kyoto ramen

Best Ramen Shop Near Kyoto Station I: Honke Daiichiasahi

Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/kyoto-1958.html

RAMEN IS WHAT WE MISSED!

It had been 9 days since we arrived in Japan, visiting great places and tasting a lot of fantastic food, from onigiri, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, mochi, Hida beef to sushi. But there was something missing. How come we couldn’t find any ramen (Chinese-style wheat noodle) during the journey?

As soon as we checked in at Lower East Nine Hostel in Kyoto in the evening, we asked the receptionist’s recommendation of great ramen worth to try and how to find it. In response to our question, he quickly said, “Honke Daiichiasahi. About 5 minutes walking distance from Kyoto Station.”

Wow! How convenient was it! Our hostel was situated just 1 stop from Kyoto Station by subway. The hunger struck us and without further much ado, we immediately went to the recommended ramen shop.

THE DAY BEFORE IN THE EVENING

With a help from Google Map, we finally arrived at a modest shop house complex. There were actually 2 shop houses selling ramen and at almost 10 pm, the queues of both places were unbelievable. Everyone was standing outside the entrance door and patience seemed the only way to succeed getting some seats. Nonetheless, hunger made it difficult. We automatically queued at the one with less people in line.

Still opening Google Map on my phone, I suddenly noticed something was not right. Honke Daiichiasahi façade was pictured as the shop house having a yellow canopy and a giant yellow menu attached on the window. On the other hand, we lined up at the one having a red canopy and 2 vending machines outside the outlet. The characters written on the red canopy didn’t match the one on Google Map either.

So, once more, I asked a local guy passing by which one Honke Daiichiasahi was. He pointed the shop house behind us, with the yellow canopy whose line was much more crazy than where were at. I told my friend about it. Our conclusion was to have a dinner at the “wrong” ramen shop (which was also great, stay tuned for the next post!) that night and returned to Honke Daiichiasahi the day after.

THE DAY AFTER IN THE AFTERNOON

After visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine the next day, we revisited Honke Daiichiasahi for lunch. Surprisingly, there was no one lined up outside the store like yesterday, although we still needed to wait inside for an empty seat that took less than 10 minutes.

kyoto ramen

The dining area was modest and not too spacious, where the distance between chairs and tables looked a bit too cramped, but it’s just how it is and nothing to complain about. The bar section, a long table attached on the wall near the food out window, maximized way to accommodate more customers. I admit the cleanliness was pretty good despite the crowds and heavy (customer) traffic. I spotted some parts of the wall need to be repainted near the air conditioner, though, but I think people just didn’t sweat about it.

kyoto ramen

Needless to say that the key success of the eatery that has been operating since 1947 lies on the excellent quality of the ramen itself, which is originally a Chinese style soba known as “Takabashi Ramen” or just “Takabashi”.

I only can understand why raving fans are willing to stand for hours just for a bowl of noodle after trying their signature “Special Ramen”, the tonkotsu ramen with shouyu (soy sauce) and abundant thin-sliced pork. Although the soup had light texture, it was actually savoury because of the high intensity of broth taste. The well-selected domestic pork meat called chutaikan enriched the soup taste in the right proportion and the generous amount of scallions added up some freshness to the entire dish.

To be honest, it’s the best ramen I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Starting from approximately ¥700, you can get a bowl of delicious ramen. The price of Special Ramen is slightly higher, ¥850 per portion and ¥550 for a smaller portion, but still affordable. The only regret I had was that I ordered the small portion (I mean, look at the price compared to the normal one!) because I ate too much street food around the neighbourhood of Fushimi Inari Shrine prior to the visit.

Practically, you can visit Honke Daiichiasahi almost anytime you want (except Thursdays), because of the long operational hours, from 5 am until 2 am. Moreover, the location is very strategic and easy to find, just 5 minutes on foot from Kyoto Station. If you are a noodle lover, it’s a must to try.

I hope that I’ll have time to visit this ramen shop once again when I return to Kyoto and perhaps, I can try the gyoza (dumpling), too.

TIPS BEFORE YOU GO

  1. If you ask for the name of a place you’re not familiar with and you neither speak nor read Japanese, ask for the written form of that name in Japanese characters. Since not all Japanese people understand Latin letters, the Japanese characters helps a lot when you get lost and need ask someone for a road direction to a certain place you can’t pronounce well.
  2. To avoid long queue, come at the non-peak hours. In my experience, in the afternoon, especially after lunch time, the traffic is slower and you can get a seat more easily.

Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/kyoto-1958.html

Honke Daiichiasahi (本家 第一旭 たかばし本店)

Address: 845 Higashi ShioKoji Mukaihara-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto

 

Pringga’s Grill Restaurant, Ubud: Terrible Service and Inverted Racism

The night was still young. Although my sis, my brother-in-law and I were not about to party all night long till the morning light, we were not ready to sleep like a baby at 8 pm either. After all, night life in Bali is something everyone should experience, at least once.

The intensity of crowds at night in Ubud is much less than that in Legian, including the main street of Monkey Forest. Ubud is more famous for art galleries, artsy stores, yoga centers, and the Monkey Forest itself, than pubs and discotheques. As these places are closed at night, the whole street looks partially dark.

pringga's ubud bali
dining rooms

Nonetheless, no worries. Walk further, passing all the (closed) stores, and the more vivid part of the street appears, thanks to the lighting from hotels, hostels, restaurants, pubs and mini markets, including Pondok Pundi Village Inn where we stayed.

pringga's ubud bali
the bar

Within 5 minutes walking distance from the inn, we finally found a very cozy place and not too crowded to hang out: Pringga’s Grill Ubud.

The open air space, homey feeling and traditional atmosphere, enhanced by barong statues, engravings and Balinese gamelan music background, managed to drag us to sit on one of their big sofas to get lazy and have some booze despite the emphasis of “grill” in the name of this cafe restaurant.

fibra ubud bali
to the bungalow entrance

My brother in-law ordered a glass of cocktail for himself (I forget what he had), while my sis and I got a grenadine-based cocktail for sharing. My sis is not a huge fan of cocktails, after all, but wanted to have some zips of sweetness.

fibra garden hotel ubud

At a glance, I noticed something pretty behind Pringga’s Grill, especially the building is adjacent with Wibawa Spa and Fibra Inn Bungalow, a Balinese Garden Hotel. While waiting for the drinks, I took a self-walking tour to the hotel and spa area.

hindu shrine ubud
shrines

ubud bali

Balinese traditional house is clearly the main inspiration of the property, something that I found beautiful and serene. The use of secluded building to separate one room to another is one of the signature styles of Balinese houses because of the application of Hindu dharma principle, where objects must be properly located, aligned with the universe to create harmony.

fibra ubud bali

 

Probably, it is formerly a family residence transformed into a business area. I noticed several additional rooms in modern architecture. Besides, I believe that Pringga’s Grill was built later to cater the needs of guests and maximize the potential to earn more.

fibra ubud bali
the pond

Anyways, this was a great place to kill the time before my drink arrived.

Returning to our seat 15 minutes later, the cocktails had not arrived yet. I was expecting they would be on the table by the time I got back.

fibra hotel ubud bali

I looked at our surroundings. It wasn’t a very busy day. The occupation of seats were less than half of the room. If our orders were grilled food, I could understand that it may take longer. But for heaven’s sake, ours were just 2 glasses of cocktails!

We all agreed that something was not right and called the staff to remind that our orders were still pending after a while. She nodded and walked to the bar area.

ubud bali

Another 10 minutes went by. My sister noticed that those who were served first were foreigners, that happened to have Caucasian look. The only local guests in the room was my sister and I. My brother-in-law is not even an Indonesian, but a Chinese-Fijian nationality. However, as he joined us, he looked just like any Chinese-Indonesian people.

I felt the same. I observed approximately 4 small groups of (Caucasian-look) guests arriving later than us and they all got their drinks first.

We could have scolded the staffs or left our spot without their knowledge. But we came to this place to relax, not to argue and lecture them about service excellence. We called the staff once again, asking for our drinks.

They finally arrived, nearly 40 minutes the orders were made. Great. First come, last served!

There was no problem about the taste of the cocktails. The grenadine cocktail was a bit too sweet, but it was still okay and enjoyable.

ubud bali

Well, I believe that the real issue behind the terribly slow service was not about operational mismanagement. Blame it on inverted racism attitude or valuing other races more than your own (www.urbandictionary.com).

Unfortunately, there are some Indonesian people who still consider that foreigners (Caucasian-look people so-called bule, to be exact) have higher social status than locals (Indonesians). Literally means “pale”, bule, is an Indonesian slang for fair-skinned people.

Since the bules tend to spend more freely when they come to Indonesia, they look rich. So, these inverted racists have a stereotype that “all” bules are rich. And spendy.

I mean no offense about this. But in fact, not all bules are rich for real in their hometown, although some of them are. They generally become rich by conversion rate. Say, they can get more stuffs in Indonesia for $50 (about Rp. 400.000) than in their own country. So, they take a chance to be splendor travellers while visiting cheaper countries (by currency), which is something normal to do.

On the other hand, not all locals are poor. And not all of then are rich either. These inverted racists, who undoubtedly are narrow-minded, are not able or refuse to see this.

No one should judge the book by its cover. All guests deserve an equally good service regardless social status, outlook, skin colour, religion etc. As you have heard before: customers are kings. Customers are the real boss of your business.

First come, first served!

I actually don’t care what the staffs thought about us, but service discrimination is totally unacceptable. I was am totally pissed off about it until now. And there’s no way I will return to that place again, ever!

Nonetheless, deep inside my heart, I feel sorry for them. They don’t only look down their own people, but also themselves. It gradually crushes their self-esteem and that’s pathetic.

It’s been 2 years and I hope that this inverted racism is no longer part of the company culture. Especially a new chapter of life has begun, marked by the arrival of year 2017.

I wish you all brighter days this year. Happy new year 2017!

 

 

 

 

Warung Swietie: Best Budget “Baka Bana” and Javanese-Surinamese Snack Bar in Amsterdam

Reuniting with good fellas with whom I shared the good and the bad times during school life in Amsterdam would not be complete without visiting one of our favourite restaurants those days (in my case, until now). No, it’s not a typical Dutch stamppot or uitsmijter that I was looking for.

We headed to Amsterdam West, situated in the border of zone 1 known as Centrum and the starting point of zone 2. Next to the former Jewish bath house (Joden Badhuis) or about 10 minutes walking distance from Albert Cuyp Market, the most well-known landmark in the area, we finally arrived at “Surinaams  Afhaal Centrum: Warung Swietie” (pronounced as sweety for Swietie), a Surinamese-Javanese restaurant in De Pijp district.

Warung is an Indonesian word literally translated as “stall”, a modest and small-scaled family-owned business in different forms, from a grocery store, a restaurant until a cafe. Nowadays, the term is also commercially used for defining a traditional Indonesian influence in products and services the business offers.

The Surinamese-Javanese warung doesn’t really have traditional elements, though, except some framed pictures of Suriname main landmarks on the walls.

The indoor area is a bit too packed; the distance between seats are too close one to another, not to mention a long table attached on the wall behind the entrance door. Nonetheless, it’s a very common ambiance for an afhaalcentrum (afhaal: to-go, centrum: center) dining concept in The Netherlands, prioritizing on to-go services over dine-ins with limited amount of seats available.

Besides, when it comes to warung, the cramped space may be associated with togetherness and intimacy between friends and family. Nobody needs to complain about anything in this matter as cleanliness is pretty well-maintained, although I personally prefer seating outside if the weather is nice and not too windy for the sake of fresh air and roomy space.

warung swietie
the facade of Warung Swietie

Picture credit: http://depijpinbeeld.blogspot.co.id/2011_07_01_archive.html

For those who were born and grew up in Indonesia, there’s a missing subject in our local history lesson, mainly on the period when the Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij or NHM (Dutch Trading Society) transported Javanese contract labours from Java Island, the most populated Island in Indonesia, to work at the cane plantation and sugar factory in Mariënburg, Suriname, in the late 19th century, influencing an acculturation in several aspects, including gastronomy.

I even initially thought that the small country in South America called Suriname is in Africa.

Baka bana met pindasaus is the warung’s masterpiece and my main reason for a revisit. Baka bana is a Papiamentu word for gebakken banaan in Dutch, banana fritters in English and pisang goreng in Indonesian. Met pindasaus? It’s a Dutch word for “with peanut sauce”.  Since I always can get any delicious pisang goreng or baka bana anywhere in my hometown, why bother coming to a small Surinamese snack bar in Amsterdam to get something similar?

Back to school life, I once had a kinda disgusted feeling with the Surinamese way of eating banana fritters with peanut sauce (Indonesians usually put icing sugar instead). However, soon after tasting the dish, I realized that the truth is the opposite, that the pindasaus (peanut sauce) is actually the real trade secret.

The pindasaus texture is smoother than that of Indonesian chicken skewers, somewhat like a paste, with subtler nutty taste and hints of sweetness, that merges so well with the thinly-sliced ripened bananas covered with thin flour. For a €3.00 dish, it’s more than just worth the price. An extra sauce is available for another €1 for those who can’t get enough of it.

The craving for baka bana lives on ever since, even after I left The Netherlands for good. And I’m glad that the taste and quality remain the same, it’s still as good as before!

P1160303 copy
not photogenic enough for food photography, but it tastes super!

Apart from the signature baka bana, saoto soep is an interesting menu because of its rendition of the Indonesian soto ayam, turmeric-based clear chicken soup, as an appetizer. While Indonesians categorize it as a main dish served with full portion of rice, the soup on saoto soup is merely half of the original portion with a little rice on the side in a saucer. In my opinion, this could also be an adaptation of the Dutch (and European) habit of having soup as an appetizer.

Tempe (fermented soybean), rames (mixed rice dish), lemper (glutinous rice with shredded chicken), kroepoek (crackers), gado-gado (salad dish with peanut sauce, check my post further about this), dawet (or cendol; grass jelly with coconut milk), emping (melinjo / paddy oat crackers), kipsate (chicken skewers), kroepoek (crackers), pitjel (or pecel, Javanese salad dish) are some other dishes whose names are either remain unchanged (from Indonesian) or adapted with Dutch pronunciation, vocabulary and spelling.

Despite familiarity of the menus for Indonesians, they may have wrong perception of nasi and bami stated there. If nasi originally means steamed rice, and bami –adapted from bakmi- means (boiled) noodle in Indonesian, the Dutch (and Surinamese, apparently) use nasi to define fried rice or nasi goreng and bami to define fried noodle or bakmi goreng or mie goreng. And that’s also how Indonesian restaurants in The Netherlands perceive the meaning of nasi and bami.

Witte rijst (literally meaning white rice) is a common term for steamed rice and bami soep for noodle soup, aka the non-fried noodle version.

Moksi meti (mixed rice with chicken and pork, probably inspired by Chinese food), bakkeljauw (dried and salty fish), roti (Indian flat bread with meat and vegetables) are also worth to try to get the new experience in Surinamese culinary.

Warung Switie basically offers a warung modesty in a Dutch building complex, affordable dishes in a relatively big portion with no exceeding €15 per portion (excluding drinks) and very convenient for students and budget-conscious travelers.

Additionally, try to speak Javanese (ngoko register) to the staffs as they may understand it, but they do not speak Indonesian at all, little English and fluent Dutch of course!