Tag: Food Tour

DIY Food Tour

DIY Food Tour

We just got back from our Golden Week vacation a few days ago and I’m very behind with the blogging. Spoiler: We went to Indonesia and it was great! Before I get into it (still got lots of pictures to sort), I still have a couple little things to share from before our trip.

Marlyn and I had been wanting to recreate the food tour I did in June, and we decided it was time in the middle of September when it finally got a bit cooler. We met after work at the metro, booklet from the tour in hand and ready to eat our way through China and take selfies 🙂

Stop 1 – Cantonese

Our personal food tour was off to a rocky start because the planned first stop, the Xi’An Burger, had been closed down 🙁 It didn’t get much better at the second stop – a Cantonese restaurant. They had sold out of the barbecued pork, this dish I was most excited to eat again at that place. Fail. We tried duck instead, which was okay, but not nearly as good as the pork. The pineapple bun and a mango tapioca dish were good; those cheered us up again.

Since we met around 20 min before the food tour starts, we kept seeing one of their groups. They usually came into the restaurants when we had already started eating. We made sure to hide our booklet and pretended we were just in the know about local restaurants. Not sure we succeeded 😉

Stop 2 – Ningbo

The second stop – the Ningbo place – was much better! We got my favorite 2 dishes from the tour, fava bean puree and crispy bamboo chips. Marlyn was skeptical at first, but came around after giving it a try. The beans really taste much better than they look!

Stop 3 – Sichuan

Third stop: Sichuan Noodles, no rabbit head this time 🙂

Stop 4 – Shanghai

And finally, some xiaolongbao to finish the night.

Just as we were about to call it a night, we saw the guide again. He ducked into a small bakery, telling the group “I’m just gonna buy something for later”. So obviously we went in right after he left and requested 2 of whatever he bought … which gave us our dessert 🙂

To anyone who wants try food from across China: Come visit and eat with us – Marlyn and I are ready!

Shanghai Night Eats Tour

Shanghai Night Eats Tour

It’s been more than a year and a half since Ellie and I went on the Shanghai Street Eats Breakfast Tour. Ever since then, I wanted to try the UnTour’s night tour and finally got around to going a couple of weeks ago.

June is the last month Cassie, a friend I met through GGI, was in Shanghai before going back to the US. She wanted to go as well, so we did it as kind of a fun farewell dinner. The tour was a culinary journey through China: We tried food from Xi’an, Guangzhou/Hongkong, Ningbo, Sichuan and finally Shanghai. I knew most of the cuisines from our China travels (and other food tours), but also got to try some new dishes, which was fun.

Xi’an Burgers

On our first stop, we got some Xi’an style “burgers” – crispy buns stuffed with pork. It was similar to the lamb buns we tried in Xi’an last year but I think even better.

Cantonese Food

Next, we walked over to a Cantonese place and had some really tasty sweet barbecued pork. I skipped the fatty pork belly, but also tried some fried noodles, pinapple bun and the mango tapioca dessert.

Tastes of Ningbo

The Ningbo restaurant was the most interesting stop for me because I’ve never been and never tried the food. I wasn’t a big fan of the jelly fish and fried fish they served, but loved the fava bean puree and fried bamboo chips. The rice cakes they served were also pretty good.


Spicy Sichuan

It’s a good thing we already did a food tour in Chengdu, so the rabbit head didn’t come as much of a shock 🙂 Our guide demonstrated very well how to take it apart and eat it, so Cassie and I tried some of the parts, cheek and brain to be exact. The cheek meat was good, I didn’t care too much for the brain, but maybe it’s just because it was hard for me to get over what we were eating. The spicy wontons, noodles and cucumbers were very tasty!

Shanghainese Goodies

And finally, we also had some Shanghai food – you can never go wrong with xiaolongbao 🙂

It was a really fun and yummy evening. Even though all the places are only a metro stop away, I would have never gone to any of them myself, since they’re mostly little holes-in-the-wall and Chinese only. Now, I have a map with all the stops and names of all dishes, so Marlyn and I are thinking to recreate the highlights of the food tour soon 🙂

China Travels: Chengdu

China Travels: Chengdu

As you could probably tell from Thorben’s post, the next stop after Xi’an was Chengdu. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province. It’s famous for 2 things: Spicy food and PANDAS!

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

I was very very excited about finally getting to see Pandas, so on our first morning we headed straight to the Panda base, or formally called the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Since pandas usually give birth in August we were lucky to see little fluffy adorable panda cubs!

We spent around 4 hours at the base. Mostly we watched the pandas eat and sleep (or eat while lying down) which is basically all they do all day. A sign in the park titled “Why do giant pandas always eat and sleep?” explained that the nutritional value of bamboo is very low so “They are not lazy, they are energy efficient!”

Lazy or not, they are so cute and clumsy and just all over awesome! I took way too many pictures and videos. If the guys wouldn’t have gotten bored I think my sister and I would still be there watching them 🙂

In addition to the giant pandas, the base housed quite a few red pandas. They are not as “energy efficient”, so they are not as easy to spot because they move a lot more, climb in the trees and are hidden in their enclosures. We got really lucky and had 2 awesome encounters. The first was early in the morning when it was just us and a couple little pandas came really close and Thorben was able to take great pictures. When we came back later in the day the keepers showed up to feed them, so many more came out to get some goodies.

They are so so so adorable and again, we had to be dragged away 🙂

People’s Park

After all the excitement of the morning, we headed to a tea house in People’s Park and spent a few hours relaxing and drinking tea. The guide book said getting your ears cleaned in People’s Park was the thing to do so Thorben went for the full Chengdu experience 🙂

Wenshu Monastery

Between the tea drinking and our next activity (spoiler: another food tour) we had a bit of time so we explored the Wenshu Monastery. It was very pretty with many different buildings and a little park, so definitely worth a visit.

Sichuan Food Tour

The last thing we did in Chengdu was to go on another food tour. Our guide Alina from Chengdu Food Tours showed us lots of different local foods, most of it pretty spicy. We started with bread buns stuffed with meat and rice noodles from a little street booth. Our next stop was a restaurant close to the monastery where they served sweet and spicy noodles, more rice noodles and rice cakes. At a local market Thorben went for the full Chengdu experience again and tried a rabbit head, including eyes, tongue and brain … yum. I passed, in case anyone was wondering 😉

After the rabbit head we tried some pickled vegetables and had a mixed vegetable salad, something a bit more western friendly. The market also gave us the chance to try some different baijiu – we took our favorite with us in a 0.5l plastic bottle 😀 We finished the night at a local “fly” restaurant (fly because it’s so busy it’s buzzing) with some more spicy food.

China Travels: Xi’an and the Terracotta Army

China Travels: Xi’an and the Terracotta Army

Last week it was Golden Week and there is much to tell but before that, I have to finish recapping our week of China Travels 🙂

After Luoyang, the second stop of our trip was Xi’an. The major attraction is of course the Terracotta Army, about an hour outside of the city, but Xi’an itself also has lots of cool stuff to see. Here is what we managed to do:

Muslim Quarter

On our first morning we walked past the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower to the Muslim Quarter. There is a ton of different street food and we tried a few different things including sticky rice, pomegranate juice, scallion pancakes, yogurt, lamb skewers and a bun stuffed with lamb meat. Thankfully, we also took a food tour the next day so we could try even more goodies.

Great Mosque

The Great Mosque is located in the Muslim Quarter and it’s one of the biggest and oldest mosques in China. It consists of several courtyards and different archways and buildings. It’s built in traditional Chinese style and looks more like a temple. However, there are some inscriptions in Arabic and Islamic art, so it takes a little exploring to discover it’s really a mosque.

City Wall

Xi’an also has one of the oldest, biggest and best preserved city walls in China. It wraps around the inner city and has a total length of 14 kilometers. It is a massive wall: 12 meters tall and also 12-14 meters wide at the top and you can walk or cycle the whole thing. We walked a portion of it and it is really impressive!

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

We came for the water show in front of the pagoda which is supposed to be really cool, but sadly it was not running the week we were there. So all we got was a couple of photos of the outside and silly selfies 🙂

Morning Food Tour

As already mentioned a few times, I love going on Food Tours to discover all the local goodies. In Xi’an we went with Lost Plate, which offers a breakfast tour by tuk tuk. We tried fried beef stuffed buns, a spicy stew with meatballs and veggies, some bread, a persimmon and a sesame red bean “donut”, some moon cake (it was right before mid autumn festival) and finally delicious hand-pulled noodles in a beef sauce – I think everyone’s favorite dish. Or maybe it was the fried beef bun? 🙂 In any case, we all left full and happy.

Terracotta Army

And finally, one of the trip highlights: The Terracotta Warriors of China’s First Emperor. We visited all 3 pits and it was really cool to see, definitely an item on the China Bucket List. It’s crazy to think that the statues are over 2,200 years old but were only discovered 40 years ago. While most pictures only show the rebuilt part, the site is still a huge work in progress, so it would be cool to go back in 20 years to see it again.

Xi’an by Night

While we were lazy at the hotel, Thorben headed back to the Bell Tower, Drum Tower and Muslim quarter to capture some pretty pictures by night.

Tokyo: The Food Edition

Tokyo: The Food Edition

Here is the run down on all our Tokyo food experiences:

Sushi

We started and ended our trip with sushi. On our first day we headed over to “Umegaoka Sushi No Midori”, which was highly recommended online. The place was really popular, even on a Thursday at 2:30 pm we had to wait for 45 minutes to get a table. The sushi was very pretty and yummy though 🙂

On our last day we went to Sushizanmai, a big, popular chain. At 10:30 am we already had the first sushi in front of us, no wait on a Monday morning 🙂 The place was pretty empty, so we sat at the counter and watched the masters work.

Making our own Sushi

Another Airbnb experience: a sushi class with a Japanese sushi master. We met Nori and 2 other participants at a grocery store where he showed us all the necessary stuff to make sushi. We then went to his apartment and made nigiri and maki sushi. He was really strict about the technique – a real sushi master has to train for 8 years after all – and made us practice on playdough first 🙂 I didn’t take many pictures because of fishy hands but thankfully our host was on it 🙂

Tsukiji Fish Market Food Tour

The Tsukiji Fish Market will be relocated in October so we were lucky we still got the see the old building and craziness happening inside. I booked a tour through Ninja Food Tours that included lots of tastings and it was really fun! First we had a chicken, egg and rice dish and then really started the tour. The market also has a big wholesale vegetable and fruit portion and we had some yummy strawberries there. Pretty fruit is considered a nice gift but we passed on the 50 USD cherry box and 60 USD mango 😉

We also checked out all the crazy fish and sea food of the inner market and then had ate at the outer market. The place is huge and busy so I’m really glad we went with a guide who knew what he was doing. We had sweet omelette on a stick as a palate cleanser, then an amazing tuna bowls, pork dumplings, some matcha drinks, tried some dried fish candies and finally had a mochi strawberry dessert.

Kobe Beef

For Thorben’s Birthday we went to a kobe beef restaurant and indulged in a dinner with 8 courses, 7 of which included beef. We ate it grilled, baked, fried, marinated, raw, inside a dumpling … It was delicious 🙂

54.000 steps around Singapore

54.000 steps around Singapore

Third time is the charm! After studying in Singapore in 2011 and visiting in 2014, this was my third time in Singapore. Thorben had never been, it’s a short flight from Siem Reap and I love the city/country, so plenty of reasons to include it in this trip.

Because of a flight schedule change we only had 2 full days in Singapore but managed to do a lot.

Day one: Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay and Cable car rides

With our hotel close to Clarke Quay, we started out there and walked along the river, past the Fullerton Hotel and to Marina Bay to see the Merlion. Everything was pretty much the same as I remembered and because it’s what my college BFF and I always did we had a drink at Starbucks overlooking my Bay 🙂

Our next stop was Gardens by the Bay. We went into the Flower Dome which was nice except for the Christmas exhibit. It just seemed a bit strange among the palm trees and the 30 degree weather outside 🙂 The Cloud Forest was cool (both temperature wise and visually) and we entered just as misting time started which meant it actually looked like there were a lot of clouds in there. We didn’t have time to return at night but the supertrees were still nice to see.

We walked back to the Bay and had a late lunch at the food court in the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. After a stroll over the Helix Bridge we made our way back to Clarke Quay but got forced to wait out a tropical downpour inside a mall.

In the evening we bought a round trip cable car ticket. Thanks to the rain we got there after 6, which means you only pay the kids price, score! 🙂 We first zipped over to Mount Farber and walked over the Henderson Waves Bridge, something I saw online but hadn’t done before. It’s lit up at night and was pretty cool. Because it was included in the ticket we also went over to Sentosa and walked around the island and along the beach a bit. After a record breaking 33.000 steps we had some dinner at a tapas bar at Clarke Quay.

Day Two: Orchid Garden and Food Tour

The next day we decided to hit the Botanic Gardens, which I found out had become a UNESCO World Heritage Site since I last visited. Our main focus was the National Orchid Garden. They have thousands of orchids and a special VIP section with breeds that are named after e.g. Lady Diana, Michelle and Barack Obama and Angela Merkel. From there we walked to Orchard Road and promptly got a little lost in ION Orchard, a huge shopping center, on the way to the metro.

For the evening I booked a food tour, my new favorite thing to do when traveling. We did the Katong Evening Tour through SingaBites which was great. We tried Curry Puffs, Hainanese Chicken Rice (the national dish), Indian Paratha with different curries, Laksa, sticky rice cakes filled with meat and coconut palm sugar balls. Besides lots of food we also visited a Hindu Temple and learned a lot about the different cultures in Singapore.

After the tour we had some drinks with the other two participants and walked back to our hotel along the lit up Marina Bay and Singapore River.

Let’s see when I’ll go to Singapore for the forth time. I will definitely swim in the Marina Bay Sands infinity pool then 🙂