Hello, wagyu. Nice to meet you.

Resuming my Japan blogs…

As I was saying on this entry, our tummies were happiest on Day 3. After partaking on luscious pancakes, we rested our stomachs a bit by going to Tenjin (the shopping area in Fukuoka) to walk off all that food. We were quite disappointed that shops closed early at 8:00pm; we’re from the Philippines, where major malls close at 9:00/10:00pm even on weekdays. Fortunately, we spotted something right on the same building of the department store we went to: a restaurant offering eat-all-you-can yakiniku for two hours. :eek:

When we were planning for this trip, I told V that I only have two items on my bucket list: I need to try authentic ramen, and she must introduce me to wagyu. You see, wagyu is insanely priced in the Philippines. Like, a 100 gram wagyu steak will set you back at least php3,400.00 (around USD65.00). There are cheaper alternatives, but they’re not authentic. I’ve tried it and I can tell even if I haven’t had the real thing. Surely, real wagyu doesn’t feel and taste like canned luncheon meat, right?

For this particular restaurant, we were set back JPY5,800++ (almost php3,000.00) per head, but that amount is for unlimited meat and dessert + a round of drinks for two hours. I think each of us ingested more than 1kg of wagyu per pax, among other things, so I’d say it’s money well-spent. :hihihi:

Upon entering the restaurant, we were asked to take off our shoes and put it in their individual lockers. Talk about an authentic Japanese dining experience.

After which, we were led to a lowered table. Thankfully, we didn’t have to sit on the floor.

The partially-English-speaking waiter instructed us on how to place our orders and what are the promo inclusions. We just have to select what we want on their tablet menu (thankfully, they have an English version complete with pictures so it’s very tourist-friendly), press SEND and wait a few minutes for the food to be brought over.


Service was quite quick. Within seconds, we were grilling away.

In order to get our money’s worth, we only ordered the expensive meats: different cuts of wagyu, scallops, prawns. Later on, we ordered pork belly strips and veggies, as well. All of which are of high quality. Even the lettuce for the veggie wrap were so fresh and organic. We just grilled and ate, grilled and ate until we went into meat coma. Not. :lmao: No comas here. In between grilling sessions, we partnered it with their selection of sorbets which, for me, are already worth our money. The cream-filled strawberries alone are just heavenly. :drool:

The sorbets are part of the unlimited promo so we ordered them more than once. Drinks are not included, though. However, we couldn’t resist ordering melon soda, which are only available in restaurants.

We may have become poorer by a few thousand yens with this meal, but our tummies were happier than ever. Wagyu is ❤❤❤.

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Happy tummy.

My entire trip to Fukuoka and Hiroshima was quite a gastronomical experience, but I think my tummy was happiest on Day 3.

We started the day by having breakfast at Ichiran Ramen. We shook off all that ramen goodness by roaming around and shopping – window shopping, to be exact :grin: – at Yodobashi with random stops to convenience stores, bakeries, confectionery shops and the omnipresent vending machines, until our tummies are ready for the next meal of the day: Lunch.

Yodobashi Camera Store – not just a camera store but several floors of anything and everything you can think of – has restaurants at the 4th floor of the branch we went to. It’s almost a case of option paralysis: everything looks yummy, and actually tastes so yummy, that it took a while before we decided on what we want to eat. We entered a tempura shop which seems to offer a promo on top of their set meals. We found out later that the promo turned out to be unlimited rice and miso soup, for only JPY860 (a little above php400).

It’s self service, too, so you have control over how much rice, soup and side dish you want. Rice and soup lovers will certainly have their money’s full worth from just the extras. :hihihi:

But hey, it’s not like the main course, which is tempura, is not good. In fact, it’s GREAT.

It’s great for two reasons: (1) it comes with a small pitcher – yes, PITCHER – of tempura sauce which I totally love. I usually ask for extra sauce whenever I eat tempura here in the Philippines, so having an entire pitcher of it within reach is just lovely. (2) I marveled at how the Japanese manage to make their tempura with minimum levels of oiliness. Especially the eggplant tempura, as eggplant tends to suck up a lot of oil when fried.

As we were finishing up our lunch, one of my companions – let’s call her M – said, “I want dessert. Pancakes!” Our other companion – let’s call her A – threw her hands up in the air and said that after ramen and tempura, she’s already too full for pancakes. Of course, she was thinking of the usual flat pancakes that we have here in the Philippines. Our third companion, the Japan expert whom I’ll call V, did a quick Google for pancake houses and found one at the nearby Kitte department store. We decided to walk off all that tempura by passing by a thrift shop (you might notice that the general theme of this trip is eat – shop – repeat) before reaching The Original Pancake House.

Nope, not THAT Pancake House. :hihihi: Don’t order for chicken and tacos here, they don’t have it.

What they DO have, are these:


:whoa: To quote A, “These aren’t pancakes!” Not the ones we know, anyway.

These are called fuwa fuwa pancakes, and they are light and fluffy cakes from heaven. :dream: Not too sweet, and blends well with the tangy-ness of the fruits. My only complaint is that I don’t dig the bananas that much, and that’s only because we have much better bananas in the Philippines.

A quick Google search tells me that The Original Pancake House actually originated in Oregon, USA, but I think the fuwa fuwa is a Japan exclusive.

I don’t remember how much we paid for this meal. All I know is that it’s worth every penny we spent on it.

And if you think the happy tummy experience is over for Day 3, NOPE. The best is yet to come.

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Ramen forever.

I sorta promised to blog in real-time when I was in Japan. That didn’t happen. Laziness took over. Nyahaha!

Kidding. This trip was purely for vacation, so I savored every little moment to enjoy it. Besides, I realized that typing up a blog using my phone with my stubby fingers? Not an easy task.

So. On with the Japan blog.

My main purpose for visiting Fukuoka is to eat. Specifically, to eat ramen. :scholar: You see, Fukuoka is often tagged as the best place to sample authentic Japanese ramen so I just have to try it for myself. I’ve already blogged about my initial try at sampling ramen in Fukuoka; here’s a couple more.

Pictured above is the main branch of Ichiran Ramen, all seven floors of it. :eek:

My friend describes Ichiran Ramen as the Jollibee of Fukuoka: there’s an Ichiran Ramen shop at nearly every corner of the city. In fact, there’s one right at the basement of the building next to our hotel. :hihihi: Hence, that’s where we had breakfast on Day 3 of our Japan trip.

Time check: 9:22am. And there’s already a line. Fortunately, client turnover was fairly fast. We only waited for about 6 minutes before we got a table.

These machines will welcome you once you enter the restaurant. No need to worry, though. Unlike the one I had on my first night, the machines have English versions. They have staff with ENGLISH badges, too. Ichiran is globally famous, hence, very tourist-friendly.

After placing your order, you will be given a piece of paper where you can customize your ramen, like so:

Regulars of Ramen Nagi will find this process very familiar. Quick tip: Always choose “firm” or “extra firm” when customizing your noodle texture. The hot broth will cook the noodles further as you eat. If you choose “soft”, it will eventually become soggy before you finish your meal. Unless, of course, that you prefer it that way. Personally, I prefer chewy noodles for my ramen.

Once you’re given your assigned booth (each person has his own personal booth, but if you came with a group you may fold the dividers so that you can see your companions while eating), you’ll place your order stub and customization sheet on the designated spot at your table and the wait staff will get it.

It’s interesting that you won’t even see the face of your server while all of this is happening. Once they’ve served you your food, they’ll even close the booth’s curtain for your privacy.

Another side note: each booth has its own faucet for your (cold) drinking water. Fortunately, it’s not as complicated as the one on my first ramen experience. Or maybe it’s not really that complicated and I’m just dumb. :slaphead: I dunno.

So there it is. Ichiran Ramen. My verdict? I totally understand why most people would say that once you’ve tried the real thing in Fukuoka, it would be very difficult to appreciate the ones available back home. This is nothing like the ones I’ve tried in the Philippines. The broth is rich but not too rich. The noodle consistency is just right. The chashu pork isn’t fatty with just the right amount of flavor. There’s no sick/bloated feeling (umay)afterwards. I didn’t even use the available condiments to fully savor its original flavor.

Another side note: each booth has its own menu and order slip in case you want to order some extras, eg., added noodles. We didn’t bother anymore because we wanted to maximize on stomach space. :hihihi: There’s a lot more to eat in Japan; we need all that extra space to fit everything in our tummies.

As for the price: that particular set that I had, which is basic hakata tonkotsu ramen + egg, totaled JPY1010 + tax. In PH peso, that amounts to about php550.00. Which is just about the same price as in our local ramen stores, and this one is utterly more satisfying. There really is no reason to fear that Japan is expensive, because truthfully? It’s not 100% accurate. You just have to be aware of how market prices really are both in Japan and back home.

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Ichiran Ramen is very good, but I’m more curious about this ramen shop that my friend has been raving about as soon as I landed in Japan. She said it’s even better than Ichiran, and it’s only available in Fukuoka. Unfortunately, I totally failed at following the directions she gave and I ended up not finding it on my first night in Japan. I therefore resolved never to leave Fukuoka without trying it.

My friends flew back to Manila one day ahead of me and I had a full day on my own in Fukuoka. They left without us having the opportunity to eat there. Luckily, we accidentally found out that there’s a branch of that ramen house at the Kitte mall just across our hotel. :whee!: I didn’t have to get lost, after all.

Shin Shin is more traditional and straightforward than Ichiran. You just enter the restaurant, and they will lead you to an available booth. You’ll find two menus there, one of which has photos on it. If you can’t read Japanese, just use the classic ‘point-point’ strategy when ordering. That’s it.

For this one, I also ordered a plate of gyoza because my friend also highly recommended it. She said it’s nothing like the gyoza I’ve had before.

I took one sip of the broth without mixing or adding anything on it, and I just found myself uttering the words:

“OH. MY. GOD.”

It’s soooooooo GOOD. It’s really nothing like any ramen I’ve had before. The gyoza was really good, as well.

You want further proof of how much I loved the meal? Check this out.

I had three ramen experiences in my 5-day trip to Japan, all of which are good, but this is the only time I cleaned up my bowl.

As for the price? My meal cost just a little above JPY1100. In PH Peso, that’s less than php550.00 for a full meal of authentically delicious ramen and gyoza. A set like that would set you back above php700.00 in Manila. It’s DIRT CHEAP, if you ask me.

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The Ilocos Sur adventure, part 2.

Aka.: more Ilocos food trippin’.

Useless trivia about me: I am not a fan of empanada. I find it too oily for my taste.

I was not too keen on trying Vigan empanada because I thought it would be just like the ones I’ve tried, ie., the Malolos, Bulacan version with the flaky crust that’s too oily, or the commercialized ones being sold in malls. Fortunately, my cousin bought one for us to sample. And just in time, too. She bought in on our last stop before leaving Ilocos Sur.

Whadya know, Vigan empanada is different from the ones I already knew. It has more veggies than the usual empanada, and the meat is actually Vigan longganisa which I totally love. The crust is not oily. Dipping it in sukang Iloko (Ilocano cane vinegar) will lessen the umay factor. I love it! One of things that is worth returning to Ilocos for. :thumbup:

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And speaking of Vigan longganisa, this was our first breakfast in Ilocos:

My only complaint about Vigan longganisa is that I wish it’s bigger. Nakakabitin eh.

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I absolutely must return to Ilocos region just to try one of these specialty pizzas, particularly the longganisa poquipoqui one.

Or if anyone can point me to any restaurant within my region or in NCR where they serve it, please do.

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Weeks ago, I discovered something in one of our visits to Concha’s Restaurant.

It’s called balikutsa or balicutia, a local candy which is a sugarcane bi-product that is also being used by Ilocanos – and Concha’s – to sweeten their coffee or tea (according to Mr. Google). We loved how it gives brewed coffee a caramel flavor.

You can bet that when I saw it being sold in pasalubong shops in Ilocos, I just had to get some.

No, the correct word is HOARD lots of it.

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Of course, a trip to Ilocos won’t be complete without… BAGNET!!!

I actually brought home two kilos of this. And I’m regretting it a lil’ bit. That’s just too much cholesterol, right there.

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Ilocos region is a haven for foodies. Although some of our more ‘alta’ companions were complaining about the food – probably because they’re not used to eating pinakbet instead of bagnet in one of our food stops, which is just too sad – my tummy was fully satisfied. There’s just too many things to sample, and I really wish I could spend more time in the region just to take photos and eat.

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PS: the link to my blog entry for Top 10 Places I Want To Visit Before I Die appeared on this entry’s related posts, so I clicked on it. Apparently, Vigan, Ilocos Sur is on my bucketlist. I totally forgot about that. :hihihi: Well, that’s one item checked off on that list…

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The Ilocos Sur adventure, part 1.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the province of Ilocos Sur for the first time. It was a actually a religious pilgrimage, but I also took it as an opportunity to travel and experience the local color, and of course, the food.

In one of our stopovers, one of the pilgrims whose roots originate in Magsingal, Ilocos Sur, served us the morning snacks. It wasn’t exactly a morning snack; it was served at around 1:00pm due to delays in our itinerary. Me and my family were actually hesitant to eat because we know that buffet lunch is coming. Must save space on our tummies, ya know. :naughty: However, we saw the others enthusiastically sipping on hot soup and since we have nothing to do but wait, we decided to queue up.

First, we were handed this variation of the sumang antala (a local rice cake), which I was hesitant to try as I’m not too fond of this kind of suman if it doesn’t come with ripe mangoes or sweetened beans.

But the others were raving about how different it was from the suman we know, so I took a bite. Unlike the usual sumang antala which has a bland flavor, this one is quite tasty. It’s a nice mixture of salty-sweet like inangit (sticky rice), but a bit sweeter and a lot stickier. It was nice. :thumbup:

And then, when we reached the top of the queue, we were served this noodle soup:

It’s kinda like a cross between mami and sotanghon soup, but with Ilocano miki (egg noodles) instead of sotanghon (glass noodles). The soup was light and tasty, which is just right especially if you’re so hungry and your stomach craves for something to warm it up. Then the locals said, “mas masarap po yan kung may sili, try n’yo po!” (it will be much tastier if you add ‘sili’ on it, try it!). The ‘sili’ refers to this:

It’s Ilocano cane vinegar mixed with the local variety of chili peppers. I sprinkled some on my soup, took a sip, and…

…WHOA. :whoa: What sorcery is this? Is this what soup heaven feels like? The soup by itself is quite tasty, but adding the vinegar-chili concoction gives it a whole new level in tastiness. It gave the dish a whole new character. It was soooo good that despite the anticipated buffet lunch – which also did not disappoint – I asked for another bowl of just the soup with chili vinegar.

Later on, I learned that this dish is considered as street food and can be sampled at food stalls in Vigan along with empanada and okoy. It’s simple food that warms the soul.

This trip was supposed to be a religious experience, spiritually. I never expected it to be a religious gastronomical experience, as well.

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