Food, Photography, Travel, Japan

Author Archive

“Quintessential Kyoto”: A Story I Wrote on Kyoto’s Michelin-starred Restaurants and the Like for Destinasian Magazine

I was very happy with this one which appears in the current (October/November) print issue, as I took all the photos (bar the Kyoto graphic) as well as doing the text.

Click here to see the full story in PDF format: Kyoto (1) including pics.

The story introduces celebrity chefs Kunio Tokuoka of Kitcho and Yoshihiro Murata of Kikunoi and I also recommend some favourite restaurants chosen by the ‘restaurant reviewer of the Louis Vuitton Kyoto Nara City Guide’. That’s me, btw. If you can’t be bothered with all those troublesome photos (my art!) here is a link to the Destinasian web version. Hope you like it.

渋い、そしてスティーブあんちゃん On Shibui, Steve, and Such Things.

Years ago it was that my dear brother Steve attempted to explain to me, a Japan neophyte, the concept of ‘shibui’. Imagine, he said, reaching for his antiquated dictionary of such Japanese things, ‘the just-so curve of a pagoda’. I said I thought I could imagine that. We both nodded sagely. But secretly I think neither of us were convinced. I suspect ‘shibui’ is something you can only understand with time. I was in Kurodani Temple today, photographing Buddhas. You can’t move for them there. It is near my house, but, by chance, I drove up in my car. And so, finally, I came to understand ‘shibui’. In just-so curves, a bit of chance, and a surfeit of Buddhas.

Komyoin Diptych

One of Tofukuji’s sub-temples.

Honenin (after Hockney)

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that. Hockney was a Bradford lad too, don’t you know. This was intended as part of a series of temple images where I play with perspective in an attempt to get that Zazen meditation feel. The series currently stands at… two.

11th Hour Entry to Tour de France to Offend Purists, Thrill Fans?

The following is the roster for the late entry wildcard team:

Legumes d’Or – STD

241 KRUGER, Jorg-Herbert


243 PRYK, Zygmund

244 BELLENDO, Danilo

245 VERUKKA, Ignasti



248 BALLEPOINT, Christian

249 GOONE, Danny

The late wildcard entry for the Schleswig-Holstein based Legumes d’Or-STD team has raised eyebrows at this year’s Tour de France, but the last-minute arrivals are hoping to garner a few stage victories, and perhaps even get their team leader, veteran pro Jorg-Herbert Kruger onto the podium in Paris on July 24th. The team mixes experience and new talent. Super-domestique Zygmund Pryk will provide support for Kruger when the going gets tough, whilst Italian sprinter Danilo Bellendo and the Danish one-day specialist Gregor Hoffenhaffen will both hope for stage wins. Expect the Basque Ignasti Verukka to try to impress when the race hits his native Pyrenees in the second week of July. Finally, keep an eye out for the young Australian sprinting sensation from New South Wales, Danny Goone.

Legumes d’Or-STD is led by former Czech national road-race champion Pavel Njiipel. The always controversial directeur sportif, when asked to assess his team’s chances, said “We are a fantastic mixture of the old and the new. We are like a cordial of drugs. Wham! Bam! Anything can happen in this race. Today we are Gina Lollobrigida, tomorrow we are Osama Bin Laden. That is the Tour de France”. (Agence de Presse-FOL, Paris, June 26th2011. Relisez avec grande prudence, svp).

Post author: ‘Sniffin’ Saddles’.

Tour de France: Bonjour, ‘allo et Eyup Mes Amis de Vélo (very provisional starter list)

It is that time of year encore un fois, when I butcher the French language and bring you my Tour de France Sweepstakes and personalised commentary on the World’s Greatest Mobile Drugfest Cycle Race. Le Grand Boucle boucles off on July 2nd, this Saturday. As usual the TdF organising committee is too busy gargling pastis and smoking Gauloises to bother announcing the start list. Here, below, is what we know so far. Notice the new super-sexee Leopard Trek Team, with the Schlecks, Spartacus and Jens set to kick ass, er, Luxembourger-style.

Some nice new faces and names in the list too, as well as perennial favourites such as the holy rollers’ pin-up boy Christian Knees (now teamed with Wiggo at Sky) and Vladimir (‘Dyson’ to his mates) Karpets. Welcome Tony ‘the Trotter’ Gallopin; Izagirri ‘Or do you prefer it plain?’ Insausti, and the already-knackered by the sounds of it, Benat Intxausti, pictured here getting tired on behalf of Fuji-Servetto.

Saxo Bank – Sungard


2 NOVAL, Benjamin Gonzalez




6 PORTE, Richie

7 SORENSEN, Chris Anker


9 TOSATTO, Matteo

Leopard Trek

11 SCHLECK, Andy

12 SCHLECK, Frank


14 POSTHUMA, Joost


16 MONFORT, Maxime

17 FUGLSANG, Jakob

18 VOIGT, Jens

19 FEILLU, Brice

Euskaltel – Euskadi




24 PEREZ, Alan Lezaun


26 TXURRUKA, Amets




Omega Pharma-Lotto

31 BROECK, Jurgen Van Den

32 GILBERT, Philippe

33 GREIPEL, Andre

34 LANG, Sebastian

35 ROELANDTS, Jurgen

36 SIEBERG, Marcel


38 WALLE, Jurgen Van De

39 ,

Rabobank ProTeam

41 GESINK, Robert


43 BOOM, Lars

44 DAM, Laurens Ten

45 GARATE, Juan Manuel

46 MOLLEMA, Bauke

47 NIERMANN, Grischa

48 SANCHEZ GIL, Luis Leon

49 TJALLINGII, Maarten

Team Garmin – Cervélo

51 DANIELSON, Thomas

52 HESJEDAL, Ryder

53 MARTIN, Daniel

54 HUSHOVD, Thor

55 FARRAR, Tyler


57 VANDE VELDE, Christian

58 ,

59 ,

Radio Shack

61 HORNER, Chris



64 KLÖDEN, Andréas


66 MURAVYEV, Dmitriy

67 PAULINHO, Sergio Miguel Moreira

68 POPOVYCH, Yaroslav


Ag2R – La Mondiale

71 ROCHE, Nicolas

72 GADRET, John

73 KADRI, Blel

74 PERAUD, Jean-christophe

75 RIBLON, Christophe

76 DUPONT, Hubert

77 ,

78 ,

79 ,

Team Astana

81 VINOKOUROV, Alexandre


83 , (plus seven Kazakhs who haven’t been discovered doping. If they can find that many).

84 ,

85 ,

86 ,

87 ,

88 ,

89 ,

Quickstep Cycling Team

91 WEERT, Kevin De

92 BOONEN, Tom

93 CHAVANEL, Sylvain

94 CIOLEK, Gerald

95 DEVENYNS, Dries

96 ENGELS, Addy

97 PINEAU, Jérome



Team Sky

101 WIGGINS, Bradley

102 HAGEN, Edvald Boasson

103 FLECHA, Juan Antonio

104 HENDERSON, Gregory

105 KNEES, Christian

106 GERRANS, Simon

107 URAN, Rigoberto

108 THOMAS, Geraint

109 ,

Française des Jeux

111 CASAR, Sandy

112 FEDRIGO, Pierrick

113 HUTAROVICH, Yauheni

114 PAURIOL, Rémi

115 ROUX, Anthony

116 ROY, Jérémy

117 ,

118 ,

119 ,

BMC Racing Team

121 EVANS, Cadel


123 BURGHARDT, Marcus

124 HINCAPIE, George

125 MOINARD, Amaël

126 MORABITO, Steve

127 QUINZIATO, Manuel


129 SCHAR, Michael


131 FARES, Julien El

132 DUMOULIN, Samuel

133 DUQUE, Leonardo Fabio

134 GALLOPIN, Tony

135 MONCOUTIÉ, David

136 TAARAMÄE, Rein

137 VALENTIN, Tristan

138 ,

139 ,

Lampre – ISD

141 CUNEGO, Damiano

142 BOLE, Grega

143 BONO, Matteo

144 HONDO, Danilo

145 MALORI, Adriano

146 PETACCHI, Alessandro

147 ,

148 ,

149 ,

Liquigas – Cannondale

151 BASSO, Ivan

152 BODNAR, Maciej

153 BORGHINI, Paolo Longho

154 KOREN, Kristjan

155 OSS, Daniel

156 PATERSKI, Maciej

157 SABATINI, Fabio

158 SZMYD, Sylvester

159 VANOTTI, Alessandro


161 VOECKLER, Thomas

162 CHARTEAU, Anthony

163 GAUTIER, Cyril

164 KERN, Christophe

165 ROLLAND, Pierre

166 ,

167 ,

168 ,

169 ,

Team Movistar

171 ROJAS GIL, Jose Joaquin

172 KIRYIENKA, Vasil

173 INTXAUSTI, Benat



176 FARIA DA COSTA, Rui Alberto

177 SAMOILAU, Branislau

178 ERVITI OLLO, Imanol

179 VENTOSO ALBERDI, Francisco José


181 KOLOBNEV, Alexandr

182 KARPETS, Vladimir


184 IVANOV, Serguei

185 TROFIMOV, Yuri

186 GUSEV, Vladimir

187 IGNATYEV, Mikhail

188 ,

189 ,

HTC – High Road

191 MARTIN, Tony


193 RENSHAW, Mark

194 ALBASINI, Michael

195 GARDEREN, Tejay Van

196 VELITS, Peter

197 GRABSCH, Bert

198 GOSS, Matthew

199 ,

Saur – Sojasun

201 COPPEL, Jérome

202 COYOT, Arnaud


204 HIVERT, Jonathan

205 JEANDESBOZ, Fabrice

206 MANGEL, Laurent

207 TALABARDON, Yannick

208 ,

209 ,

Vacansoleil – DCM

211 POELS, Wout

212 BOZIC, Borut

213 FEILLU, Romain

214 HOOGERLAND, Johnny

215 MARCATO, Marco

216 WESTRA, Lieuwe

217 LEUKEMANS, Bjorn

218 GENDT, Thomas De

219 LAGUTIN, Sergey

Sasha Takes the Jaguar XJS For A Test Drive (plus 1 pic)

Above, in the Takaragaike Tunnel, clearly auditioning for the next David Lynch movie.

Below, back at JH motors. Looks like she was born in this vehicle…

2011 or 1975?

Exhibit Number 1, M’Lud. Jaguar XJS, 1993. 43000km. British Racing Green.


The Great Glico One Piece Crunch Bar Swindle

Package length (flattened): 204mm
Ice Cream length: 91mm
Life sucks when your lolly is less than half the size of its wrapper…

Home Sweet Home

Found this when going through some old photos. Some of my friends will like this, I know. It is near Stonehenge, btw.

大正時代のむらさき切子皿?Anybody know what this is?

I just bought this glass plate this weekend. I am guessing it is kiriko cut glass, from the Taisho Period (1912-1926), but if anyone knows better/more, I’d love to hear from you. サイズ:φ24.5cm/4.5cm/45mm 素材:ガラス There was something similar on sale here, but I prefer this design. It’s got a kinda masonic-bird-Art Deco thing going on. I also like that the round parts aren’t perfectly round, and the glass has bubbles in it, and the dark brownish-purple colour is shibui (sorry, my photos don’t really do it justice). Anybody know where it might be from? I know there is a difference between Edo, Otaru and Satsuma kiriko, other than the obvious geographical one (I once learned, but have forgotten). Thanks!

The Travelling Gourmet: Story on Kyoto’s Foodie Hotspots

Recognise this fellow? I had to smile at the ‘talent’ reference, given the Japanese image of a ‘tarento’: young, shallow, fame-seeking, disposable, often (but not exclusively) female media fodder. A Yorkshire version sounds particularly scary. Hopefully I don’t fit those categories. I certainly don’t fit the first one.

This is my profile in the current issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller. You can find my article on page 190 of the print magazine, should you care for a read or, if you prefer, you can check it out on the Web here. Sasha gets in on the act too, as the editors chose her pic, wolfing down Kyohei Ramen, to accompany the Web version. You can see that at her Foodelica blogsite here. The other photos there, from the magazine version, are also by me, FYI.


The Doomed Rooster Diaries: PKNK2

This was my presentation for the Pecha Kucha Night Kyoto Vol 2, held at Urban Guild here in Kyoto on the evening of January 16th, 2011. It was pretty well received I think. The PKN format is to speak about 20 images for 20 seconds each. Here are the 20 ‘slides’ of my Power Point presentation. Sans my pithy commentary (fortunately?). Please feel free to comment. Please note there is a Pecha Kucha Night INSPIRE JAPAN benefit for the Earthquake and Tsunami victims, in Kyoto, Saturday April 16th, details are here, and elsewhere globally, details here


Rajasthan Portraits in Black and White

What Annoys You Most About Khaosan Road?

I was sitting in May Kaidee’s restaurant, waiting for my Spicy Banana
Flower Salad, and an uncharitable thought sprang to mind.

What annoys me most about Khaosan Road?

I started compiling a mental list of grievances. As it took a while for the food to arrive, I managed to
come up with quite a list.

All the old stalwarts were there: Israelis haggling with street-vendors over the price of pinneaple chunks on a stick; Farang women with arses that it would take several days to sail
a barge around getting their hair braided; an assortment of tattooed
Slav, Brit and North European men with shaved heads who study Muy Thai
by day and drink Chang beer from the bottle on the street by night,
accompanied by their stupefyingly bored miniature Thai girlfriends;
the old Thai bloke who has been trying to sell me the same hammock
since 1986;

Full Moon Partygoers of any ilk; Italian tour groups
featuring women in high heels and men in sunglasses (at night and by
day); Italian Full Moon Partygoers; anyone eating in the Khaosan Rd
branch of McDonalds; Aussie backpackers who think they are the next Dr
Livingston/Sir Edmund Hilary/Scott of the Antarctic/Carlos Casteneda
because they once smoked a load of ganja and floated down a river in
Laos in a tractor inner tube; women in tribal costume flogging pointy multi-coloured tribal hats, and tribal dresses, and tribal artefacts, even though they were born and raised less than a few kms away across the river in Thonburi;

Restaurants with signs only in Hebrew; my compatriots who sunbathe and
drink beer until their faces begin to resemble that big red spot on
Jupiter and then buy, and don, the aforementioned pointy, multi-colored tribal hats sold by
the aforementioned ladies. Chain-smoking French hippies with unruly children, Birkenstock replicas, and Beatles T-shirts with cut-off sleeves; Thai dudes with dreadlocks, bad personal hygiene, and prison tattoos strumming ‘No Woman No Cry’ on out-of-tune guitars to an audience of enraptured foreign women; anyone in a ‘Sex Instructor: Students Wanted’ T-shirt; middle-aged white men with Taoist tattoos, beads, and roll-your-own cigarettes denouncing and lavishing praise upon an assortment of ashrams; the ‘Where you go? Tuk-tuk! Boom Boom! Body masaaaaaa..!’ guy who stands in the same place every night, and offers the same greeting, every night…

My list went on. Perhaps you too have your own KSR-related peeves?
Please send them along and I shall compile a definitive list. Don’t be too nasty. Just a bit.
And, here for your reading pleasure, is the grand winner in my own personal ‘What Annoys You Most About Khaosarn Road?’ contest…

Vegans with laptops.

Bangkok 5: Fish Ball Noodles

I didn’t know fish had…

I dropped in here for 35 baht ‘thin’ noodles. Good broth.

It’s a popular spot down near the Robinson department store on what used to be called New Road. By no stretch of the imagination could you call it sophisticated cuisine, but it hits the spot after a long day walking in a hot and dusty Bangkok.

Almost next door this lady was selling something that smelled fantastic in a Soi-side streetstall. I couldn’t read the Chinese characters completely, though I think ‘egg’ was in there.

Bangkok 6: Roast Duck@Prachak

Very popular spot also down near the Robinson Department store, featured in the Fodor guide to the city, thus frequented by well-heeled Farang tourists and locals.

The duck wasn’t bad, but I know what the Japanese evaluation would be: ‘Kusuri no Aji‘, ‘It tastes like medicine’. There is something in there – one person suggested it is turmeric – that is found in Japanese kampoyaku medicine, for sure.

Bangkok 4: The Thai Seasoning Arsenal and Tuna Graprow

From left to right: Siu Kao Soy sauce, Prik Nam Pla Thai Chili in Fish Sauce, Prik Nam Som Thai Vinegar with Chili, and Prik Pon Thai dried ground chili.

Bangkok 3: At the Praya Palazzo

I had lunch at the lovely Praya Palazzo, a former 17th-century Italo-Thai palace right on the Chao Phraya river.

I say ‘lunch’, but it was more a mini-banquet, under the kind tutelage of Poonpat Vadhanasindhu, aka Don.

Mixed Appetisers
– Kao Tang Nah Tang: rice puff (round shape) with minced pork sauce
– Satae Kai: Chicken Satay (Skewered Grilled Chicken with Peanut Sauce)
– Por Pia Tod: Spring rolls
– Toong Tong: Fried wonton
– Kai Hor Bai Toey: Grilled Chicken wrapped in Pandan leaves
These Toong Tong, fried wonton, were especially good.
Main dishes:
-Moo Pad Som Siaw: Pork and Eggplant stir-fried Curry. This was really fantastic, the eggplant had a smoky deep taste that it is really hard to find back in Japan.
Moo Pad Som Siaw
– Tom Kha Kai: Spicy Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk and Galangal.
– Pad Pak Nop Pa Kao: Stir-fried Mixed Vegetables.
-Gang-Ped Ped Yang: Roasted duck in Red Curry with Seasonal Fruits – Baby Tomatoes and Lychee.
– Sang Ka Ya Fak Tong: Pumpkin pudding
Foi Thong: Sweet Vermicelli Egg Yolk
– Ice Cream Ga-ti: Coconut ice cream
All these were great, but I especially liked the Foi Thong. Don told me it was created by a Japanese woman married to a Thai. Another source says “Foy Thong (Gold Egg Yolks Thread) is an ancient Thai dessert, which is served in auspicious ceremonies and was brought by Lady Witchayen in the period of King Narai. It is in popular group of desserts consisting of “Thong” (meaning “Gold”). Its name means treasure and its long thread means long life. Foreigners name it “golden hair”. Therefore, when used in ceremonies, Foy Thong is not cut.”
Another site says, “Khanom Foi Thong” or golden rain is made of egg yolk It looks like golden threads into hot syrub. This sweet is usually made for wedding ceremonies. Foi Thong is compared to the long lasting love of of brides and grooms.
Wikipedia goes with the Portuguese explanation, but does mention the Japanese ‘Keiran Soumen’:
“Like other egg-based Portuguese sweets, fios de ovos is believed to have been created by Portuguese monks and nuns around the 14th or 15th centuries.Laundry was a common service performed by convents and monasteries, and their use of egg whites for “starching” clothes created a large surplus of yolks.[2] The recipe was probably taken to Japan and Thailand by Portuguese explorers between the 16th and 18th centuries”.
Whatever its origin and name, it is scrumptious.
FYI, here is a sneak peak ofs what it looks like inside:

Bangkok 2: Streetfood around Khaosan Road

The ubiquitous Pad Thai, not at all bad this. At the place frequented by lots of Japanese backpackers on the Soi that runs East-West and parallel with Khaosan (the street with the Viengtai Hotel on it). Look for the sign that advertises food in Japanese and publicizes the waiter’s magic tricks.Cooking my dinner. Everything flambéed here!

Cauliflower and Shrimp stir-fry, next-door to the Japanese-favoured place, alas as not as good as it looked. Way too much garlic.

These stir-fried vegetables at the same place were, however, great. Note the ubiquitous Tuk-Tuk, which in Thai means ‘Cheap-Cheap’. They aren’t.

Sawadee Kap. On the Road. Bangkok 1: May Kaidee’s

Writing this in Chennai, India, having spent the last week in Bangkok working on a magazine story.

I have been a regular visitor to May Kaydee’s vegetarian restaurant whenever in the Khaosan Road area of BKK for some years now. My first Thai food this trip was their ‘Thai-style Veggie Spring Rolls’, seen here.

They come ‘with optional dipping sauce’ except I didn’t somehow get an option. It was a chili amayonaise dip. Nice n herby spring rolls with mint and coriander in there.

Here’s my fave cook at May Kaidee’s. Always teasing me for taking photographs of my food instead of just eating it.

My favourite is Yum Hou Plee, the Banana Flower Salad . She looked me straight in the eye, and said “I will make it hot for you”. A bit scary, that.

It was on the upper limits of my chili tolerance levels, but still damn tasty.

By the way, there are a couple of May Kaidee’s, one just down the street from where I go, and where you will indeed find the eponymous lady sometimes. But I prefer the smaller ‘original’ place. It looks like this:

And this (below). It is inexpensive, and thus popular with the backpacker fraternity. Earwigging on the next table’s (oft loopy) conversations is all part of the fun. this trip that included a spotty British youth trying to chat up a girl from Winnipeg with tall tales of Prince Harry’s friends lavish druggy lifestyle, and three earnest but slightly confused Germans wondering about the use of swastikas in Thai temple architecture.

To get there head to the east end of Khaosan Road (not the Police Station end), and look across the street and you’ll see the Air Asia office. Both MK’s are in the alleyway that runs North-South behind the airline office. The one I like is opposite the ‘At Home’ Guest House. Easy to find.

The Finest Tofu いいお豆腐、さすが京都

松籟庵の外観 Shoraian is a beautiful old tofu restaurant set in woodland in Arashiyama, Kyoto, overlooking the Oigawa River.

There’s tofu, then there’s tofu. Once you’ve sampled the good stuff, all else pales. Kyoto is bean curd central. In particular Sagano-Arashiyama in the West of the city, and the Nanzenji temple district in the East are famed. I live a short walk from Nanzenji, but the tofu here I sampled at Shoraian, one of my favourite Kyoto restaurants.


あわび豆腐@松籟庵 This is tofu with abalone or awabidofu. Of late abalone is becoming one of my preferred tastes. Not sure why. Perhaps it is thanks to this dish, which was superb.


Pickles and Shellfish in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market 錦市場の漬け物、貝類

秋なす Eggplants aka Nasu were probably the first blue-purple things I ever ate. They are best in the autumn in Japan. A famed Japanese adage says you should never give the best ones to your wife in case she becomes too accustomed to the finer things in life. Personally I would be more than happy to give Sasha the best eggplants.

帆立 Scallops or Hotategai, a favourite of mine. Ate them once up in Aomori Prefecture in a very rough and rustic bowl of Ramen. Looked ropey, tasted fantastic. The place was called Shirakaba Ramen, the Silver Birch noodle shop, if you ever find yourself hungry on the windswept Western coast of the Shimokita Hanto peninsula.

黄瓜のつけもの Pickled cucumbers. With a little togarashi pepper to add some bite to the crunch.

カキ Oysters, first eaten in Japan aboard boats on the river that runs through Hiroshima, so they say. Hiroshima is still famed for them, as is Kumihama in Northern Kyoto prefecture. Best in winter. An old friend of mine, Yoshito, runs a Sake brewery in Kumihama, and I remember a great outdoor party he threw many years ago when he ordered a huge consignment of fresh oysters from his fisherman friend, which he steamed in sake sakamushi-style in a giant cauldron.

たくあんずけ Pickled daikon radish, or Takuanzuke. This is home-pickled, and that colour is natural. Not many japanese people know it, but Takuan isnamed after a monk of the same name who lived in the Takagamine district of North-west Kyoto.

Sasha and I at Dell Orso This Afternoon


Nice day today. We wrote a letter to our sponsor child, Laxmi, in Kathmandu.