Kakyoubeisen, Akihabara – Yunnan Food in Tokyo

There was a distinct sense of irony about the circumstances which brought four of us to dinner. We were meeting to discuss our ideas for various series introducing Japanese food to a wider audience. But it was agreed we all liked spicy, exotic and unusual foods so the natural option was to search for something not Japanese.

My Chinese companion, who hails from Xian, hit upon Kakyoubeisen (過橋米線), an unassuming 2nd floor restaurant in Akihabara/Suehirocho, which specialises in food from Yunnan province. I couldn’t even put Yunnan on a map but it has just leapt onto my internal food map that lives mainly in my stomach.

Yunnan is known for its rice noodles, which are lighter than wheat noodles and so delightfully silky smooth to slurp. We ordered Cross-Bridge Rice Noodles (过桥米线), where all the ingredients come separately and are added last minute! Legend has is that a scholar was working on an island, where his wife would bring him lunch every day. But the journey would leave the noodles soggy and the soup cold. So the wife separated the ingredients and then put a layer of boiling oil on top of the soup to trap the heat and …tadah!

In all honesty, I looked at the thin soup and thought it would be so boring and bland. How wrong I was! It was light but so delicious and quite refreshing.

Again, I had a similar experience when I tried Steam Pot Chicken (汽锅鸡), a broth near translucent but it had so much depth of flavour from the herbs! There are only a limited number of portions a day so it might be worth reserving in advance if you want to try it (hint, hint).

On the side, we opted for seafood: some stir fried turban shell (sazae) and deep-fried white fish in cumin.

The lady serving us was more than happy to advise. And basically, I can’t wait to go back and try the rest of their menu. Deceptively delicious and healthy!

Kakyoubeisen Akihabaraten

Opening hours:
Daily 11:30~14:30; 17:00~24:00(L.O.23:30) 

Review: Noriya Shokudo, Oimachi

Exploring Tokyo – Tenso Suwa Shrine

It can be easy to get into a routine and move through the city in the same pattern throughout the weeks. I find that I normally plan to go to a place to eat – head straight there, and then leave.

This means that I don’t explore as much as I should, take the time to wander the streets and see what I find. It also means that every time I meet someone it tends to be for eating. Although I naturally love this, sometimes I feel like I should include a few more activities in my life…. Continue reading “Review: Noriya Shokudo, Oimachi”

Review: Sanpotei Tokyo Lab, Nakameguro


Sanpotei Tokyo Lab / 三宝亭東京ラボ

Japanese food has boomed in the West over the past few years. Not just ramen, but all kinds of stylish “Japanese” places are popping up, with polished wooden surfaces and all fanfare of fusion dishes.

Although I’m all for experimentation, I’m naturally a little sceptical  when self-professed Japanese food lovers claim that going to one of these trendy joints is evidence!

“Places like this don’t actually exist in Japan,” I say, trying my hardest to tiptoe round being overtly sanctimonious. “And, no, Hirata buns, are a Western take on Taiwanese street food, and no, they have nothing to do with Japan.”

But having visited Sanpotei Tokyo Lab, I can now offer up a different response. There is at least one trendy place doing experimental food in Japan. And, naturally, it does it better! Continue reading “Review: Sanpotei Tokyo Lab, Nakameguro”

Dining at Minshuku Baikou, Shimoda


This weekend was what is known as a “sanrenkyu” in Japan, or in other words, a three-day holiday. Although the Japanese have by law 10 days paid holiday per year for just 6 months of service, increasing thereafter to 20 days, due to the extreme work culture – which, incidentally is one of the least efficient worldwide – long-suffering workers only take an average of 9 days a year.

This gives national holidays a particular significance as everyone can legitimately take a bit of break. Which means that every hotel in a popular can area will be literally fully booked.

Which means it is normally a terrible idea to try and book last minute.

Which is something I always seem to end up doing. Continue reading “Dining at Minshuku Baikou, Shimoda”

Review: Anmitsu Mihashi, Ueno Head Branch / あんみつみはし、上野本店

Matcha anmitsu
Matcha anmitsu

Japan is famous for sushi. And breaking out of my previous aversion for fish, I had been sampling the cheap and tasty offerings at Heiroko Sushi Okachimachi branch.

One thing Japan is not famous for is desserts. And although I have enjoyed countless desserts in Japan, I can kind of see why. Continue reading “Review: Anmitsu Mihashi, Ueno Head Branch / あんみつみはし、上野本店”

Cooking… sort of: a Japanese-style breakfast

Breakfast for one!
Breakfast for one!

As you may have read in my last post, I got a little carried away with buying goodies from the Hobby Cook Show. So of course I have compelled myself to make some delicious food. And we all know how much I love breakfast! Yet I prepared all of the above without doing any cooking at all… Continue reading “Cooking… sort of: a Japanese-style breakfast”

Review: Baiso, Shimokitazawa, Tokyo; 梅窓、下北沢、東京

Niku udon
Niku udon

Of the variety of noodles that constitute Japanese cuisine, the humble udon is less well known in the West, which is a tragedy. These white, egg flour noodles are fat enough to have a slight and wonderful dough-like texture when consumed. They’re served in a light broth, comprising dashi (Japanese fish stock made from bonito flakes), mirin (cooking rice wine), soy sauce and sugar. This is served with ginger and spring onions, and a variety of toppings. There is niku udon (beef), kitsune udon (sweetened deep-fried tofu pouch, and even kare udon (curry udon). One of the most popular versions is tempura udon, which I utterly fail to understand because why would you want that nice crispy batter to get all sodden and disintegrate into the broth?!  Continue reading “Review: Baiso, Shimokitazawa, Tokyo; 梅窓、下北沢、東京”

Review: Sakura Festival at Saka no Hana

Cherry blossom around Hikone castle
Cherry blossom around Hikone castle

Sakura season – otherwise known as cherry blossom season – spreads like a fever for a couple of weeks in April. For those who haven’t been to Japan during this period, you will be unprepared for the sheer decadence of the scenery and the sheer reverence with which it’s treated. You should probably see my blog post here.

In honour of this time of year, upmarket and rather swanky restaurant Sake no Hana held their own sakura festival with their very own sakura menu. The interior was decorated with some rather realistic and beautifully lit cherry blossom trees, and with delicate sakura painted along the counter at the bar.

Photo: Betty Chen
Isn’t this gorgeous? (Photo: Betty Chen)

Continue reading “Review: Sakura Festival at Saka no Hana”

The Uji Saga Part 1: Sakura and Salty Slime

I’ve turned into a local. I curse the tourists staring gormlessly at signs/maps and blocking my way. Rather impatient of me, especially as I can’t read the signs, and probably can’t read the map either (A geography degree didn’t teach me that!)

At the beginning of April, Kyoto was swarming with tourists who had come to see the sakura (cherry blossoms). If you don’t know already, sakura is a national obsession in Japan (find out just how much here). It is fetishized in all kinds of alarming ways as you can see here.

Because cats, pink and sakura make for a triple of cuteness!

On an unseasonably cold Saturday, we set off to Uji, a small town to the south-east of Kyoto. Famous for special Japanese tea, it’s also famous for cherry blossoms and today was the creatively named “Sakura Matsuri” or “Cherry Blossom Festival.”

Turns out, the freezing weather meant the cherry blossoms were a little slow to wake up. We shivered our way around Byodoin, a temple enshrined on the 10円 coin.

It’s actually quite a pretty temple, but the greyness and my photography skills have combined into this…

Set very grandly by a pond, the Phoenix Hall (as depicted above) was originally built in 998 andearns its name from its supposed phoenix-like shape and the two phoenixes adorning the roof. The entrance fee of 600円 includes the museum, which displays all kinds of artefacts from the temple, including a spectacular room filled with 52  Bodhisattvas, now classed as a National Treasure.

We then had a coffee to warm up and witnessed a man publicly masturbate (Uji Saga Part 2), which just confirms my theory that cherry blossoms have erotic associations.

We then headed to the island where all the (Universal-rated) action was.

It was pleasing to see that Kyoto City Police were making a welcoming and friendly presence, with giant mascots bouncing around.

The police terrorise children!

The Kyoto Police doing their thing

Aside from all the sakura viewing, there were lots of stalls selling second-hand crockery and food. Calle and I bought this delicious dango (literally means dumpling but it’s an extraordinarily broad term – see the dango that blogger friend Cocomino bought). Not usually a fan of anko (sweet azuki bean paste), this deep-fried treat mellowed the flavour and provided a wonderful contrast between the crunchy doughnut-like exterior and smooth filling. I could have easily eaten six, and shall continue to fantasise about it.

Deep-fried and delicious!

Deep-fried and delicious!


The place: Seike Yuba
The food: tofu skin AKA yuba

Salty and slimy…

Lunch transported me back into a Dickensian world. I was Oliver Twist, wanting to ask for more revolting slop because we were so starved.

We decided to try yuba, tofu skin. We ordered the a lunch set including a yuba rice bowl, soup and some pickles for 980円. Compared to the other sky-high tourist  prices around, it didn’t seem bad.

That’s until we saw the pitiful size of it and actually ate some of it. An incredibly slimy mass was dumped on top of rice, with a few spring onion slices and a little ginger on top. The results: slimy rice porridge which tasted of nothing but salt. The soup could have been water and we were given so few pickles that they were barely worth bothering with, except they had the strongest flavour of anything on the table.

Overall 1/5
Better tasting food  Food which has a taste can be found almost anywhere else. Only go if you want to pay above-average prices for workhouse gruel.

Food quality 1/5 – I’m sure it’s decent enough quality – just try tasting it!

Value for money 0/5 – It was gross. It was small. Enough said.

Atmosphere  2.5/5 – Nothing special – impersonal counter seating and some stark-looking tables. It was busy though.

Service 2/5 – No real service. Food was unceremoniously dumped in front of us when it was ready!


I showed the pictures to a Japanese friend of mine, who was equally disgusted and horrified by this bizarre combination.

The Versatile Blogger Award

The Versatile Blogger Award is a community-nominated award.

I have been nominated by Susie of Susartandfood and I am a very happy blogger! Thank you, Susie! Everyone, please check out her blog for fun posts and great recipes! 🙂

The rules:

In a post on your blog, nominate 7 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
In the same post, include this set of rules.
Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

The seven blogs I nominate are:

1) Domestic Diva, M.D.
One of my favourite blogs which I’ve only found recently. Megs is hilarious – I really mean hilarious – and there are some great recipes to be found too!

2) Life in Kawagoe
Just as it says, it’s a window into one family’s life in Kawagoe. Simply written and with beautiful photos, it’ll please anyone with an interest in Japan.

3) Sifting and Sowing
Recommendations and recipes? This is top quality food writing – check it out!

4) Byron and his backpacks
Follow Byron on his journeys and life teaching in Asia. Insightful and humorous accounts that I definitely can relate to. See his post “Jumping through hoops” for a great rant of bureaucracy!

5) Tricia A. Mitchell
One woman on an enviable massive trip round Asia or “Asian sabbatical”, as she calls it. Fantastic locations, beautiful photos.

6) Waterfalls and Caribous 
A travel blog focussed on South Korea. Engaging writing/photos, and lots of food posts too!

7) Photosbotos
“One amazing photo every day!” Says it all. I follow just for the eye candy but there’s plenty of technical info provided for keen photographers.

Seven random pieces of information about me:

1) I love spiders. I used to feed ants to the spiders on the climbing frame. I named one “Hermione” and would check on her every day. Until she disappeared. Sometimes, if I found a spider in the house, I would put it in my bedroom. I also became fascinated by the superstition that if you spun a money spider around your head three times, you would become rich. I decided it would be better to keep them in my hair for extra luck. I stopped doing this when it occurred to me that I might accidentally squash a spider.

A Japanese beauty...with only 7 legs :-/

2) I live in Japan and I don’t like nori (seaweed used in sushi). I keep trying by you can see the results. This is primarily a food blog so I’m really ashamed.

Nori turns my stomach!

3) I was a hero among local police. When I was 10, my parents put me in a karate class because I was a wimpy kid who got bullied (unsurprisingly, see #4). They wanted to toughen me up and also to improve my coordination. (I was, and still am, infamously clumsy. The scars on my legs are a testament to how many times I’ve fallen over.)

I did  eventually get better at karate and I even made it to black belt, but my parents were afraid that I’d never be able to use it should a situation ever arise. But a situation did arise. My mum’s friend was assaulted and racially abused her by two thugs. She was bravely following them down the street to make sure the police came and arrested them. Unfortunately, they decided to walk past our house and, although we live in a very “white” area, my dad happens to be a 6ft2 half -West Indian – so they picked the wrong house to be racist outside of.

As it happens, my dad is possibly the most non-violent, passive, mild-mannered man you could ever hope to meet. So my mum yelled out to my younger siblings: “Quick! Quick! Get your sister!” I was fifteen at the time, dressed in a skimpy nightie and purple slippers. Unabashed, I ran out into the street. Things started to get tense and one guy lunged at my mum’s friend. Before I even thought about it, I blocked him and punched him in the face.

I was so fast that no-one, not even him, saw what happened. Because the next thing he did was to turn to my dad and say “I’m gonna have you for assault!”

To which, I promptly responded: “What?! You’re gonna have a fifteen year old girl in purple fluffy slippers for assaulting you?!”

He blinked in surprise.

The thug got 6 months in prison for this assault and another 1.5 years for beating up an Indian man in a local hotel.

Turns out the guy lost half a tooth but he wouldn’t say how he lost it. The police had great amusement at his expense and I apparently became somewhat of a hero amongst them.

I would like to say that that was the whole story and I really was a complete hero, but actually, I slipped on my way back into the house, tore my ankle tendons in half and incapacitated myself for two weeks.

On another note, I have accidentally broken my karate instructor’s nose, my dad’s ribs and my brother’s finger. Training a clumsy person in martial arts can be a bad idea.

Pretending to karate kick my friend Jerry (nr. Mt Fuji, August 2009)

4) I was a goody two-shoes child who never threw a tantrum, looked forward to going to bed and always did my homework. At age 9, I precociously asked my mum what the best university was and she told me that it was Cambridge University.  “Well, I want to go there to study maths and drama,” I informed her.

I did go there, but I didn’t study maths or drama. I also got less good at doing my homework.

I appreciate that I am neither pale, ginger or freckled, but I think this image screams goody two-shoes.

5) I once posed naked for a university kickboxing calendar. I kept trying to kick whilst covering my crotch with a glove. My coordination just wasn’t up to the task so those photos were scrapped :-/ The calendar bizarrely used both males and females from the club, so I’m not sure what market it was aimed at….except maybe martial artist bisexuals. We didn’t find too many of them.

6) I’m allergic to everything. You know those pills that you might sometimes take during hayfever season? I have to take 1 – 2 every day just to live a semi-normal life. I’m paranoid that most people secretly think of me as “The Tissue Girl.”

7) I can fit my whole fist into my mouth. Everyone has a party trick so I guess I just wanted to have one too. I’ve stopped doing it now, not only because it’s quite disgusting, but also because it attracts unwanted comments about the size of my mouth. Never good.