Ichiran Ramen – Tokyo, JP


Ichiran Ramen
Roppongi GM Building, 2F
4-11-11 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan
Tel: +81 3 3796 7281

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Ask any visitor as they head to Japan in search of ramen, and they will likely say, if they’ve done any reasonable about of research, that Ichiran and Ippudo are the two names that pop up most frequently in English-language sources.

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Huaxi Noodle Stall at Crystal Mall – Burnaby, BC


Huaxi Noodle Specialists
Crystal Mall Foodcourt

4500 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 438-8620

In recessionary times such as these, it is great to have a solid rotation of tasty and inexpensive meals in your back pocket…and lucky for us, the Vancouver area is blessed with many places that can quell lunchtime hunger pangs for around the $5-6 range. More often the not, I choose a noodle soup – it is a quick, complete, filling, and often quite healthy meal. A fairly recent addition to my regular “Pho, Ramen, Chinese, Taiwanese Beef Noodle” rotation is a real keeper: the Huaxi Noodle Specialists in Crystal Mall.

My usual order is from a short list of Guizhou soup noodles – often the beef tendon (#9) or plain beef (#8). Guizhou is a sorely underrepresented cuisine here in town. It is also one of the Great Eight Culinary Traditions that define Chinese classical cuisine. It is very similar to the cuisines of its neighbours in China – Sichuan and Hunan, and thus its flavour profile is also very similar: heat from chilies; sour; and salty dominate. This soup is essentially Guizhou cuisine in a bowl – hot, sour, and salty.

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Simply French Café – Vancouver, BC


Simply French Café
3742 10th Avenue West
Vancouver, BC
(604) 568-6180

Saturday mornings and quiet times in cafés are becoming a combination that I’ve come to appreciate more and more of late.  Perhaps its the dreary winter season, but the mixture of powerful aromas and hot liquids and heart warming foods to start my weekend is something that can’t be beat by much else these days.  Any of our readers feeling the same way?

I had noticed this new café being established in a building along 10th Ave W, just before the Alma intersection.  I believe it had previously housed an antique shop.  The exterior signage is bold and noticeable when passing by, thus I was drawn in after I found out renovations were completed.  It has the simple, airy feel of a European hangout, complete with an assortment of various shaped wooden chairs and tables, a long counter at the back where food and drinks are prepared, and even a wall with various French food products for sale.  Its not the typical interior that one finds in coffee houses in this part of the city, so it was a refreshing change of pace for me.  Not sure about most of you, but the cookie cutter designs that dominate the chains and even independent coffee houses in town are starting to all look alike to me, with their use of stone, modern lines and earthy color tones.

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MIX the Bakery – Vancouver, BC


MIX the Bakery
4430 West 10th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 221-4145
Monday to Saturday 7am to 5pm; Sunday 8am to 4pm

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My neck of the woods has a few gems when it comes to simple but cozy cafés that pump out solid sandwiches. I’ve written about some of them previously: Coco et Olive, and Pane e Formaggio.

MIX the Bakery is another one that churns out not only fabulous artisan breads made fresh in-house (which can be seen from the order counter at the front of the house), but also a solid array of sweet desserts and pastries, and take home preserves that utilize wonderful BC sources (such as Fraser Valley blueberries and Okanagan peaches).  To top it off, they also have a catering service as well.  It’s a great spot for a quick lunchtime meal or takeout, and the following are my thoughts on two recent pickups there…

A hearty but incredibly satisfying part of MIX’s menu are their homemade soups.  With the weather turning for the worse as we head towards winter, I can’t think of a better way to get a meal going.  On this day, they had a trio of offerings: a pork adobo, a butternut squash, and pictured above, a corn chicken chowder.  Filled with healthy vegetables including onions, potato, celery and flavoured generously with cilantro and cumin, it was not fully creamy like a seafood chowder would be, but not totally thin and liquid-y in consistency either.  The large size take away container (three inches high, and four-and-half inches in diameter) was plenty for two.

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Angkor Restaurant – Vancouver, BC


Angkor Restaurant
4884 Victoria Drive
Vancouver, BC
(604) 568-0770

[shokutsu] After hearing through the local foodie grapevine that a new Cambodian restaurant was open on the city’s east side, I knew I had to make a stopover.  Not surprisingly, GastronomyDomine had reached this place before me, and thus I’ve asked him to collaborate with me on this piece on Angkor Restaurant.  Our thoughts our interspersed below…

[GastronomyDomine] Like Phnom Penh’s food, I would describe the food here as “Chinese-Cambonian” – the cuisine that evolved from the Chinese diaspora throught Cambodia. (Specifically the Chiu Chow (Toechow) Chinese who intermarried and became “Khmer-Chen”).

As an aside, Vietnamese cuisine evolved in a similar way from this migration (which also naturally occurred in Vietnam given the geographic proximity). Food we now associated with “Vietnamese” is quite often of Chinese origin – eg the noodle dishes like Pho, and Dry Egg Noodles, etc.

Pure Khmer cuisine is quite different. It is similar to some of the foods we associate as Thai. You can see the influences of Khmer cuisine in the use of curry spices, fermented fish products, and the like.

I noted that the proprietors (who are Cambodian) – decided to use the Vietnamese names for the dishes – obviously to appeal to the large Viet community here. Cambodian food is “ethnic” food in Vietnam.

On my recent visit there I found out that the proprietors are blood-related to the owner of Phnom Penh – a good pedigree.

[shokutsu] After sharing a meal earlier this summer at Chinatown’s Phnom Penh, I enlisted the company of a foodosopher associate to join me for a Saturday lunch here – mainly to do a comparison of the chicken wings.

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Honey Doughnuts and Goodies – North Vancouver, BC


Honey Doughnuts and Goodies
4373 Gallant Avenue
North Vancouver, BC
(604) 929 4988

Honey Doughnuts and Goodies on Urbanspoon

The easternmost district in North Vancouver known as Deep Cove, is home to a quaint little street populated by several eateries and shops.  This two-block stretch of Gallant Avenue is where visitors and locals alike can stop in for a bite to eat while enjoying the natural surroundings.  Honey Doughnuts and Goodies stands out as the most popular destination along this strip, given its decent sized eat-in space and convenient snack offerings that are easy to buy-and-go.  I’m sure part of its appeal is also due in part to the steady line-up that brings in the curious and the sweet smells that flow out onto the sidewalk.

As the name suggests, doughnuts are a hot seller.  In the glass display case inside where you also place your order, an assortment of healthy (e.g organic) and more sugary varieties of doughnuts can be had, as well as scones, muffins and other pastries.  The donuts here are “richer” looking, the kind with a heavier consistency and the glazed ones I saw were really attractive.  I would not go as far as to say they were all-out gourmet, but certainly more than the generic Tim Horton’s.

While in line on this day, a man ahead of me in the cue ordered a whopping $150 worth of donuts!  Its not like he had pre-ordered this, so as the girls behind the counter were busy counting and putting them into brown paper bags, it was clear the supplies would be threatened for those us in still waiting to get our goods. I later saw a tented parking lot that looked like it was an eating area for a film set, which might explain this large order – as homes in the neighborhood are often rented by the television and movie industry.

In addition to the sweets, Honey Donuts and Goodies also has on their menu, some good looking breakfast dishes, along with some soups and sandwiches.  With plans to go hiking on the nearby Badden-Powel Trail, I thought it best to warm up and chose the Soup & Bread Combo, with the soup being Chicken Kale.  It was a hearty soup, with beans, onions, plenty of kale, and chunks of chicken in a rich, slightly salty broth.  Aside from this, I got a Blueberry Muffin to go as a snack for later on (sorry, not pictured).  Towards the end of my hike, I opened it up and had a few bites.  Good flavor, not too brittle and dried out.  I am sure they taste much better hot out of the oven.

I found it interesting that it seemed many members of the kitchen/wait staff were of Latino heritage.  We overheard a discussion, it seemed there was some mention about Argentina between one of them and another person in line, so its possible that’s where they are from.  I don’t think its had a huge impact on their menu, but interesting nonetheless.

Honey Doughnuts and Goodies on Urbanspoon

Soon Yee Bak Kut Teh – Bugis, SG


Soon Yee Bak Kut Teh
No. 29/31 Sultan Gate
Singapore 198477
+65 6298 8538

If I had to choose among beef, chicken and pork, unquestionably the latter would be my most favorite animal protein. The diversity of cuts, textures, flavors, and the many ways it can be prepared, I feel is unsurpassed by the other two. “Just wrap it in bacon”, which could be dubbed the ‘Jeffrey Steingarten Porkosophy’, is used by many to explain how pork can add so much to the taste of any ingredient or dish. I must say I am an avid card carrying member of this Cult of Bacon.

Having spent some time in southern Alberta where I visited and toured countless times some of the province’s massive pork producing farms and slaughtering plants, I have had a good opportunity to learn about the whole gate-to-plate system that hogs go through in the mass commercial food production industry. It’s a marvel really, how such a disgusting beast that spends most of its life wallowing around in its own bodily messes, can taste so good when cooked. Even after seeing with my own eyes how they are brought to an abattoir, put to sleep, sliced open, broken down and boxed, I could not turn down offers to have a seat in a slaughterhouse test kitchen and be served various cuts of pork by the in-house chefs. Yes, I became quite immune to the whole ordeal, with my love for pork at the heart of it all.

My eating interests with pork though are limited mainly to the muscle meats. All of the other offal are something that I am not a huge fan of. But given the opportunity to try some Bak Kut Teh (translated literally as “meat bone tea”), a Chinese-origin soup that is popular in parts of the Mainland as well as southeast Asia and that I knew included some of the pig intestines, I knew that I had to be flexible. After all, I am always open to trying something that I’ve never had before, especially when I am traveling abroad. So this impromptu visit to Soon Yee, an average looking establishment built inside a concrete building near Sultan Gate Place in the Arab Street district (not far from the Bugis MRT station), led me to try those usually avoided pork innards.

Served in a clay pot, a single serving could be had for just four Singapore dollars. I chose to have a side of steamed white rice with it, as I understood it, you could also get some noodles instead as well. Visually, its not the most appetizing dish for obvious reasons. Pieces of the tenderized pork ribs, pig stomach, intestines, skin, along with other ingredients such as tau kee (which I know better as yuba in Japanese cuisine, albeit this one was a thicker wafer) and mushrooms that could all be seen inside the rich colored broth.

But when its brought to your table, the scent is quite appetizing with it being very fragrant with strong herbal tones (anise, ginseng and cloves being the most prominent) and some sharpness from the pepper. The soup itself (this type being of the Hokkien variety which is darker due to the inclusion of more soy sauce than other variants), was pipping hot and the pepper that I smelled was clearly picked up by my taste buds as well, making for a salty and fiery mixture. Each piece of ingredient had been well tenderized through the cooking process, which I assume is done over a long period of time to get it to this stage, though I must say that the meat off the ribs were my most preferred part. I guess some things never change.

My friend had a much more simplier dish, a similarly richly flavored soup filled with a bunch of greeny leafy vegetables, that looked like a type of lettuce/spinach. Unfortunately, I failed to catch the name of this offering, so this visual is all I can provide at this time.  As I was, he was also given a bowl of rice to go along with the dish.