Two really good tonkatsu restaurants we visited in Japan

One of my favourite Japanese dishes is tonkatsu. Tonkatsu or panko crusted deep-fried pork cutlets is a dish similar to a schnitzel with juicy pork covered by a crunchy panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) crust. 

During our recent trip to Japan, we had tonkatsu twice; once at Wako, where we went last time in Tokyo, and once at Maisen, a place I’ve been reading about a lot and what usually show up when you google “Tokyo’s best tonkatsu”.

Wako tonkatsu in Kyoto Station
We went to Wako in Kyoto Station, situated on the upper floors of the Isetan department store inside the station. Bonus trivia is that you can go outside from the restaurant floor where Wako is and up a couple of stairs/escalators to reach a nice rooftop area with views over Kyoto, although with a wall in the way of proper photos.

At Wako we opted to try one of the more expensive premium versions of pork for our tonkatsu. I believe the cost was around 1800 jpy, meaning roughly $16. According to the staff, it was juicier with a higher fat content and hence slightly more expensive. After a round of frosty beer mugs, our tonkatsu arrived. Since the tonkatsu came as a set meal, which it usually does in Japan, we also got rice, pickles, cabbage slaw and grated daikon radish. The tonkatsu pork cutlet was, just as advertised, nicely fatty and soft, as well as the breading crunchy. A nice thing with tonkatsu is that it, when done properly, lacks almost any excess oil. So given the relative healthiness of the sides, it doesn’t feel that bad to eat. Despite being a couple of hundred grams of deep-fried fatty pork. Wako’s tonkatsu is a really nice one and in my mind well worth a visit.

Price ($$) and website
We paid roughly 2500 yen a person with premium pork tonkatsu set meals and a beer. Website with sample menu in English (scroll down to Kyoto and then Wako JR Isetan for address): click here.


Next place to enjoy tonkatsu was, as mentioned above, the legendary Maisen or Mai-Sen. We went to their outlet close to Tokyo Station in Daimaru shopping mall, located on the 12th floor. Bonus trivia for this place is that the view from the restaurant floor’s restrooms is quite spectacular. We went quite late, so we could snap a few sneaky restroom pictures since no one else was there.

Bathroom views from the restaurant floor of Tokyo Daimaru shopping mall.

Anyway, the food. As per usual, we ordered a round of beers and a set meal each, opposed to Wako, this time with fillet instead of loin, meaning slightly less fatty meat and also a slightly smaller amount. I think it was 100 grams of fillet instead of 150 grams of loin, for the same price. The tonkatsu was served with rice, miso soup and cabbage slaw with a tasty lemony yuzu dressing. Once again, the breaded pork was not at all oily from the deep-frying. The meat was slightly less juicy compared to Wako, but that did not really matter as the crust was so crunchy and delicious. It actually felt more balanced than with the premium high fat content-pork tonkatsu at Wako, since it was almost overwhelming with both fatty pork and being deep-fried.



Katsusando from Maisen. Tonkatsu in white toast bread. Good stuff.

Maisen’s katsusando – tonkatsu sandwich at Tokyo Foodshow
Another thing we tried and that you probably should too if you like tonkatsu is Maisen’s katsusando. Katsusando is a tonkatsu sandwich, which means sliced cold tonkatsu in a white bread sandwich with some tonkatsu sauce spread on. We had Maisen’s katsusando that we bought at Tokyo Foodshow in Shibuya, a whole floor of food where different outlets sell their different types of food and where you can both pick up take-away as well as dine in at a couple of communal stand up tables.

Price ($$+) and website
Maisen is slightly more expensive that for instance Wako, and we paid about 1600 yen a person for one of the cheaper set meals on the menu. Maisen’s website, only in Japanese. Address (google maps link).

Kobe beef dinner at Gyu-an Ginza


One of the best meals of the trip, and probably one of my best meals ever was enjoyed at Guy-An in Ginza, Tokyo. Guy-An specialise in meat, as in good quality stuff, such as wagyu beef and the world famous kobe beef. After quite thorough research we decided that Guy-An felt most bang for the buck for our relatively tiny kobe beef budgets and we managed to score a reservation with the help of our hotel concierge a few days later.

As we arrived Guy-an, after a stroll through the neon lit Ginza district of Tokyo, they couldn’t find our reservation, and I had a few seconds of panic, before they found us a table, and my greatly anticipated steak dinner was, fortunately, a go. While prices are decent given what you get, there is still a considerable price for a meal, depending how you look at it. To have some reference, and to save some money, the two of us decided to share a slightly less pricey wagyu steak set menu as well as the swankiest of the kobe sets which meant you got 200 grams, 100 grams each of kobe fillet and kobe sirloin. Included was a couple of starters, a tiny dessert (below) as well as coffee or tea. Drinks were extra but was relatively decently priced.


We had a couple of starters, but the only really exciting one was this incredibly delicious beef sushi with a thin, fatty piece of beef covering the rice. A great bite that like the beef was washed down with house red.


The matsusaka wagyu beef was just a tad less delicious than the kobe beef. Hadn’t I had the kobe beef, this would’ve been the best steak I’ve ever had. Extremely flavourful and tasty with a great tender texture.

The steak of steaks. Kobe beef fillet and sirloin. Not really sure which one I liked the best. The fillet was of course a bit leaner and softer than the sirloin, but that was barely noticeable given how tender both were. The fat in the kobe beef is not at all chewy, but rather melts in your mouth. The best comparisson I’ve been able to make is, to think of how you bite into a ripe mandarin orange and how it kind of bursts with fruit juice when you bite into it. This was like that, only that the fruit juice was kobe beef fat. It was incredibly good. It was also incredibly rich, and it was almost a struggle to eat everything given the two starters, rice, soup and salad that you are also served. No doubt this was the best steak I have ever had. My expectations were really high. I’ve been eating some really good meat the last years, churrasco in Brazil, grilled bife de chorizo in Argentina and great French steak au poivre. But this beat them all, easily.


For dessert we were served three perfect strawberries. Although it is almost insulting calling this a dessert in normal cases, we were so full that we did not really mind. And the strawberries were in fact extraordinarily tasty.

Price and location
We paid roughly $280 for our two steak meals (one wagyu at 8500 jpy, one kobe combo at 15500 jpy), a caraff of red wine, and water. The restaurant is located in Ginza, easily accessible with a couple of subway lines.

Delicious sushi at Musashi kaiten sushi in Kyoto


The best sushi, and unfortunately one of the only times we had any during the trip, was at Musashi Sushi in Kyoto. The sushi is served kaiten style, which means the chefs make sushi and then put it on a conveyor belt which diners are conveniently placed around, and then you make your pick as it passes by you.

At Musashi, you can also ask the chefs to make you special ones if your favourite is constantly taken by the couple just before you. I’m not saying that this in fact did happen, just that it could have. 🙂


We sampled lots of different sushi at Musashi, for instance ones with roasted beef, melt-in-your-mouth fatty tuna belly, lobster in mayo, tuna and quail egg yolks and grilled unagi eel sushi. Everything was really delicious, the beer was as always served ice cold in iced beer mugs and the prices were quite good too. Your check is calculated by the number of plates of a certain colour you have on your table.


Lobster salad sushi.

Steak sushi.


Grilled sweetish unagi eel sushi.

Great ramen at Kairikiya in Kyoto

After finding our Air Bnb accomodation, food was on our minds. After some searching, our first meal in Kyoto was a delicious bowl of ramen at Kairikiya in central Kyoto. The place is part of a chain spread over Japan. We had a bowl of miso ramen, karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and fried gyoza (dumplings). Everything was very delicious and was celebratory washed down with an ice cold glass of Japanese beer. A very nice thing in Japan is that the beer always during our trip came in frosted glasses.


Delicious gyoza served on the side.
Miso ramen with pork, green onion and perfectly cooked creamy eggs. Delicious.

Kairikiya’s ramen was maybe not the best I’ve ever had (I will post about that one soon), but nevertheless a really tasty ramen. We went for lunch, and the place was almost full so we were not alone in enjoying the place.

Price and place
Located in central Kyoto. Prices were quite low. Around 1000 jpy per person for a ramen bowl, a couple of shared sidedishes and a beer.
Click here for website with menu (in English).

 

Back to Japan!

8 years ago, I first visited Japan, and immediately loved it. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since, but it took that my brother moved to Kyoto to force me to lift my butt, enter R2D2 and bring myself to the land of riding suns, fantastic food and great people.

The trip started with a short but decently nice flight with Lufthansa from Stockholm to Munich. At Lufthafen Münich, aka Munich Airport, we had to visit Airbräu in Terminal 2, the world’s only airport brewery. Delicious weiß (wheat) bier und a pretty good veal schnitzel with German potato salad were enjoyed.

Then it was time to board R2D2. All Nippon Airways has somekind of a deal with the Starwars franchise, meaning a couple of their planes are Starwars painted. 

The onboard experience in Ana’s economy was decent enough. We flew the semi-new Boeing 787 Dreamliner which had onboard wifi (I paid 22 usd for wifi use for the duration of the flight. There were a couple of less expensive options too), a decent personal screen with eg. live tv (for instance with CNN and Japanese NHK premium). Leg room was also fine, and the food decent. Above is dinner, I chose the ‘Western’ option which was a beef curry with steamed rice. Everyone had the same starters which was cold soba noodles, pasta salad with parmesan, bread and a small mixed leaves salad. Food was quite good, given being on a plane of course. All drinks and food were complimentary.

Then, touchdown in the greatest city on earth, Tokyo! It was cold, rainy, dark, and beautiful, in a blade runner kind of way. We checked in to our tiny 9 square meter room at Sotetsu Frésa Inn and went out for food.

The first place we ran into on the street outside our hotel, Yotteba, advertised great chicken wings and beer. Cold as we were, that sounded too appealing to resist.
 

Edamame, served cold by unknown reason. 

 

Spicy, quite delicious lightly fried chicken wings.

 

Delicious gyoza!

Stay tuned for more delicious Japanese food adventures and travel. Make sure to also follow me on Instagram for the latest updates. Arigato gozaimasu!

Homemade vegetarian bibimbap recipe

Bibimbap (비빔밥) is a Korean dish that literally means mixed rice. The first time I had bibimbap was in Tokyo after a quite amazing chance encounter with an old family-friend at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo during rush hour. After realizing that us, two Swedes, had run into each other at one of the busiest, most crowded places in the world, not to mention other side of the world, we went for bibimbap.

The bibimbap was served proper Korean style in a hot clay bowl, meaning that the rice and veggies were still cooked as the dish arrived at our table. We then mixed the rice with the also included raw egg, raw and cooked vegetables and hot chilli sauce. The result was a crispy, spicy, semi-warm rice dish with fresh crunchy vegetables (and probably some meat).

Bibimbap can be quite ambitious, with hot bowls and lots of different items put in it, or just a basic ‘mixed rice’. The common denominator is that it is always delicious. 

Above picture and below recipe is of and for a homemade quite easy-to-make, no fuss vegetarian bibimbap. If you want it meatier you could easily add sliced chicken or beef, or maybe salmon.

What you need for the bibimbap 2-3 persons)

2 carrots

1/2 cucumber

4 eggs

4 dl (1,75 cups) of Jasmine rice

2 stems of scallions

Hot sauce or gochujang chilli paste (you decide how much 😉)

1 jar of Kimchi (buy pre-made, making your own is quite an effort)

400 grams of Shiitake mushrooms

2,5 deciliters (1 cup) of sliced lettuce (eg. Iceberg)

Sesame seeds

Neutral oil for frying

How to cook the bibimbap

1. Cook the rice until done.

2. Julienne (eg. slice into thin strips like above photo) the peeled carrots and cucumber.

3. Slice and fry the shiitake mushrooms until golden brown and cooked through. The stems are bit though, so remove them if you don’t like that. They taste great though.

4. Slice the iceberg lettuce and the scallions.

5. Fry the eggs.

6. Plate. Put rice in the bottom of a bowl, top with veggies, kimchi, eggs and hot sauce. Then mix everything around for your proper Koream mixed rice or bibimbap.

Korean fried prawns (or shrimp) recipe

 

A non-poultry take on the sweet, spicy and deliciousness of a dish that is Korean fried chicken, or KOFC.

What you need

300 grams of peeled prawns

Panko bread crumbs

1 beaten egg

Wheat flour

50 grams of salted butter

2-3 tablespoons of hot sauce, I used Sriracha

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

How to cook the Korean fried prawns

1. Put flour, the beaten egg and panko breadcrumbs in three separate bowls.

2. Dip prawns one by one, first in flour, then in the eggs, and finally in the panko.

3. Heat oil in a pan or deep-fryer. Fry the prawns till golden brown. Put on paper towels to dry/lose some oil (beach 2017 is coming up).

4. Melt butter in a pan. Add sugar and let dissolve. Remove from heat.

5. Put prawns in a bowl. Coat with butter-sugar-mix and hot sauce. Mix so that the prawns are covered by the buttery, salty, spicy and sweet coating.

Serve! For instance in lettuce leaves with sriracha mayo, kimchi and sesame seeds. Cold beer or crisp German Riesling works well with this!

Homemade soy flavoured pulled chicken ramen noodle soup

The other day I watched Netflix’s Chef’s Table about American chef Ivan Orkin that moved to Japan, and opened a ramen joint that quite quickly was named one of the best in Japan. This made me want to move to Tokyo and open my own restaurant too, but since that won’t be happening anytime soon, I decided it at least was ramen cooking time at home.

What you need (for approximately 2-3)

Noodles, we used Nissin’s brand premium ramen noodles. About a third of a package for two.

200 grams of shiitake mushrooms

450 grams of chicken thighs

4 sprigs of spring onion

4-5 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons of finely chopped ginger

4-5 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce

1 tablespoon of Sriracha hot sauce (can be excluded)

2-3 chicken stock cubes (or make your own)

Water

3 eggs, semi-soft boiled (see picture above)

Sesame oil, or cooking oil

How to cook it

1. Peel and finely chop garlic, the white stems of the spring onion and the ginger.

2. Fry chopped vegetables in oil on medium heat in a cooking pan until soft, do not brown.

3. Add chicken thighs to the fried vegetables, you do not need to trim as you’ll do that during the “pulling”. Let cook for a couple of minutes till chicken’s a bit coloured.

4. Add soy sauce, stock/stock cubes and hot sauce. Stirr occassionally and let simmer for about an hour on medium heat. Add water if needed, if soup gets too reduced.

5. When an hour has passed, slice the shiitake mushroom caps. Also keep the stems. Add both to the soup and continue to simmer.

6. Meanwhile mushrooms cook, it is time to pull the chicken thighs. Remove them from the broth and shredd them with two forks until ‘pulled’. Remove any remaining sinews, bones or similar. Then put the pulled chicken back into the soup.

7. Cook noodles until just cooked (eg. ‘Al dente’) since they’ll be in the broth which will make them cook a little bit more.

8. Serve! Add the noodles to bowls, pour over broth (remove the shiitake stems if you’re sensitive, they are a bit chewy). Top with the finely sliced green part of the spring onions and egg halves. Enjoy!

Homemade panang gai recipe (Thai red curry chicken)

A weekday favourite of mine is this version of a spicy delicious Thai panang curry. When we’ve been to Thailand, this is usually my number one choice for dinner, and after several attempts, I’ve finally succeded in making a somewhat authentic-tasting version.

What you need (approximately for four persons)

500 grams of chicken thighs

About 1 dl of peanuts (unsalted if possible)

Half jar of Thai red curry paste

One can of coconut milk

1 red chilli pepper

2 cloves of garlic

2-3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

1 Lime

5 kaffir lime leaves

1 teaspoon white sugar (can be excluded)

To serve

Fresh coriander

Steamed jasmine rice

How to cook

1. Trim the chicken thighs of excess fat, sinews or bones, if any. Finely chop red chilli and garlic. Mix peanuts and red curry paste until smooth.

2. Take the hard part from the coconut milk can, that is the coconut fat, and add to a frying pan. Save the remaining coconut water for later. If the coconut milk is mixed already, then skip this and next step.

3. Fry the coconut fat in a pan on high heat until it splits and releases coconut oil. (If you had no coconut fat, start at this step with heating cooking oil. Fry the curry paste- peanut mix in the oil). After 30 seconds or so, add the chicken, chopped garlic and chilli, and fry for about another minute or two.

4. Lower the heat and add the coconut water remaining in the coconut milk can. If the coconut milk was already mixed, then add all of it to the pan. Add lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and lime leaves (don’t forget to count them before adding them).

5. Let the curry reduce for 5-10 minutes. Taste and add some extra fish sauce, lime juice or sugar if needed. Finally, remove the lime leaves (I hope you did not lose count of them 😉).

6. Serve! Top the curry with fresh coriander, and serve with steamed rice on the side.

Dinner at Gaggan Bangkok

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Gaggan Anand is an Indian native that established Gaggan restaurant in Bangkok in 2010. The restaurant serves molecular style food based to a large extent on Indian cuisine. It has been named the best restaurant in Thailand as well as in all of Asia. 

We went to Gaggan restaurant in Bangkok last year (and Nahm which I’m hoping to write about too) and it was spectacular. Given the low price compared to a similar (probably less good) experience  in say Europe, Gaggan is almost a must if visiting Bangkok and enjoying (amazing) food. Gaggan was an experience in both terms of food and fun. Clever and creative dishes mixed with some good old tastiness made our dinner there one of the best I’ve ever experienced.
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Indian street food bites. For instance you ate the whole bag, plastic and all, of nuts. Then you realised that it wasn’t actual plastic even though the first bite made you think and feel so. Instead the “plastic” evaporated in our mouths and elevated the spiced nuts. So good, and so clever.

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“Say cheese”: Hot soufflé of cheese and crispy rice cereals, green chilly oil. Probably my least favourite dish of the night. Still good though.
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Sandwich: Foié gras mousse, onion water baguette, onion chutney and hazelnut candy.

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Keema Pao sliders.

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Down to Earth: Summer vegetables (asparagus, morels, mushrooms, artichokes) with a 62C egg yolk and truffle chilli.

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Charcoal: “Be surprised! We wont tell you what it is.” (It was seabass)
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River king: fresh water prawns grilled in the tandoor with  curry leaf infusion and mango chutney. This dish was great, despite that the manager came and fed me a part of the prawn that I’d missed. Shame on me, I guess.

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Angry bird: slow cooked country Thai native chicken in an Indian style curry. Maybe the most ‘ordinary’ dish of the night. But still so good.
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Made in Japan: Matcha tea cake with wasabi.

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“Magnum”: homemade icecream cake pops.

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And of course, no “coffee candy” without dry ice show off when at a fancy ‘molecular’ restaurant.

All in all as mentioned above, a really fantastic experience. Well worth a visit in my mind. Visit Gaggan’s website for reservations and menus.