Getting my daily dose of durian at Double Durian Cafe

As a solid tradition, I like to try extremely foreign food whenever I’m in a new country for the experience of it.  When I landed in Singapore, the first cafe that caught my eye was the uncanny Double Durian Cafe.  Famous for its durian pizza and flavored pastries, this cafe has gained quite a reputation.  Situated close to the City Square Market and my Spacepod Hostel, I figured this would be the perfect place to stop for an unforgettable first meal and to see what the craze about durian is all about.

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Double Durian, home of the durians.

The durian, arguably the most smelly fruit in the world, is widely sold in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and other tropical Asian countries.  It is often used as an ingredient in cooking, featured in flavored desserts like durian ice cream, or sold as a whole at the market for those daring enough to eat it raw.  Due to its extremely potent smell, which some have described as smelling like gym socks or fruity onions, it is banned from certain hotels and airports.  Because of its infamous reputation, the fruit has become somewhat of a meme, and its spiky exterior made it an actual weapon in the Battle of Matchan.  Even upon thorough research, the fruit is quite the enigma to those of us who grew up in the west.

In Exploring the Nutritional Contents and Benefits of Durian, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia lists the following benefits from eating durian:

“Durian is widely celebrated for its long list of health benefits, which include the ability to boost immune system, prevent cancer and inhibit free radical activity, improve digestion, strengthen bones, improve signs of anaemia, prevent premature aging, lower blood pressure, and protect against cardiovascular diseases.”

As you can see, the durian is quite the versatile fruit which led me to trying this cafe.  I decided to order the famous durian pizza and cake to see what they were really like.  The cake wasn’t as sweet as I was used to, but it had an extremely unique texture and I really enjoyed the spiky green frosting!  The taste of durian was very subtle, so I would recommend trying a durian dessert before trying the extremely potent fruit itself.  One cake is the perfect size for one person.

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In addition to durian cake, there are cheese and fruity flavors available at Double Durian!

Though covered in cheese and prepared with a western style of cooking, the pizza was definitely overpowering to me.  The pieces of durian were quite large and visible, and the taste was extremely noticeable despite the other toppings since there was no sauce included in this recipe (it was basically cheesy durian bread).  If they minced up the durian and added sauce, I think it would taste a lot better to me.  I would only recommend trying this if you are extremely brave or interested in unique durian cuisine, because this is definitely a challenge.

Whether you use durian as a pizza topping or a weapon of self-defense, I would recommend trying it at least once if you are ever in an Asian country!

Vegan Lunch at Ain Soph. Journey, Shinjuku

Recently my hobby has been trying out vegan restaurants in Tokyo because their vegetables taste a lot fresher than most places, so I decided to stop by Ain Soph Journey which is right near my boxing gym in Tokyo.

I ordered the vegan taco rice salad and tiramisu cake. Both exceeded my expectations! The taco rice had delicious fresh avocado and tomato, and the “meat” tasted like salsa which was the perfect dressing. The tiramisu cake was very light and creamy! This was definitely one of the best lunches I’ve had here in a while.

Sometimes it’s hard to find a good salad in Japan because they often use cabbage leaves that taste extremely bitter, or sprinkle bits of meat and corn on it which throw off the texture. Fortunately I’ve been finding a lot of luck at local vegan restaurants and my body had felt a lot better. I’ll be sure to share my findings in the future!

Hello Kitty Desserts at EGG & SPUMA

A diner and dessert restaurant called EGG & SPUMA located in the Shinjuku Lumine building serves up some of the most delicious Sanrio collaboration items you’ve ever laid eyes on.  They serve a lot of comfort food like omelettes, risotto, and pancakes on their menu that changes with new featured items each season.  Cocktails and sweet drinks are also available.

I ordered Hello Kitty pancakes topped with apples slices, custard, and whipped cream.  They melted like butter in my mouth and had an extremely soft texture!  I also tried pink lemonade topped with a Hello Kitty donut.  Thought it was an extremely unlikely combination, it was amazing!  The donut was extremely thick and completely covered in strawberry frosting.  The lemonade size was noticeably large compared to most drinks here.  I wanted to try more, but felt extremely full after this!

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the quality of food here for it being part of a theme cafe.  Be sure to try their seasonal pancakes if you ever get the chance to stop by!

My Favorite Noodles: Sweet Potato Cream Soba

In the trendy Ebisu neighborhood of Tokyo lies a famous soba noodle restaurant called Shodai (初代) that specializes in some pretty unique dishes. On a cold night in December, I decided to try it and thus discovered my favorite dish: Sweet Potato Cream Soba. Though sweet potato cream may seem like an unlikely soba topping, the cream actually adds a lot of delicious flavor and texture to the broth.  You can’t even really taste the potato–it truly just tastes like a light fluffy whipped topping, but isn’t even that sweet.  When it melts in the broth to coat the thick soba noodles, it truly creates an exquisite taste! Some cheap soba broths aren’t that tasty, but this is definitely one you want to try!

Whenever I walk outside this restaurant, it is usually very crowded so it is recommended to make a reservation in advance.  However, if you are by yourself then it may be possible to walk in and find available seating without reservation.  There are many soba and traditional Japanese dishes available for you to order, as well as sake!

So far Shodai is the only restaurant where I have seen this dish available, but is likely there are more soba restaurants that use similar culinary techniques!  I hope to try them out in the future.

Meeting Totoro at May’s Garden House Restaurant (Bangkok)

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A creamy Totoro cake takes cover from the rainfall!

Escaping to a secret garden and meeting Totoro was not something I had in my original trip itinerary, but when traveling abroad many unexpected things can happen! As someone who is both a avid anime fan and loves themed restaurants, I was thrilled to discover a Totoro restaurant in central Bangkok.  I decided to go there my 2nd day in Thailand as soon as it opened!

May’s Garden Cafe is a lovely dining experience with its artistically crafted stained glass windows, portraits of Miyazaki characters hanging on the wall, and also its outdoor garden where you are free to leisurely roam.  With an expansive menu featuring mostly Thai food and Asian cuisine, there are a large variety of dishes to choose from.  I decided to order the Pad Thai Omelette and the Totoro cake pictured above, and was amazed at how delicious the cooking was!  Unlike other themed restaurants, this food is extremely authentic and uses a lot of fresh ingredients, vegetables, and spices to create culinary delights.

This restaurant was officially opened by Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki after he visited Thailand and met a vendor named May selling the best chicken wings he had ever tasted on the street (according to Coconuts Bangkok).  Inspired by how hard she worked to feed her family, he hired her as a chef and her wings are on the menu!

I’ve been to the Hayao Miyazaki Museum and Cafe in Tokyo, but this restaurant in Thailand has a bigger menu and much more of an atmosphere to it.  I did not make a reservation here because I walked in as soon as it opened, but it is recommended to do so in advance because it is quite popular.

If you get the chance, please visit this cafe to meet a life-sized Totoro and dine on some authentic Thai cuisine!  The garden awaits you~

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A life-sized Totoro is here to be your neighbor!

A Magical Time at the Wizarding World: Harry Potter x Fantastic Beasts Café in Tokyo

When I first started teaching in Japan 3 years ago, I was very surprised at how popular Harry Potter was here! Thanks to the Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios Japan, the world of Hogwarts has captured the hearts of many people. I’ve loved the series since I was young, but I never imagined that I’d be going to a themed café in Shinjuku collaborating with HP and the new Fantastic Beasts movie that just came out!

Though the cafe space was actually quite small because it was located on the 5th floor of the Shinjuku MYLORD department store, it definitely had a magical atmosphere you wouldn’t find elsewhere in Tokyo!

My friend and I waited 2 hours in line to enter on a Sunday afternoon in early December because there was no online reservation system (unlike many other temporary theme cafés here), but we thought it was well worth the wait. Perhaps if you are just here on vacation you might think it’s a waste of time, but we’ve both lived in Tokyo for a while and are used to the long waits.

The cafe included a display case with autographs of Dumbledore’s Army, and also had Dan Folger (who plays Jacob from Fantastic Beasts) on the wall with the text WHO WILL CHANGE THE FUTURE?

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A very charming message indeed! My friend and I decided to try some of the desserts out. Me, being the flashy one, decided to order the Dumbledore Profiteroles with a chibi character print, a syringe filled with chocolate, and a pot of water to pour on the ice to produce a spell-like effect:

 

Maybe it wasn’t as cool as the Sorting Hat, but the creampuffs and fruits were delicious and I definitely felt like I was at the Hogwarts dining table!

Next, we ordered the Newt’s Pancakes that we’re topped with cotton candy and delicious maple syrup!

I have tried a number of fluffy pancakes in Japan before, but this was my first time trying them topped with cotton candy!

As for drinks, I ordered the Slytherin green tea one with whipped cream (even though I’m Gryffindor, I enjoy this flavor more) and my friend ordered the Chupacabra Calpico Milk. These drinks were better than average because they were blended and some of them even contained fruit!

You can see the fill food and drink menu listed below. Since my friend and I both don’t eat meat, we skipped the main dishes but I was very satisfied with both desserts we tried (that cost around 1200 yen).

The themed drinks were all 800 yen, but I think they were worth it! I would have ordered more if I wasn’t induced by a sugar overload!

This Café is available from November 9th 2018 – January 31st 2019. What makes me curious is the food item silhouettes on the first menu that say “Coming Soon”… Perhaps I will have to venture into this Wizarding World once again to see what they are!! This experience is highly recommended.

Eating Mutant Fruit Cakes at Kajitsuen

As a lover of all aesthetic foods (especially sweets), this cake at Kajitsuen immediately caught my eye with it’s beautifully pink-glazed icing stuffed with whipped cream and freshly cut strawberries of all shapes and sizes. From the outside, it looks like a regular frosted cake, but it actually has the same texture as angel food cake (which goes way better with fruit, in my opinion). Not to mention that perfect strawberry on top! It tasted fresh and simply amazing.

The price for cake by the slice was a bit steep compared to other cafés (1200円) but considering how expensive fruit is in Japan, I’d say the quality was worth it.

As you can see, these cakes are beautifully crafted and have a unique mutant-like appearance with the large slices of fruit.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the appetite or the budget to try more than one slice, but if I come back I’m definitely interested in the grape and strawberry green tea flavors.

What I liked about this fruit parlor is it had a large menu of just plain slices fruit, parfaits, pancakes, cakes, and even triangular watermelon!

That is definitely something you don’t see everyday. The other widely known and most famous fruits parlor in Japan is called TAKANO, and here’s a strawberry cake I recently bought from them in comparison:

Though it looks huge from this picture, it was actually quite small! I think TAKANO is a bit more expensive, and though they have a larger selection of fruits and more stores, I would say that the cakes are best at Kajitsuen.

If you love fruit and sweets, then definitely check out a fruits parlor at least once during your trip here!