Review: Nana’s Green Tea Cafe

I first heard about this cafe on television when they were introducing cafes that made great matcha. Then out of the blue, Sandra asked if I wanted to go try Nana’s so Sandra, Esther and I finally did today. It’s an open concept cafe which makes the already larger cafe seem even larger. Although there were many people during the lunch hour, it was not noisy at all. Throw in the plushy sofas, good food and convenient location, it’s a great place to hang out in if you are near town.

Nana’s has an everyday lunch set for $13.90 which offers a wide variety of choices, from donburis (rice) to hamburgers to udon and includes a drink, matcha and many other teas. It’s a pity their lunch set doesn’t include the unagi don, which would be my top choice, but I was game to try on weird sounding concoctions like their beef tomato curry udon.

Beef Tomato Curry Udon

Beef Tomato Curry Udon

The beef was too fatty for my liking but I guess the fats are unavoidable in sliced beef. The soup was pleasantly not thick with curry sauce and it was perfect in terms of flavour. The cherry tomatoes maintained their form and added this burst of sweetness when eaten with the chewy curry flavoured udon. I was happy that I chose this instead of the boring sukiyaki udon that I almost wanted to pick. It’s a good choice if you always wanted to try what udon would taste like with Japanese curry. You secretly know you want to.

Esther ordered the salmon don which was a rice bowl topped with slices of Salmon sashimi, sprouts and pickled ginger.

Here’s what Esther said about her food,

“Overall the dish was decent but could have done with a lot more flavour. The salmon sashimi was not as fresh as I expected and the heat from the rice, probably affected the taste slightly. The rice was really well-cooked and I liked the combination of sesame seeds in the piping hot rice. The miso soup was nothing to rave about, and I’m pretty sure its simply packet miso mixed with hot water. All in all, the dish was sufficiently filling but lacking in flavor. The sauce provided simply tastes like soy sauce so in the end the dish felt like, salmon sushi, but upsized.”

Sandra ordered the Seafood Mentai Udon which I tried and immediately disliked because of the taste of roe. It permeates the entire thing and made me want to vomit but Sandra loved it.

According to Sandra,

“The Seafood Mentaiko Udon was very unique. The cream sauce was an alarming shade of pink, but not to worry, it tasted much better than it looked! The sauce was closer to a soupy rather than a creamy consistency- almost like a seafood broth. The aroma of the fish roe was very strong, which means it might not be for the fainthearted, but perfect if you like roe.

As for the udon, it was fresh and chewy- the perfect kind of udon! I liked how its taste wasn’t masked by the cream sauce; Nana’s manages to strike a good balance between the noodles and the soup. The seafood consisted of prawns, squid and scallops of above-average size and servings. All in all, it was a dish with lots of well-matched and yummy flavours!”

Each set lunch comes with a drink and we all chose cold Matcha latte! I seldom drink hot Matcha lattes in Singapore because it is already so hot outside. In my opinion, hot Matcha lattes taste the best when you’re in wintry Japan. There are other choices if you dislike sugar and milk, you could order the thin matcha (matcha without milk and sugar) or the azuki latte (red bean latte) or the Hoji tea (roasted green tea) etc.

Cold Matcha Latte

The Matcha Latte was thick and had the appropriate amount of sugar in it. It had a smooth texture that made it so easy to drink, perhaps one glass isn’t enough 😉 I would come back to Nana’s for the Matcha drinks but probably not specially for the food. If you are in town looking for a place to chill and drink Matcha, Nana’s the place.

Nana’s Green Tea Cafe
Plaza Singapura
#03-80
Singapore 048617

Pate a choux

Pate a choux

Pate a choux is the base for delicious desserts such as profiteroles and eclairs. The mark of a perfect choux bun is a hollow inside and a crisp, brown outside, both dependent on the oven temperature and timing. I didn’t do my research before making my choux buns which resulted in soft choux buns 😦 But it’s okay because I’ve scoured through the internet and finally figured out how to do it right, all thanks to American Test Kitchen.

Pate a choux

Pate a choux

I followed Gordon Ramsay’s recipe after I watched him in this video. There’s going to be a lot of stirring of dough around so beware of aching arms the next day but it is worth it in the end!!! 🙂 Imagine popping a cream puff into your mouth. Heavenly.

Anyway, here’s the recipe, including some things to take note of.

Ingredients
125ml milk
200ml water
150g plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
½ tsp salt
100g unsalted butter
4 medium eggs, lightly beaten

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. A very hot oven is necessary for the buns to rise.
2. Heat milk, water and sugar until sugar is dissolved.
3. Bring to a boil.
4. Once boiling, remove from heat and immediately tip all of the flour in. Stir with a wooden spoon until a ball of dough is formed.
5. Remove dough and place into another bowl to cool.
6. Once cooled, beat in eggs one at a time until a smooth paste is formed. Don’t worry when it looks like a mess, just have faith and continue beating using your wooden spoon.
7. Place in piping bag with a round tip and pipe out walnut sized mounts. (Refer to the video to see how it is done)
8. Place in oven and bake until golden brown.
9. Once the pastries are baked, cut a ¾-inch slit into the side of each puff to release the steam. Return the pastries to the oven, turn the oven off, and prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon. Let the pastries dry until the center is just moist (but not wet) and the surface is crisp, about 45 minutes.

Homemade Yogurt

Yogurt

Yoghurt

Homemade yogurt is a cheaper alternative to store bought yogurt, and the best part is that it is way healthier. No preservatives, no unnecessary food colouring and no overload of sugar. Once you’ve tasted this yogurt, there’s no turning back. My mother absolutely detests commercial yogurt and loves our homemade yogurt. It’s not difficult to make yogurt at all, at least not as difficult as you think it is.

To make your own yogurt, you have to understand how it works first. The base ingredient is milk and milk contains lactose. You have to add in a starter which is a cup of commercial yogurt or a cup of yogurt from your previous batch because this starter contains the probiotic bacteria that will convert the lactose into lactic acid, the thing that makes yogurt tart and thick. Warming the milk and incubating the mixture provides the ideal environment for the bacteria to work.

Yogurt with thermometer

One important tool you need is a thermometer which you can buy for $13 at Phoon Huat. Temperature is key in making yogurt, you want to make sure you don’t kill the cultures. Another important tool is an incubator. My De Dietrich oven has a yogurt function that maintains the right temperature and I didn’t discover it until I made my first batch of yogurt and started playing with the oven functions. Go look at your oven closely and perhaps you might discover this amazing function! If you don’t have this function, you could just turn your oven light on and place the bottles in the oven or you could place the mixture in a flask.

One tip is to buy many mason jars to store your yogurt, I keep 7 at home. Remember to sterilize all your tools and the jars as you don’t want harmful bacteria to proliferate as well! Once you have all your materials, you are ready to make some yogurt! 🙂

Adding starter

Pouring into mason jars

Ingredients

1 litre of milk (full cream preferred)
1 cup of store-bought yogurt or previous batch of yogurt

Directions

1. In a pot, warm the milk to 82 degrees Celsius.
2. Prepare an ice bath.
3. Once it has reached 82 degrees Celsius, place pot in ice bath. Cool milk to 45 degrees Celsius.
4. Whisk in starter.
5. Pour mixture into mason jars.
6. Place in incubator for at least 6 hours, best results are seen when it is left overnight.
7. Place in refrigerator to chill.

White Bread

Bread

Bread

Remember how I discovered the magical powers of my Kenwood mixer? I used them in making two loaves of white bread which turned out a bit too chewy for my liking perhaps because of over mixing. Making bread is an art to perfect although I don’t quite see how you can screw this recipe up that bad, so I can ensure you that you will get two edible crusty white loaves if you use this recipe. Have fun watching yeast, water and flour turn into breakfast 🙂

From joythebaker
Ingredients

4 cups bread flour
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of warm water

Directions

1. In your electric mixer bowl, place 3 3/4 cup of bread flour. Place the yeast on one side and salt on the opposite side. Pour the water into the middle.
2. Using the paddle attachment, mix it until it appears just mixed.
3. Change to the dough attachment, mix on medium speed for 2 min.
4. Stop and rest the dough for 5 min.
5. Mix again for 3 min.
6. With the remaining 1/4 cup of bread flour, hand knead dough until it is smooth and satiny. Shape into ball.
7. Place into oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel and place in a warm area. Let it rest for 90 minutes until it doubles.
8. Remove from bowl, punch down and form a ball again. Return to bowl and cover for 30 minutes.
9. Remove from bowl onto well floured surface, cut into 2 pieces and shape each piece into balls. 10. Leave to rest under damp cloth for 30 to 45 minutes
11. In the last 20 minutes, preheat oven to 220 degrees celsius. Place two trays in the oven to preheat, one at the most bottom shelf.
12. Place bread onto tray and slash a ‘x’ onto the bread to let the bread rise.
13. Add water to the bottom tray so that steam is produced to create a crispy crust.
14. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy 🙂

Review: Nasi Lemak Kukus

I had to try this place after my dad told me that there was free flow of Nasi Lemak rice and he said it was “not bad”. This shop sells Nasi Lemak with a unique concept. It is owned by a Chinese who employs Malays. The interior design of the shop is so hipster that you won’t even believe that it sells the traditional dish of Nasi Lemak. There is the cemented floor, the nonexistent ceiling where you can see the pipes running all over and the metal scaffolding, the random quotes everywhere and the pop music. For the food, customers scoop their rice and whatever ingredients they want, then pay for it at the counter.

The shop gets brownie points for being different but sometimes different isn’t that great after all. I got confused as to how much ingredients to scoop onto my plate because they charge per scoop which leads to the question of “how big is one scoop?!”. It got quite annoying that I didn’t know how much each dish cost because the dish wasn’t individually labeled with prices, they were written on this board which was hard to refer to. Basically, you just scoop with hesitation and pray hard you didn’t burn a hole in your pocket when you reach the cashier.

Nasi Lemak Kukus

I ordered a deep fried chicken thigh, an omelette, sayer lodeh and a lime juice. The chicken thigh was too dry while the omelette was too thin. If you prefer a more coconut milk based sayer lodeh, you would love their sayer lodeh. It works for people who can’t take spiciness as well. The serving is too small for $1 and it left me wanting for more ): The lime juice was freshly squeezed and in Claudia’s opinion, it has fulfilled the most important criteria of a good fruit juice. The rice was a standout from the mediocre fare. This rice is not like ordinary Nasi Lemak rice, it is steamed over water instead of being cooked in a rice cooker. This means that the coconut milk is not overcooked and the rice is cooked to perfection- flavourful with bite.

I might go back again just for the $1 free flow rice but the side dishes aren’t that fantastic or cheap. I dislike how dubious their pricing system is.

Nasi Lemak Kukus
908 Upper Thomson Road
Singapore 787111
6pm to 3am

Monday Closed

Homemade Pizza

Homemade Pizza

Homemade Pizza

It’s been a while since a homemade pizza came out of our oven. We used to use the bread machine to make the pizza dough but ever since the bread machine spoilt, we haven’t made pizza. It’s depressing because pizza is one of my favourite food and it is only satisfying if there are lots of ingredients on top which is never the case when you eat pizzas in restaurants.

Pizza

Having recently discovered the amazing powers of my Kenwood mixer, I used it to knead my pizza dough and happily piled loads of ingredients on top of the base 🙂 Claudia is happy.

Pizza dough

Ingredients for Pizza dough
4 tbsp warm water
2 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
150g bread flour
100g all purpose flour
1 egg

Directions for Pizza dough
1. Place warm water, sugar and dry yeast in a bowl for 5 min until it has frothed.
2. Combine flour, salt, egg and yeast into mixer bowl.
3. Mix on low speed until dough is smooth and elastic.
4. Oil a large bowl, place dough into oiled bowl and oil the top of the dough. Place a cloth above the dough and let it rest in a warm place for 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

Rolled out dough

Process

Directions for making pizza
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Divide dough into two, place each dough in a medium sized pizza pan (9 inch).
3. Roll out dough and place into oven for 5 mins.
4. Remove pizza from oven, spread tomato paste and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.
5. Place in oven for 3 minutes or until cheese has melted.
6. Place desired toppings and bake till cheese is melted and brown.

Lemon curd and blueberry jam layered sponge cake

Lemon & Blueberry Cake

Apparently lemon and blueberry is a wicked combination, so I had to try it when I was coming up with ideas for Sandra’s birthday cake. I decided to make a lemon curd and blueberry jam to spread between the layers, and then frosted the cake with whipped cream just because it needed to look beautiful and everyone loves whipped cream!!!

Lemon Curd Layer

Blueberry layer

If you’re not rushing for time, chill the cake after assembling every single layer so that the cake would not move so much when you frost it. I didn’t chill my cake which meant sliding cakes. I was on the verge of an emergency crisis when my cake slid to one side and my whipped cream went all over the place, before I realised that all I needed to do was slide the cake back haha.

The recipe for the sponge and the whipped cream is the same as that used in the recipe for Strawberry Shortcake. One tip for making the perfect whipped cream that still stays perfect after hours is to whip the cream on low speed until it reaches soft peaks and then you whip it manually until it reaches stiff peaks. Watch this video which may enlighten you as much as it enlightened me!

Blueberry Jam & Lemon Curd

Anyway, here are the recipes for the Blueberry Jam & Lemon Curd:

Blueberry Jam

Ingredients for Blueberry Jam
2 cups of blueberry
1 cup of water
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 tbsp of lemon juice
4 tbsp of corn starch

Directions for Blueberry Jam
1. Dump everything into a pot and heat it till it’s boiling. Keep stirring! Then simmer and reduce it.
2. Once reduced, transfer into a jar and chill it in the refrigerator.

Lemon Curd

Ingredients for Lemon Curd
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
85g butter

Directions for Lemon Curd
1. Whisk lemon juice, sugar, eggs and yolks together in a medium pot.
2. Place pot onto medium-low heat and whisk
3. Add in butter and continue to whisk.
4. Whisk until curd is 82 degrees celsius (use a thermometer to measure). If you do not have a thermometer, stop whisking when the curd has the thickness of warm fudge and smells like lemon curd.
5. Remove curd from heat and pour through fine mash strainer over medium bowl.
6. Press through strainer, leaving any cooked egg bits out.
7. Pour into a jar and cool in the refrigerator. Use only when chilled.

Making Fresh Pasta

When I talk about making fresh pasta, I mean mixing flour and eggs together not dumping pasta into a pot of boiling water, like what my friend thought. It really is that simple. Just mixing flour and eggs together.

You don’t even need to use your hands to mix the flour and eggs together, you can use a food processor. Neither do you need to painstakingly roll out the dough to the perfect thickness and cut it with a knife, you do all that with a pasta machine. Sounds easy?

A simple rule I swear by is 100g of flour to 1 egg, and then you add more flour if it is too wet. I started off using all purpose flour but I realised that my dough was hard so I switched to using “00” flour which makes the dough so soft and rubbery, an indication of high gluten content and nice chewy pasta. For Singaporeans, you can purchase “00” flour from Culina at Dempsey. They sell a 1 kg packet for about $6, which is reasonable in my opinion.

I use a Marcato Atlas Wellness 150 Pasta Machine, if you were wondering 🙂

Cutting Pasta

Here are the instructions for making plain pasta:

1. Add flour and eggs into food processor and whiz it until it is something like breadcrumbs. If they do not form breadcrumbs, it is too wet, you would have to add more flour.
2. Tip mixture onto floured surface and knead it for 5 to 10 minutes until elastic.
3. Flatten dough into oblong shape and feed it through the machine’s lowest setting, 1.
4. Fold it into half or thirds and feed it through again.
5. Repeat step 4.
6. Turn setting to 2, and feed dough through. Repeat until desired thickness. (On my Marcato Pasta Machine, it is 7)
7. Cut to desired shape using pasta machine attachment.

After making plain pasta so many times, I decided to try new flavours. I tried making beetroot pasta and spinach pasta. It was similar to making plain pasta but with only one extra step and the simple rule doesn’t apply. I love the red and green colours, they are so pretty! 🙂

Beetroot & Spinach Pasta

Rolling out PastaBeetroot Pasta

Ingredients for Beetroot Pasta
240g beetroot
300g of “00” flour
2 eggs

Direction for Beetroot Pasta
1. Grill beetroot in 180 degrees oven with skin on for an hour
2. Remove skin
3. Blend in food processor until puree is formed.
4. Add in eggs and blend to combine.
5. Add in flour and blend to combine.
6. Knead dough.

Spinach Pasta

Ingredients for Spinach Pasta
140g spinach
300g of “00” flour
2 eggs

Directions for Spinach Pasta
1. Steam the spinach for 2 minutes until green and soft.
2. Blend it in the food processor until a puree is formed.
3. Add in eggs and blend to combine.
4. Add in flour and blend to combine.
5. Knead dough.

Singapore: Eastern Coastal Park Connector Network Cycling Trail (I)

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I just bought a new foldable bicycle, the Tern Link C7, and am on a quest to conquer all the Park Connectors in Singapore. There are only three, the Northern, Western and Eastern one but NParks is building more 🙂

For those who do not have their own bicycles, do not fret because there are 6 PCN Pit stops along the Eastern PCN that rent bicycles out. You can rent a bicycle from any pit stop and return the bicycle at another pit stop which means you do not have to back track.

I started at Pasir Ris Park because we (my friend Bridget and I) didn’t know that there were PCN Pit stops so we thought that Bridget had to rent her bicycle from the bicycle shop in Pasir Ris Park. From Pasir Ris Park, you have to cross the wooden bridge that leads to the mangroves. You can dismount and take a stroll through the mangrove boardwalk. There are clear signs indicating the direction of the park connector. You can either choose to head to Bedok Reservoir or Changi Beach. We headed to Changi Beach and it’s a 7km ride from Pasir Ris Park.

Changi Beach

Along the way, there are bumpy pavements that make your ass hurt but there are long stretches that are downhill which is just plain awesome. It takes about half an hour to cycle from Pasir Ris to Changi Beach and you will be rewarded with the sea breeze and shady coconut trees.

Coconut Trees

Japan: Kyoto & Nara

JR train

In January, I visited Kyoto & Nara with my friends, Sandra and Qy, as our post A levels trip. It’s the mandatory kind of overseas trip that you have to make with your friends before everyone parts ways and heads for university. We decided on Japan because it was not a usual destination (us being hipster haha) and we love Japanese food. Everyone thinks that Japan is an expensive destination but it really isn’t if you manage to find the cheapest flight and the cheapest accommodation.

We took Malaysian Airlines, which on hindsight wasn’t a very good decision, but it was the cheapest full service flight and only a hundred bucks more expensive than a budget airline flight. I dislike taking budget airlines because the price they state isn’t always the price you pay. I’ll still have to pay for the luggage and the airport taxes; all the miscellaneous fees makes me go mad. The Malaysian Airlines flight was one of the cheapest because it had to stopover at KL International Airport, which is a really basic airport. The only thing you can do there is eat and drink coffee but wasting 2 hours with my friends didn’t feel that long because of the company. If you’re wondering, we paid about $500 for our roundtrip air tickets.

Although we landed in Osaka, we decided to give sightseeing in Osaka a miss because it was just another city filled with shopping malls and shopping in Japan isn’t one of the most exciting things in the world. We headed straight for Kyoto, formerly the imperial capital, a city filled with cultural sights and good food (as with any part of Japan). We spent 4 days in Kyoto before heading out to a small town called Nara, famous for its deers, near Kyoto and spent 2 days there.

For all those planning to travel to this part of Japan, I’m sorry I can only advise you on these two towns but sometimes discovering things for yourself makes the trip more exciting as well 🙂

Here are the top five things you should do when in Kyoto:

Bamboo Forest

1. Arashiyama
It is really easy to take a train from JR Kyoto Station to Arashiyama so there’s no excuses for not doing so. Arashiyama is a small area that can be walked so take your time to spend a day here. We didn’t have a particularly good meal here since everything was pricey with it being a tourist attraction but the sights made up for it. The bamboo forest was breathtaking, the only thing missing was a cute fat panda bear. It’s not a very long stretch of bamboo but long enough to get the peaceful feeling of being amidst the green. We also visited a Unesco heritage site for a temple which was just like another Japanese temple, I’m sorry I can’t appreciate such cultural treasures. Arashiyama has a river in the middle where you can paddle boats or just sit at the bank to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We didn’t pay to enter the monkey forest since we have so many monkeys in Singapore and we can see them for free anyway, but we stopped in our tracks for a musical box shop, contemplating whether we should buy a pretty Japanese musical box back home. I mean it’ll be cool to have a Totoro spinning round while playing the Totoro theme song right?

Kamo River

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2. Cycling along Kamo River
Sandra and I rented bicycles from Kyoto Cycling Tour Project because they rent helmets too and we, being afraid of dying in a foreign land, had to find a shop which rented bicycles and helmets at the same time. In my opinion, renting the bicycles wasn’t too expensive, it was 1000yen for a day. Being amateur cyclists, we didn’t cycle to travel to places because we wanted to avoid cycling on the roads. Instead, we just wanted to cycle to enjoy the scenery so we chose to cycle along the Kamo River. Well, we had to cycle along the streets and try not to kill pedestrians along the way but cycling along the river was easy peasy. It’s a different way to see Kyoto and a calorie-burning way as well so that you can make way for more sushi to come.

Kinkakuji

3. Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)
It’s just a really pretty temple, that’s all. When you go to Japan, you’ll have to visit one temple at least and the best temple to me would be the Kinkakuji. If you’re not a temple fanatic like me, just visit this temple and be on your way to your sushi restaurant.

Fushimi Inari

 

Fushimi Inari

4. Fushimi Inari Taisha
What makes this place unique is the thousands of red wooden shrines. The first time we saw it, we took photographs with it at any opportunity that we could but after that, it got very repetitive and we became quite bored. This place is situated on a hill which means a lot of walking. There also appears to be some mistake with their maps, we walked for quite a bit already but the map showed that we only walked a very short distance. When all of us saw the map, we were like WHAAAT and we gave up. We weren’t the only ones daunted by the map, a lot of other tourists turned back too.

Gion at night

5. Gion

Try spotting a real geisha. It’s easier if you walk the back alleys of Gion during dusk to see the geishas shuffling from one house to another. Don’t worry if you don’t manage to spot any geishas. There are plenty of matcha tea houses around for you to drown your sorrows in green tea.

Here are the top five food places you should try in Kyoto:

Kyoto station sushi

1. Kaiten Sushi in JR Kyoto Station

Apologies for the inability to find the name of the restaurant but it’s difficult to miss this place because it is packed no matter what time it is- morning, afternoon or night. This meant that we ate our sushi whenever we wanted to, for tea, dinner or supper 🙂 Furthermore, it’s in Kyoto Station which makes it convenient for you to eat it any time.

Kaiten Sushi

2. 130 Yen Kaiten sushi
Near JR Nijo station

I’m sorry that I do not have the exact address of the shop because it really isn’t a very famous touristy restaurant. QY was crazy over kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) and wanted to eat cheap and good sushi so we asked the waitress in this cafe near Nijo castle where we could find good kaiten sushi and she directed us to this place. It’s a place where locals frequent, we were the only tourists around and there’s a long queue to enter this huge restaurant. You have to get a queue number, sit and wait for your turn. For 130 Yen, which is about S$1 something, sushi can’t get any cheaper. The quality of the sashimi is really good, as with most places in Japan but one thing different about this restaurant is that it serves really delicious cooked sushi. The beef sushi with some special Japanese mayonnaise on top was perfect and so was the seared salmon belly sushi.

Tacos


Quesaedilla

3. Lajolla

http://www.lajollagrill.jp

536-8 Waraya-cho,kamigyo-ku,Kyoto,602-8144
075-821-4745

I know it’s very strange to eat Mexican food in Japan. To add to how strange we were, we actually reserved a seat at the restaurant before we even left for Kyoto haha. That’s what Singaporeans do when there is a lack of proper Mexica
n food here. This is a really small Mexican place that serves really good quesadillas (cheese cheese cheese!!!) although it is really difficult to find this place. If you don’t look carefully, you’ll just walk right pass this restaurant. It’s more ideal to find the place when it’s bright because I think you’ll get really scared walking down dark alleys trying to find this place.

Nishiki

4. Nishiki Market

Go ahead and try all the different Japanese food this market has to offer. Don’t bother paying 400 yen for that fishcake, I regretted paying so much for it. If you are an oyster lover, you have to visit the shop that sells oysters at the start of the Market. There will be this guy shucking and barbecuing oysters outside. At first glance, I thought no one visits the shop because there seemed to be no one from the outside but I was so wrong. To eat the oysters, you have to be seated in the restaurant inside, and the restaurant is packed full of people indulging in oysters. Try both the barbecued and fried oysters, you won’t regret it. I love the barbecued oysters more though because of the smoky smell and how the oyster is half-cooked. Another hit for me were the tofu doughnuts. The last time I went to Kyoto, there was a long queue for the doughnuts and I didn’t get to try it but this time, there was no queue at all, probably because it was winter and a weekday. The shop selling tofu doughnuts is quite conspicuous, probably around the middle of the Market. If you are still feeling hungry after your food adventures in the market, you can go try Ippudo ramen near the start of the Market. It’s a huge bowl of ramen but they serve the thin kind of ramen which didn’t satisfy me. I love my chewy thick ramen!

Parfait

5. Gion Kinana
570-119 Higashiyama-ku
Gion-machi Minami-gawa
Tel: +81 75 525 8300
Daily: 11am – 7pm
Nearest Station: Gion Shijo (Keihan Line)

I’m warning you first, this place is expensive for the budget traveller. You bust more than ten bucks on matcha parfaits but it’s worth it for the experience and the amazingly smooth ice cream. Their black sesame ice cream was the best I ever tasted. One thing to note is that each person has to order one dessert which means everyone’s wallets die together 🙂

Here is a list of my favourite food places in Nara:

Unagi Don

1. Edogawa, Naramachi 
43 Shimomikadocho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8365, Japan

The unagi rice is really so damn good. It’s pricey, I admit, but it was the one meal that we all decided to splurge simply because you don’t get fresh eel anywhere in Singapore. It was also quite an experience to sit on tatami mats and watch the waitresses turn large tables into smaller tables simply by moving the bamboo screen that separates one table from the next. There were many locals, a sign of good food, and the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations, another sign of good food, so be sure to go early because there is sure to be queue in the restaurant during meal times.

2. Mahoroba Daibutsu Puddinghonpo
Nabeyacho, Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan

The pudding is to die for. I tried the original caramel flavoured one and only bought one small tub, a decision I deeply regret in hindsight )’: There was a huge bottle of pudding on sale, I guess it’s a family size for everyone to dig in and share or just the right size for a greedy pudding lover. Anyway, when the first spoonful of pudding slipped into my mouth and melted, I was in bliss. I was depressed that it was my last night in Nara which meant that I couldn’t go back to buy more pudding to eat. It was really that good. My friends tried the cheese flavoured one and said it was good. Yup, they have a whole range of quirky flavours you can try. I doubt you’ll ever get sick of that sick pudding.

 

Udon with Tempura

 

Tonkatsu

3. Kanoko
Tel: 0742-27-5036 / 1307-1 Takabatake-cho, Nara / Open: 11:00-15:00 (reservation only for dinner time) / Closed: Thurs.

I can’t stress how much you have to go eat at this place, it’s probably about S$13 for a set that consists of noodles, rice and tempura. They are good with their udon noodles, most people order it in a huge clay pot and you eat it with a huge spoon too. Also, you have to try the tonkatsu simply because the way they cook it is so fascinating. The fried tonkatsu comes in a cast iron kind of pot, you lift up the lid and pour the raw egg in, coating the pork with all that eggy goodness, place the lid back on and wait, rather impatiently, for that tonkatsu to be ready with his fellow eggsmen.

Tea

White Chocolate Cake

4. Patissier Karaku
http://p-karaku.sakura.ne.jp/about.html

Compared to Singapore cafe prices, this place is really reasonable for their cakes. Their cakes are priced at about $3 something Sing :O And the best part is if you sit there and eat their cakes, they serve you a free pot of tea (or two). Anything free for a Singaporean is a plus point. I tried their white chocolate cake (good) and the mont blanc (so-so). But if you’re looking for a tea time place to rest your feet after walking round the town, here’s the place to relax. There are only two tables but in the 3 hours that we were there, no one else sat down. Everyone else walked in to take away cakes. We were also the only tourists there, which made them quite fascinated with us I guess, so go enjoy this gem near the JR Nara Station!

Hostels we stayed in:

Piece Hostel

1. Piece Hostel
http://www.piecehostel.com
21-1 Higashikujo Higashisannocho, Minami Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 601-8004, Japan

All we could say for this hostel was “Spoil market.” For a private room for two, Sandra and I each paid about $40 per night which is competitively priced and so worth it because it is such a hip place to live in. Furthermore, this hostel just opened in April last year which means it is new and clean. I love the modern minimalistic concept that is welcoming and homey at the same time which is a balance really hard to strike in interior designing. I guess since we were the youngest lone travellers in the hostel, no one wanted to make friends with us except this 40 something year old lady with her two children. The hostel serves both Western and Asian travellers but on some days, we seem to be the only Asians and on some days, we blend into the Asian crowd. The hostel offers free movies which you can choose to watch while eating your supermarket dinner/supper. There is also free breakfast in the morning, the cheese buns are really good! Although toilets are shared, I never once had to wait to use the shower which surprised me. Also there are toilets on every level which makes you less nervous when you get ‘the feeling’ (of pooping). Don’t worry, the toilets are so clean, you’ll poop in peace. The location of this hostel is also superb, a 5 minutes walk away from the JR Kyoto Station. Although it’s difficult to find this place, you can always ask friendly Japanese people for directions. This man cycled all the way with us just to show us the hostel 🙂

2. Nara Guesthouse Komachi
41-2 Surugamachi, Nara, 630-8357, Japan
Tel: +81 742-87-0556

We took about an hour to find this place because the woman at the information counter gave us the wrong directions. Basically, google maps this place out before you go on your trip. This guesthouse is only a 5 minute walk from the JR Nara Station which made it an ideal choice for us because we had to leave at 6am to take a train to catch our flight home. The rooms are comfortable and clean, fulfilling the two most important criteria I have. There are bunk beds for 4 in a room and a double bed and tatami mat for 3 in a room. They have a PlayStation 3 in the common area and a TV where you can choose from a whole selection of movies. We watched The Matrix there. The receptionist was really helpful with all our questions and you have to take their map which states where all the good food is.