One of the stuff in the world that the Japanese are known for is their food. And, whenever people talk about ramen, the “Japanese Ramen” comes into mind without thinking! Aside from that, Japan boasts of many other foods that foodies all over the world would surely love.
I personally like ramen, sashimi and sushi in the restaurants here in Singapore. But mind you, nothing beats the authentic foods tasted in their own hometown! It’s like there’s some magic in their cooking or it could be the freshness of the seafoods and the tenderness of the meats. Above all, my most favorite food in Japan is a delicious noodle dish called Yakisoba!
After strolling the busy streets of Tokyo, it is expected that we must fill our tummies with something really special. My search for something special means something palatable, something that would make our mouth water. After all, this is our first time to tour this wonderful land of the rising sun.
Listed are the foods we’ve tried and the most recommended:
Yakisoba – is a Japanese noodle stir-fry dish. Although soba means buckwheat, yakisoba noodles are actually made from wheat flour, and are typically flavored with a condiment similar to oyster sauce. The dish first appeared in food stalls in Japan during the early 20th century.
Ramen – is a Japanese dish. It consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or (occasionally) fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork, nori (dried seaweed), menma, and scallions.
Gyoza – is usually served with soy-based tare sauce seasoned with rice vinegar and/or chili oil in Mandarin Chinese. The most common recipe is a mixture of minced pork,cabbage, Asian chives, and sesame oil, and/or garlic, and/or ginger, which is then wrapped into thinly rolled dough skins.
Yakiniku – commonly refers to a Japanese style of cooking bite-size meat (usually beef and offal) and vegetables on gridirons or griddles over a flame of wood charcoals carbonized by dry distillation or a gas/electric grill. In many parts of the world, yakiniku is also commonly referred to as Japanese barbecue.
Sashimi – is a Japanese delicacy consisting of fresh raw fish or meat sliced into thin pieces and often eaten with soy sauce.
Sushi – is a Japanese dish of prepared vinegared rice, usually with some sugar and salt, accompanying a variety of ingredients, such as seafood, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits.
Miso Soup – is a traditional Japanese soup consisting of a stock called “dashi” into which softened miso paste is mixed.
Tonkatsu – is a Japanese dish that consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet. It involves cutting the pig’s back center into 2-3 centimeter thick slices, smearing with bread crumbs, frying them in oil, and then serving with Japanese Worcestershire sauce, rice, and vegetable salad (mainly cabbage).
Shabu-shabu – is a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water and served with dipping sauces.
Onigiri – is a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or cylindrical shapes and often wrapped in nori (seaweed).
Takoyaki – is a ball-shaped Japanese snack made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special molded pan. It is typically filled with minced or diced octopus(tako), tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion.
Edamame – is a preparation of immature soybeans in the pod, found in cuisines with origins in East Asia. The pods are boiled or steamed and may be served with salt. In Japan, they are usually blanched in 4% salt water and not served with salt.
We were so lucky that Tito Minoro loves to cook. Most of the Japanese food we tasted are cooked from his kitchen (tipid!). 🙂
Another spectacular attraction in Blue Mountains is the Jenolan Caves, which was our itinerary for the next day. Instead of visiting a zoo, Cath promised us that we would go see kangaroos and wallabies in the wild so she booked us a cabin at Jenolan Caves Cottages.
It was already dark on our way there. The Kangaroo Crossing signs in the road made us excited and Cath drove extra careful. We even saw actual kangaroos crossing the road. The passageway to the Jenolan Caves Cottages was in a forest full of woods. Imagining the place as a setting for thriller movie like ‘Into the woods’ gave us the creeps. However, the cabins looked homey. The wooden interior and fireplace gave it a cozy feel. What’s more homey was our home-cooked dinner of Pan Grilled Salmon, Broccoli and fresh mushroom soup.
Ging was the first to wake up the next day. Though I was still sleepy, I was more excited to see kangaroos so I woke up and prepared my camera phone the moment I saw Ging getting hers. We went out to the veranda. First, we saw one then there came another. We hurried to the other room to wake up Liza by pulling her legs. There were too many kangaroos already when we went out again. I think they’re used to people feeding them that’s why they go near cabins when they saw us. They look harmless but it was our first time to see them near so it was only when Mex found a playmate at the playground that we went down from the cabin to get closer to them.
It was something special, but we found out later that they were wallabies and not kangaroos, haha. It was almost afternoon when we reached Jenolan Caves – a tourist site with restaurants and lodgings built around 11 show caves and underground rivers. It has the world’s oldest caves so visiting is a must.
There are different timings for cave tours and these tours are categorized by what you can see inside the cave, the size of the group that can be accommodated, and the level of difficulty exploring it. Prices for cave tours range from 35 AUD to 220 AUD; however there are self-guided audio tours that come free when you buy a cave tour ticket.
While waiting for The Orient Cave tour to commence, we explored the Grand Arch – a cave ruin big enough to host an event like a concert, located at the entrance of Jenolan Caves. Bush walking is also for free and Jenolan is offering 6 scenic tracks. We walked around the surreal Blue Lake. Blue Lake track was an easy walk; it lasted for 20-30 mins. We passed by a very nice De Burgh’s bridge before seeing the flora and trees. The lake was a very blue color. There are also a lot of animals, I even heard a couple of kids telling their dad that they saw a snake near a rock but too bad I was not able to see the platypus living in the area.
After a nice introduction to the tourist site, we headed to the meeting place for the Orient cave tour where some tourists were already waiting. The tour is kids-friendly; the tour guide made the kids count the steps from the meeting point to the Cave entrance ‘Binoomea Cut’. The LED lights that are installed in the caves gave us a different way to view its grandest limestone formations. It took us 90 minutes to tour this 470 meters long, average difficulty cave. I never knew that there could be too much caves in just one place until my trip to Jenolan.
Somewhere down the Hartley road, the Talisman, wood fired pizza café, came to our view and the words ‘wood fired pizza’ made us curious so we stopped by for some coffee and pizza. The coffee was nicely brewed and the ingredients of pizza were fresh. The dough tasted nice and for me, as long as the ingredients are fresh, the taste will never go wrong. The place is rustic and quirky at the same time. A portion of the place had a display of merchandise that was both bohemian and modern.
It was still early in the evening when we reached the CBD area of Sydney so we just decided to watch a movie in an outdoor movie house. How cool is that for someone who hasn’t tried it? The movie house was like a big open parking lot with an establishment where people can buy snacks to go with their movie-watching. Some people even brought chairs to watch the movie outside their cars. It was our longest day in Sydney.
Day 6 – Circular Quay and Darling Harbour
Our 4th day in Sydney was a day without a tour guide. Cath drop us off at DFO and went to work while Mex came with us to explore the city. DFO is said to be the best shopping place in the country but when we saw the prices of the items, we all thought that the sale items in Singapore are much cheaper. We ended up not buying anything. Outside the mall, there was a Korean event that is open to public. We had some Korean food while Mex played in one of the play booths. It was a bit hard for us to go to Circular Quay from that place as the Koreans in the bus stop didn’t speak English, while the others didn’t know what bus we could take until a Filipino family suggested that we take a bus to the subway and go to Circular Quay by train.
The first place we went to at Circular Quay is the Museum of Contemporary Arts – a building that looks like boxes arranged asymmetrically in The Rocks. This museum is dedicated to exhibiting and collecting contemporary art, both from across the country and around the world. The exhibition that time was Primavera 2014. I won’t forget the single video work of Madison Brycoft “Entitled” wherein a lady shaved her head and place an octopus on the top of it. There was also the installation called Audio Helmet. Mex tried the helmet and wore it while exploring the room when a guide told us that he had to put the helmet back in its place.
We then stopped by at Paddys Market. Tourists go there for all the souvenirs they need. The market is clean and spacey and souvenir prices are less expensive compared outside. There are small koala bear stuffed toys for 5 AUD, refrigerator magnets worth 4 for 10 AUD, shot glasses priced at 10 AUD for 4 pieces and a lot more.
The last place we went to is Darling Harbour, where there were small events like film viewing and etc. The place glowed from the colorful night lights. I remember talking with a hotel guest at work saying that Singapore is like Darling Harbour and indeed they are similar in a lot of ways.
We had a harder time going home since we couldn’t find our way to the subway but we found some interesting scenes like some places in the city we passed by and a guy in Mario costume playing an electric guitar in the street. Those made us enjoy roaming around the CBD by just commuting
Day 7 – Hunter Valley
The last but definitely not the least place that we visited was the place I’ve been excited to visit. It’s for people who are interested to see where some of the known wines came from – The Hunter Valley. It seemed far but it was actually just two hours from Sydney and it gave us the feel of unobtrusive country charm. Too bad there was no event at the time.
On our way to Hunter Valley, we passed by a coffee shop with the most interesting interior and a wonderful patio named The Crossings. They specialize in coffee and they also sell authentic bits and pieces. I bought a kangaroo-shaped bottle opener that is made from metal and made by the hand of a blacksmith. It cost 40AUD, which is quite expensive but I really fell in love with the craftsmanship involved.
We stopped by another premier attraction in the area, which is the Hunter Valley Chocolate company. Here, they make fine chocolates with Australian dried fruits. They also sell gelato and some drinks. We bought some chocolates and nougats to bring to Singapore.
And then, finally, we made it to Hunter Valley vineyards and it seemed like they just harvested grapes. There are over 80 wineries in the area and they also offer tours covering from how to grow grapes, the process to produce wine and wine appreciation. Too bad we didn’t book for any tour; nevertheless we enjoyed strolling in the vineyards.
The next day, we spent the morning organizing our baggage and things. We didn’t feel like leaving but we had no choice, haha. We were able to maximize our time in Sydney because of Cath. Everything was amazing and unforgettable and I am hoping to come back.
Whenever I think of Valentine’s date, a picture of crowded malls and restaurants is the first that comes to mind. I can’t even remember the last time I was out for Valentine’s day.
Now, I’m back in Manila. Lala and I have been trying to make up for our two years of long distance relationship. We decided to go out and have an unusual Valentines date.
We went to Quiapo, Manila, not to tour around one of the most notorious market in the world for counterfeit and pirated goods but to shop for mountain bike accessories.
Quezon boulevard in Quiapo is one of the well-known places for buying bicycles and accessories. And if you’re up for buying cheap China-made accessories, there are a lot of sidewalk vendors offering a range of products.
Lala bought the following: Bottle cage mount – P80 Bike seat cover – P100 Bike front light – P120 Bicycle bell – P180
For serious cyclists, there are quality products in some of the shops. However I don’t suggest buying bicycles here as it is much cheaper in Cartimar in Libertad, Pasay.
When in Quiapo, don’t eat fastfood at the Filipino restaurants because the place is known for old Chinese eateries. One of the famous restaurants here is Ma Mon Luk.
Ma Mon Luk is named after a Chinese-Filipino chef/entrepreneur who is the innovator of siopao and mami here in Philippines. The eatery is an indoor open space ventilated with huge ceiling fans. The menu, plus framed write-ups and newspaper clips about the eatery hang on their wooden wall.
The place is an image of restaurant settings in Filipino movies during the 80s. They offer a limited selection of food, from mami, siopao, siomai, softdrinks, and bottled water.
We tried the special mami, special siopao, and siomai. The noodles was ok but the mami soup was too gamey for me to eat. Their siopao is good but it has a lot of salted egg inside, making it salty. Their siomai is big and meaty.
The noodles and siopao are handmade and the serving is quite big for me. That’s the reason why the price is not that cheap. It was a good experience eating out in a tradionally old eatery but overall the food there is not something I would crave for.
It was definitely a unique way to spend Valentines Day. It was like a tour in a some ways as I was also introduced to other known eateries in the area.
It’s been a year now since the best travel I’ve ever had. I’ve been away from blogging for a while, because I’ve been reviewing for MCP and studying PMP, but here I am now, unemployed and I have ample time to write about it.
This place is known for making good tasting wines. The famous Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and a lot of their places are featured in different magazines all over the world. Because of those, I knew I loved Australia before I met it.
Sydney featured in Scoot inflight magazine
us at Sydney Airport
It is very easy and convenient to apply for an Australia Tourist Visa in Singapore. You can either do it via the AVEC Center, which provides visa application processing services, or online at this link. Visa application fees range from 135 AUD to 340 AUD. We applied via AVEC Center and we were advised that the processing would take 10 days. However, after 5 days, the VISA was ready. We paid a service fee of 42 SGD. My cousin residing in Dubai tried to apply for a VISA online and it took them almost a month. We flew via Scoot, a Singapore based low-cost airline with routes predominantly from Singapore to Australia or China.
Day 1 – Brighton Beach and King Cross
We were welcomed with a big hug from Liza’s friend Cath. After some rest and a snack at her house in Kogarah, she brought us to Hurricane Grill, a modern steakhouse in Grande Parade, Brighton Le-Sands. The restaurant just closed for lunch so we hung out at Brighton Le-Sands Beach first where we met some new friends. We went back to Hurricane Grill again, and this time it was open for dinner and we were their first customers for dinner that day. We tried the Pork Ribs, Prawns, Pumpkin Soup and Octopus Salad. The meat is very tender and tasteful; I also love the soup and salad a lot. It is actually the best soup and salad I’ve ever tasted. This is food to come back for.
at Brighton Le-Sands beach while waiting for Hurricane Grill to open for dinner
new found friends
my favorite — Octopus Salad
After the nicest welcome dinner, we headed to King Cross. We booked a room for sharing at Jackaroo Hostel for that night; we shared a room with a nice Argentinian girl looking for a job in Sydney. We were able to roam around King Cross, take some photos and enjoy ice cream on a chilly night. Some people welcomed us by photobombing.
somewhere in KingCross
El Almein Fountain
at King Cross
Day 2 – Wattamolla and South Coast Wollongong
We had our first Australian breakfast of oats, milk, wheat breads, Vegemite, and some gluten-free wafer-like cereal, which I forgot the name of. Everything is plain and healthy and some were new to our taste.
breakfast area at Jackaroo Hostel
met new friend
Cath with her smarty pants son Mexie fetched us for a day in Wattamolla beach. Wattamolla is the first National Park in Australia with cliffs broken by beaches and deep river valleys. It is located in the south of Sydney. We went there for a picnic and sunbathing and there are more activities you can enjoy there, like kayaking, swimming, cycling, birds and whale-watching (just bring a binocular). But if you are looking for a more adventurous activity, you can jump in the water from 10-meter-high coastal cliffs.
the 3 tourists
she didn’t even wet her hands
Ging walking in the trail
jumping off the cliff
Cath and I
We were already hungry by mid-afternoon. Cath drove us to the Wollogong area for a nice early dinner at Bombora Restaurant. This restaurant, set high in Wollongong Harbour has an indoor and outdoor dining space that gives access to an impressive view of the area. We ordered their specialty, which is the Bombora Basket. We also tried their mussels, Fish of the Day and Chicken Parmigiana. The food was good and we were so full that we didn’t finish the Hot Chocolate Prune Cake and Poached Pear.
Bombora Seafood Restaurant
Fish of the Day
The Bombora Basket
Hot Chocolate Prune Cake
While waiting for the food, I tried to explore the area formerly known as Baltimore Basin. It is home to a large fishing fleet — the reason why Pelicans love to stay in the area. It is an ideal place to hang out with friends or to just have a walk, as it is near a historic lighthouse named Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse.
almost sunset at Baltimore Basin
lovers and love birds?
Ging and Liza
night at Baltimore Basin
Day 3 – Bondi Beach, Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and Manly Beach
It was a bit chilly for me that day, but Cath said that it’s good weather for the beach again so we went to Bondi Beach. Bondi Beach is a popular beach near the central district of Sydney. Aussies are beach lovers, and I was amazed how they enjoy the beach in a chilly weather. The beach wasn’t that crowded that day — I’ve seen how packed Bondi Beach is in the summer in photos.
sunbathing at Bondi Beach
at Bondi Beach
aslong Bondi Road
us at Bondi Beach
After chilling in the beach, we walked 3 kilometers to have lunch at JG café. Cath was craving for Filipino food and she found this Filipino restaurant on the Internet. We tried to walk fast so that we didn’t feel cold, so I was like a bit sweaty and cold at the same time. JG Café is a Filipino-owned restaurant serving Filipino and Western food. They also serve baked goods like cupcakes readily available in a display shelf. The food is ok but not that great, but the service of the owner is great. He chatted with us for us not be bored while waiting for our food.
along the way
to Sydney Opera House
at Harbour Bridge
inside Sydney Opera House
view of Circular Quay
We headed to the suburbs with our heavy tummy. We were so excited to finally see the central business district, particularly Ging. Circular Quay is a picturesque place. I especially like how it looked like with the before-sunset glow. We visited the Sydney Opera House, which is famous for being one of the most distinctive buildings of 20th century. It received attention during Sydney 2000 Olympics for being included in the Olympic Torch route to the Olympic stadium. From then, it became the backdrop of some Olympic events. Near the Opera House is the Sydney Harbour Bridge — the world’s largest steel arch bridge standing at its highest point 440 ft. above Sydney Harbour. I was in awe – I was so happy to see these places.
We caught a ferry to Manly Beach to enjoy the view of the area from water. It was getting cold so we did not walk around Manly Beach, or maybe the real reason was because we were enticed by the nicest smell of coffee and chocolate from Max Brenner. I know! There’s Max Brenner in Singapore and even in Philippines, but we are just humans with sweet tooths and a love for coffee.
Sydney Opera House
the bridge at night
Day 4 – Blue Mountains
Our target place for this day was a world heritage-listed site named Blue Mountains. Before going there, we had a late lunch at Yellow Deli in Katoomba. The place made me feel like I was in a movie setting. The deli looks interestingly organic, like the food they serve. The interior is composed of wooden bucket inspired warm lights; the tables and the chairs are made from different sizes of recycled timbers that gave us an eccentric feel. The toilet is just as cozy with walls of old photos and newspaper articles that are readable. The menu is mostly sandwiches and salads but the quality of the breads and greens are so good. We tried the soup of the week, which is pumpkin soup, plus the smoked chicken sandwich, the best Reuben sandwich I’ve ever tasted, and a Chef Salad. The choices of drinks are very fascinating; I loved both the Hot Apple Cider and the Hot Not Chocolate.
The Yellow Deli
inside the deli
wooden bucket inspired light
the gang ready for food
the yummy sandwiches and salad
Hot Apple Cider and Hot Not Chocolate
We enjoyed the stimulating lunch and the ambiance of the Deli, and it was already mid-afternoon when we arrived at Blue Mountains. The place is said to be called Blue Mountains because of the blue haze that hovers over the area. It is a famous tourist spot for nature lovers and a popular place for rock climbers, mountain bikers and hikers. We don’t have much time; we focus on a particular place which is the Scenic World. This tourist attraction provides a scenic experience for tourists. The Scenic Walkway gave us a feel of touring a Jurassic rainforest. The Scenic Cableway gave us a panoramic view of the Blue Mountains and the Scenic Railway which thrilled us with its 52 degree incline riding experience with the steepest passenger railway in the world. Too bad they are open until 5pm only we were not able to try the Scenic Skyway. It’s nature adventure overload!