, get free credits from their app download & input L2AI9 to get bonus credits)

Bill’s Restaurant – Pancakes

A few restaurants in Tokyo-Yokohama area have been very popular for their authentic taste, style, and concepts that are new to Japan especially breakfast-all-day places (particularly PANCAKES)!  A lot of us could say that we can just make good breakfast at home and although that is true, these restaurants are still new and rare in Japan. That’s probably one of the main reasons why these places are popular besides the style, taste, and others.

After the disappointment at Eggs’ and Things, I decided to go for another famous restaurant called “Bill’s”. This restaurant has been opened for many years now but the first one in the central Tokyo was opened in 2012 in Omotesando. This restaurant is owned by an Australian named Bill Granger and the food is supposedly very good. Apparently, some people call it “best breakfast in the world”. Bill’s is not a breakfast all day place but it is famous for Ricotta pancakes and scrambled eggs. The ricotta pancakes are served all day so you can order that anytime of the day.

This was actually not the first time I went to Bill’s. Last year, around April 2012, I went to the newly opened branch in Tokyu Plaza, Harajuku. I went there at 10 AM and the place was packed! They told me that if I write my name down, I can get my seats at 2 PM! So I gave up and went to another place. Yes, it was unbelievably packed and still is today. So, this time I reserved my seats and successfully avoided having to queue up for hours. 🙂 Bill’s allows reservations which is a good thing! Some places like Eggs’ and things doesn’t allow such thing.

I went there on Friday night. Reserved a seat for 2 at 7 PM. Got up the elevator to the 7th floor and saw this right in front- the entrance of the restaurant.

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I told them my name and they led me to my seats. It was pretty crowded with about 10 people waiting in line but not so bad at all. The atmosphere was nice.

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Then, we started ordering some food. They gave us dinner menu. We felt like pasta..I decided to order Prawn and chili linguine and my friend ordered Orecchiette, fennel sausage, kale and Buffalo mozzarella. We didn’t know what to expect but from the first bite, it was heaven! I really enjoyed it. The taste was just right with the spices, shrimps and the sauce…I loved it! I also tried my friend’s one and liked it a lot as well. 🙂 Both dishes was 1,300 yen but for me, both tasted like about 2,000 yen.

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Then, we ordered the famous Ricotta hotcakes, fresh banana and honey comb butter which is included in the dessert menu for dinner. It was AMAZING! They gave us a honey syrup as well. I finally understood why this menu is so famous. It is absolutely divine. Best pancakes I have had in a very long time! It was very satisfying. 🙂

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I actually wanted to try their rhubarb menu. One of my favorite desserts is rhubarb crumble topped with vanilla ice cream but I could never find this menu in Japan. I only got to eat this when I was in England. My host family planted rhubarb trees in their backyard and baked rhubarb crumbles themselves. But at Bill’s, although it is not rhubarb crumble, they do have “pavlova, rhubarb and cream”. That will be the menu I will try next time…and maybe the scrambled eggs or the blueberry pancakes which is a special menu in Yokohama-Redbrick house branch.

If you haven’t tried their pancakes, go now! But don’t forget to reserve a seat BUT keep in mind that some branches don’t accept reservations or may allow reservations during certain time of the day.  I suggest you go shopping around Harajuku and go there or…walk around in beautiful minato-mirai area and enjoy the best pancakes!

Websites : https://bills-jp.net/

SHABU SHABU! しゃぶしゃぶ

As my social media name ‘luvniku’, you can probably guess that I LOVE meat!

I used to live in a small town called Beppu, Oita prefecture down in Kyushu, which is a very famous place for onsens. Since it is a small town, everything is cheap and that includes tabehobai (all-you-can-eat) restaurants which are usually around 980 to 1,500 yen. The most expensive place in Beppu is probably around 2,500 yen. So, I usually went out to yakiniku or shabu shabu places almost every other weekend. I guess that was how I got to love eating meat so much.

Shabu Shabu is probably my most favorite Japanese food. And it’s so easy to make as well. To me, Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki, and nabe is quite similiar. Shabu shabu and Sukiyaki both have thin slices of meat as main (mostly beef), but any kind of meat, vegetables and others can be put into nabe hot pot. For Sukiyaki, the flavor is much stronger with soy sauce. The soup is usually sweet. For shabu shabu, the soup is light or sometimes have no taste at all. You put the meat in the hot pot and swipe it in there a few times, then bring it out and dip it with sauces and scallions. Personally, I love Goma (sesame seed) sauce and ponzu soy sauce. I sometimes use Thai spicy sukiyaki sauce as well when I make shabu shabu or nabe myself. It’s delicious!

These days, there are so many kinds of soup for shabu shabu. Even collagen soup which tastes better than I expected. On Christmas, my friends and I went to a shabu shabu restaurant for dinner. It was 3,500 yen – pretty expensive but it seemed like the right choice at that time since the weather was so cold that night. We ordered to kinds of soup – honestly, I’m not so sure what they are but they look like this.

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The soup on the right side came with something that looks like jelly. It melted away as the water boiled. Then we put in the meat. I think we have to put in the meat one by one for shabu shabu, but that’s never fast enough for us so we put everything. 😀

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Note that when the soup gets oily and full of fat from meat, you should skim in out. The restaurant would provide a small tool for you to skim the fat out. And you can ask for them to fill in some more water.

Shabu shabu is always a fun to eat with your friends especially if it’s all-you-can-eat. I’m sure it’s one of the most popular Japanese food to both Japanese and foreigners.

Recommended restaurants

1. MK restaurant – Cheap and awesome! Lunch: 1,580 yen Dinner: 1,780 yen (this is all-you-can-eat prices for kanto region)

This restaurant is Thai shabu shabu restaurant so, of course, I love it. It’s not different from Japanese shabu shabu, only it has Thai spicy sauce and some other kinds of vegetables and meat such as baby corn, shrimp balls, seaweed wrapped pork balls, squip with pork stuffed inside, etc. Isn’t it awesome? 😀

This restaurant also uses a touch-screen device for ordering. You can see the time remaining for your all-you-can-eat menu and you can choose meat or anything from the touch screen and click order! They will come and serve you. Very cool.

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The store in Tokyo is in Shinjuku, not so far from Isetan. The menu in Kanto is a bit more expensive than in Kyushu but still very cheap compared to other places in Tokyo.  Try the Thai sauce if you go there. Don’t miss out! 😉

2. Nabezo – Cheap all-you-can-eat with several different kinds of soup to choose. You can go pick up anything you like from the counter to put it in the hot pot. This restaurant has so many locations so it’s quite easy to go. I went to the one in Shibuya .

These are probably the only places I can recommend since I don’t know a lot of shabu shabu restaurant around here. Sorry for the short list. Most of them are really expensive so it’s probably better to make it yourself at home. I also have my own hot pot that I ordered from amazon for 1,000 yen. It can be used both for shabu shabu and yakiniku so if you like meat like me, get yourself one. 🙂

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Enjoy eating!

PS Don’t forget to eat some vegetables too!

Eggs ‘n Things – Worth the wait?!

Alright, so…does anybody like American breakfast? Enjoy going out to a breakfast place in the morning for yummy bacon, eggs, pancakes, and crepes?? Well, I am one. I love a American breakfast! When I stayed in the US, my aunt would take me to delicious breakfast places knowing that I love those huge size fresh breakfast with some warm coffee!

My favorites are probably banana pancakes, blueberry crepes, scrambled eggs on toast and so on. In Japan, there aren’t many diners and breakfast places. The one I know and absolutely love is “Bubby’s“. I first discovered it in Yokohama in 2011 on my 21st birthday. I had muffins, pies, pancakes, eggs Benedict, etc (big celebratory meal). Bubby’s is now very famous, especially among expats in Tokyo-Yokohama area. It also has lunch and dinner menu including happy hour as well. Now, there are some other breakfast restaurants that have been trending for a while; one of that is Eggs ‘n Things–  a Hawaiian breakfast all day restaurant. They have opened 3 branches so far. The ones I’ve passed before are the one in Harajuku and Yamashita park, Yokohama. This restaurant is supposedly good judging from some word of mouth and the long lines of people waiting in front.

Today, I went there myself to see if this place can be included in my list of favorite restaurants or not. The weather was very cold and windy today. I went to the branch in Yokohama since it is the closest to my place. It’s located just in front of Yamashita park by the harbor. I took a train and got off at Motomachi-chugakai where the China town is. I saw Marine tower right away after I got off from the subway. For access to the restaurant – click here.

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I tried to be there early expecting there would be a long line. I went there around 9.30 (the restaurant opens at 9am) and as I thought, I was way too late. There were SO MANY people waiting from the restaurant’s balcony to the streets. Everybody were shaking in the cold. I pulled up my hoodie from my thick black coat and put my gloves on but the wait was still a bit of a torture. The lines moved very slowly and there were only a few people coming out of the restaurants.

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I almost gave up but decided to wait since I don’t think I would come here often if the lines are this long. I waited till I got to the balcony which means I would probably be able to get in soon after an hour (10.35 at that time). But then, I looked inside the restaurant and saw so many clean empty tables! Pictures as proof below! I don’t understand why they were not letting people in quicker with many tables and no reservation allowed policy. Imagine people waiting for more than an hour in the cold while there are plenty of seats in there.

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Then, at 10.50 finally I got inside. My hands were frozen so I ordered some cafe latte and eggs Benedict. They have Meat & Eggs, Special ‘n things, omelets, pancakes, waffles, and crepe menus. This restaurant is famous for its pancakes and eggs menu but I found that meat and eggs and omelets menus are probably the ones I can make myself at home. The meats are simple sausages, ham, bacon, or spam and egg menus are not that special either. So, I went for the special menu and picked Eggs Benedict because I didn’t feel much like pancake and sweet things today (usually I do). The pancakes should be very good according to many people especially the famous strawberry whip cream with nuts.

RESTAURANT MENUS

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Eggs Benedict was 1,100 yen and the cafe latte was 550 yen. I would say it was pretty good. I liked spinach, ham, and eggs together with bread and cheese. The potatoes were crispy and good, too. However, to me…it was not worth an hour wait in the cold. Like I said, many of the menus are simple menus you can make at home and the restaurant was inefficient in taking care of customers who are waiting in lines while there are many empty tables. I do love this kind of breakfast, but probably not enough to wait so long with a “just-ok/good” food. I’m not sure about the famous pancakes but as for this time, I think my favorite place is still championed by BUBBY’s with variety of food, amazing taste, great atmosphere, reasonable price, and everything. I also feel like the prices are still a bit expensive for omelet and meat & eggs menu. I think the whole point is that if I have to wait that long for one dish of breakfast and a cup of coffee, I’d rather go for somewhere with all the right combinations of things I look for which are variety, taste, atmosphere, price, time, and service. 🙂

To sum up, I think Egg ‘n things is probably just a craze. I understand that there are not many breakfast places in Japan so it got very popular but  for an hour wait (or more), I don’t think it is worth it. I may go try their pancakes once just to try their supposedly “best menus” but if I ever go back there, it’d probably be spring or summer..not winter again. But for now, I have some other breakfast places to try. Next one is probably another popular pancake place called “Bill’s“- I went to their branch in Harajuku once at 10 AM and they told me I can get in at 2 PM! So I gave up that time but this time, I’ll probably reserve a table at Yokohama branch since they allow that. Also, another place I want to try is J.S. pancake in Lazona mall, Kawasaki.

Enjoy your breakfast, everyone!

Horse meat 馬刺し!

In the last last post, I wrote about my trip to Mt. Aso in Kumamoto prefecture. I got impressed with Kumamoto and decided to go there again on my graduation trip. It was a very short trip since we went to so many cities in Kyushu on a 4 days trip. This time I traveled with my friend who is from Fukuoka so she knows a lot about Kyushu and introduced me to so many things. When we got to Kumamoto, we had dinner at an izakaya. The food was great and since we were in Kumamoto, she wanted me to try all the famous things there. So, we ordered Kumamoto’s famous horse meat!

To be perfectly honest, it was quite tasty! It was a bit strong but with a special sauce, it tasted very good. As you can see in the picture, the meat looks different, that is because they are from many parts of horse…now I know what you are thinking 😉 ! I liked it and bought a horse meat senbe (thin cracker) back but still, I felt like “I ATE A HORSE”. I think that was the only thing that didn’t make it so OK but I did try and liked it.

Now the question is….

WOULD YOU TRY?

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