Food Event: Latte Art Course with Esther Maasdam (Le Meridien Jakarta)

Introducing Esther Maasdam, the Le Meridien Global Latte Artist, leading the “Inspiration Brewed Here” Latte Art Course at Le Meridien Jakarta.

Esther Maasdam (1)

The “Inspiration Brewed Here” combines two key passion points; art and coffee. The event was held on Thursday, 14 January 2016 when media and corporate clients discovered coffee in a fun and creative way.

“Passion for coffee gives more energy than caffeine”
– Esther Maasdam

Esther demonstrated how to create beautiful Latte Art describing burung garuda. The participants were also challenged to create their own garuda and held a photo contest for the best Latte Art creation followed by a prize giving.

Esther was crowned as Dutch Latte Art Champion for four years in a row in 2011 – 2014 and reached fifth in the 2013 world Latte Art championship. She has created 12 works of locally inspired Latte Art from around the world using Le Méridien hotels as her inspirations.


Pictures are courtesy of Le Meridien Jakarta

Japan’s restaurants look to cater to the halal food industry (via Channel NewsAsia)

As visitors from predominantly Muslims countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia are increasingly visiting Japan, food and beverage outlets and doing what they can to cater to this new up-and-coming industry. 

In a sushi restaurant in Tokyo, a group of customers is shuffling in. They first take a quick glance at the menu to check if there’s anything that might go against halal rules.

The restaurant is only one of many in Japan that are looking to the halal food market to expand their business, as visitors from predominantly Muslim countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia are increasingly visiting Japan.

However, there are also difficulties they face in catering to these customers.

“In Japan, places where they handle halal seasoning are very limited,” said manager of Sushi Ken Masao Ito. “I have had difficulty getting my hands on them. The fish itself is not a problem. (But) another problem is processed food.”

However, they have managed to find alternatives. At Sushi Ken, the seasoning is made in-house. The radish roll tastes a little different, but is still delicious. At another Yakiniku, or grilled meat restaurant, its owners are doing even more to obtain halal certification.

“They have to change all their ingredients, items,” said chairman of the Japan Halal Foundation, Mohamed Nazer.

The restaurant has even prepared a whole new kitchen to be able to serve halal meat. According to its manager, the cost of doing so has been high, though he stopped short of unveiling the exact amount.

“If things work out, we would like to be a halal meat wholesaler to expand business,” said manager of Pangu, Hiroaki Sato.

The restaurant eventually earned a stamp of approval, a boon for Muslims diners as a mosque is located nearby.


Taito ward now has 17 restaurants with halal certification, a huge step up from when there were only Indian restaurants serving halal food in the past. This change is in part due to subsidies of up to US$820 offered by the local city government, part of a scheme that started in October.

They used to have only Indian restaurants serving halal menus. This change is partly due to subsidies of up to 820 US dollars offered by the local city government, thanks to a system launched in October.

“When you travel, you want to enjoy the food of that country, the regions, and if that cannot be done here in Taito ward, it’s sad,” said director of tourism at Taito City office, Takuji Kwai. “We offer lots of delicious food. So we decided to create an environment where Muslims can enjoy without any worries.”

A growing number of local governments are also trying to encourage more of their businesses to cater to Muslim visitors. The halal exhibition in Japan is one that has seen success, with an increase of 80 exhibitors last year to 120 this year.

“Japan is not a Muslim country so the market is very small,” said chairman of the Japan halal Expo Executive Committee, Yoshichika Terasawa, Chairman. “It’s gradually expanding. But it depends on Muslim visitors to Japan. I hope more food suppliers (and) exporters go to the cities to find their new market, the Muslim market.”


Written by Michiyo Ishida

Taken from Channel NewsAsia

EAT: Miyamoto Musashi Ice Cream Shop (JAX, Dec 2015)

In the tranquil small town called Iwakuni lies a famous ice cream shop selling 140 flavors of ice cream.

My recent visit to the Chugoku region of the westernmost part of Honshu in Japan was more than just a journey of flavor. Who would have guessed that even an ice cream shop in a rural town adheres also the same principle?


It took just an hour drive out of Hiroshima and heading west to the Yamaguchi Prefecture. You won’t miss the famous small town called Iwakuni, famous for its 400 years old Kintai Bridge. It is a bridge so historical that it withstands the test of time and natural disasters. This beautiful arch bridge is also surrounded by beautiful countryside scene and crystal clear waters underneath.


So what is so special about Iwakuni aside from its arch bridge and the castle on the top of the hill? Well, you know what they say when it comes to food, it’s actually best to follow the example of what locals actually do. The cold weather last autumn apparently did not hinder people to enjoy ice cream while in Iwakuni.

When it comes to reaching this ice cream shop, there’s actually a price to pay to cross the bridge but it was clearly worth the experience. Once you reached the other side, take a walk for a bit and you will encounter the famous Miyamoto Musashi, known as Japan’s fearsome fencer in the past but here, it is known for as a shop that sells, as of today, 140 flavors of ice cream.


Unwittingly, there’s also a competing ice cream shop nearby that goes with the name Sasaki Kojiro – named after Miyamoto Musashi’s toughest adversary and that the story of their duel was written down in history. Quite unfortunate for me that the former closed that day and Musashi seized that moment to invite us with his treats. It was said that when both shops open, they will throw banter at each other in an entertaining way to snatch each other’s customers. Well, that would be quite a spectacle actually.

Musashi 1

Speaking of the flavors, it was too overwhelming to be mentioned here, especially when added with the combinations. Just to mention some, you will find flavors such as bilberry, caramel macchiato, banana coffee, 5 types of chocolate, milk tea, cheesecake, and many many more.

My choice that day was not the usual vanilla flavor that I personally like to try from every ice cream shop that I encounter, but it was the Hokkaido vanilla. Known for its livestock quality, Hokkaido has the country’s best dairy products. For only JPY 200, I was enjoying my share of ice cream thoroughly and all wrapped nicely with a waffle cone.

While at there, be sure to enjoy the town and head up to the castle. It’s best to finish the ice cream though before returning, as they don’t allow food and drinks over the Kintai Bridge. Thanks to autumn, I can enjoy my ice cream thoroughly without worrying that it might melt too soon.


Not halal-certified
Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians

2-1-23 Yokoyama, Iwakuni – Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan

Opening hours: Daily, 9am – 6pm


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Jakarta’s Hidden Gem – Kopi Es Tak Kie (mise en place, Vol 13 – 2015)

Gloria Alley – thriving and yet hidden from sight and currently facing the increasingly modernised surroundings. Yet, foodies don’t miss a beat when it comes to the heart of the alley where Kopi Es Tak Kie is located.

The coffee shop itself is timeless. As rustic as it may seem, the establishment is well-managed and frequented by many especially during lunchtime. Even though the operational hours are odd since Tak Kie only opens until 2pm, but people would visit from early morning for their daily caffeine intake and hearty meals.


Letting the coffee out of the equation for now, the alley conceals some of the most ingenious food from the Chinese residents who have been around for generations. Its duck curry noodles, chicken rice, nasi tim (steamed rice mixed with chicken and egg), gado-gado (vegetables salad with peanut sauce dressing), or the exotics like sekba (pork innards soup) and even pi oh (soft shell tur tle soup) are the main attractions since its beginnings.

Our host for that day, Mr Akwang, is the third generation co-owner. His grandfather, Mr Liong Tjoen, started this venture as a street side vendor in 1927 and offered only tea that time for the customers. In 1929, Mr Liong Tjoen settled down at this very venue and the legacy continues until now. The increasing popularity that Tak Kie has been enjoying since it was relocated permanently to Gloria Alley brought them in terms with what their customers want. “Thus the time began for us to switch into coffee. What defines us is always in line with the demands – including the food here”, says Mr Akwang.

BS_Article06_3Tak Kie’s decision to enter coffee was probably the best call ever. It has since known as one of few Jakarta’s prototypes of coffee shops. But judging from how it looks, it also cannot be compared directly with stereotypical kopitiams. Despite its Chinese influences, there’s a huge difference in the way Tak Kie brews its coffee and the types of food served there. “Since early morning, we have brewed our coffee and will reheat it upon order. For the iced coffee, we only need to add ice cubes and optionally milk”, continues Pak Akwang.

Despite this rather unorthodox method, it actually works well. Somehow Tak Kie manages to negate the conclusion that freshly brewed coffee should come from freshly ground beans. It works well this way and even for the discerning, the iced milk coffee goes extraordinarily well. As an exchange to what we would expect coming from the usual kopitiam with its soft-boiled eggs and kaya toast, Tak Kie serves its customers heavy meals – such as congee, nasi tim, and nasi campur. “People wanted something more fulfilling”, says Pak Akwang laughing.

That’s Kopi Tak Kie for you to visit. Jakarta owes it a lot to this humble coffee shop and it remains still in the hearts of both the older and younger generations. Even with so many modern coffee shops emerging lately, one would still go for a trip to Gloria Alley just to sip Tak Kie’s robusta brew, served sweet and milky.

Not halal-friendly (meals contain pork)
Unsuitable for vegetarians

Jalan Pintu Besar Selatan III no. 4-6, Jakarta – Indonesia

Opening hours:
Daily, 6.30am – 2pm

As featured in mise en place Vol. 13 (2015)

EAT: Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki (JAX, Dec 2015)

Visiting Hiroshima is not considered complete without experiencing the taste of its unique okonomiyaki first and foremost. Here is an account on where to find the best in the city.

Okonomiyaki or often associated as Japanese pancake is a big thing in Hiroshima. The two competing styles of okonomiyaki are between Osaka and this city in particular. The former boasts its reputation as the origin city of okonomiyaki but arguably, Hiroshima’s style actually attracts a lot of fans for its unique cooking method. To be fair, many areas in Japan also have their own signature style to this dish.


The word “big” was not an understatement at all and that can be seen since the moment I arrived at the city’s main station during lunchtime. In a shopping mall nearby, a collection of eateries are lining up side-by-side and the queuing lines were pale in comparison with the okonomiyaki shops.

However, that’s not all, as I actually discovered that there are at least two buildings in the city dedicated solely as local food havens and other forms of entertainment. The most famous one, which is quite apparent with the name, is the Okonomi-mura. However, chance brought me instead to visit the Hiroshima Full Focus Building to sample the city’s best for dinner.


Head up to the sixth floor and expect yourself lost in a maze full of okonomiyaki shops. Some shops persuaded me to visit theirs courteously, but my choice came down randomly to this shop that relies on the one man show skills from its only cook.

From preparing the drinks, taking orders, cooking the okonomiyaki, and down to the desserts; this man handled everything swiftly and without fail. Even as each customer has his or her preferences for the orders, he took the challenge with ease and cooked accordingly. One instance, I would like my okonomiyaki topped with seafood as it actually described the authenticity of Hiroshima-style. On the other hand, he took over the order for the torched cheese okonomiyaki. It’s a spectacle, indeed.

Okonomiyaki 1

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is all about stacking the ingredients. Unlike the Kansai-style that mixes every ingredient while cooking it, the Hiroshima-style firstly uses a lot of cabbage as the foundation before piling it with the dough and other ingredients such as noodles, tempura, sliced pork belly, bean sprouts and scallions.

Cooking okonomiyaki here feels like a standardized step-by-step process. Before finishing, the cook mixed the okonomiyaki with fried egg and then lastly, topping it with generous smearing of Otafuku’s Worcestershire sauce – a savory and sweet sauce which is also a fundamental part of the dish.

Finally, my seafood okonomiyaki came around and it was such a pleasure enjoying it. Despite how it looks, it’s a full course meal by itself. The generous amount of nutrition coming from carbs, vegetables and proteins on it makes okonomiyaki a fulfilling treat.


Not halal-certified (serves pork and alcohol)
Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians

Hiroshima Full Focus Building
10-1 Matsubara-cho, Minami-ku, Hiroshima – Japan


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