Sunday, February 24, 2019

[Japan-Tokyo] コンビニ Konbini foods, are they as good as what others say?

The term Konbini/Conbini/Combini コンビニ means convenience. Hence, konbini food simply means convenience store foods. Yes, food/snacks from stores such as 7-Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart, amongst others. Japan's combini culture is attractive as everything is so convenient. We all know that convenience stores in Japan has everything. Well, almost. But it does have things that most travellers would want/need in some point in time.

For me, that'll be foood~ and yeah, an umbrella too.

Family Mart @ Kinshicho

I bet you have heard about their fried chicken. And, you'd probably had eaten them too but pardon me for being late into the game. Haven't been visiting Japan for the longest time.

fried food counter at Family Mart

Nope, does not know what those words are but I knew what I wanted. A piece of that golden fried chicken square. Of course, I didn't know which was which because there were two that looked similar. So I just pointed to the one at the top tray.

Family Mart Chicken @  ¥180

Ate this baby as soon as I bought it. And, it was still piping hot! Of course, I was a tad famished by that time, which was close to 1pm. Oh boy, it was an amazing first bite. So juicy, tender and tasty! There were some fair amount of fats surrounding those meat, hence it could get oily. But so good eating it at 22 degrees celcius. Yums!

love at first bite

Also tried Lawson's version of the fried chicken (I got the spicy version) when I was in Nagoya but Famichiki was the better version, hands down. Reason being Lawson's version had slightly drier meat and slightly dough-y taste of the flour. Oily-ness level was almost the same for both.

Lawson's Spicy Fried Chicken @ ¥150

Having a Family Mart so close to the hotel (5 minutes walk) that I was staying in Kinshicho, meant I could do breakfast or a light dinner or midnight snack on a whim. Another combini food that got me intrigued, is the tamago sando (egg sandwich). I just got to try it myself.

I was at the store around 8am and bought an egg sandwich a cup of Family Mart's latte. The store has a small section where customers could sit and eat their food. The seats are facing the outside of the store, so one could watch the world go by while sipping coffee.

たまごサンド とコーヒー Egg sandwich and coffee
egg mayo sandwich on fluffy white bread

Lovely taste from the egg sandwich and loved the fluffy bread. Not too heavy but enough to fuel the first few hours of the day.

Another must-buy from the konbini would be the oden. Oden is a one-pot dish consisting of several ingredients, much like our yong tau foo. The oden in convenience store can be easily found at the front of the cashier counter. The styrofoam bowl (of two different sizes) and tongs to pickup the ingredients and ladle for the soup are all there. Self-service.

Let's take a look of what I had for dinner. It was my first time having oden so I think I was a tad excited to try. Went for 5 items and placed them all in the large bowl. Put in the soup and go to the counter to pay. They'd put on the cover for you and pack the sauce, if you need. There's hoisin sauce and yellow mustard in tiny packs.

Oden おでん

Had picked out daikon (because I heard that this is a must-have ingredient for oden), the tamago (hard boiled egg), two Nerimono (some kind of fish paste/meat paste item), and the Kinchaku (the one that looks like a fried beancurd pouch).

The daikon was expectantly soft and had absorbed the flavours of the dashi. Juicy and easy to eat. It was kind of hard to stop myself from drinking up all the dashi. It just tasted so flavourful.

I think I got a deep fried hanpen which is a type of fishcake but I was also confused because of the airy and fluffy texture that it has. It has seaweed in it, and everything about this piece was just so intriguing! Amazing. Oooh, the pockets of air in that piece was good to bring up more dashi with each bite. Just dip and bite. So goood!

半片 so good!
Here's a video of the oden feast.

Was kind of surprised when the weight of kinchaku was felt when I tried to pick it up with the chopsticks. Why was it so heavy? Took a bite and there was mochi in there! Wow. Unexpected but it was still a good combo, surprisingly.

Another surprise was the meatball piece. It had a cheesy center. So cool!

The only not surprising item was the egg. It was a regular hardboiled egg. I thought it was going to be a lava egg.

cheesy meatball

To end the meal, wash it off with with a Chu-Hi which is a shochu based cocktail. When drinking, might as well get a snack to go along with it. All in all, a very filling and satisfying meal, complete with an alcoholic drink and a 'dessert' of sorts. About $10 for dinner.

Horoyoi ほろよい
seasonal snack of butter sweet potato crackers

I love konbini foods so much, I got to have it again and this time with onigiri.

breakfast in bed - oden, onigiri, juice and coffee

Being a noob in onigiri unwrapping, it was a mess once I got it wrong. Amazing how the seaweed stayed crispy. Lovely flavours and good for breakfast.

mentaiko onigiri 

Yes, I love my convenience store foods and drinks for its adequate selections, affordable pricing and fuss free.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

[Japan-Tokyo] Tendon Tenya 天丼てんや @ Asakusa 浅草

After we were done with the sightseeing at Asakusa, we actually walked back and forth for about, I think at least 2 km before deciding on the place to rest our legs and to appease our growling tummies. Reason being, we wanted to check out the stretch of restaurants and to have our own top pick before putting it to vote. Yeah, just 3 of us in the party and already it was complicated. Oops.

Sensō-ji 浅草寺 at night
Kaminarimon 雷門

Ok, so what did the long walks yielded? Shermaine's friend Johan decided to try Tendon Tenya. Yass to fried tempura rice bowl!

Tendon Tenya looks like a fast food joint and it has upstairs seats as well. Often times, the ground floor would be filled up hence, the staff would try to usher the guests to the upper floor. We got ourselves a table downstairs because too tired to climb up and down the stairs. The wait for a table was about 10 minutes.

drinks menu

We ordered more or less the same thing. The basic tendon has prawn, okra, pumpkin, squid and white fish for just ¥540. Additional toppings like scallop cost about ¥130 each. The scallop was pretty small hence, may be more worth it to add white fish meat for just ¥100 per piece.

delicious tendon 天丼 with miso soup
Tendon with maitake mushrooms, okra, prawn, and squid with additional scallop @ ¥720

The food was delicious, the sauce was minimal but I think it was adequate to flavour the rice. The deep fried tempura was not the crispy crispy type but overall it was still delicious. Loved the maitake mushroom!

For drinks, we drank up the complimentary cold roasted tea that's available on the table. Self-service ya.

iced tea

Tasted good, reasonably priced and fuss free.

Tendon Tenya 天丼てんや

Address: 〒111-0032, 1-9-2 Asakusa Taito-ku, Tokyo
Contact: 03-5828-5918
Business Hours:
Weekdays: 11:00~23:00
Saturday: 10:00~23:00
PH: 10:00~23:00

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

[Japan-Tokyo] Had the Best Meal at Shokudo and Teishoku Restaurant 定食 稲 @ NIshikasai Edogawa

This shop was really an unexpected find that is of a hidden gem that we chanced upon at random. Shermaine (@littletinysun) and I were on a vacation in Japan during autumn last year.  I stayed in Kinschicho for the first two nights and Edogawa Ward Natural Zoo was nearby. Visited the small attraction (which by the way is worth visiting) and after which, we went around looking for lunch. Wandered into a nearby mall (AEON) and almost settled for lunch there but it was a tad too crowded during the peak lunch hour.

As we were walking back towards the Nishi-Kasai train station, we saw a few restaurants and decided on this small shokudo. The shop is nearby Sunny Mall, which is right across the street.

Sunny Mall Nishi Kasai
directions from Nishi-Kasai station (credit to Google Map)

The shop serves set meals (teishoku) and the menu looked simple enough with a few rice and noodles items. I had the set meal of the day which happen to be the current shop favourite; the buta shogayaki (豚の生姜焼き) rice set with stir-fried ginger pork while Shermaine ordered oyakodon.

Observed that the other diners are locals. While the menu only consists of Japanese words, the shop itself has pictorial menu at the counter as well as on the glass at the back wall.


There is one lady staff that would take orders from the table where you are seated and will bring the food to the diners. Payment is made after the meal at the cashier counter. Cold water is complimentary and the flask with cold water is already at the table so help yourself. The kitchen seemed to have 3 staff working and hence, we got our food rather quickly. Very efficient.

buta shogayaki set 豚の生姜焼き @ ¥750

tangy pickles
onsen tamago
delicious stir-fried ginger pork
My set meal came with rice, stir-fried pork with shredded cabbages and potato salad, pickles, onsen egg and miso soup. All these for just  ¥750 (~SGD9.50). Wow, that's value for money!

I was also quite impressed when Shermaine's oyakodon arrived. Served piping hot with steam coming out and all, the egg was cooked to a nice smooth golden yellow wobbly but not watery. My goodness, don't get me started on the generous chunky pieces of chicken in that bowl. Super worth it!

oyakodon set 親子丼 @ ¥700

closer view

Here is a video of the food (sorry that it was vertical):

There are condiments placed on the table and one of it was the spicy garlic chili oil. It is very flavourful and good to eat with the rice. Very appetising.

garlic chili oil 

Overall, we were more than satisfied with the experience at 定食 稲 for its value and tasty food with generous portions.

定食 稲

Address: 5 Chome-8-16 Nishikasai, Edogawa-ku, Tōkyō-to 134-0088, Japan
Nearest station: Nishi-Kasai Station (28 mins from Tokyo)
Contact: +81 3-3680-4034
Business Hours:
Daily: 11:30~15:00. Closed on Wednesdays.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

[Food Tasting] Kafe Utu @ 12 Jiak Chuan Road

Was privileged to be invited for a tasting at Kafe Utu, thanks to Kris (@msginginly). It was a discovery trip as am a noob pertaining to African cuisine. Located at the hip Jiak Chuan Road, Kafe Utu is easy to spot.

Kafe Utu exterior

The interior is charming, with a cosy vibe while its staff are friendly and welcoming. Feel free to wander around and notice the larger than life photographs of native African women at the cafe area or venture upstairs to the lounge area to chill-out with furniture that were specially flown-in from Africa. Intricate wood carvings, a mirror and treasure chest that has more than 100 years of history are all part of the charm.

photographs of African natives
secret hideout
exquisite decor
intricate carvings

Kafe Utu is an afro cafe cum lounge serving brunch, offering delectable East and West African food as well as specialty coffee served with only fresh Hokkaido milk.

coffee counter
high-end espresso coffee machine
steaming it up
bean here, done that

Let's take a look at the wonderful coffee that Kafe Utu makes, from the good hands of Barista Mark Chan. The Bidi Bado was a rather interesting cup of mocha rimmed with natural peanut butter, pink peppercorns and toasted almonds which I enjoyed. Tasted nutty, buttery and intense.

Bidi Bado Abracadabra (UTU Style Mocha) @$7

Matcha @$6
Malindi Latte @$6
Utu Ink @$6

The Owner, Mr Kurt Wagner, grew up in Kenya and wanted to bring a piece of home to Singapore. There are many items in the Kafe Utu that are handmade and housemade.  From the doors that are hand carved specially for Kafe Utu and flown-in from Kenya, the uniquely shaped water glasses that are hand blowed, to the ceramic coffee cups and saucers, and many more.

Wondering about East and West African cuisine? Come satisfy your curiosity (as I had) at Kafe Utu.

West African Spicy Greens @$28
Liberian Peanut Chicken Stew @$28

My goodness. I have found my favourite rice dish and that would be the West African Spicy Greens where one gets cassava leaves, chicken thigh, smoked fish & habenero, served with coconut rice. Simply delicious!

Swahili Fish Curry @$29

Did I mention that Kafe Utu serves amazing salads? Well, it does! Both the pumpkin kale and the mama's fresh garden salad were so good that I almost polished everything off. So tasty! Oh, how can I not mention the beetroot burratini. Beetroot had never tasted this good before! Picked beetroot, white truffle oil, burratini & fresh basil leaf forms the winning combination.

Pumpkin Kale @$18
Mama’s fresh garden salad @$25
Beetroot Burratini @$18

If you are more of a soup person, do try the refreshing tomato soup, served cold. Good till the last drop and whets the appetite for more!

Marinated Roma Tomatoes @$16
The brunch items in the menu were rather extensive.  The Pulled Pork Breakfast was rather satisfying with the generous portion of shoulder pulled pork in house hickory smoked BBQ sauce, spice mix, curried avocado and served with corn salsa, potato hash and topped with a wobbly poached egg.

Pulled Pork Breakfast @$24
Utu Bowl @$20
For a non-meat option, the Utu Bowl is moreish as it has quinoa, orange zest pickled carrots, apple cider pickled cabbage, fresh kale, marinated goat’s cheese, sous vide egg, roasted pumpkin, fresh avocado & spiced pumpkin seeds.

Or for something lighter, opt for the Quinoa Chia Seed Pudding.

Quinoa Chia Seed Pudding @$18

For brunch, if you are not into coffee, why not try the Fresh Berries Smoothies. Comes in a tall glass with paper straw.

Fresh Berries Smoothies @$9

Let's have a look at the dessert. The Mandazi is a Swahili coast classic of fried bread with coconut flakes and cardamon. Its texture is much denser than a doughnut. The Nakupenda is a variation of this dessert topped with ice-cream. Loved the ice-cream/soft-serve at Kafe Utu. So smooth and creamy.

Mandazi @$8
Nakupenda @$8
I have much love for the tiramisu here as well. Maybe it was because the house espresso was so good.

Tiramisu @$8
Canele @$5
The best dessert for sharing had to be the Ricotta Hotcakes. Beautiful looking, delicious tasting and so instagram-able.

Ricotta Hotcakes @$23

In the evenings, Utu Lounge comes alive! Enjoy cocktails, delicious tapas and just chill. Cassava chips, potato wedges, padron peppers and buttermilk fried chicken. The dips for the wedges are the Congo Bongo, mango chili marmalade & House Chili ranging from mild to hot respectively.

Fresh Cassava Chips @$12
Potato Wedges @$14
Buttermilk Fried Chicken @$15
Padron Peppers @$14

The cocktail bar is actually upstairs. The bar uses fresh products and homemade syrups, nothing artificial and premium spirits. Just so you know, there won't be any Hendricks, Bombay or any of the likes. Find Chris and let him know your drinks preference.

Chris with The Calamansi & Cucumber Mojito @$18
Gin & Tonic redefined
Malaika @$16
Eden @$16
Mganga @$18

My drink was the Eden which is made of organic gin, pineapple juice and lemon juice. There was egg white beaten into that concoction as well in its early stages.

The most interesting drink was the Malaika with its "so pretty in pink colour" plus the wicked chili padi, delicious fresh watermelon, fresh lemon juice, vodka and soda water. Spicy and sweet all at once!

Had a wonderful experience at Kafe Utu, thanks to the cheerful and friendly staff that took care of us that day. Thank you Kris for the invite, Mr Kurt Wagner for your hospitality, team Utu comprising of  Kynna, Mark, Chris and many more (but I do not know all your names, my apologies).

Looking forward to the next dining experience. Stay happy!

Kafe Utu

Address: 12 Jiak Chuan Road Singapore 089265
Contact: +65 6996 3937

Business Hours:   

Kafe Utu
Closed Monday
Tuesday – Sunday: 8am – 5pm

Utu Lounge
Closed Monday
Tuesday – Thursday: 6pm-11pm
Friday & Saturday: 6pm-1am
Sunday: 1130am - 5pm
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