Japan Series: Japanese food you HAVE to eat

Welcome back to the Japan Series. This is the final installment of my travels in Japan. It’s saddening that this chapter in my travels is coming to a close but I hope you have enjoyed the weekly blogs.


Not only am I a picky eater, but I also don’t eat pork or seafood for religious reasons. Visiting Japan with these dietary requirements was a worry not only for me, but for my friend who knew just how much pork and seafood is used in Japanese cuisine. And so commenced the challenge to find Japanese food that I could actually eat. Hmm.

However, after 9 days in Japan, the food was hands down one of the absolute best parts of my trip and so varied as well. I was spoiled for choice for what I could have.

Today I am going to share some of the best meals I ate on my Japanese journey to gastronomic enlightenment.



A great place to get food near Shinjuku is Tori ki zoku, a chicken kebab place which had delicious chicken with a range of flavours. What was great is everything is ordered on a tablet at your table, so you can order as much or as little as you want at a time, and it is in English as well.



We went to a place near Harajuku, which was very friendly and open to travellers with menus and instructions in English. Basically, to make onkonomeyaki, you cook your own food and choose the ingredients. We chose chicken teriyaki for one and beef, onion and picked ginger for the second one. There was so much food, and it is great because you are the one in charge, so you know exactly what is going into your meal.



These rice snacks wrapped in seaweed usually have something in the center – it can be salmon, pork, tuna etc. but I really liked the ones with fried chicken! Absolutely delicious for a quick snack, and I just wish we had them in convenience stores back at home. Cheap, quick, easy and satisfying.


We went to a sushi restaurant in Tokyo and I was surprised at how cheap sushi is in Japan (70p/plate). For a salmon nigiri, you are looking at roughly £3 in the UK! Sushi is such an expensive meal at home so I was shocked at how affordable the real deal is. As I don’t eat seafood, not much sushi is available to me except the salmon (I despise tuna as well), but there was so much choice with duck and beef as well which I have never seen in the UK before. I loved the automated ordering service, like what I have seen in other restaurants in Japan, it is just so efficient and easy to keep track of what you have ordered.


Kyoto: Ayam-ya – the best chicken ramen you will ever have

So I love chicken ramen, a dish I often have in the UK. However, in Japan, the real deal is usually made with pork, not chicken. It seemed as though eating an authentic chicken ramen would be impossible in Japan; however, TripAdvisor came to the rescue as there was one place near the station – a Halal restaurant – which served delicious chicken ramen. I did get a food coma but it was the best ramen ever and it’s great that there is a place in Kyoto for those of us who want our ramen fix chicken-style!


Before our night bus back to Tokyo, we wanted something substantial for dinner, and we found it. This was by far the BEST meal I had in Japan. Find it upstairs in the Isetan department store in Kyoto.

Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish which I had never heard of before, but after this experience I will never forget. It consists of thinly sliced beef, which is slowly cooked at the table in a nabemono pot (yes another meal where you need to cook it yourself!), alongside vegetables and other ingredients, with soy sauce, sugar and mirin.


Harrie loving the sukiyaki life

The sukiyaki consisted of all-you-can-eat beef, vegetables AND bottomless soft drinks AND dessert. We had 90 minutes for the table and of course, we made the most of the time. We got through two plates of beef and so many vegetables: cabbage, Japanese mushrooms, leek, onion, tofu, salad greens, etc. so it was healthy to a certain extent…It was magical but I definitely ate too much and was in a food coma on the coach back to Tokyo. Do I regret it? No, not really.


On the whole, experiencing Japan’s amazing food culture was so accessible to me, there was so much choice and I was never left hungry or without options. I loved the restaurants where we could cook ourselves because it became an experience and I knew exactly what was on my plate. I’m sure Japan has so much more food for me to discover and I can’t wait to get back to sink my teeth into more.

What’s your favourite Japanese dish? Let me know in the comments,




5 Reasons Why you have to book a flight to Vietnam

Although I enjoyed my time immensely in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, each one of the three countries was so unique and diverse, with its own cultural norms and views towards backpackers. Truthfully, I was not expecting my experience to be so different each time I stepped across a border, but it made the trip all the more eye-opening. However hands down, Vietnam was the best part of the trip – here are my top 5 reasons you need to go!

1. The chaos.

If you can cross a road in Hanoi or Saigon, you can cross a road anywhere in the world – fact. Every time you step off the pavement, there is always that worry of whether you will get to the other side. When you do make it though, it is a triumphant feeling, as you have lived to see another day, well, until the next road crossing that is…


Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

2. The pavements

These are reserved for: parking scooters, driving scooters, pop-up shops and street-food vendors, sitting to eat your pho noodles, anything and everything, all except walking. More often than not, you have to walk in the street – no escape from the chaos mentioned above!

3. The food.

How could I talk about Vietnam without mentioning the food? Personally, the food here was the best of the trip – and so cheap! You will never go hungry. On our first night in Hanoi, we were recommended to eat at a small restaurant. When we arrived, it was packed with locals but no travellers. We ordered our pho bo (beef noodle soup) and Coca Cola bottles for 20p and slurped up the best pho I have ever eaten, while sitting on the tiniest, most uncomfortable plastic stools you can possibly imagine.

4. The scenery.

Get out of the bustling cities! See some of Vietnam’s spectacular natural beauty. With only two weeks in the country, it was not possible to go everywhere. We will definitely be back for more. The major highlight for us was surprisingly not Ha Long Bay which is raved about online, but a day-trip to nearby Ninh Binh (a 2-hour drive south of Hanoi). Ninh Binh receives fewer tourists and therefore it gives you the sensation that you are going slightly off the beaten track. We caught a little slice of paradise while taking a leisurely boat-ride down the river to marvel at the rock formations, and cycling past the lush paddy fields.


Ninh Binh


Ha Long Bay

5. The locals.

The Vietnamese are friendly and a smile and a few words in Vietnamese can go a long way. When we took the overnight trains between Hanoi-Da Nang and Da Nang-Ho Chi Minh City, the locals we met in our berth and along the train loved nothing more than to let us join in their conversations (albeit with difficulty), celebrations or meals, as it was quite rare for Westerners to walk up to the restaurant-car for dinner and pass the second and third-class carriages.


Yet like with any trip, there were issues. We had so many people trying to scam us, to donate money to false causes, to harassment with people trying to selling us things. Although we didn’t fall into any of their traps, and most of the time we laughed it off, the encounters remained unpleasant.

The important thing is to remain aware, don’t make any rushed decisions and don’t take any photos of locals or they may just follow you down the road demanding money and for you to buy 30 bananas off them! It was painful watching tourists getting scammed that way.

Our overall experience of Vietnam was that it was very affordable for backpackers on a budget, the food was delicious, the country is welcoming to respectful travellers and that it is such a diverse country. With so many opportunities for things to do from North to South; golden beaches, to lush mountainous regions and huge bustling cities. WHat are you waiting for?


Hoi An (Japanese Bridge)


Reykjavik Photo Diary and 1-Day Itinerary

Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital. The name means ‘smoky-bay’ in Icelandic and it’s where 60% of the country’s population live. Sheffield may be Europe’s greenest city, but Reykjavik is the greenest city in the world! It was a charming place to start our week-long trip to the country, but instead of talking about it, let’s just experience it:

(Scroll down to see 1-Day Itinerary)

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Hallgrímskirkja Church

View from Hallgrímskirkja church tower

View from Hallgrímskirkja church tower

Inside Hallgrímskirkja church

Inside Hallgrímskirkja church

View from Hallgrímskirkja church tower

View from Hallgrímskirkja church tower


Rainbow Road from Reykjavik PRIDE in August 2015


Inside the Harpa

Inside the Harpa

Outside the Harpa

Outside the Harpa

Inside the Harpa

Inside the Harpa

Inside the Harpa

Inside the Harpa

The Sun Voyager sculpture

The Sun Voyager sculpture

Interior of Café Babalú

Interior of Café Babalú. Their cakes and cookies are great. Don’t forget to go to the upstairs bathroom and write something in the Visitor’s Book while on the toilet…


Mexican Vegetable Soup in an Irish Pub… in Iceland


This cat has made it in life: sleeping on a woolly jumper in a clothes shop window


What colour do you prefer? I like the blue on the far left.

We arrived in Iceland on the evening of Thursday 3rd September 2015. After a delayed flight, we took the FlyBus Shuttle Service (1 hour) straight to our hostel in Reykjavik city center where we were staying for two nights.

We had one full day on the Friday to explore the city before we got our hire car to explore the Golden Circle and Southern Iceland. Look below to find our itinerary for the day:

Our 1-Day Reykjavik Itinerary:

  • Picked up food for breakfast at a supermarket across the road instead of hostel (to save money!)
  • Hallgrímskirkja Church. Entrance fee to go up the tower: 800ISK (worth going up)
  • Walk around historic center
  • Budget Lunch @ Celtic Cross: soup in bread bowl (delicious). 1490ISK
  • Marvel at the incredible architecture in the Harpa Concert Hall
  • Walk along the habour and then see the Sun Voyager Sculpure
  • Reykjavik Photography Museum: a small museum above the library with some collections by local photograhers
  • Aurora Reykjavik (recommend) 1200ISK. A small interactive museum to find out about the myths and scientific explanations behind the Northern Lights. We didn’t get to see the real thing during our trip though but there was an area where it gave advice on how to take pictures of the Northern Lights on a DSLR which was useful for whenever I do get to see them…
  • Café Babalú (highly recommend) for cake and a hot drink
  • Budget Dinner @ Noodle Station for dinner (highly recommend). Chicken noodle soup: 1420ISK. Vegetable and beef soups also available
  • Accommodation: Hlemmur Square hostel

What are your thoughts on Reykjavik?


Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

This was the main event of the weekend – Afternoon Tea at The Ritz. Afternoon Tea that we had had to reserve a whole six months in advance for, all the way back in February! We have been looking forward to this for all that time.

Afternoon Tea was served at 15:30, and as we arrived we were greeted attentively by a bell boy who directed us to the Palm Court, the room where they serve the Afternoon Tea. We were quite surprised by how small the room was but that just added to the exclusivity of the affair. After a small wait, a waiter with an iPad with the reservation details ushered us to our table, which was positioned in the center of the room! Great location for people watching and admiring the beautiful golden decor.

Palm Court ceiling

Palm Court ceiling

The staff really treat you well and make small talk as they serve the menus and drinks. Despite it being ‘The Ritz’, we remarked at how we didn’t feel like the whole thing was ‘snobby’. During Afternoon Tea at Fortnum and Mason’s earlier this year, it just felt rather stiff and a bit awkward and the waiters were not so busy, so would be standing around watching us which felt uncomfortable. However, the selection of teas was much more impressive (they are a Tea Merchants after all!), whereas The Ritz only had about twelve teas, of which, I opted for the Red Tea which I drank but wasn’t near as good as the Green Tea with Fresh Apple I had at F&M. F&M even have the option of hot food instead of sandwiches which I prefer personally, as I’m not the biggest fan of finger sandwiches.

Most tables at The Ritz were asking the waiters for a photo, so of course we did too. It’s good to know that it is a done thing, as at Afternoon Tea at F&M, I didn’t feel at all comfortable to ask such a thing! But when at the Ritz, one msut take a photo!

James and I having Afternoon Tea at The Ritz

James and I having Afternoon Tea at The Ritz

Afternoon Tea is for about an hour and a half, yet we did feel slightly rushed unfortunately, but only in the most polite way. There is so much food and tea, I only got through 3/4 of my tea, but ran out of time to drink the rest! For example, they served the scones before we had even half-finished the sandwiches and the cake trolley came very early for us, “just for later.” and when we had just one cake left, several waiters came round saying ‘Aahhh, so, just one more?! Go on, you can do it,’ for us to take the cake so that they could then remove the cake stand. It’s completely understandable, as there is a second sitting at 5pm and they need us gone so that they can set the tables again for the following reservation. The staff are very efficient and attentive, but still, I kept having to look at my watch and think, ‘oh no, we only have half an hour left to enjoy this!’

All good things must come to come to an end…

Now, we need to decide where we go next in London for Afternoon Tea! Unfortunately (perhaps), we have started at the top, so I doubt anywhere else is going to live up to my extremely high expectations now, but I am willing to give them a try.

It was the most fantastic 21st birthday weekend, and to end it with Afternoon Tea at The Ritz is a memory I will always cherish.

Click to see my post: An Evening at Regent’s Park Open Air Theater

Click to see my post: 21st Celebrations in London


Essential Lisbon: Mercado da Ribeira

A visit to the Mercado da RIbeira should be essential for any visit to Lisbon.

It’s not somewhere I had even considered on my first weekend trip to Lisbon, which I regret in hindsight. I had even left it until two weeks into my stay here this month to finally see what the fuss was all about. Now I have finally experienced it, I would say that the Mercado da Ribeira is a must if you would like to taste a variety of good quality food on low-medium budget.

The Mercado da Ribeira is Lisbon’s historic market hall. Since 2014, it has been run by Time Out who have totally revamped the market so that it now includes an indoor Food Court, home to 35 permanent stalls offering some of the best gastronomic delights that can be found in the city.

My first experience of the food court at the Mercado da Ribeira was last Thursday for lunch. It was James’ first day of his trip to visit me in Lisbon, and we went straight there after I got back from my language classes at 1pm. I had a class test that morning and it was something I was very much looking forward to in the afternoon.

We walked from my flat in Bairro Alto, which is only 10 minutes downhill to the market. You can alternatively get the metro or a bus there to Cais do Sodré, which is opposite the market hall.


We loved the market so much, that we returned for lunch on the Friday AND the Sunday. It’s fair to say that I am a bit market-ed out now, and should probably cook from home for a few days before I consider eating out again!

It was great, especially because there was so much choice: from local Portuguese cuisine, to sushi, pizza and even places specialised in desserts. It is sometimes difficult to find a restaurant with a menu which we are both happy with (which I am happy with), so having plenty to choose from meant that I knew I was going to find something easily that I liked. On the Thursday, we both ate at Chef Miguel Castro e Silva, which specialises in Portuguese food. I opted for Time Out Lisbon magazine’s recommendation, the Iscas de bacalhau, fried cod pieces accompanied by tasty tomato rice, while James tried a Francesinha, a speciality from Porto.

(Read about my trip to Porto here!)

On Friday afternoon we both tried chicken dishes at Miguel Laffan – Chicken All Around, which as you may guess, is a stall offering everything chicken. I had the Chicken Ramen which was lovely, and James had the Piri Piri chicken which I also ended up having on the Sunday, because it looked and tasted that good! On Sunday, James had the Prato do dia (Plate of the day), which happened to be Veal with potatos AND rice, because all the carbs, at Chef Marlene Vieira.

Chicken Ramen

Chicken Ramen

When you order your meal, you pay first and are given an electronic buzzer, which will sound when your order is ready. All you have to do is find somewhere available to sit and wait 10-20 minutes for your food to be prepared. At busy periods, like weekends, it can be near impossible to find a table, so make it your priority to grab somewhere to sit and then get a friend to order the food, saving you hassle later.

What I like is that the market is more upmarket than street food. You are given proper cutlery and crockery to enjoy your meal and you are not left hanging around in a queue waiting for your meal to arrive. The way the chefs present the food on the plate makes it all the more worth your money. It’s quality.

On the Friday, we shared a chocolate meringue cake from Nós é Mais Bolos which is both one of the most delicious and expensive slices of cake I have ever eaten. I would have taken a picture but it looked too tasty to simply look at. Maybe I should go back and get another one, you know, just for photographic purposes…

After a trip to the Mercado da Ribeira, walk along the waterfront to Praço do Comércio and enjoy this view:


Have you been to the Mercado da Ribeira?

What is your favourite stall/dish there?

Até logo,


Lisbon: Underground Chinese Restaurant Scene

Yes, you have indeed read that correctly, Lisbon has an illegal Chinese restaurant scene.

You won’t find this out in your trusty guidebook, no. Instead you need to know someone who knows what to do and where to go. And luckily, we had just the person who had already been living in Lisbon for quite a while!

See Natassa’s blog here where you can follow her Lisbon adventures!

It’s not like these restaurants have a TripAdvisor page with full directions and fantastic reviews on what to expect. There isn’t even a sign at the main entrance to reassure you’re in the right place. This restaurant didn’t even have a name, people just know it as an “illegal Chinese Restaurant” and that’s the way it is. You know exactly what you’re getting into that way and therefore they are by no means deceiving you. Enter on your own discretion; I guess there is a somewhat thrill to it too.

We met at Martim Moniz by the Rooster statue and made our way to a nearby side-side/alley.

Rooster in Martim Moniz

Rooster in Martim Moniz

Walking down the badly-lit cobbled street, dodging the odd bag of rubbish, we came to a door. This was just a normal door to a residential block. “I think this is it,” Looking around, there was no sign to hint that what lay behind here was delicious Chinese food goodness. We pressed the buzzer and were let in immediately. Okay, this seems promising.

We entered a dodgey-looking entrance hall with low ceilings and which smelled rather grim – decaying rubbish. Still, rubbish seems to be an issue everywhere at the moment in Lisbon in my opinion, so it’s nothing new.

Ignoring the smell as best we could, we climbed up a few flights of stairs until we came to a door which was left slightly ajar. An invitation? This door also had some paper cellotaped to it with Chinese words written on it. We breathed a sigh of relief as we realised that we must be in the right place, and we gingerly opened the door.

A lady ushered us into the room with all smiles and greetings “Olá, boa tarde!” to try to make this situation a bit less awkward – well done, you have found us!. There were seven tables and it was not very busy for a Thursday night. We sat down and she brought over a menu with a writing pad. The menu was in Chinese, Portuguese and English but the waitress/owner conversed with us fine in Portuguese when she got us our drinks. Looking around the room, it’s interesting to think “wow, so this is what an illegal Chinese restaurant looks like!” They must get this expession of intrigue a lot. There was even a TV. Other than that, it was just your typical, cheaply furnished restaurant. This restaurant just happened to be in an apartment block, totally normal. I started to wonder how annoying it might be to be neighbours with this place; random people coming in and out all the time, the constant smell of food cooking… no thank you. The owners must own the flat next door where they live. This flat was only big enough for the restaurant and the kitchen.

The menu was quite extensive but it didn’t give a great explanation for things. One option was “Drunk ribs,” another was “cow something.” I’m sure they taste better than what the menu lets off though. I settled for a vegetable spring roll *best I have had) to start, followed by the “Sizzling Chicken” which was pretty amazing compared to all of the Chiense food I ate during my time in Spain, so that’s something. We also had chicken noodles and rice to share and were even given complimentary watermelon to finish. Watermelon!

For a drink, spring roll, a share in the rice and noodles and a dish of Sizzling Chicken, 10€ was not bad for some pretty tasty Chinese.

Sizzling chicken

Sizzling chicken

Helen’s food was the last to arrive and we were wondering why it was taking so long. I understood how she must have been feeling, seeing everyone else’s food arrive but her plate remaining empty sucks. This always happened when I was younger and my parents never failed to reassure me that it was because I was “special” and that because of this, the chefs were taking extra time to make sure my meal was perfect. It always worked on me but it wasn’t really helping the food appear..

We inquired to see what was the issue (maybe they forgot?), when the lady pointed to my Sizzling Chicken dish and explained she was “waiting for this.” When I had eaten as much as I could of my food, the waitress returned and scrapped my leftovers into Sarah’s Sizziling Chicken Dish and walked away with my plate. It suddenly all made sense. Basically, they didn’t have enough dishes for all of us and she was waiting for me to finish, so she could use the same plate for Helen’s food. She came back a few moments later with Helen’s much anticipated Sizzling Beef on my old plate. It was quite strange but then again, this is an illegal Chiense restaurant and are you really going to complain? Give them a bad review? It was more amusing than anything, really. I wonder if they washed the plate in between though?

It was interesting to do “something different” and discover somewhere off the-beaten-track.


Lisbon doesn’t pretend to be perfect. It is beautiful, full of charm, falling apart and accepts its imperfections. It doesn’t entirely act upon all its problems and yet we’re still here, loving it.



Bem-vindo a Lisboa!

Today I started my classes for the Curso de Verão da Lingua Portuguesa (Portuguese language summer school) at the Universidade de Lisboa in Lisbon. The course is going to last for the next four weeks, every weekday 9am – 1pm.

I was surprised by how quick the journey took this morning, from my studio in Bairro Alto to the university campus which is on the other side of the city; it took 25 minutes, most of which is spent on the metro, and I am glad, as I am not used to such early starts!

I found out today as well that I had been placed in a B1 Level class which I am pleased with, as this is the level I was hoping to take. The content was just the right level for me which is a relief, especially after the horror of the terrible Spanish language classes I had to take for three weeks during my Erasmus placement in Salamanca. The teacher actually got to learn all our names in three hours, yet my teacher in Salamanca never even bothered to do such a thing even after three weeks of teaching us, so this I feel, is a good start.


Calçada portuguesa (Portuguese pavements), in Rossio

Calçada portuguesa (Portuguese pavements), in Rossio

I arrived in Lisbon on Monday afternoon and stayed in Goodmorning Hostel located in Restauradores. I stayed at Goodmorning Hostel last time I was in Lisbon in March and I chose to stay here again as I really loved it – especially the breakfast! Once again, the staff were exceptional and go out of their way to make you feel welcome and give you loads of useful tips to enjoy Lisbon. I didn’t do any of their day trips but I did the Portuguese Tapas evening and the Cooking Class where we learned how to cook the Portuguese dish Bacalhau à Brás, which was delicious but very filling! Their day-trip to Sintra and Cabo da Roca looked really good though and I was disappointed I couldn’t join them for it.

During my time in the hostel, I didn’t feel compelled to visit places frantically like the other people staying in the hostel, as unlike them, I am lucky enough to stay here for a month and not just a few days, so I was happy to take things slowly! I did end up however visiting the Castelo de São Jorge on Tuesday, which has the most impressive miradouro (panoramic view) over Lisbon.


Castelo de São Jorge

Wednesday, I ended up also going to the Oceanário de Lisboa, the aquarium, which is apparently the second largest in Europe, but after spending the most amazing day at the Oceanográfic in Valencia (Best in Europe), nothing can compare, and I left feeling very disappointed and thought the tickets were overpriced and would not recommend it.

I am quite proud as well to say I even sorted my “Lisboa Viva card,” so I now have a monthly metro pass in Lisbon.

My Lisboa Viva card

My Lisboa Viva card

This will come in handy as it will save me a lot of money as I will be using the metro every day. I managed to fill out all the forms and speak with the lady behind the desk all in Portuguese too, which felt like a good achievement. However it was a complete nightmare even to find the desk within Marquês de Pombal station as it is a big station and has many different exists – it is not all connected – why, why?!?!

The staff would not even allow me to borrow their pens as they just replied “they are MINE”, like I was some pen thief, so I had to find a newsagents sort of place and buy a Bic pen just to fill out my paperwork without having to go all the way back to my hostel (the one time I don’t carry a pen!)…

Really though, filling out the form was easy. All you need is:

  • Passport-style photograph
  • Passport
  • An address in Portugal (no need for proof of this)

Luckily I had all these things and I was able to return the next morning to collect my card. Usually it costs 6€ and will come in 10 working days, but I wanted it the following day which instead costs 12€. I was not able to pay by card as the machine only accepts Portuguese cards (I swear she was just trying to make things more difficult…), so I had to leave the queue to take out money from an ATM nearby.

On the way out of Marquês de Pombal metro station with my new Lisboa Viva card, I walked up to the miradouro nearby, and I must say that so far it is my favourite!

Look at that view!

Look at that view!

Last night, I was finally able to move into my studio flat in Bairro Alto – I could not be more central, it is amazing and most importantly, it has air conditioning! Luckily, it is completely double-glazed as well, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to sleep due to the noise from the bars below – I am living in the nightlife district of Lisbon!

View of my street

View of my street

View of my street

View of my street

I am pleased with living so centrally as I feel I will get a better experience exploring the old streets of Lisbon.

So far, Lisboa is holding up to its wonderful charm and I am looking forward to getting to know this city better!

Até logo,