I’m so excited to announce that I have consolidated my two blogs into one: Bowsing Nom Noms. Now you can read about my Ottawa and traveling food adventures all in one place! It is nicely indexed for your reading pleasure! For an even better reading experience, try it on your computer/laptop. I will leave this current site as is for now and will be updating with new posts onto Bowsing Nom Noms going forward.
Featured image: Sashimi bowl @ Tsukiji Fish Market. Photo credit: Aaron.
A few of my friends have been asking about food recommendations in Japan, so here is my list! Of note, I only travelled to Tokyo and Kyoto so this is based on my time in those two cities. Aaron has been on a few more trips to Japan than I have, so I have added some of his recommendations to my list as well. I also noted additional locations of the restaurants below.
*FYI: Click on the restaurant name for links to their official websites. Click on famous foodies’ names for links to videos documenting their experiences at the restaurant.
With only 8 seats in this restaurant (at least for the one we went to in Shibuya), there will most likely be a long line-up but it will be worth the wait. Here you can have some super tender, fatty pieces of beef, crusted with light breading, cooked to a perfect rare. You can self-sear to your liking on the hot stone and dip it in the seasoning of your choice. Read about our experience here.
If you want to try tonkatsu (Japanese pork cutlets), this bathhouse-turned restaurant is probably one of the most famous restaurants for this dish. They have a few locations in Tokyo but we went to their original location in Omotesando. Try their tonkatsu lunch combos for an authentic pork cutlet experience. I didn’t have the chance to try the famous cutlet sandwiches but I hear they are a must-have! This is on my list for my next trip! Read about our experience here.
Yakiniku (BBQ) @ Han No Daidokoro (Tokyo) The wagyu beef here is truly excellent. Order the “special outside skirt” and be amazed by the fattiest piece beef. I suggest sitting at the bar for a great time. The trainee chef was so animated and passionate, and made sure we ate the raw beef sushi while it’s fresh. Read about our experience here.
WagyuTeppanyaki @ Misono (Kobe, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto)
Aaron went to the one in Osaka. This is where you will find high-end teppanyaki. Choose your own cut of beef and allow the chef to cook this in front of you on a large flat iron plate.
Wagyu beef @ Shima Steak Tokyo (Tokyo)This is where you can get the famous Wagyu steak sandwich at the end of your meal. Youtuber Mark Wiens loved it!
Tsujiki Fish Market (Tokyo)Here, you can eat the fish from the source! We were so distracted by all the food, we actually missed visiting the actual market part as it was closed by the time we finished eating. Oops! There are few sit down restaurants with crazy waits but we just decided to try various things straight from the stalls and it was not only deliciously fresh but also very fun. I recommend the fatty blue tuna, the tomago (egg) on a stick and Aaron would recommend the uni (sea urchin. Warning: acquired taste – not for everyone!). At one point, there was even a fisherman who was serving tuna right from the fish itself! Talk about freshness! Read about our experience here.
Uobei (Country-wide but not all of them have the “train sushi” system) I’d have to admit this is not where you’ll expect to get high quality sushi, but compared to Canadian standards it’s superior, especially for the low price tag. The reason I suggest this establishment is for its “train sushi” concept, which is unique. You can select sushi from a tablet and your selection will come on a train via a conveyor system. We went to the location in Shibuya and they had this but apparently some locations do not have the conveyor system so choose wisely! Hopefully they have the fatty blue fin tuna in stock when you visit. I was truly impressed! Read about our experience here.
I haven’t been here yet but Aaron has and so has Anthony Bourdain! This is where you can get excellent quality omakase, where the chef serves you a meticulously orchestrated meal a piece at a time. Friendly reminder that you will need to book months in advance for this special experience.
Ippudo (Country-wide with international locations as well)
There are probably many amazing ramen places in Tokyo I have yet to try but based on the ones I have tried, I preferred Ippudo’s rich, flavourful tonkotsu broth. If you prefer a bit of spice, you can also try the spicy minced-meat ramen as well where you can choose your spice level to your liking. Read about our experience here.
Ichiran (Country-wide with international locations as well)
I did not actually eat here but I’ve had their ramen kits, which are quite excellent. This chain is definitely well-loved by Youtuber Mikey Chen and I trust him.
Gogyo (Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya)This is the restaurant that Aaron must go to as his first stop, every time he goes to Japan. It’s unique for its burnt miso ramen. I’m serious, you will see fire from the kitchen here. I’m not a huge fan of the burnt taste but if you like charred food, this just might be your cup of tea. Read about our experience here.
Sukemasa (Kyoto) Random find as a result of me not wanting to walk very far with sore feet but best gyoza I had in Japan. Cozy restaurant with simple gyoza meal sets. Order with my favourite yuzu soda and your meal is complete! Read about our experience here.
Cheese tarts @ Bake (Country-wide with international locations as well)
One will probably not be enough. Have a few of these creamy, cheesy tarts or get a whole box to-go!
This is the creamiest and smoothiest soft-serve ice-cream I’ve ever had! You can find this at many malls while you’re in Japan.
I appreciate that Japan has a lot of good food and this list is not even close to being exhaustive but here are my humble suggestions. Feel free to comment below for more suggestions based on your own experiences! Happy eating!
Featured image: Dakgalbi @ Joon’s Restaurant. Photo credit. Aaron.
It was a nice and productive morning for me. I had breakfast and got some blogging done at a nearby coffee shop, Strange Love, with an extremely high rating of 9.0 on Four Square. It was a cozy coffee shop only a few tables in the back. It also had a good breakfast and coffee menu. I had the maple oatmeal bowl with banana, apple, and topped with a dollop of almond cream, sprinkled with cinnamon coupled with a lover’s matcha latte. The oatmeal bowl was very nice, with the taste of autumn and the lover’s matcha was lightly sweetened with their special tonka bean syrup. (Note: I asked for half sweet and it was perfect.)
After going back to the hotel to pack and check out, we headed to North York for some lunch. North York really reminded me of Burnaby, B.C. with Yonge Street reminiscent of Kingsway.Our restaurant pick was Joon’s Restaurant, a Korean restaurant specializing in dakgalbi. Without hesitation, we ordered the original spicy dakgalbi for 2. The minimum order is 2 servings, so come with a friend (or not 😉)! For those who have never had dakgalbi, it is basically deliciously marinated chicken on a hot plate with various other ingredients. This one came with cabbage and sweet potato. We added ramen and cheese. It was absolutely delicious! I highly recommend this! If we came with a bigger group, I would have loved to order extra toppings and a bowl of rice for a fried rice using the left over soup/ingredients at the end (similar to what we did on our Kelowna Road Trip). It would have been even more amazing!
After a brief stop at a friend’s place to catch up, we were on the road back to Ottawa. The Tesla navigator was very intelligent and actually advised us to stop at Kingston for a charge as soon as we plugged in our trip details but Aaron wanted to check out the Belleville supercharging stations since it was newly installed. It was interesting that the charging stations were located in malls and not at rest areas as I had expected. I would have preferred the latter because the mall in Belleville was actually closed by the time we arrived, so we just went to the Starbucks/Chapters, which was fortunately still opened, for a coffee/washroom break. We stayed for around 30 minutes and got ~140 kmh of charge for only $1.40. It showed that we will have around 19% left when we reached home but as we were driving, we saw that the percentage kept dropping, which was a bit unsettling. We figured we would just be safe and charged up a little more at the Kingston station. Here, we only stayed for a 8 minutes and got an extra ~100km for $3.20. It was more expensive but it noticeably charged much quicker here! At the end of the day, we made it home with 25% of the charge left! It was a successful first road trip with our Tesla!
Featured image: Shrimp and crab meat siu mai and braised pork belly on rice @ Tuk Tuk Canteen. Photo credit: Aaron. Lighting credit: Galvin.
We had to go down to Toronto a few weekends ago to pick up Aaron’s new love, the Tesla Model 3. We took an early morning flight and landed in Toronto with just a slight delay. The location to pick up the car was just a quick 5-minute drive away from the airport, at the International Centre, so we were able to make our 9:00am appointment without any issues. This venue seems to be a large multi-purpose centre for various events. At the same location this weekend was a cannabis event as well as a leather event. It turned out to be quite the random collection of activities in one place.
After checking in, we were just told to wait around. There were refreshments, including granola bars, water, tea and Tesla-branded coffee. There was also a new owner orientation given every 30 minutes to teach users the basic functions of their new electric car. Various Tesla models were showcased, including the amazingly futuristic Model X. What was truly entertaining was when someone activated the Christmas-mode and the car started playing Christmas music and flapping its wings.
Soon after, a friendly staff member came over, brought us over to the “nursery” to see our car for the first time and we were given the chance for a photo-op with the car. Afterwards, paperwork had to be signed on their specially designated tables. To our disappointment, they were not able to do electronic funds transfers (contrary to what Aaron was told by his agent in California), so we had to make a quick trip to the bank to get a bank draft instead. After handing over the deposit, we waited around some more for them to prep the car/bring it outside to the parking lot. It got pretty busy by this time and many people were just waiting around with their Tesla-branded coffees. Finally, we were guided to the car by another friendly staff member. This is where we are given the chance to inspect the car, and have hands-on experience learning about some of the basic features to get going. After some adjustments and saving of settings, we were off!
There are some obvious differences with driving this car right away. Firstly, is how quiet it is. It’s hard to tell if it’s on or off. Secondly, the regenerative breaking takes getting used to. As soon as you let your foot off the acceleration, the car uses the momentum to recover that energy. As good as it is for energy efficiency, it does feel like your car is braking even if you haven’t actually pressed on the brake. Without practice, this can make the drive very jerky. For those who are not a fan of this feature, there are options to turn this down in the settings. Also of note: there is no dash board, with all the settings (including the glove box control) found in the built-in tablet system arranged in the center of the front console. This takes some getting used to as the speedometer is no longer directly in front but on the right side of the driver’s peripheral. The climate control is another fun feature, allowing you to program according to driver profiles as well as having an auto-mode working like a thermostat so you don’t have to make any adjustments manually. The car itself is beautiful with a tinted glass ceiling which lets in some but not a blazing amount of light. Of course there are still many interesting features we have yet to discover.
We were getting hungry, so we headed to Burger’s Priest, the famous Toronto burger joint. I had the California Classic. It was a cheeseburger with sautéed onions, buns which have been buttered and pressed, topped with their secret sauce, lettuce and tomato. It was pretty amazing. I’m a fan of basic cheeseburgers which this is with amplified flavours. The most distinguishing part of the burger must have been the butter buns! Aaron, on the other hand, decided to be adventurous. He ordered the High Priest – basically a Big Mac; however, he opted for the “keto bun”, which really looked like fluffy cardboard. The texture on bite was actually not as bad as I thought. It felt like I was just eating multigrain bread. But let’s be honest. I would choose my buttered bun over this “keto bun” any day. We also shared the cheese fries, which was literally fries with shredded cheddar cheese on top. Nothing too special in my opinion.
We were really close to a supercharger station, so we headed over for our first charge. It was pretty straight forward. We found a spot alongside fellow Teslas and pressed the button while waving the charger near the charging port and the cap will lift itself. We just plugged it in and then waited. It shows on the display how long it will take and you can adjust how much you want it to fill to. Of note, Model 3 owners do not get complimentary credits, so it’s pay-per-use. The rate is lower when the battery is less full, than when it is more full. We were at over 80% already so our charge for only about 15 minutes came out really expensive at around $3.50 and only gave us an extra 40km.
After our charging adventure, we headed downtown to check into our hotel and rested a short while. Then we took a nice walk towards the Distillery District passing by the Entertainment District and Financial District. We also walked through St. Lawrence Market, where Aaron had a pasta sample which he was extremely impressed with combining marinara, alfredo and pesto sauces!
Shortly after, we reached the Distillery District, which reminded me a lot of Vancouver’s Gas Town. There were so many old buildings with lots of character. There were many hipster coffee shops and boutique fashion shops as well. We stopped by Arvo Coffee, for some “Hoppy Cold Brew”, which was literally cold brew made with the hops used to make beer. The colour of the coffee was a little cloudy, which is not from any cream or milk but from the hops itself. Even as a non-black coffee drinker, I found this quite nice. We then came across Greg’s Ice Cream, which was highly recommended by one of my friends from Toronto. She said we had to try the roasted marshmallow flavour, which is what we did. It was absolutely delicious and definitely one-of-a-kind! I was worried it would be too sweet but it was perfect. We sat and listened to some live performances while we enjoyed our ice cream and coffee. We wanted to stop by Balzac’s Coffee Roaster just to look inside but they were closed for a private function.
Time flies as it was time to head over to Tuk Tuk Canteen to meet our friends for dinner. Two of my friends have been to Cambodia before (check out their YouTube Channel @ Galvin and Katie), so I was hoping they would be good judges of the food here. I found this restaurant on several Toronto food blogs so I had high expectations. It is located slightly west of downtown Toronto in the neighbourhood of Roncesvalles. It really gave us Vancouverites a sense of Commercial Drive in Vancouver with its hip vibe. The restaurant itself was cozy, so we made sure to make reservations. The chef is a first-generation Canadian whose parents were from Cambodia. This dishes were influenced by Cambodia cooking but not necessarily authentic Cambodian dishes. One over-arching theme of his cooking is fish sauce, which is one of our favourite South-east Asian ingredients. You ordered as you would at certain dimsum restaurants by ticking boxes on a piece of paper. The dishes are meant to be shared.
We started with some good old peanuts covered with various South-East Asian spices. We also had their crispy tofu salad on a bed of crispy fried glass noodles. It was quite an interesting combination of textures. Then we tried their chicken wings, fried and covered with copious amounts of palm sugar, fish sauce and lime. It was tasty but if I had to compare, I like Phnom Penh chicken wings in Vancouver more because it was more dry and crispy compared to this, which had a bit too much sauce for my liking. Perhaps they can try putting the sauce on the side too, like at Phnom Penh.
Next, we had their shrimp and crab meat siu mai, which had an explosion of flavours. It is made with a bunch of South-asian herbs including lemongrass, lime leaf, galangal, ginger, garlic and turmeric and of course, fish sauce. We also had their braised pork belly on rice, which you can’t really go wrong with.
Of course this was not enough food, so we ordered more chicken wings. As well, we ordered the fried chicken on rice which we found out was different than the fried chicken wings. This was more like a cutlet-styled fried chicken, nicely flavoured on top of white rice – a very comforting dish. Next, we had the squid, oyster sauce and red curry on rice, which was my favourite dish of the night. The red curry was sweet and tasty and the squid was perfectly cooked.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the dishes we had here and would consider returning in the future; however, given the incredible number of restaurants in Toronto that I have yet to try, it may be a while before we return. It has been a long day of car and food-fun, so we decided to call it a night.
Featured image: Mountain view on our way back from Kelowna.
Last day in Kelowna was pretty much a travel day for us. The coffee-lovers amongst our group needed their morning coffee, so we quickly stopped by Pulp Fiction Coffee House before our journey home. This was highly-rated online and was as hipster as it gets. I did not have the coffee so I can’t really comment on that; however, I did see they have a maple bacon donut, which looked deadly.
Our trip back was pretty unremarkable except for 1. A quick pit stop at a rest station where none of the toilets flushed. It was a quite the experience to say the least. 2. Another quick stop at a bamboo farm for Aaron to look at some prospective garden plants.
We couldn’t end our trip with a bunch of food-lovers without a delicious feast, so we stopped in Coquitlam (AKA Korea Town central) for some comforting Korean food.
We were really craving gamja tang and budae jjigae, so we headed to Ta Bom, which had both. More importantly, they served their budae jjigae on a hot plate with your choice of sides. We chose cheese, sausages and corn. It was an amazing budae jjigae experience! We even asked for extra rice at the end to make a nice fried rice with the leftover soup/ingredients! The gamja tang, on the other hand, was lack-lustre. Sadly, I would not come here for that dish. The popcorn chicken dish, however, was pretty good. We even had to order seconds!
So that ends our short getaway to Kelowna. If you’ve been to Kelowna/The Okanagan and there was anything else we missed, please leave me message below.
One of us fell sick overnight so we took it easy this morning and started our day a little later. Luckily, we decided not to join an organized wine tour so our schedule was relatively flexible.
Quail’s Gate Estate Winery
Led by our amazing trip planner, Bear Woman, we headed towards our first winery – Quail’s Gate Estate Winery. We had lunch reservation and we arrived a little early so we took a quick stroll around the vineyard and ended in the tasting room for some wine tasting. It was $5 for 4 “Estate and Reserve Wines” and $10 for 3 “Rare and Collectible Wines”. Tasting fees were waived with the purchase of 2 or more bottles of wine. I decided on the “Estate and Reserve Wines”. I started with one of their most popular wines: the 2016 Chasselas – Pinot Blanc – Pinot Gris. I’m not a huge fan of dry whites in general which this was. It was really light in taste. Then I had the 2016 Gewurztraminer which again was too dry for my taste. Next, we moved on to the reds. I first tried their 2016 Pinot Noir. Full disclosure, I’m usually not a fan of pinot noir and this one did not change my mind. I ended with the 2015 Stewart Family Reserve Old Vines Foch and finally found something that I actually enjoyed. It was full bodied and rich, just the way I like my red wines. I did not end up purchasing it as it did not find it was worth the $40+ price tag.
It was time for our lunch reservation so we headed over to the restaurant.We were fortunate enough to have been seated on the patio overseeing the vineyards and lake. A+ for ambience! For lunch, Aaron and I shared the oysters (nice, light in taste, did not taste too much of the ocean), butternut squash risotto (good flavours, not overly heavy), and the duck fettuccine (simple ingredients, made with fresh pasta).Overall, I felt the food was good and it was quite worth the visit accompanied with a nice glass of wine and the scenery. It looks like their menu changes regularly so when you visit, there will most likely be different menu options.
Our lovely organizer has also booked a winery tour for us and we were able to explore the different parts of the winery and learn about their production process. We concluded the tour with some more wine samples (included in the price of the tour). They were generally accommodating to the fact that we’ve already tried some of their wines. We got to try their chardonnay (again, not a fan of dry whites), rose (not usually a fan of rose but this one was not bad) and the pinot noir again (did not change my mind yet again). After our tour, we went back to the wine tasting room for some final wine samples. We tried two of the dessert wines – each served in a chocolate cup! We had the 2014 Riesling Icewine as well as the 2016 Optima Botrytis Affected. If you like super sweet indulgent dessert wines, the Riesling Icewine is the one to try! The Optima is less sweet for those who prefer a more subtle flavour.
Mission Hill Winery
Next, we headed to the nearby Mission Hill Winery – one of the largest wineries in the region.Here we tried the 2015 Perpetua, 2013 No. 23 Crosswinds Syrah, 2015 No. 32 Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc and the 2012 Compendium. Aaron was put off by the somewhat pretentious naming system of their wines. All the wines were $50+ but we did not find them particularly outstanding. I would still recommend coming here for the beautiful architecture. It really reminded me of the Getty Centre in Los Angeles.
Next, it was time we visited a boutique but lovely winery – Tantalus Vineyards. Here, there is a huge balcony overlooking their beautiful vineyard. We tried their 2017 Riesling Lab (exclusively sold at their winery) as well as the regular 2017 Riesling. Both were nice, crisp, fruity and very easy to drink. We decided to purchase a bottle of their Riesling Lab at a very reasonable price point of <$20.
Carmelis Goat Cheese Farm
It was time for a non-wine stop, so we visited Carmelis Goat Cheese Farm. I’m not a fan of goat cheese but we still had a good time. For a nominal fee of $2, you were able to try many of the cheese they had in stock. I didn’t sign up for the tasting officially but I did take a nibble of Aaron’s samples. The soft cheeses actually tasted quite mild and cow cheese-like. It was only when it got to the harder cheese and blue cheese varieties when I had to step away. They pride themselves in their natural, less sweet gelato made from goat’s milk, so we had to give that a try before leaving. Fortunately, there was no hint of goat taste so it was quite enjoyable even for me. The whole vibe of the place was very friendly and cozy with cute hand-drawn price tags!
Summerhill Pyramid Winery
For our last winery stop, we went to the nearby Summerhill Pyramid Winery. It was near closing time when we arrived so we did not get to tour the great pyramid on site. Apparently, the pyramid serves as more than a tourist attraction. They claim that the wine stored in this facility is smoother and more aromatic. This was definitely the most laid back winery of them all, which had a totally different presence compared to the larger wineries like Mission Hill. The tastings were mostly complimentary, except if you want to try the icewines. They specialize in organic and vegan wine. Apparently, animal by-products are often used in the winemaking process, making them non-vegan. We tried their 2016 Organic Riesling, Ehrenfelser (a very nice white), and I was blown away by their 2012 Keter (which was like velvet, as described by their staff). We ended by trying their two red icewines – 2012 Merlot Icewine and 2013 Sweigelt Small Lot Icewine, both of which were delightful but not too sweet. What a lovely way to end our full-day wine tour.
Red Fox Club
It was almost dinner time, so we headed over to Red Fox Club, at Indigenous World Winery. This is a restaurant serving aboriginal inspired dishes using local ingredients. We started with the baked brie (not my favourite, the cheese was not molten enough) and the pork belly (can’t go wrong with pork belly). For mains, I had the Haida Gwaii Salmon. It was flavourful and not too dry. I am usually cautious about ordering salmon at restaurants because they are usually too dry, but in this case I was not disappointed. Aaron had theHarmony Beef Tenderloin, which was really nice, especially with the dollop of caramelized yeast butter on top.
It was a wine and food-filled day for us, so we once again all retreated into our rooms in a food coma once we got home.
Featured image: Elvis Platter @ Memphis Blues. Photo credit: Aaron.
I know. I’ve been slacking on the travelling front. So, recently while we were in Vancouver, we decided to go on a road trip/getaway to Kelowna, BC!
Any awesome road trip should start with a good breakfast. We decided to stop by Scandilicious before we left Vancouver to fill our stomachs before hitting the road. This is the place to go if you’re craving some good waffles, whether you want plain waffles or waffles blanketed with savoury/sweet toppings. Aaron decided to indulge in the 2 Brussels waffles, two eggs, two sausages and potato nuggets breakfast and I just had the classic Brussels waffle given I’ve been overdoing it on the eating in Vancouver for the previous week. I needed to pace myself. If I had more of an appetite, I would usually choose the Scandilicious option with boiled eggs, shrimp, cucumbers, lemon dill sauce and dill. As expected, the waffles were a balance of sweet and not too sweet, just how we remembered them to be. Although Aaron, the maple syrup lover, had to purchase maple syrup in the middle of the meal because the table syrup just did not meet his standards.
After breakfast, we were on our way to beautiful Kelowna. Our amazing trip organizer “Bear Woman”, has planned a few stops for us. First stop was at the Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival. We visited on a Friday so it wasn’t too busy and tickets were only $10 ($25 on the weekends!). Here you will find rows and rows of tulips. If you also given a pamphlet with the names of all the tulips so you can place an order to plant some at home if you so wish. They have some photo spots e.g. the “Lock Lips for Tulips” photo booth, perfect for couples or non-couples… who just would like to lock lips!
Next stop, we only had a drive a little further to reach Bridal Veil Falls in Chilliwack. It was definitely great bang for the buck, given a short 15 minute walk was all it took for us to reach the scenic falls. This is quite efficient given sometimes you’ll need to hike a few hours just to see the main scenic point of a trail.
Before long, we were off on our path to Kelowna again. We were able to locate our Airbnb quite easily and quickly settled down. The Airbnb was actually quite modern and spacious. It was then I noticed that we had 3 women and 3 men, living in a nice house. I laughed at the fact that this reminded me of Terrace House – a Japanese reality show that I’ve been recently (obsessively) watching, where it shows 3 women and 3 men, living in a house with no script. Since the other ladies of the trip are also big fans of this show, we decided to catch up on an episode as soon as we arrived. We had some time before dinner, so we just chilled, had some local beer and played some Settlers of Catan while our trip organizer/driver got some rest.
We had originally planned to have pizza for dinner at Antico Pizza Napoletana but Memphis Blues caught our eyes after we parked, so we changed our plans to go there instead. 1 huge plate of meat for 6 hungry people. Why not? We decided on the Elvis Platter. Easy Peasy. No need to make too many decisions. My favourites on the plate had to be the beef brisket, rib ends and double smoked farmer sausage. The BBQ chicken was also not bad – very juicy and full of BBQ flavours. My only disappointment was in the ribs. I felt it was a little too dry and tough. For sides, we indulged in some coleslaw, potato salad, fries, beans and cornbread. The cornbread definitely did not disappoint. Supposedly meant to feed 5-6 people, this platter was quickly devoured. Our server was obviously impressed with our eating capacity. The food coma from our heavy dinner quickly set in before we called it a night.
Those who know me would know that I have certain food cravings every time I return to Vancouver. The food scene in Ottawa is not bad if you know where to go, but the selection is definitely not as impressive as that in Vancouver, especially when it comes to Asian cuisine. Here are a few of the items I try to cross off my list whenever I’m back in Vancouver.
Without a doubt, the number one food craving I always have is sushi! The number of sushi/Japanese restaurants is really astonishing. From the economical and humongous portions found at Samurai Sushi and Sushi California to the mid-range Sushi Aria to the upscale/tapas versions at Raisu/Kingyo/Miku/Suika/Guu, you can get good sushi at any budget. For those who really want a unique dining experience try Sushi Bar Maumi. It is an omakase style meal meaning you are sitting right at the bar with 9 other sushi lovers and the sushi is served piece by piece directly by the chef. The menu is pre-set. There are only 2 seatings per night, so you must make reservations. At the end of the meal, you can also order some more pieces a-la-carte. Be ready to spend $75+ per person, but it’s well worth it!
2. Xiao Long Bao (XLB)
If you hear people talking about XLB and have no idea what they’re taking about, let me explain. XLB (=xiao long bao 小籠包) is a soup dumpling, originating from Shanghai. The soup is first gelatinized and mixed in with the pork filling, and wrapped in a flour skin. The dumpling is then steamed in a (traditionally, bamboo) basket; hence the name, “little basket bun”. To eat, make sure to puncture a hole in the dumpling first and catch the hot, now-melted soup with a spoon. Make sure the soup has cooled down somewhat prior to drinking the soup, or else you will lose all sensations in your tongue for the rest of the week. You have been warned. I have had bad XLB in the past which were shrivelled up with minimal soup. That’s a bad sign. The texture of the skin is also another way to judge the quality of the dumpling. I prefer the ones with thinner skin which is not overly doughy and dry. The most popular chain is Dinesty. They have multiple locations located throughout Greater Vancouver. If in Richmond, you can try Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant or Shanghai River.
Another popular choice of food in Vancouver is ramen. Most have a simple menu with a limited number of broth options and a few side dishes/appies to choose from. This only means that they stay true to what they do best. If you are shopping along Robson close and Bidwell, you will find a cluster of these small ramen shops. Popular choices are Santouka (I like their tsukemen option, where you dip the noodles in a concentrated broth), Kintaro (known for their tonkatsu broth), Motomachi (known for their bamboo charcoal ramen) and Marutama (known for their chicken broth). Be prepared to wait in line during peak hours though! These get busy!
4. Beef noodle
Speaking of noodles, those who like tender pieces of beef swimming with egg/flour noodles in a flavourful umami-filled broth, should try the beef noodle houses here. My picks would be No 1 Beef Noodle on Willingdon Ave. and Wang’s Taiwan Beef Noodle on Granville St. I advise you bypass trying to find parking in the tiny lot of No 1 Beef Noodle and just park on the street. Otherwise, you may run the risk of someone double-parking behind your car.
5. Phnom Penh chicken wings
Alright, I have a confession to make. I was kinda late to jump on this bandwagon. I don’t know how I was not familiar with this place before I moved away from Vancouver. Thanks, “Bear Woman” for introducing me to this! The chicken wings here are apparently famous. These are so addictive that I know someone who needed to bring these with her even when she moved to another province to freeze so she can always have a taste of Vancouver wherever she was. Aaron describes it to have the Southeast Asian flavour, which is definitely appropriate as it reminds me of the chicken wings I’ve had in Malaysia. The batter is light and flavourful and the wings itself is juicy and tasty. The restaurant is super busy and they don’t take reservations except for huge groups (8+) so be patient if you want amazing chicken wings.
6. Korean food
I was trying really hard to think of a specific dish instead of using a whole category of “Korean food” but I couldn’t choose between all the deliciousness. The Korean food scene is pretty impressive here. The Korea Town of Vancouver is unofficially along North Road, close to Lougheed Mall, AKA Burquitlam. I’ve been to a few places here with Bear Woman (my personal food guide of Vancouver) and have never been once disappointed. For amazing kimbap (Korean sushi) you cannot just have one of, try Kimbap Cheong Uk. For some makgeolli (Korean rice wine) with nice authentic dishes, try Bukchigo Jangguchigo. If you are downtown, I would recommend Sura for a nicer dining experience or Dae-Ji for a quick no frills experience. If in Richmond, you must try Samsoonie Noodle & Rice for their bossam (sliced flavoured pork belly, that you can wrap in lettuce, cabbage or turnip, along with various side dishes such as kimchi, spicy radish, and raw garlic etc). Remember to pre-order a large and share it with some friends/family. You won’t regret. I promise. If you want just a nice boiling pot of budae jjigae, they have it at Chosun in Burnaby or Midam Cafe in Richmond.
7. Asian desserts/Bubble tea
This is another one where I cannot choose between the various dessert options. Usually even if we’re stuffed after eating a delicious meal of one of the above, we still want to maximize our food adventure fun. We will usually choose amongst one of the following. The classic hang-out place after dinner would have to be a bubble tea shop. These have been around since the 2000’s and they’re still staying strong. These sweet and milky drinks originated in Taiwan but has been a worldwide sensation since then. I always preferred the original milk black or green tea with or without bubbles/pearls/tapoica balls depending on my mood. For those who don’t want a sugar shock to their system, I recommend you get it half-sweet. Those who are more adventurous can try the various flavours available. On this trip, I tried the Okinawa Pearl Tea with roasted brown sugar at ShareTea and I really enjoyed the roasted flavour. ChaTime is another popular chain that is pretty consistent. For a special treat, try the Earl Grey Milk Tea at Mr. Moustache in Marpole. (Note: They are currently closed for renovations). I have never had anything else like it! Another favourite of mine is the Korean bingsoo (shaved ice) at Snowy Village. I even dedicated a full post to this. While you’re there, try the fluffy croissant pastries with various hot fillings – the croissant taiyaki.
And that brings us to the end of my list. If you’re interested in even more food recommendations in Vancouver, let me know! If you have other items you think should be on the list, comment below!
It’s been a while. Having to pack again recently inspired me to write this post. Whether you are packing for a 2-week or a 2-month trip, the principles are the same. Earlier this year, I had to pack for a 2.5 month trip across Asia for the 30+ degree celsius tropical climate of Thailand as well as the below-zero weather of South Korea. All I had with me was a carry-on suitcase as well as tiny backpack. Trust me. It’s possible. But first, why travel carry-on only?
Save time – We were able to bypass so many long line-ups at the airport because we did not need to check in bags. Once you get off the plane, you are good to go. No need to wait around at the carousel for your bags.
Save money – Most airlines charge for check in bags now. Sure, for long international flights, there may still be 1-2 free checked bags but this isn’t the case for most domestic flights and short-haul flights between nearby countries.
Save you from missing your next flight – For those of you who are planning to explore many cities in one country or to choose a flight which has multiple transfers, travelling carry-on only will save you a lot of headache. Imagine having the added stress of waiting to pick up your bag to transfer onto a tight connecting flight. Or imagine losing your baggage in transit to Bangkok, when you’re leaving for Chiang Mai in 3 days. What if it doesn’t make it here on time?
If I’ve convinced you that this a good idea, please read on for my tips for travelling carry-on only.
A trusty carry-on luggage
Those who have followed me on my Asia trip adventures might have remembered that my original suitcase was not too trusty. (See post here.) It actually ripped within the first 2 weeks of my trip. I managed to purchase a better one in Vietnam, which lasted me for the rest of the trip. Lesson learned. The suitcase should be sturdy enough to withstand a long journey with multiple stops but at the same time light enough for you to carry around. I considered using a backpack for my Asia trip but then I would need to carry two backpacks and my back would not be happy. If the luggage is light enough, then it should be easy to transport, even up and down stairs in subway stations and easily lifted into the overhead cabins. I find the clam-shelled ones to be more practical and helps with organization. I got a small hard-shelled one (similar to the one below) and Aaron had purchased a soft-shelled one from MEC (no longer sold) for quite a decent price right before we left.
Check the different airlines you are flying with for the weight and size limits. Some of the more discount airlines have very strict limitations. The 9kg backpack you were allowed to carry on in Canada might be overweight for the smaller airline in Vietnam. I used a tiny little backpack for my travels but found it was very annoying to, for example, have to take out my medications, toiletries, and sunglasses, etc. to get to the headphones I needed at the bottom of the pack. If possible, get one that has many compartments so you can access your belongings easily. I really liked the MEC packpack that Aaron got for the trip. It looked really compact. You can even wear it on the side and say it’s a laptop bag. It has a lot of compartments, including a nicely padded section just for your laptop.
3. Pack for 1 week
It doesn’t matter how long your trip is. Just pack as if you’re going on a 1-week trip. I.e. only pack enough underwear, socks, outfits etc. for 7 days. You can always do laundry. You’re always on the go, so no one will know you’re repeating outfits (except for your travel companion, who should not be judging. And if they are, you need to find yourself someone else to travel with).
4. Pack versatile clothing
Don’t pack those trendy yellow jeans that only matches that one white top. Pack items you can mix and match. That racer back tank top is not only for the hiking in Chiang Mai. Layer on a cardigan for the breezy evenings in Hanoi, and add on a scarf and toque for the snowy days in Seoul.
One thing I wish I had brought on my trip was a sarong. Not only can you use it as a cover-up on the beach, you can use it for modesty at temples as well as a scarf in colder cities, or maybe even a towel or a blanket, if needed! It is a great alternative to having to wear jeans when it’s hot and humid. (Read about my struggles in my Wat Pho post.)
And don’t forget about the tourist pants. What’s that you say? I’m talking about those thin, loose-fitting harem pants you see many backpackers and other casual travellers wearing nowadays. I know… I know… before you start judging that these will only make me stand out as a tourist, I’m sure I already have other features which make it obvious that I’m not a local. For example, my language, my mannerisms and the fact that I constantly have a confused look on my face while starting at Google Maps on my phone. In all seriousness, these pants are great for modesty in temples, just roaming the streets or even as PJs. For example, I did not want cause myself to have a heat stroke hiking in long pants in the mountains of Chiang Mai but I knew we were going to make stops at temples along the way and wanted to be respectful. I kept my tourist pants in my backpack and threw it over my shorts once we got to the temple grounds. Keep in mind these are not the best quality since mine had a big hole in it by the end of my trip but no complaints given I got it for only a few Canadian dollars from a market in Bali!
The best investment I made for this trip was probably my Columbia Women’s Mighty Lite Hooded Jacket. My biggest dilemma for this trip was how to stay warm in South Korea without having to lug around a huge winter jacket for the entire duration of my travels. My friend suggested I look into compressible jackets. (Thanks Vanessa!) It kept me warm and I was able to compress it down to the size of a thin sweater. It was amazing!
For those who are more risk-loving, you can purchase seasonal items en route so you don’t even have to carry it around with you. Aaron purchased this compressible winter jacket from Uniqlo while we were in Seoul.
6. Packing cubes and organizers
Organization is key when it comes to packing light. Packing cubes allowed me to create little dense packages of clothing. I rolled them up tightly and was surprised how much I can fit in each of these.
If you have some items which seem to take up a lot of space, try compression bags. These are also great for packing away dirty clothes. These ones we got don’t require a vacuum to release the air. Just put your clothing in, zip it up to leave a small hole, push all the air out and then zip it all the way. Alternatively, just get some heavy duty ziplock bags!
Try to avoid clothes that easily wrinkle. With all the rolling and compressing (see above), it’s best to bring clothing that is easy to care for. Leave that cute blouse at home. If you are presented with a few wrinkles, try to hang it in the bathroom while you shower. The steam can sometimes help to release some of the wrinkles.
8. Travel-size toiletries
If you are travelling carry-on only, you must adhere to the liquid rules. As such, it’s important to either shop at the travel size aisle for teeny tiny version of your favourite toiletries or just get some reusable toiletry bottles and fill them up with your products of choice! Be sure to test for leaking extensively though! Even if they spill or if you did not bring enough, that’s ok! Unless you are travelling to remote areas, chances are you can always just pick up some toiletries along the way (especially when travelling to countries known for their great skin care products – e.g. Korea and Japan).
I purchased only 2 travel books for my 4-country trip. For the other 2 countries, I found that electronic resources actually handled the job quite well. I mostly relied on Mark Wien’s travel guides as well as the Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet Guides. Please refer to my previous post for a more in-depth review of some travel apps.
So those were the lessons learned from my travels. I would love to hear about any other suggestions you may have. Happy travels!
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Check out my newly revived Ottawa food blog: Bowsing Nom Noms! The newest blog post is about a local upscale Middle Eastern restaurant – rated #46 in all of Canada! Please check it out and let me know what you think!