Ramen Wednesday - Kenji's Ramen

It's another hot, hazey, humid day in Portland. In an effort to escape the horrible afternoon traffic home I decide to escape early and get across the river before the onslaught of cars hit the road. But it's Ramen Wednesday and I need a bowl of noodles.

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Hmmm, where could I go in Vancouver to get my slurp on?

A little bit of time with Dr. Google and there it is. 

Kenji's Ramen on Mill Plain (don't ask me what a Plain is, and why they don't call it a street. And to make things even more confusing, there is a Fourth Plain, but not a First, Second or Third Plain anywhere to be found. I just don't get it). Okay, enough about my confusion with street nomenclature in Vancouver. Let's get some noodles going.

Kenji's is on the east side of Vancouver in an unassuming strip mall and as I park my behemoth in the tight parking spaces meant for skinny cars I start to get a little giddy in thinking that there is a ramen joint that I don't have to drive across the river to.

A large cavernous space with a concave vaulted ceiling and an open kitchen makes for a noisy restaurant. Greeted by a frantic server who is doing too much at once, we circumnavigate the dining room to seat me at a two-top with a perfect view into the kitchen and the mammoth HDTV in front of the hood vents. Flanked by more tv's mounted on both sides of the dining room, I'm happy that the volume is off since 3 different tv shows going at once is just too much for my brain  to manage. 

Only 4 ramens to choose from and I gravitate to the one named after the restaurant, Kenji's Ramen that includes Kenji's Fusion Sauce and kim chee.

I ask the nervous server what's in the fusion sauce and he explains that it's chili's and peppercorn, then pulls a small jar onto the table telling me that this is it. The contents of the jar looked suspiciously exactly like Sambal Oelek, but I accept his explanation and order away.

As I wait for my lunch to arrive I watch as two small boys explore and slurp noodles from bowls that are bigger than their heads and Mom & Dad patiently try to teach them table manners. An extremely difficult task as they are having too much fun playing with their chopsticks and noodles.

As the kitchen staff furiously assembles bowls and plates of food, the cauldron of broth simmers away front and center of the kitchen, the giant tv catches my eye. 

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What?

Are you kidding?

No way!

A new season of Star Trek is coming in the fall!

OMG!

I'm so excited (nerd alert 🤓)

My bowl arrives steaming hot and I get tingles in my belly as the anticipation of slurping hits me. Everything decoratively placed for a perfect picture. I shoot a couple with my phone (for Instagram), grab my tools and dig in. 

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Broth first.

Delicious.

A balance of pork, chicken and nori that is savory with a touch of heat from 'Kenji's Fusion Sauce'. I was hoping for some more heat, but this way I get to savor the broth. It's good, but I start to think, "are my standards wrong?" Am I thinking too much like a European trained chef and feel like the broth should be rich and meaty? The broth in Malaysia was. 

The noodles were great! Perfectly cooked. Long and twisted, dangling into the broth as I slurp away. 

I love when ramen comes with a soft boiled egg. It adds a touch of decadence to the soup, especially when the yolk is still runny (as a soft boiled egg should be, but often difficult to achieve for a fast casual) as I bite into my egg. The creamy yolk coating my mouth. God I love it.

The best part of my bowl is the pork belly. Kenji's pork belly is fantastic! Slow cooked to perfection and then seared. It melts in my mouth. The only downside is that I got two pieces and I wanted 10.

This is a good bowl of ramen. 

🍜🍜🍜🍜 out 5 bowls. Definitely recommend trying Kenji's if you are on this side of the river.

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As always.. send me your comments and follow on instagram to keep up with our adventures.

 

 

Circumnavigating the Island

As vacationers, Dyann and I have a hard time just sitting and relaxing. You will rarely find us poolside all day basking in the sun sipping drinks. We might be able to do it for an hour or two, but no more. We try. We always psych ourselves up and say that we are going to keep a low profile, do nothing and just chill, but that never seems to happen. And this vacation is just another example. 

 

 

Gunung Nenek Semukut - The Twin Peaks of Tioman Island

Gunung Nenek Semukut - The Twin Peaks of Tioman Island

Our version of relaxing is getting up at 6am, doing a killer workout in the gym and then being at the dock by 9am to circumnavigate the island in a small 40hp boat.

This is gonna be fun!

Our skipper is BiBi and we are joined by another couple here on a long weekend vacation from KL (Kuala Lumpur). With six stops on the itinerary and 8 hours to get it all done, it's time to go.  

Tioman Island is roughly 39km long and 12km wide. The island itself is a lush, dense green jungle that is 98% uninhabited and the waters surrounding Tioman are a protected eco-reserve by Malaysia. It truly is paradise. In 1958 the beaches of Tioman were used in the movie Bali Hai, an adaptation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein play, South Pacific. And in 1970, Time magazine selected Tioman as one of the world's most beautiful islands. It truly is stunning, and the best way to see it is by boat.  

Our first stop is the Asah waterfall. BiBi drops us off at the pier and tells us to 'stay right'.

That's it.

Nothing else.

No guide.

No nothing.

Just go into the jungle and stay to the right. We are in flip flops and swim clothes being sent off into a wild jungle on a basically uninhabited island to find a waterfall. An island filled with Monitor lizards and God only knows what else. What the hell are we getting ourselves into? This ought to be fun.  

 

'Stay to the right' 

'Stay to the right' 

My anxiety is all for not as we get to the end of the pier and find a perfectly good paved sidewalk that takes us up the side of the mountain to the Asah waterfall. 20 arduous, uphill minutes later and completely sweat soaked, we arrive. Dyann and I go straight for the water. It's cool and refreshing as we sit under the falls to cool off.

 

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Of course both of our paranoia minds start to wander and we both think out loud (at the same time I might add), is there any flesh eating bacteria or critters that will swim up our urethra in this water? We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope there is not.

 

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By the time we get back to the boat I realize that I'm starving. Between the morning workout and now a sweaty hike in the jungle, the lack of breakfast is catching up to me. Luckily our next stop is lunch just a little further up the island to Juara Village. Another picturesque hamlet nestled between the white sandy beach and lush jungle. I'm starting to feel the urge to relocate. This place just keeps getting better at every stop. But I am a little apprehensive about lunch after yesterdays interesting village meal in Tekek, but being famished helps ease my worries. I need food before I start to get hangry (I'm a true asshole when I get hangry).

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Dyann and I meander the one road that Juara has to find the perfect place to sit and relax. Lunch with a view is in order. 

 

Lunch with a view

Lunch with a view

Food courts are all the rage in Malaysia. The concept of shared space is great for small restaurants. We find a building that has four restaurants in it, each having roughly a garage sized space with a roll-up door with a kitchen inside while diners can all eat outside in the shared patio. It's fantastic!  

Our rule of thumb when ordering is to get 3 dishes. And we usually pick items that we cannot pronounce, have no idea what it is or the server recommends. Food surprises.  

 

Chicken in Peanut Sauce

Chicken in Peanut Sauce

Today we opted for server recommendations. As the server is also what appears to be the owner and sous chef, I think we will be in good hands for our meal selection. I go with the Chicken in Peanut Sauce and Dyann gets Malaysian-style seafood noodles. The aromas of our meals being cooked from the small closet sized kitchen waft across our table and it's heavenly. My Pavlovian response kicking in and I begin to salivate like a rabid dog. Our meal is so good, as I am deconstructing all the flavors and textures in my mind, taking mental notes on the spice level, herbs, thickness of sauce figuring out how to recreate this when we get home (I'm taking reservations now for our next dinner). 

Still hungry after our first two dishes, we order our third, the Ginger Prawns. OMG! Freakin' amaze-balls.  

 

Ginger Prawns

Ginger Prawns

Fresh prawns right out of the ocean, fresh ginger, green peppers, tomatoes and chili peppers wok seared to perfection. So good. (I did have to show Dyann how to eat the prawns as they arrived with their heads still attached... )

Rolling down the pier like Veruca Salt after chewing the blueberry gum, back to our little skiff we set out for the rest of the island, hopping from spot to spot snorkeling in some of the most beautiful locations. (Sorry for the lack of pictures here, I am trying to get the GoPro to talk to my iPad, but right now they are fighting and the GoPro is winning)(I will post some blogs just on the snorkeling adventures once I get things up and running). 

Our day with BiBi came to an end as he delivered us to the Beach Bar. Dyann and I were ready for an afternoon cocktail, a shower and then some dinner. Tonight we are off to try the beachside restaurant outside the resort gates...