Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tonkotsu Ramen SANJYA

Yay! Finally! Good ramen comes to the East, and right here in my neighbourhood! I was seriously happy when a few weeks back, I saw the Ramen Keisuke hoarding up at Parkway Parade, where Ajisen used to be. I could not have asked for a better replacement - while we have many brands to choose from, few of them can topple Keisuke as one of the best ramen in Singapore.

When you walk into the restaurant at Parkway, you will immediately see this huge, vividly colourful paper lantern fashioned after the illuminated Nebuta floats of Aomori. They often depict warriors, mythological beings and historical characters. What an awesome centrepiece for the ramen counter!

Keisuke takes over where Ajisen used to be at Parkway Parade
The Nebuta paper lantern and the large wall paintings showcase the theme at this sixth outlet -"Matsuri" - the vibrant cultural festivals that celebrate important milestones and seasons in Japan.

The matsuri is close to every Japanese person's heart. It is where they can relax, soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the food that accompanies the festivities. Similarly, Keisuke Takeda hopes his restaurant can earn a similar place in diners' hearts.

Keisuke Takeda photo courtesy of Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King Matsuri

Keisuke-san is known for creating new ramen dishes for every branch, and here we have four new tonkotsu (pork bone broth) flavours inspired by the most renowned "matsuri" celebrations. Let's take a look:


Ramen Tonkotsu SANJYA

Sanjya or Sanja Matsuri celebrates the three founders of Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. It is one of the biggest Shinto festivals in Tokyo, and takes place in May.

As an ode to the three "kami" spirit personalities, the ramen features three types of spicy sauces - a red chili, a green chili and a special black spicy paste (Sichuan pepper, shichimi or seven flavour pepper, black sesame and mince pork) that has been created exclusively for this outlet. Each of these three sauces has their own distinct taste, but when mixed together, they form an unusual signature that's more smoky than spicy.

Sanjya or Sanja Matsuri at Asakusa


Tonkotsu Ramen NEBUTA: tonkotsu infused with Niboshi broth made from iwashi (sun-dried sardines)

Visitors flock to the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori every August to see the procession of enormous and brilliantly painted lantern floats flanked by taiko drums, dancers and musicians. Aomori is also known for little sardines known as iwashi, which are usually sun-dried to concentrate their flavour.

The Nebuta ramen blends tonkotsu broth with niboshi broth made from iwashi dashi (stock). It is the most umami of the four ramen, and even though it seems to be the most "simple", it is probably the easiest to like.

Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori


Tonkotsu Ramen AWAODORI: sweet pork sukiyaki and raw egg

Awa Odori is one of Japan's most famous dance festivals. It takes place every August in Tokushima City, the capital of Shikoku island. Tokushima-style ramen is very popular in Japan with its original topping of pork sukiyaki. Keisuke-san has added his own touch with his secret recipe pork sukiyaki and a raw egg yolk. This is also the sweetest broth, enhanced by caramelised onions and the seasoned pork.

Awa Odori at Tokushima City


Tonkotsu Ramen YUKI MATSURI - Cheese "snow" with miso stock

The Sapporo Yuki Matsuri or Snow Festival is held in Hokkaido every February. More than two million visitors come to see the incredible snow and ice sculptures. Sapporo is well-known for its miso ramen, and Keisuke-san has added a twist to his tonkotsu-miso stock with cheese powder resembling fluffy Hokkaido snow.

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri

While they are all based on tonkotsu broth, each of the ramen creations has its own character. In essence, the Sanjya is smokily spicy, the Nebuta is savoury, the Yuki Matsuri is creamily salty and the Awaodori is sweet. Something for every palate.

Most of the ramen are priced from S$13.90 for the most basic bowl, to S$18.90 for the works. Portions are incredibly hearty. You can, as usual, customise your ramen according to ingredients, noodle texture, broth strength and amount of flavoured oil. The same beloved soy-sesame seasoned beansprouts and hard-boiled eggs are also available on each table.

Apart from the four key creations, this outlet also serves basic tonkotsu ramen, shio (salt) and shoyu (soy) broth ramen made from chicken stock (all from S$11.90). So there are seven ramen varieties available.


There is also Gyoza (S$3 for 3 pieces; S$6 for 6 pieces). Large juicy pork dumplings similar to what you can get at his Gyoza King outlet.

Chicken Nanban with Tartar Sauce
I was thrilled to see Nanban Chicken! In my Kyushu travels last year, I had tracked down the originator of nanban chicken in Nobeoka City, Miyazaki, but the queue for the shop was so long around the block, we gave up.

The Chicken Nanban with Tartar sauce (S$9) here is pretty darn good. It caters to family palates, so the tartar sauce (more like an egg mayo) leans a little to the sweet side. There's also a Chicken Teriyaki (S$8) side dish.

Matsuri Meshi - fried egg, chasyu, tobikko on rice
There are also a few rice bowl options (for those who can't live without rice). I do like the Matsuri Meshi (S$7) which looks so festive with brightly orange tobikko dancing around cubes of chasyu and a fried egg. The rice is dressed with a specially blended shoyu too.

Buta Meshi (pork sukiyaki on rice, S$6.50) and Soboro Meshi (minced chicken on rice, S$5.50) and a fried rice (S$8) complete the menu.

Green Tea Cola and Wasabi Ginger Ale
Keisuke-san also bottles his own Green Tea Cola (right) and now a Wasabi Ginger Ale (left). Both are light and refreshing, but if you prefer, there's Ayataka green tea or Sapporo beer too.

Toys for kids meals
This outlet is quite family oriented, as befits the profile of the shopping mall patrons. They have thoughtfully included traditionally loved toys as part of kids' meals. There is also a drum at the exit that they sound to thank diners as they leave. It's fun.

Festival bells
The soft opening is today, 22 July 2014, and the outlet will start with ramen dishes first and ramping up to the full menu in the week ahead. These festive bells seem to be ringing in the good news - more outlets are being planned! Where do you think Keisuke-san should open up next?

Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King Matsuri is at #B1-18A Parkway Parade

Along with the success of his five earlier outlets like Tori King (which he has since introduced to Japan as well) and Tonkotsu King Four Seasons, it looks like Keisuke-san is on a roll. We just can't get enough of the ramen king.

80 Marine Parade Road
#B1-18A Parkway Parade
Singapore 449269
Tel: +65 6440-5548 (they don't take reservations though)
Open daily 11.30am to 10pm (last order 9.45pm) except CNY holidays

Photos (except where indicated) taken with the Canon 5DMkIII kindly loaned by Canon Singapore

Monday, July 21, 2014

Intrigued by Chinese medicinal herbs but not sure how to use them in cooking? Here are three recipes from Taiwanese chef Arron Huang and Majestic Restaurant chef Yong Bing Ngen, using herbs that are commonly available at Eu Yan Sang. They presented this at a World Gourmet Summit workshop at ToTT earlier this year.

The recipes are not difficult but they make impressive dishes.

Fried roast duck breast and shrimp with Chinese Angelica and Licorice

Baked Fish with Wild Gastrodia, Cnidium and Red Dates

[薏仁/ 芡实/ 圆肉/ 蜜枣/ 杞子/ 海榄/ 银杏/ 鲜百合]
White Tremella Mushroom Herbal Tea with Eight Treasures
[Coix Barley, Euryale Seed, Dried Longan Fruit, Honey Date, Chinese Wolfberry, Sea Olive, Gingko Biloba and Fresh Lily Bulb]

Full recipes here:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Remember Telunas? Yes, the wonderfully rustic Indonesian resort on stilts over the sea, where you can escape to for total relaxation and just reconnect with nature, tranquility and bliss.

I blogged about them in 2011 here:

They have done well, and now there's more. They have just expanded to the island across the original resort. Telunas Private Island has 15 sea villas with touches of luxury, spa massage services and even a freshwater pool. Same rustic appeal, same friendly service, only with more comfort.

But the best amenities here, as they aptly described on their website, are the ones they didn't create - the stunning sunsets and sunrises.

Sunset at Telunas Private Island
The sunsets here are so beautiful, I don't even need to edit the photos. All taken on my old faithful Canon 400D (yes, yes, I know it's time to upgrade, but it's still going strong after six years of abuse).

This is what the resort looks like - a single row of sea villas on the left, the private beach, sea activities hut, pool and the Grand Lodge on the right.

Refreshing cold towels after the 3-hour journey here
It is a bit of a journey from Singapore to Telunas - about three hours in total by sea. So it's nice to have cold towels ready for you as you disembark. Right off the bat, the staff are welcoming and cheery.

Welcome drink at Telunas Private Island
That's not all that awaits you - we love those signature welcome drinks. Beautifully thick fruit juices that make a sweet start to the stay.

The Grand Lodge overlooks the pool
The Grand Lodge is where the reception is, and overlooks the freshwater pool.

From the Grand Lodge, you can walk to the sea villas
Oh we couldn't wait to go and see the villas.

Telunas Private Island Sea Villa
The sea villas here have the same kind of fenced wooden boardwalk as the original resort, but they are built on sturdy concrete pillars instead of wooden stilts (which need to be replaced every two years).

Telunas Private Island Sea Villa
It's amazing how they take on different colours as the day progresses. From the outside they still look quite simple and rustic. But inside, you'll see how it differs from the original resort.

The living area, with stairs up to the children's loft
Firstly, it's very spacious - each sea villa is 90 sq m! The living area has very high ceilings - high enough for them to build a loft!

The ladder is bolted solid to the wall. It may look a little steep but it's very secure. Just climb up carefully and before you know it, you'll be used to it. The first three rungs are also removable, if you prefer young children not going up.

Jolie's the first to make it up there!
Jolie was the first one to make it up there! I was surprised, because normally Nadine is the fearless adventurer, but this time she was a little scared. But we practiced and she was able to climb up and down on her own pretty soon.

The children's loft is charming, like a treehouse within the villa!
The loft is really designed to be a children's loft. It feels like a treehouse within a home. There are two single beds, and two bean bags.

Main bedroom area downstairs
The main bedroom is downstairs, behind the living area. The king size bed has crisp white bedlinen and accent cushions. The mattress is quite firm but comfortably so.

Like the original resort, the villa here has ceiling fans but no air-conditioning. They use "wind-conditioning", a phrase coined by one of the three American owners. Natural cooling occurs over water and the sea breezes help too. For the most part, it was cool enough. If you love the balmy embrace of the warm tropics, this will be paradise for you.

Bedroom gets ample natural light with glass doors
The bedroom gets plenty of natural light and seabreeze. For total privacy, the curtains can be fully drawn. And yes, the glass doors open out to the balcony which is one of the highlights here.

The balcony
The almost 180-degree sea view from the balcony is beautifully framed by the wooden railing.

It has a day bed you can relax on
There is an all-weather day bed here you can relax on. Jolie and I came out here at night and we could see so many stars, because there's barely any light pollution here. We even caught a shooting star - her first!

You can choose to have your spa massage right on the balcony
This is also the best place to have a spa massage. Your own private balcony with the sounds of the real ocean instead of some piped in CD. They are building a separate spa facility though, so you can choose to have your treatment done there as well. More therapists are also being trained.

I love how they have deliberately set the floorboards slightly apart - you see the ocean right below
I love how they have deliberately set the floorboards slightly apart - you see the ocean right below

The light reflected from the sea below striking the wood
The scintillating light reflected from the sea below striking the wooden bedframe - each makes a little dance.

Decor weaves in local art elements
The decor includes touches of local art and fabrics within its contemporary theme.

Thoughtful amenities - massage oil, mozzie repellant, and after-sun lotion
Thoughtful amenities - massage oil, mozzie repellant, and after-sun lotion!

Writing desk and wardrobe
There is a writing desk facing a window, and a small wardrobe.

Each villa comes with a Kindle that doubles as an info guide
On the desk, you'll find a Kindle preloaded with information and articles. It acts as an info guide to the resort. And there are a few free classic literature titles bundled too.

Oh a water dispenser right in the room with hot and ice cold options!
A hot and cold water dispenser in the villa itself? Oh, what a godsend. There's no need to fiddle with bottled water or boiling kettles. Saves a lot of plastic rubbish for sure.

Bathroom in the sea villa
The bathrooms are beautiful, rustic yet modern at the same time. Elements of wood, stone and glass all combine and contrast.

Bathroom in Telunas Private Island sea villas
There is a rainshower! I was surprised to see that. Understandably though, water pressure isn't as strong as in a multi-storey hotel with its own water tank, but it works fine. I love the towel rack ladder, and the toiletries smell amazing.

The freshwater pool is lovely
We went to the pool every single day. The kids loved this part the best, I think.

You can see the original resort from across the sea
You can see the original resort from across the sea. There are paddle boats on the beach you can borrow too.

I love this bamboo pole outdoor shower
Next to the pool, there is a bamboo pole outdoor shower that just totally jives with the resort feel.

Pink dusk at Telunas Private Island
Oh the place turns a beautiful pink at dusk.

Sunset at Telunas Private Island
That glorious sunset again.

Sunset at Telunas Private Island
No edits at all for these photos.

Sunset at Telunas Private Island
Truly the most breathtaking feature here.

The Grand Lodge
The Grand Lodge looks gorgeous all lit up for the evening.

What's best is you get to enjoy the spectacular sunset while dining
And the best is - you get to enjoy the spectacular sunsets as you dine.

Handheld night shot
How pretty the lights are at night. Makes me wish I brought a tripod. This is a two-second exposure handheld shot (camera perched on the fence).

Sunrise at Telunas Private Island
Dawn is another stunning experience. The entire vista swathed in glorious colour.

Dawn at Telunas Private Island sea villa
The rolling dark clouds came and gave this an otherworldly feel.

Rainy morning brings a surreal feel
Finally it rained. The sea and land opposite look surreal in the wet and misty morning. Once the rain cleared, we went out to the Grand Lodge for breakfast.

The dining area at the Grand Lodge is where all meals are served
This is the dining area where you eat all your meals.

Meals for the day are written on the chalk board
All the meals are written in detail on the chalkboard. There is no printed menu as the dishes change daily for lunch and dinner (breakfast is more or less the same). Pick from local or Western dish choices. Lunch is usually a fixed option, but for dinner there are more choices and they will ask you for pre-orders to help the kitchen plan how much to cook.

You can eat as much as you want, on an a la carte basis. Over at the original resort, the food may be served as a buffet, but here you get served individual portions.

The food is pretty impressive for Batam or Riau standards. For the private island, they hired a head chef who formerly worked in the Maldives and Bangkok. So you'll see not just a wide repertoire but also good presentation. They are also planning cooking classes for guests.

Nasi Uduk Komplit - essentially Nasi Lemak
Nasi Uduk Komplit - essentially Nasi Lemak. And this gets my vote for best breakfast dish on the menu.

Western Breakfast choices at Telunas Private Island
Western Breakfast choices - your usual eggs and sausages, pancakes, cereal and juices.

Ayam Panggang Kecap Manis (Roast Chicken Marinated with Sweet Soy)
Ayam Panggang Kecap Manis, Nasi Putih, Perkedel Jagung, Tempe Bacem, Sambal & Lalapan (Roast Chicken Marinated with Sweet Soy Sauce, Steamed Jasmine Rice, Corn Fritter, Braised Fermented Bean Curd, Spicy Sambal & Fresh Vegetables)

Dinner Day 1 at Telunas Private Island
Creamy tomato soup with pesto croutons - highly appetising - we almost made ourselves too full on this and bread. Homemade fettuccini with spinach, kidney beans and tomatoes was not bad, but the kids' spaghetti is really just pasta, plain sauce and mozzarella. The sate (satay) is a little different from what I am used to. It seemed to have been parboiled first before grilling. The meat is a little on the dry and salty side. Not sure if this is a regional variant.

The Pan Roasted Snapper Fish, Mustard Spatzle, Sweet Corn, Bacon, Vinegar and Marinated Beetroot looks and sounds like it came out of some fine-dining kitchen. This was also the best dish for Day 1's dinner.

Udang Bakar Bumbu Bali & Mie Telor Campur (Balinese Style Grilled Prawn, Vegetables Egg Noodles)
Udang Bakar Bumbu Bali & Mie Telor Campur (Balinese Style Grilled Prawn, Vegetables Egg Noodles)

Dinner at Telunas Private Island
More dinner options - calamari with olive tartar sauce; roast beef sirloin with wilted spinach, nasi tumpeng with sambal egg, fish satay and what looks like ikan bilis but are actually very fine potato shreds fried with a sweet sauce.

Desserts also vary daily at lunch and dinner. This is the chocolate cookie dough sundae. There's also panna cotta with strawberry coulis, bread and butter pudding, and the ever healthy fruit platter.

Furniture made from recycled boatwood
Have you noticed their furniture? These are predominantly made from recycled boatwood. The strikingly bold colours not only show the grain of the wood but also add character.

Lounge area at the Grand Lodge
There are not one but two lounge areas in the Grand Lodge, where you can play games and relax.

There are some compendium games you can play
They have Jenga and some compendium games. There's also a ring toss toy.

Walk down from Grand Lodge to the jetty
You could also explore the resort, and the hiking trail behind it. Honestly though, the resort was built for serious unwinding. The main activity here...is to do nothing. Some people find that really hard to do.

You can still hop over to the Telunas original beach resort (however, guests from there cannot come over to the private island, because the pool and spa facilities are not available to them).

The Telunas original beach resort
This is the original Telunas resort, which also saw some expansion.

You can still hop over to the Telunas original beach resort
There are plenty of things to explore there. The soldier crabs are still scurrying around. The beach is bigger here and there are deeper hiking trails. A fire pit, volleyball court and beach huts await. Jump off the platform into the water or just .

Nothing beats bliss in a hammock!
But nothing beats bliss in a hammock!

What a happy place to be!
The Telunas original beach resort just celebrated its 10th anniversary, and they saw fit to also launch the new private island on the same day in July. So it will be a two-for-one celebration every year henceforth.

You have a choice of both resorts - the original one will continue to appeal to those who love the rustic edge and simple escape, the new private island for those who want more resort perks.

Either way, both advocate total relaxation. What a happy place to be.

Room prices for the original resort start from S$135 per night for two persons, and for the private island, S$225 per night for two persons. Daily costs for dining are S$50 per adult at the original resort, and S$85 for the private island. Local boat transfers cost S$85 per person.

OK, if you are still reading, thank you. This has been an epic post with almost 80 photos. Probably my longest yet. There were just too many lovely things to shoot. My kids are already asking to come back to Telunas. They really had a good time, even though Nadine had a small mishap. The staff helped us with the first aid kit, and followed up very well. I was glad to see good processes in place.

The local transfer from Sekupang, Batam, takes you to Telunas
Getting there is an adventure by itself, but not too difficult:

First, you take a Batamfast ferry (45 mins) from Harbour Front Ferry Terminal (next to Vivocity) to the Sekupang terminal in Batam. A Telunas representative will meet you there and accompany you on a Malay-style fishing boat (about 1 hour 40 mins) which will take you direct to the resort.

You may want to refer to their website for latest directions. It has recommended ferry times to book. I am also hoping they will upgrade to a faster speedboat for the local transfer.

Desa Mentangun
Moro Kepulauan Riau (Riau Islands)
Phone: +62 811 7710951
Skype: telunas.resorts
Email: stay@telunasresorts.com

Thanks to Telunas Resorts for the invitation and lovely hospitality!
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