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Kyoto – Savouring Yuba 湯葉 at こ豆や Komameya

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantEating in Kyoto offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Japan’s former capital. Some local delicacies that you should try include Yudofu (tofu boiled in clear broth), Kaiseki (traditional Japanese multi-course haute cuisine), Shojin ryori (cuisine of the Japanese Buddhist monks), Kyo-wagashi (Kyoto sweets) and Yuba (soy-bean skin).

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantYuba 湯葉 is one of the main ingredients of Shojin ryori, and is also nutritious with high protein content. Yuba can be served raw or cooked in various ways, from appetizers, soups, desserts and even as vegetarian meat. At Komameya (‘little bean shop’), a yuba restaurant by Kyoto yuba maker Ueda Yuba Company, you can savour savor interesting dishes made with freshly-made yuba. This is also one of the few places in Kyoto that serves yuba made from black soy beans (kuromame) and green soy beans (edamame).

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantKomameya has two branches in Kyoto. I visited the Nishiki branch for dinner. It is not that easy to spot as it is located on the third floor of a building. The best landmark around would be Ippudo Ramen two buildings away.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe restaurant was cosy and perfect to spend a leisurely meal at.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantKomameya serves a-la-carte dishes as well as set courses for lunch and dinner. I went for the 雪 Yuki Course consisting 10 dishes (it is a sizable feast for ladies).

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantWatching the chefs at work. Such seriousness.

Tofu is especially famous in Kyoto for a few reasons – the city’s large number of underground springs provide excellent water quality for making tofu from good quality soybeans grown locally. Moreover, the tofu-making tradition has been passed down from generation to generation in Kyoto and the competition is fierce to keep up with other shops. Finally, the demand for vegetarian food is large from the priests living in the many temples in Kyoto. Tofu will thus remain an integral part of Kyoto.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantI ordered an unsweetened soy bean drink to start with.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe appetizer trio of black sesame bean curd and fried soy bean balls was a good start to work up an appetite for dinner.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantYuba ‘sashimi’

Yuba is made by simmering soy milk in a large, rectangular pan. As the soy milk boils, the thin, delicate film that forms on the surface and scooped up is yuba (See how it is made here). Asians would be familiar with this in its dried form as beancurd sticks (腐竹 fu zhu). When served fresh, you can dip it with a little soy sauce if desired. I prefer to savour as-is.

If you are there with friends, you can also order the yuba pot and try making it yourself. Otherwise order a-la-carte dishes instead of the set course, else there will be too much food.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantAn odd combination, but I loved the mashed soy bean curd with olive oil.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantInstead of the usual miso soup, the clear yuba broth with citrus was refreshing.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe only meat dish was grilled fish with yuba and cheese.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThis dish of yamaimo (mountain potato), atsuage (fried tofu pocket), and grilled yuba reminded me of oden.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantBraised black soy bean yuba with golden mushroom, garnished with flower petals.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe fried yuba was delish!

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantThe final savoury dish was Kumiage Yuba-don, a rice bowl covered with smooth soy milk yuba and a raw egg. Not a single grain of rice was left behind.

こ豆や Komameya Yuba RestaurantFinally, dessert was matcha soy bean pudding (which reminded me of panna cotta), topped with a piece of fried yuba.

I enjoyed my meal tremendously. It was mind-blowing to see yuba prepared in so many different and delicious ways, and at a wallet-friendly price. I look forward to visiting again the next time I am in Kyoto, and to check out other yuba restaurants in the city.

こまめや Komameya

Nishiki Outlet
Address:
3F, Libertas Nishiki-koji Bldg. Nishiki-koji, Higashi-no-Toin higashi iru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
〒604-8127 京都市中京区錦小路東洞院東入る西魚屋町619 リベルタス錦小路3階
Tel: +81-75-221-7300
Webpage: http://www.ueda-yuba.co.jp/komameya_fifes/nishiki/nishiki.html
– 3 minute walk from Shijo subway and Karasuma train stations
– immediately west of Kyoto Daimaru Dept. Store north entrance
– 50 metres west of Nishiki Market west entrance
– 5-min walk from Karasuma Station on Hankyu Kyoto Line, or 5-min walk from Shijo Station on Metro Karasuma Line
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2.30pm; Dinner 5.30pm-10pm
Closed on Wednesdays

Nijo Outlet 二条店
Address: 〒604-8381 京都市中京区西ノ京職司町8-1
Tel: +81-75-812-3717
– About 2-min walk from Nijo Station 二条駅
Opening Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2.30pm; Dinner 5.30pm-10pm
Closed on Mondays dinner and Wednesdays

Lunch set course (a la carte available)
Yuba set course JPY2,000
Komame-ya set course JPY3,000
Dinner set course (a la carte available)
Yuki set course JPY3,500
Tsuki set course JPY5,000
Hana set course JPY7,000

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Bhutan – The Craft of Tsho Lham Bootmaking

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingSomething which I really wanted from Bhutan were their traditional boots – it was love at first sight when I first saw them on the feet of a Bhutanese gentleman some time ago. To me, it felt like wearing like an amalgamation of Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage on my feet. Plus they made me look five inches taller LOL.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingI asked my guide at least six times when we were going to buy my boots from the moment I arrived. At last we came to a traditional boot-making shop in the capital city of Thimphu.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingApart from boots, the shop makes ceremonial face masks that are used at tshechus (festivals).

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham Bootmaking

These traditional knee-length boots known as tshoglham, came to Bhutan with Zhabdrung (great Tibetan lamas) in 1616. They were worn by Bhutanese men (usually noblemen) during formal and festive occasions, and they were padded with aromatic pine needles for warmth and comfort. The present King of Bhutan attended his coronation wearing a pair of traditional Bhutanese boots designed by Italian fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo.
(Images from Kuensel and Italy Magazine)

As the craft of boot-making (tsho lham) involves needlework on leather and silk, it is categorized under the art of appliqué and embroidery (tshem zo) in Zorig Chusum, the Thirteen Traditional Crafts of Bhutan. Craftsmen in the villages also make simple boots from uncured leather.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingOne interesting fact that I discovered – culturally, tshoglhams are worn by people according to their social status. The colour of the middle part of the boot (tshoglham kor) designates the rank of the wearer – yellow is reserved for the King and Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot), orange for ministers, red for high-ranking officials, blue for members of the Parliament or National Council, and green for normal citizens. And that, I only knew after an excruciating 20 minutes of trying to decide which colour to choose. Looks like it was a no-brainer from the start afterall lol.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingBy the end of the 20th century, only ministers (lyonpo or lyonchhen) and Dasho (royal government officials awarded the honorary title by the King) were the only people left wearing these boots, and the craft of boot-making faced the threat of dying out. Traditional boot-making involves very time-consuming and difficult work, and the demand for such boots is undeniably small, being limited to dancers, high-ranking monks and officials who need no more than two pairs in a lifetime, as well as the occasional tourist.

The relatively high price of these boots also make them unaffordable for most Bhutanese – an ordinary pair cost about 1,800 Bhutanese Ngultrums (USD30), and can go up to over 6,000 Bhutanese Ngultrums (USD150) for a more elaborately embroided and quality pair. (The average monthly disposable income of a Bhutanese is about USD235.24) Hence, the craftsmen also face the threat of much cheaper tsholghams from Kalimpong and Jaigon, West Bengal.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham Bootmaking

As people gradually preferred more comfortable and practical styles of footwear – there was only one Royal Bootmaker Shabgye Tshoglam Wangdi left in the whole of Bhutan and he was unable to find any apprentices to pass on his craftsmanship to. Ap Wangdi had learnt the craft from a master in Tibet and was the only person who could make tshoglhams for the members of the royal family and senior civil servants.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingThe revival of this craft finally caught the attention of the Bhutanese government, who in 1999 invited Ap Wangdi, through the Nationel Technical Training Authority (NTTA) to teach the art of bootmaking at the Zorig Chusum Institute. By 2002, five masters and 16 apprentices were produced at the Institute.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingTo create work for the new craftsmen, the Royal Civil Service Commission then established a code of etiquette where civil servants were required to wear tshoglhams during official events, thus creating demand for these young bootmakers.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingHAPPINESS! Simply elated I finally got my boots. Each pair is tailor-made to your measurements, and take from 4 days to 2 weeks on average to make depending on the complexity of the design and availability of the craftsmen.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham Bootmaking

Although the main design of tshoglham has not changed, the materials have changed – thin leather soles have been replaced with thick rubber soles to make them more comfortable, and customers can bring their own design for the shaft of the boot or request to add zippers. Lham, the female version of tshoglhams, are being designed and recently, half-tshoglhams have also surfaced. While it is inevitable that footwear needs to evolve with the modern times, we need to be mindful that an item with that much cultural heritage and tradition is not drastically altered.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingFor me, I will stick to the traditional tshoglham. This original tall shaft design is typically worn by men, while the modern ones with high heels or platforms are for women (so they can look taller!). I would have bought every colour available if not for the fact that I was only allowed to buy the civilian green colour (yes culture does come before money for the Bhutanese). So looking forward to strutting down the street with a representation of Bhutan at my feet :)
More of my travel adventures in Bhutan


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Taiwan – Living in History at 銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

欢迎来到銃樓民宿 Welcome to Chong Lou Minsu!

When visiting heritage-rich Kinmen, there is nowhere better to stay than a historical resident house. These traditional southern Fujianese 闽南 buildings often came with a rich history and heartening stories as Kinmen was the site of fierce fighting between Communist and Nationalist forces when the latter withdrew from the mainland in 1949. I stayed at Chong Lou Minsu 銃樓民宿 located in the Shuitou village cluster.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

One of the most distinguishing cultural characteristics of Kinmen would be the red-bricked Min-Nan style architecture and villages, mirroring those found in Zhangzhou and Quanzhou where most Kinmenese immigrants came from.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Shuitou in Jinchen Town was a community inhabited mostly by the Huang clan. The 18-house complex of the Huang clan, constructed during the Qian-lung reign is characterized by its lower gates and walls, wide roofs, smooth and flat stone plates in the yards, and alleys between houses leading to narrow passes.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Spotting the signage for our minsu

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Chong Lou Minsu was the movie setting for a Taiwanese idol drama Summer Fever 戀夏38℃. It was the home of the main actor Ah Kuan 阿宽。This signage at the entrance was left untouched after the movie was completed. It’s also easier for us to identify which is our minsu out of the umpteen houses along the row!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Poster of Summer Fever proudly displayed in the minsu

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

这不是阿宽,是阿凯 This is not Ah Kuan, but Ah Kai who loves to get into my camera frame lol. Scoot! :D

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Looking at the western-style Quanzhou white stone wall house built in 1934, I felt like I stepped back into history. Nice.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Shuitou villagers mostly engaged in agriculture or fishery, which may explain the use of fishes to adorn the house exterior. Fishes also mean abundance “鱼=余” in Chinese so it’s a prosperity symbol.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

OMG, this is the first time I am seeing a hand-drawn well pump, and it works! Someone quick pass me a bucket of clothes to wash haha!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

I may be living in history, but I still have wifi to link me back to civilization! Phew, and I was just about to hunt for carrier pigeons ☺

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

An air of serenity greeted me at Kinmen; everything just slowed down and bade me to enjoy the calmness…a hard-earned one considering the years of war the island had gone through.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Say ni hao to the minsu owner Sister Li. She is a burst of energy and so friendly! She used to drive a 小蜜蜂 or Little Bee, which is a truck selling snacks and everything you can think of to the army boys around Kinmen. Maybe that’s why she has a motherly feel about her, and very huggable haha!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

The main hall of the minsu decorated with cultural momentos and memorabilia

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

The wind-lion god 風獅爺 is something very symbolic of Kinmen. Seen here as part of a chess set.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Side hall

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Little courtyard perfect for a little chat or intimate meal gatherings

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Kitchen

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Chong Lou has rooms that can accommodate 1 to 8 people. They come with the essential basic amenities such as air-con, TV, wifi and ensuite bathroom.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Exploring the rooms upstairs

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Large enough for the whole family or a group of friends

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

I was intrigued by the stairwell with an iron grille. In the past, residents would lock up this stairwell when they slept at night to prevent pirates from sneaking in and kidnapping them. Of course, there is no need for that now.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

And here’s my cosy little room! Shucks I should have brought my cheongsam to match the ambience lol

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Toilet equipped with bath towels and shampoo/bath gel. And flushing system :D

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

It’s a nice, sunny day to explore Chong Lou’s surroundings!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Most of the Min Nan style houses here are relatively well-preserved. I was soaking in the atmosphere with much enthusiasm, and couldn’t stop taking photos.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Jinshui Elementary School
The building of Jinshui Elementary School in 1931 at the sponsorship of overseas Shuitou natives marked the beginning of new-style school architecture in Kinmen. During the Japanese occupation, the school had served as a wartime makeshift hospital. It was later transformed into an elementary school.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

A very important place to note just opposite the school – food! :D

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Look what I spotted growing just beside Deyue Tower 得月楼 – a tree full of longans! Yumz!!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

All in a day’s work

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

The minsu provides a hearty breakfast. Just come eat with the rest of the guests at the communal dining hall, very village-feeling indeed. And a great way to make friends :)

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

This Cantonese porridge, a Kinmen delicacy, was chockful of ingredients and delish to the max! And I am still thinking of it…

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Bon Appetite!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

A group photo of us all from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore
We may come from different parts of Asia, but we are one happy big family in Kinmen!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

And the 2 monkeys showing how much they enjoyed Kinmen :D

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu
金門鎮金城鎮前水頭84號
Tel: 0980 988 077 / 0919 761 231 (Look for 李碧玉 Li-jie/Sister Li)
Website: www.5657.com.tw/baewan
Email: libe03@yahoo.com.tw

Getting to Kinmen
You can reach Kinmen by domestic flight in approximately 1 hour. Flights are aplenty daily from 3 domestic carriers from Kao Hsiung, Taipei, Taichung or Tainan. You will fly to Kinmen Airport金門尚義機場。

Another way to get to Kinmen is via Xiamen International Ferry Terminal or just from Wutong port which is close to Xiamen airport (around 30 mins). Another way is from Quanzhou Shijin port which takes about one hour (Taiwan passport only).

When to go Kinmen?
Kinmen worth visiting all year round. The annual average temperature is around 21 degrees Celsius, though it can get quite hot in summer (hats and sunscreen are a must unless you are aiming for aboriginal-worthy tan skin). There are northeasterly winds during the winter and the rainy season runs from April through to September. Travel between Taiwan and Kinmen is often affected by heavy fog during early Spring.

In spring, admire the golden sea of rapeseed flowers. In summer, hang out on the beach. Autumn is the best season to feast on fat yellow fish and crabs. Come winter, migratory birds make for an impressive sight.

Map of Kinmen: bit.ly/KinmenMap

Getting to Chong Lou Minsu
Map:
http://www.5657.com.tw/baewan/p04.htm
Public Transport: Take the public bus from Kinmen Shang Yi airport to Jincheng Bus Station金城車站, change to Bus 7 towards Shuitou Village水頭村莊. Alight at Li Gong Suo Zhan 里公所站, turn left and walk 1 minute to the minsu.

Pick-up from airport or car rental (with GPS navigation) can be arranged by the minsu, contact Sister Li via mobile or email for more details. You can ask the minsu to help arrange for sight-seeing activities as well. I would recommend getting a driver/self-drive if you can so as to save travelling time and see more attractions. It’s pretty affordable.

Read more posts on Kinmen
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