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Beverages and Western Food in Singapore December 20, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Beverages and Western Food in Singapore” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Kn

Beverages in Singapore are quite standard.  You can easily find various colas and carbonated drinks everywhere.  It is important to keep hydrated when touring around Singapore.  I had become dehydrated a few times and finding a place to get a drink wasn’t difficult.  The one surprise I had was that you had to find an actual shop.  Tokyo has spoiled me as I can just go a block or so and find a vending machine to get a drink.  It is so easy to find them, but in Singapore, I had to look around a bit for a convenience store to get one.  While there are convenience stores everywhere, it isn’t always easy to spot them and you can get a bit of bad luck by zig-zagging and missing them all.  I was pleasantly surprised to find bubble tea shops around Singapore.  While I wasn’t expecting the best, I did try one.  I ordered a simple milk tea with pearls and was asked about the sweetness level.  I said, non-sweet, and the clerk was surprised.  Living in Japan, tea is rarely sweetened and when I went to Taiwan earlier in the year, the bubble tea was unsweetened.  While I like both, on a very hot day, I actually prefer unsweetened to feel more refreshed.  While the bubble tea was just average, I think I can see why people like it sweetened.  The tea didn’t taste as great and the sweetness could mask the imperfect taste.  In fact, I found it impossible to find unsweetened tea in Singapore as they take the western tradition that any cold tea has to be sweetened.

Alcohol in Singapore is something that is a bit strange.  Alcohol is easy to find and purchase.  You can easily buy alcohol at any convenience store and supermarket but it isn’t that cheap.  It isn’t expensive either but when you go to a restaurant or club, it can feel astronomical.  The lunch time specials, called “happy hour”, provide 2 for 1 or 50% off drink deals.  In fact, these deals tended to last from lunch till dinner, rather than just an hour.  After this happy hour, prices are scaled up to “regular” price.  One of the most common types of price scaling was a happy hour from open till dinner; then dinner time; then regular price after dinner.  This made drinking a little expensive but if you stuck to drinking in the afternoon, it was very reasonable.  The selection was also interesting.  You can really feel the influence of western nations as most of the beer was imports from other countries.  While there were regional brews such as Tiger beer and other nearby specialties, it was tough to determine what was local and what was foreign.  I try to support the local economy but in Singapore, I decided to support the European community by trying various beers from Europe.

Western food is also very common in Singapore.  It is very easy to find McDonald’s but it is also easy to find various pubs and bars as well.  I love to visit nice brewpubs wherever I go.  In Taiwan, I had a few drinks in the gay district and had a good time there.  In Vancouver, I often go to pubs where I grab a burger and a beer.  In Tokyo, I often go to various izakaya and drink till the sun comes up.  In Singapore, I found the drinking experience to be more like Vancouver where you have nice brewpubs, but also like Taiwan where you can have outdoor terraces with many drinks being served.  Alcohol is still a very western ideal in Singapore.  Muslims are very strict at not drinking alcohol and I have found Chinese people don’t often drink too much, especially with family.  I read that Singapore frowns upon public drunkenness so I kept myself in check.  Most of the western style restaurants have to cater to those who drink alcohol as that is what is expected in many restaurants.  Whether it is a bottle of wine or a pint of beer, people enjoy a little alcohol with their meal and Muslim Singaporeans respect that.

Singapore is not just about the foods that I have mentioned.  I did see a lot of Japanese restaurants and I feel that they must be delicious, albeit a bit overpriced compared to Tokyo.  I also saw many other places selling foods that I never had a chance to try.  You can spend days exploring Singapore and trying various types of food.  It is a matter of making time to go out and try new things that is difficult, especially when you also want to see everything else that is out there.  You can spend a small fortune eating if you want or save a lot by going to the Hawker’s markets.  It really depends on your personality and your budget.

Beverages and Western Food in Singapore is part of a series of posts on Singapore.  Please continue with the links below to read more about Singapore:

Fast Food Hamburgers (Japanese Fusion Style) August 30, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Fast Food Hamburgers (Japanese Fusion Style)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-s5

I mentioned that fast food burgers are a fusion of American and Japanese style foods.  In this post, I focus a lot more on the more traditional style of fast food burgers in Japan.  While they may not be as unique in the burger department, they do offer some interesting fare that should be checked out.
First Kitchen is to variety as MOS Burger is to quality.  First Kitchen has the largest variety of menu items of any of the major fast food retailers in Japan.  The standard fare at First Kitchen is the burgers.  Their unique take on the traditional burger is to slap a fried egg on top of everything.  The entire burger feels more westernized, in other words, dripping in grease.  It’s a nice way to enjoy a burger, but if you are thinking about a diet in any way, this place is the last place you want to go for a burger, aside from Lotteria, but I’ll get into that in a minute.  First Kitchen also has a variety of pasta dishes, hot dogs, and french fries.  Do be aware that there are two styles of First Kitchen shops.  One is the stand alone shop, which offers more variety, and then there is the shopping mall shop, which is more akin to a basic shop without as many options.  For me, the biggest draw has to be the french fries.  Unlike the other shops, First Kitchen offers various flavour powders.  The menu will be in Japanese, but they do have basic flavours such as barbecue.  Some of the more basic flavours you should try are the cream corn (corn pottage), consommé, and black pepper.  There are many more, and I’d highly recommend just ordering a bunch among friends and digging in.  They also offer free dipping sauces for fries, or you can add it to a burger if you wish.  These are usually located in the sauce bar near the cashiers, or trash bins, but not on top of the trash.  Basic flavours such as ketchup and barbecue are offered, but so are garlic mayonnaise and spicy mentaiko (fish eggs) mayonnaise.  It may sound disgusting, but it isn’t bad.  Like the fries, just grab a bunch that sound nice and try it out.  The powder/dipping sauce combination will vary and I have never found a single dipping sauce that goes well with every flavour of french fries.

Lotteria is not exactly a Japanese fast food chain, but rather a Japanese-Korean one.  Lotte, the parent company, was started by a Korean man in Japan, before expanding into Korea.  Lotte is a dominant force in both South Korea and Japan, but the Lotteria chain is bigger in Korea.  Personally, I’m not a big fan of Lotteria.  Their burgers tend to be greasy, but they tend to change their menu often.  In general, their menu isn’t spectacular either.  It tends to be more middle ground than anything special.  They do have your typical Teriyaki Burger and Shrimp Burger.  They also add an egg on top if you’d like.  French fries and fried chicken is also on the menu, but these are also basic items.  There is generally more variety than McDonald’s, but they lack the ingenuity to create truly unique products.  McDonald’s Japan has a better chance at making unique products.  All in all, it’s nice to visit Lotteria from time to time, but in reality, I find it mediocre at best.

McDonald’s in Japan is like any other McDonald’s in the world.  They haven their own set menu, plus regional specialties.  Ronald is also a short Asian guy in Japan, compared to the tall American that you see in commercials.  The major menu items such as a Big Mac and Quarter Pounder are the same, but add a Shrimp Fillet-O and Chicken Fillet-O, and a Teriyaki Burger to the menu and you have McDonald’s main menu.  Each month, they also add limited edition burgers.  These vary from month to month, but every September, they release the Tsukimi Burger.  This is a basic burger with a fried egg on top.  It is one of their better offerings.  If you are in Japan for a longer visit, do check out McDonald’s and see if there is anything interesting that month.  You never know what you’ll find, and you may be in for a treat.

Fast food in Japan is great.  It can be healthier, but the options are there if you know where to look.  It’s also very easy to order.  Most shops have English menus as well.  Unlike restaurants, most shops have picture menus at the cashier, so you can easily point to what you want.  Generally, I only have problems when they ask something unusual such as “what flavour fries do you want”.  If anything, just follow some of the links and you’ll get all the information you need.

Fast Food Information:

First Kitchen (Main Site – Japanese): http://www.first-kitchen.co.jp/
First Kitchen (Menu – Japanese with some English information): http://www.first-kitchen.co.jp/house_shop/
First Kitchen (Shopping Centre Menu – Japanese): http://www.first-kitchen.co.jp/shopping_center/
First Kitchen (Wikipedia – Very basic information): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Kitchen

Lotteria (Main Site – Japanese): http://www.lotteria.jp/index.html
Lotteria (Menu – Japanese): http://www.lotteria.jp/servicemenu/burgermenu.html
Lotteria (Wikipedia – English): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotteria

McDonald’s (Main Site – Japanese): http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/
McDonald’s Regular Menu: http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/menu/regular/index.html


Fast Food Hamburgers (Japanese Style) August 23, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Fast Food Hamburgers (Japanese Style)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-rZ

Finding a good burger in Japan can be difficult, but it can be a very tasty experience.  In Japan, fast food burgers congers up images of shrimp burgers or teriyaki burgers.  This is a very true assumption, but it is far from the truth of Japanese fast food burgers.  There are several chains, but by and far, MOS Burger is the cream of the crop.  Other major chains include Freshness Burger, Lotteria, and First Kitchen.  They all tend to be inferior compared to MOS, and even McDonald’s can’t live up to the quality of a fresh MOS Burger.  Whenever I have friends come to visit, we always go to MOS as I want them to try it.  Whether you like it or not will depend on your own personal palate.  I don’t necessarily recommend it to everyone, especially if you only want to eat traditional Japanese food.  If you are looking for a unique take on American food, this is one of the best ways to do it.

MOS Burger stands for Mountain, Ocean, Sun burger.  It is a take on the environment, and the CEO promotes an image of “healthy” food from healthy sources.  Whenever you order MOS Burger food, you can usually find advertising on their trays talking about how their products are made and where they obtain their basic ingredients.  The stores tend to be extremely clean, and the food isn’t made until you order it.  In fact, if you check out their corporate website, in Japanese, they give a lot of information on how they obtain their food and the basic preparation techniques.  The menu itself is somewhat pricey.  It’s not as cheap as McDonald’s, nor do they have as large a portion, but the quality of their ingredients generally makes up for this.  Their basic burgers are delicious and include options such as a Teriyaki Burger, Pork Burger, and my personal favourite, the basic MOS Burger.  The MOS Burger itself is similar to a basic hamburger with tomato meat sauce on top.  You can add cheese or jalapeno peppers on top as well.  I almost always add jalapeno peppers.  The entire menu can be doubled so that you have two meat patties instead of one. This might be necessary if you have a big appetite since the portions tend to be a little small.  The most unique item has to be the rice burgers.  There are three options that utilize a rice bun instead of a standard hamburger bun.  While I’m not a big fan of these burgers, they are popular and worth a try if you want something unique.  They also tend to be the only vegetarian option on the menu.  There are also hot dogs, desert, and other standard American fast food fare.  One of the better options is to get a set that includes a mixture of thick cut french fries with onion rings.  You can order this as a set with a burger which includes a drink.  I’d also recommend trying the soup.  The soup at MOS Burger is a great alternative to Coke and hopefully healthier.  They have three basic soups, corn, clam chowder, and minestrone.  Do be aware that some shops don’t have all flavours of soup at the same time, and you can substitute soup for a drink if you order a drink set.

While MOS Burger is the best place to get a Japanese version of American fast food, there are plenty of other shops that are available as well.  The most expensive, but delicious option, is Freshness Burger.  It’s a fairly small franchise that tastes almost as good as MOS Burger.  The biggest problem is that they tend to be extremely expensive compared to standard fast food joints, and there are no deals if you buy a set.  Their motto is “Organic and Natural” which is pretty true to the name.  Their old claim to fame was the fact that you could order mini burgers so that you could try more than one burger at a time.  I don’t believe they have this anymore as it would be a little too expensive.  For this chain, they have the Freshness Burger which is similar to a MOS Burger.  The major difference is that they add a huge slice of tomato into the burger.  The pictures on the menu don’t exaggerate the size at all.  It is truly a big slice of tomato.  Of the other menu items, the Teriyaki Burger is the only one I’d recommend, but it’s fun to try everything.  I’m not a big fan of this shop, and there are only a hand full compared to the other chains.  If you have money to burn, and want to eat something that is of cafe style quality, I’d recommend visiting this shop.  Otherwise, the other shops are cheaper and better than Freshness Burger.

Both of these shops are great and offer something that is fairly unique compared to the traditional American fast food chains in America.  While the burgers are more Japanese than other fast food outlets, they aren’t completely Japanese.  Fusion is a good way to put it, but there are other shops that create a fusion style burger as well, but not quite as unique as these.

Fast Food Information:

MOS Burger (Main Site – Japanese): http://www.mos.co.jp/index.php
MOS Burger (Menu – Japanese with some English menus): http://www.mos.co.jp/menu/
MOS Burger (English Corporate Site): http://www.mos.co.jp/english/
MOS Burger (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOS_Burger

Freshness Burger (Main Site – Japanese): http://www.freshnessburger.co.jp/
Freshness Burger (Menu -Japanses with some English information): http://www.freshnessburger.co.jp/menu/
Freshness Burger (Wikipedia – Very basic information): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freshness_Burger

Twitter/Twitpic January 24, 2010

Posted by Dru in Uncategorized.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Twitter/Twitpic” and other posts.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-twitter

This is a quick post to let you know that I have started a Twitter account.  Sometimes I find interesting things in and around Tokyo, let alone Japan.  I will be posting them up there.  My Twitter account will probably be very different from this blog.  This blog has focused a lot more on my travels in Japan, whereas the Twitter account will probably focus more on things I see.

I have already put up one quick post regarding McDonald’s.  They have the new “Texas Burger”.  It’s the start of their “State” burgers.  Every 15 days, or so, they will release a new burger.  February will see the New York and California burger, followed by the Hawaii burger in March.  I hope you can enjoy my Twitter page as well as this page.

My Twitter page may also provide a few previews into posts that will come in the future.  I will be lucky enough to be heading to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.  If I have nice pictures, I will post them into my Twitter account before they go live here with a full post.




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