Photo I took of my friend Eric on Carpet Munching Diablos V7/8, Niagara Falls, Ontario
discussions and climbing
Photo I took of my friend Eric on Carpet Munching Diablos V7/8, Niagara Falls, Ontario
Tonight I took a shot at another classic Japanese soup: Udon. It’s is one of my favourite Japanese meals but it’s not as common as Ramen and less famous. I borrowed some cookbooks from the library and found some recipes.
This time I found most of my ingredients at the Win-Tai grocery store on Ogilvie road. This asian grocery store has the best selection of Japanese food in town. I found everything I needed no problem, from the Kombu (dried kelp) to Bonito (smoked fish flakes). I found a nice package of “fresh” Udon noodles too. The noodles are really what makes the soup so great! Big fat chewy noodles a bit al dente is the way to go. Unfortunately the noodles were just a liiiitle bit too soft in the end because it was hard for me to make sure the shrimp tempura were cooked at exactly the same time. Next time I’ll have to be more meticulous.
The broth was just “good”. It wasn’t as amazing as my ramen was, but it also takes less than an hour to make this soup from scratch! I think I’ll try a different recipe next time. I want a more sweet seafood type broth but that might not be the most authentic. I also used the wrong recipe for the batter of the shrimp tempura. There’s always room for improvement I guess eh?
the finished product
It may sound like it didn’t turn out, but I wouldn’t quite say that. Leanna liked it: we both did actually. It wasn’t a home run like the ramen, and didn’t quite satisfy my Udon itch, but my taste buds didn’t complain one bit!
Here is a video I made of my friend Éric climbing Saigon in Bishop back in March. Make sure you watch it in HD and in fullscreen if you still use a computer.
This weekend JM suggested we tackle making ramen at home. JM, Leanna, and I are huge ramen fans and it’s official that there’s no good ramen in Ottawa. We’ve tried at Taste Ramen + Fusion on Bank street but it’s really not worth returning to. In retrospect I’m not even upset that there’s no good ramen in town – in my opinion if you want soup in Ottawa you’re really spoiled because we have amazing pho. I don’t think I’d trade in all the good pho restaurants for good ramen restaurants – I like having ramen as a rare treat and I had so much fun making it at home that I’d do it again for sure.
Eggs and ingredients and shit – this blog is about food. Calories and flavours and shit.
JM made ramen at home before and that gave me the motivation to try for it. If he could make it in that closet of a kitchen of his and he didn’t die during the experience I had a good shot. I heard his stories and had seen his photos from his experience so I knew we’d make a great team for my first attempt. I knew that I could ask him any questions I had and that he had hunted through Ottawa already for some of the key ingredients you just can’t make it without (bonito and kombu for example). Leanna and I made a trip to the Asian wonderland that is T&T for the rest of them.
He suggested this recipe for shoyu ramen. I knew it would be a lot of work. The recipe was pretty good but I still ended up making a bunch of personal notes and amendments.
Making this recipe takes two days usually. For me, it took 3.5 hours on Friday night and another 2.5 on Saturday. I can cut some of this time down next time for sure now that I know what I’m doing. Also, I’m just not that naturally talented in the kitchen as Leanna is so maybe if she was cooking it’d take even less time. However, cooking asian comes a bit more naturally to me so perhaps it balances out.
Time for the class photo: In back, sliced braised pork belly that took 2.5 hours to make. In front, counter-clockwise starting with medium-boiled marinated eggs sliced with a piece of fishing line, nori (dried seaweed), bamboo (panda food), naruto (fish cake), and green onion. Missing from photo: Actual Japanese people who know what they’re doing.
Bored yet? Whatever.
How did it turn out? Amazing! It was honestly a very good bowl of ramen. For not living in in Vegas I’ve still managed to eat ramen there at Monta probably about 6 times. Also, we visited Santouka in Singapore which is probably the best chain of Japanese ramen restaurant. I know what I like and I liked my homemade ramen.
The important thing is that JM and Leanna also liked it. The pork belly was a huge success and the noodles were super fresh. I’m glad I made something that they liked. Making ramen suits my cooking style – a little bit precise with that Japanese attention to detail.
Pretty cool, eh?
What, you’d like to try my ramen? What, I’ve won an award for my ramen? Oh wow, I totally didn’t expect this… I don’t have a speech ready or anything. Geeze, especially in a year with such good ramen. Oh man, where to start? Well, in accepting my award I’d like to thank JM for his inspiration, ingredients, and experience. I’d also like to thank Leanna for her everlasting natural instinct, patience, and knowledge. Last but not least, I’d like to thank Lise for motivating me to get my camera and take these pictures – oh, and for telling us where to buy these killer bowls. Ok, the music is coming on and they’re telling me to wrap it up… ok, umm, Shak and Eric – next bowl of ramen is on me man – Thank you!
The ramen … . .. it’s a Japanese soup. It’s the shit they sell in little packages at the grocery store for 99¢ called Mr. Noodle. You can eat it that way, or dedicate 6 hours of your life to making it. Whatever.
Dave on Saigon – Photo Max Moore
A few weeks ago I made a return trip to Bishop. I’ve been there a bunch and having visited briefly last November I was eager to return.
I returned to try a small list of problems which I made on my list. I only strayed from my list once and kept things strictly prioritized. I didn’t have many sends obviously, but that wasn’t important. I really only wanted to climb Stained Glass V10 or Thunderbird V11. If I didn’t get those getting any one climb from the rest of my list would make me satisfied.
I went with my friend Eric. He was excited for a climbing trip and I managed to convince him to come along with me. He climbed really well – unfazed and solidly. He climbed a new personal best difficulty wise and was just getting in gear when we were leaving. It was really fun to support him when I was resting.
Max is psyched
We also met up with a bunch of friends who would be down in the area or come down to climb with us. Max, Liberty, Seely, and Moher and his family. It was cool to have a big friendly crew of excited people. I also ran into CWP, Alex Brunel and family, and met a bunch of other new cool people.
I didn’t climb a lot of problems because I was totally focussed on my two projects. On rest days or in between problems or warm ups I did manage to get some sends. At the beginning of the trip I flashed both Flyboy Sit V8 and Solitaire V8. I had an epic topout on Flyboy having barely grabbed all the holds up top. My flash of Solitaire was better. Solitaire, if you haven’t been to it, is an amazing problem. I suggest every V8 climber head over to the other side of the road and do it – it’s perfect and it’s the best V8 in the Buttermilks.
In between bleeding tips I managed to climb Water Hazard V10 and Saigon V6. Water Hazard was a great experience climbing together on it with Max. Eric and Lib were also in the cave trying their problems so it was a great environment that afternoon.
Later in the trip I climbed Saigon with Max and then watched Eric climb it a couple days later. This climb was so much fun. I did it on my second try and enjoyed every minute of it. It symbolized a lot for me: I’ve been coming to Bishop since maybe 2007 and at that time I was about a V7 climber. At that time, and up until only recently I’ve been pretty intimidated by the Buttermilks. The boulders are so big and uncompromising. I’ve got to be bold and climb with boldness to have success there. The movements are subtle on very sharp small holds and skin maintenance is an important factor. For me, it is the most important factor.
Eric before he did Saigon
The same day we did Saigon we tried Evilution V10 too. I’ve never considered topping it out because I don’t want to hurt myself, so I was only interested in going to the lip then dropping like Sharma. I had tried it for a couple minutes in 2012 and I hurt my shoulder on the first move. This year I tried a couple times before falling going for the lip. At this point some guys with some bad attitudes came around so we decided to call it a day. I didn’t think I’d get another run at it because a) I was still pretty intimidated by it and I would get a little anxious thinking about trying it again and b) I didn’t think we’d get enough crash pads together to pad it well enough another day.
Melting snow in the Buttermilks
Thankfully it snowed and drove everyone down away from the buttermilks. With a perseverant attitude I dragged Eric back up to the cold snowy buttermilks and encountered a group of cool climbers who threw down pads so I could give it a try. I did it first try, fully committed, not scared, and not hesitant. I climbed it perfectly and I felt strong. It was a great day. It was nice climbing with a true group of dedicated mature boulderers that day. I just can’t relate to the motivation / attitude of the new generation of young boulderers. I guess I’m getting older.
Most other days were spent supporting my friends Matthew and Eric and trying my two main projects: Thunderbird V11 and Stained Glass V10. I tried Stained Glass on the first day and managed to get up to the last dyno move. It injures the finger skin at the same spot as Thunderbird so I stayed away from it and focussed on Thunderbird. I did however try stained glass again at the end of the trip and the last move is still impossible for me. I just don’t understand how to generate the jump as I’m barely hanging on to the terrible handholds and the feet are even worse. Maybe one day. V10 – haha. For me it will be one of the hardest problems I’ve ever done, right up at the top of the list.
At the absolute top of the list would be Thunderbird. A three move V11, Thunderbird should be absolutely no problem for me but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve tried it at least over 70 times since 2010. The funny thing is that I’ve never stuck the second move, the crux dyno.
One day, the snowy day this trip, I managed to finally stick the dyno and hold it. I was so excited I fell on the next move (you can’t practice this move from the ground so I’d never tried it). I was very excited that I stuck the dyno!! Ecstatic. I stuck the dyno 7 times in a row that day but fell on the next move every time! Eventually the rock cut through my skin and I couldn’t try any more for the trip. I was heart broken but still happy with the improvement and it was enough to keep my spirits up. One day, perhaps, I’ll complete that problem.
Projecting hard at your level is very emotional and exhaustive thing for me. I don’t get to climb often, and when I do I want to make the most of it. What I like about bouldering is doing HARD moves that I can barely do. My top physical challenge. The hard part is when I find this physical challenge in a problem that I have a lot of difficulty with and then it becomes a project. The mental energy involved with staying motivated, being a little anxious to finish with a time limit (I have no local bouldering), and managing resting / skin / external factors becomes really tough. I can see why some people never prefer to project at their limit because the commitment is deep.
Bouldering at the Buttermilks is such a unique feeling for me. There are no other boulders I respect more than the eggs up on the hill. The thing about the Buttermilks is that the landings aren’t bad or anything. They’re not dangerous and you can highball quite safely. For me it’s more that the boulders are committing, and you have to focus. I’m loving it there lately and learning a lot when I climb there still, even at 32 years old.
Unfortunately it looks like this might be my last big climbing trip for quite some time. Maybe I’ll get to sneak away somewhere in the fall, but who knows. That’s six months from now…
Before even leaving Canada I had made reservations to spend New Years Eve at IKYU Japanese restaurant. Singapore is an amazing place for food from all corners of the world and it attracts passionate chefs who establish unique restaurants like IKYU. When I was researching for our gastronomic adventures I spent a lot of time reading Dr. Leslie Tay’s opinions and recommendations on food. His wonderfully decorated food blog, ieatishootipost contains years of food reviews and suggestions. During a period of sushi obsession Dr. Tay blogged about his sushi experiences and his visit to IKYU. After speaking with him over email he suggested it as the must try place for a great omakase meal.
IKYU restaurant is unforgettable from the first moment. Opening the iron-clad rust-covered huge front door you walk into a “post-apocalyptic” inspired decor. Different, intriguing, and certainly unlike anything you’d see in Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I liked it. We were greeted by shouted welcomes in Japanese from the staff and introduced to Donny, the restaurant manager. We were seated at our reserved locations at the bar when we met Chef Takuma Seki, the executive chef of IKYU and the man who’d be orchestrating our meals for the night.
Chef Takuma Seki
Our service was incredible from the first moment. I politely asked Donny if it would be acceptable for me to take photographs for the evening, photos of the food, Chef Seki-san, the restaurant, and he agreed generously. Not stopping there he brought over an additional bar chair exclusively for my camera bag and gear to rest next to me so it wouldn’t need to be on the floor.
I’m in love with most things Japanese and the Japanese culture is extremely exotic and appealing to me. Japanese food too and the search for a true Japanese experience at a Japanese restaurant can start by ordering omakase style. Omakase is a Japanese term which means “I’ll leave it to you”. It’s used in restaurants to show that you’d like the chef to serve you what he desires or believes you’d enjoy most. Instead of ordering à la carte (“off the menu”) you can order Omakase and you’ll recieve special daily items and creations suiting the current occasion or season. IKYU brings fresh seafood flown in from Japan’s Famous Tsukiji Fish Market throughout the week.
It was great to see the Chefs prepare the different sushi and plates of wonderful food. The way they slice and plate the dishes was really interesting to watch.
I had long ago decided to eat omakase but Leanna wasn’t as sure. She isn’t the biggest fan of sushi itself and much prefers to eat her raw fish (Sashimi) in the form of sushi rolls (Maki). The restaurant manager Donny gave us a menu and we were assured to take our time. We were given a glass of Proseco to enjoy as we read and after making a tough decision Leanna decided to eat à la carte.
I dreampt of an authentic japanese experience from the cuisine to the service. Having never ate omakase in front of the chef, I was unaccustomed to the experience, how to order and eat, but Donny and the staff catered to me perfectly and made us feel like royalty. I really felt special eating there. The experience exceeded what I had hoped for.
The price, honestly, wasn’t an issue. I was prepared to pay whatever it cost to eat how I wanted. At Leanna’s brother Dan’s suggestion I had the drink pairing to go with my meal. Not knowing if I’d ever eat omakase again I didn’t want to be limited by price.
I got my camera ready and took out my notepad and pen. Yes, a notepad and pen with my meal. I needed it to write down all of the courses I would have (the omakase was described to be 7 courses) and make notes on the dishes and food. Throughout the evening I would ask Chef Seki and Donny to describe my plates to me using the english names of the fish instead of the japanese names. Thankfully their english was great and they were pleased to explain things to me. The waiters were also incredibly knowledgeable.
Starting off lightly I was served a pair of Oyster imported from Hokkaido Japan. Seki-san explained that these Oyster are illegal to have in Singapore, but IKYU had a license to import them. The Oyster were topped with a small amount of seasoning which was nice but they weren’t freshly shucked, or if they were they were drained of a lot of their natural liquid in the shell which to me is the best flavour in an Oyster. It was nice to have for a new years celebration and I drank Proseco with it.
It was around the same time that Leanna had edamame: Charcoal grilled edamame drizzled with truffle oil. So simple, incredible, and the best edamame I’ve had. So many satisfying qualities. Leanna’s thought it was great! Leanna drank Proseco with them.
Charcoal grilled Edamame drizzled with truffle oil
My second course was my sashimi. Wonderfully presented I was served two pieces of medium fatty tuna (Chūtoro), Amberjack (Kanpachi), Big Eye Tuna (Maguro), and Salmon (Sake). At this time I was also served a Sicilian white wine with my meal (I didn’t catch the variety – I was excited and all over the place at this point). The sashimi was good and I got to have a few types of tuna I’d never had before. The Salmon and Amberjack were great condition and familiar.
Sashimi! Clockwise from bottom left: Salmon, two pieces of medium fatty tuna, Amberjack, and Big Eye Tuna
New for me was the big eye tuna which was very lean and firm. The texture was enjoyable. I most enjoyed the medium fatty tuna which had a great combination of soft flavour and soft texture. I’m glad I received two pieces of it.
I received a delicious warm bowl of “soup” perfect for the “winter season”. Pieces of pumpkin, shrimp, and scallop with juliened white radish served in a sesame dressing. The dressing was nice and thick, syrup-y and lip-smacking. The pieces of pumpkin were so satisfying. Leanna loved this as much as I did and we shared it between the both of us. Rich and sweet.
Warm winter season “soup”/”salad”
Leanna ordered a roll off the menu after she had her edamame. She had the Spicy Salmon Maki which was quite good, but very big for her mouth.
Spicy Salmon Maki (roll)
Seki-san is a master and by serving small portions of everything he allows you to enjoy the entire dinner to it’s full extent. Everything in moderation. My fourth course was my meat course. I chose Miyazaki Champion Wagyu beef. Wagyu beef is a famous breed of Japanese beef which is genetically predisposed to intense marbling of fat in the meat. Wagyu cattle may be fed beer or sake to increase their appetite and may be hand massaged to promote tenderness and the best qualities of the meat.
Miyazaki Wagyu beef! It’s served with Ponzu to dip.
“Miyazaki Prefecture is the 2nd largest producer of Japanese Black, and only the highest quality cattle from this region can be dubbed “Miyazakigyu.” In 2007, this class of cow boasted the “Champion Cow” of the “Wagyu Olympics,” and the fame is gradually gaining momentum. Its beautiful color is one of its attractive factors. In official sumo [wrestling], it is custom to present the champion sumo wrestler with one Miyazaki cow.” – Japan National Tourism Organization
Their plaque, allowing them to serve Miyazaki Wagyu
I am obviously new to wagyu and the science behind enjoying a good plate of beef this way. I found myself longing for a larger mouthfull. I’m used to having a filet mignon, Texas style with baked beans and potato. I’m used to cutting a big slice of meat and slowly chewing it to release the flavours and juices and I found that with the small pieces of wagyu I couldn’t extract a bulk of flavour as I like. Not to say it wasn’t delicious, which it was, but I just dream of taking a bit chunky bite which had the chance to rival Cattlemans.
Things started to get slightly fuzzy at this point because I was served a glass of red wine from Sicily with this course. I had to pace myself so I tagged in Leanna to help me with my glass of wine, which was also really good and she enjoyed it.
This was may be the highlight of our meal and I owe it all to Leanna. She had the wonderful idea to order a plate of Hokkaido scallop carpacio in a truffle oil. She loves truffle oil and she’d eat shoe leather if it was drizzled in the stuff. Unlike shoe leather eating the scallop was heavenly. I’ll never forget the soft buttery texture of the scallop and the indulgent rich truffle oil flavour together. Melt in your mouth flavourful. Leanna was blown away by this dish. She says it was one of the best things she has ever eaten in her life. If I’d have had my way we’d have ordered a second plate.
Hokkaido Scallop Carpacio in truffle oil: The best dish of the night, and one of the best of my life.
It was also time for my fried course. The fifth course brought me fried shrimp and fried Fugu. The shrimp were fried whole, head and all. Intimidated and unaware of how to eat it I politely asked chef Seki and he told me to remove the tail parts because they are too hard to eat and then just crunch away on the head, eyes, arms, and everything else. It was awesome! Shrimp flavour without the shrimp meat.
Crispy Fried Shrimp
I got a kick out of it, but I was also half drunk having been given a glass of sweet sake to drink (Yuki no bosha Hidden Yamahai, Akita (+3 Med)). I would love to try this sake again one day but I think it was over $110 / bottle. I think it may have been vintage.
Yuki no bosha Hidden Yamahai Sake. Incredible.
I also mentioned fried Fugu. Fugu is the famous “Pufferfish” in English. Yeah, the one that’s lethally poisonous unless prepared correctly. I had some nice meaty fried pieces and I’m still alive! Woohoo. Dave 1 – Pufferfish 0.
Potentially lethally poisonous Pufferfish. I didn’t die. Yaaay!
SUSHI! Yaay sushi. More sake? Ok, a nice dry Sake from Niigata. I liked it. My handwritten notes are getting pretty bad by this point… I think that says “drunk!” but it’s hard to read. Haha.
My sixth course brought me some wonderful pieces of sushi. I had Amberjack (Kanpachi) which I noted to be a soft round flavour. I had marinated tuna “Tokyo Style” with a sprinkle of dry yuzu skin on top. I had a full flavoured shrimp sushi (Kuma Ebi) and finally Anago, which is sea eel. In Canada we always get unagi which is fresh water eel. I liked the anago a LOT, and if you’re a fan of unagi you’ll like anago even more. I remember the rice to be extremely light flavoured – not like these heavy chunks of rice we get with our sushi in Canada. The rice they use is famous: “Uonuma” Koshihikari from Niigata prefecture in Japan (Chef Seki is from that prefecture). The second most famous sushi rice in the world.
Plaque for their “Uonuma” Koshihikari Niigata rice
“Tokyo Style” marinated tuna with dry yuzu skin sprinkle
“Peace” from Singapore
While I was enjoying my sushi Leanna had asked Donny to have chef Seki prepare a special roll which wasn’t on the menu. Her last roll had fried tempura bits in it and she was desiring something fresh in a roll without that crispy fried flavour and texture. Seki-san made her a roll of medium fatty tuna tartar with scallion. He once again included small fried pieces inside which kinda sucked. She was looking for something without that but oh well. Miscommunication most likely but it was still good.
Medium fatty tuna tartar with scallion Maki
A relaxing bowl of soup. Radish, mushroom, and fish cake. Chef Seki explained that the soup was a Japanese New Year soup specialty. It was nice to include that and it’s the things like that which made for a really enjoyable New Years eve experience.
New Year soup specialty
Strange asian photo time…
Desert! Chef Seki disappeared into the back and came out with a decorated cheesecake with persimmon, strawberry, grape, mango, and a cream. It was nice because persimmon is a nice christmas time fruit.
When he came out they all started singing happy birthday to us. I guess they don’t know any New Years songs to sing. It was hilarious. Everyone signing and Leanna and I sitting there saying “But it’s not our birthday”. We laughed, and enjoyed the desert with a final glass of Peach Sake – a great desert drink.
We hung around for a while after and told stories of Canada and asked questions about the food before walking back to our hotel to ring in the new year. It was a great New Year!!
Happy New Year
Well that’s it everyone, the last blog on the subject. We hope you enjoyed our trip to Singapore as much as we did. Until our next adventure …