Will Travel for Food

Mr. Hallock and I went to Japan for the food. I mean, yes, as mentioned before, Mr. H grew up in Kobe, so there was an emotional pull. But it was really all about the food. We eat a lot of Japanese cuisine at home: sushi (when we are feeling flush), miso ramen (the real stuff, not instant!), and tonkatsu (deep-fried pork loin on rice). Our goal for this trip was to expand our culinary horizons and stuff our faces. Mission accomplished.


Japan izakaya food Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

Saloon. Gastropub. Tavern. Izakaya. This is the stuff! One small problem, though: we don’t speak Japanese. To be fair, Stephen recalled a surprising amount from his childhood, which helped in a pinch, but neither of us could read a menu.

Japan izakaya Himeji Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

Fortunately, our first real izakaya—Gassai Ekinan (above) in Himeji—had an English menu, allowing us to try some local specialties, like lotus root tempura. Yum! Emboldened, we searched for the best izakaya in Kyoto once we got there. And we saw one that looked amazing, but we could find nothing about it in English, either in front of the shop or on the web. Most places we ate at in Kyoto had at least a small sign that announced if an English menu was available. Not here.

Japan izakaya Kyoto Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

Mr. H and I stared into the window wistfully for a few minutes, but then we chickened out and walked down the road to the Spring Valley Brewery. This was not a bad move, as the brewery had very good craft beer, but we knew we had missed out on something special with the izakaya, so we vowed to go back.

Big problem: we could not find it again. We walked the area around the Nishiki Market a lot, gradually expanding our route in concentric circles, searching for a place that we did not even know the name of. There is a famous documentary on Japanese Zen Buddhism called The Land of the Disappearing Buddha, referring to how the Buddha would give a talk to an audience and then vanish. Hence, we referred to our mysterious izakaya as the “Disappearing Buddha Bar.”

Our very last day in Kyoto, we tried one last time—and Buddha smiled on us! Not only did we find it the next afternoon, but it was empty. Usually, that is not considered a good sign, but we figured that the staff would be more likely to help out clueless foreigners when they weren’t swamped. We stood outside the place again for a minute, our nerve wavering, but then we thought: what the hell, let’s try it! Lo and behold, they did have a (limited) English menu!

Japan izakaya Kyoto Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

The Disappearing Buddha Bar has a real name: Kokoraya Iseyacho, orここら屋伊勢屋町 in Japanese. The decor inside is full of traditional Japanese handwritten menu pages and vintage Japanese celebrity posters. For all its tradition, though, the music was totally unexpected: American 80s rock-n-roll, including Blondie, John Mellencamp, and more. A sign from the Amitabha Buddha in heaven?

Japan izakaya Kyoto Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

The food was amazing, including the best tempura of the whole trip. We had earlier skipped the touristy place that charged $80 a seat for overrated tempura, so this find felt like cosmic timing. Sweet potato tempura is now one of my favorite foods in the whole world. They also had a “recommended sake” feature (for a set price), and we were totally game—times four! I have a new appreciation for a variety of Japanese rice and vegetable wines. Yum.

We left happy—nay, giddy. Our only regret is that we had to catch a plane too early the next day, and we could not return. Not yet.


Japan street food Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

If you want to really enjoy eating in a country, you must eat on the street. Or, when in Japan, in the basement of a supermarket. That is where all the food is, even prize fruits:

Japan melons Daimaru Kyoto Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Nice melons. And cheaper than implants (at $150).

There are also take-home foods, from avocado salad to tofu-wrapped-rice (our favorite breakfast), to fresh-grilled meats, to sushi (yay!). The only drawback is a lack of a place to sit. Had there been open seating, we might have eaten in Daimaru and Sogo the whole trip. The quality of food was amazing.

Japan street food Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

And then there is old-fashioned fast food, like the seafood munchies available in Nishiki Market. Octopus on a stick? Yep, we’ve got that.

While our focus was mostly on Japanese cuisine, we happened to stay next door to Kobe’s Chinatown our first night, and we craved takeaway Peking duck pockets. Because why not? We also watched talented chefs hand-make soup dumplings, a specialty I remember from lunch with my sister-in-law in Shanghai. A good dumpling should actually burst with soup in every bite. Yum!

Three of our other favorite places in Kyoto were: a spicy ramen shop that we never got the name of but is right across the street from the Hotel Vista Premio where we stayed; an amazing gyoza shop; and Kura kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) next to the Golden Temple. Nom nom nom . . .


Japan vending machine coffee beer food Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

And there were always vending machines for when we could not be bothered to stop for coffee or beer or . . . farm-fresh vegetables? We only saw a veggie machine once, but it seemed like a great idea for food deserts in the United States. I don’t think the alcohol machines would be helpful in the same way, but they were convenient.

Japan vending machine coffee beer food Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

My favorite treat was hot coffee in a can. Japan has been coffee savvy since the post-war period, and Starbucks outlets are about as ubiquitous as Hello Kitty. But who wants to spend $6 on a coffee when, for less than a dollar, you can get a nice, hot coffee (or hot cocoa) at your convenience from a vending machine on every street corner—literally.

Japan Starbucks Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Starbucks is on brand in most of Japan, with big signs in green lettering. But in the Sannen-Zaka preserved district they have to be a little more subtle.

It was good that Mr. Hallock and I hoofed it five miles a day, maybe more, throughout each city on our itinerary. Not only did this allow us to discover the best stuff, but it was also necessary to burn off each meal in time for the next one. A perfect vacation.

Sugar Sun glossary terms in alphabetical order

At long last, an alphabetical listing of the Sugar Sun glossary terms! Simply click on the graphic of your choice to open the annotated post in a new window. This list will be updated to include new terms as their posts are written.

Ah Tay bed glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

aswang glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

babaylanes glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

bahay kubo glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

bahay na bato glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

banca boat outrigger cockroach language glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

barong tagalog dress shirt glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

bodbod budbud rice dessert glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

boondocks backwoods wilderness mountain language glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

calamansi kalamansi glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

calesa carriage glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

capiz oyster shell window glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

carabao boat glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

casco boat glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

daigon Christmas pageant glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

hacendero haciendero sugar farmer glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

ilustrado Filipino elite education Spain mestizo glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

insular colony colonial Philippines glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

insurrecto Philippine insurrection war revolutionary glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

kristo cockfight cockfighting bet gambling glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

lechon roasted suckling pig glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

pandesal bread sweet food glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

parol Christmas holiday festival light glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

pensionado education university scholarship glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

glossary Pulahan war for Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. History ever after.

quartermaster army supply scandal Manila Hotel Oriente glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

sillon butaka planter chair furniture glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

Sinulog Santo Niño Spanish Magellan Catholicism saint glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

sipa hacky sack jianzi shuttlecock sport glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

card gambling sungka mancala panguingue glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

Thomasite education teacher school glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

tsokolate Spanish hot chocolate glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

water cure torture Philippine American war soldier glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

I hope the posts are helpful in rounding out the historical context of the Sugar Sun series. They are certainly fun to write! Enjoy.

Sugar Sun series location #4: Clarke’s

Early on in Hotel Oriente, our heroine Della ventures to the most “swell” confectionery in Manila, Clarke’s Ice Cream Parlor:

Located at the entrance to Escolta, Manila’s Fifth Avenue, the establishment proudly proclaimed its name on both the roof and on a half dozen oversized awnings facing every direction. Even without the signage, the place was clearly marked by a large crowd. The spacious wood-paneled room was full of businessmen and civil servants from all over the islands, officers of the army and navy, and tourists from half the world.

Vintage postcard showing Escolta Street from Plaza Moraga, with Clarke’s on the right.

Clearly, M. A. “Met” Clarke, a native of Chicago, knew an opportunity when he saw it. In August 1898, only four days after the landing of American soldiers in Manila, he arranged a long-term lease in the fashionable shopping district of the Escolta. As one visitor wrote:

To the American bred boys in khaki, the place quickly became known as an oasis in a desert. Weary, thirsty, hungry, and wet with perspiration, the commands coming from or going to the firing lines halted there long enough to quench their thirst or to fill the aching voids. Incidentally, the soldiers helped Clarke along by spending their money freely.

Later Clarke would sublet a slate of rooms on the second floor, and his monthly income from these rents would pay his entire annual premium. But Clarke could not have been so successful if his food had not been exceptional. Fortunately, it was.

This photo and the featured image from Lou Gopal’s outstanding Manila Nostalgia website. Read more on Escolta there.

Clarke’s was the place to find the best gingerbread, the best candy, and the best pink (condensed milk) ice cream in Manila—and maybe in all of Asia. Despite being an ice cream and soda fountain, though, Clarke’s real claims to fame seemed to be bread and coffee. Clarke had three 16 x 18 foot ovens that turned out 36,000 pounds of bread a day. For our character Della, the value of fresh bread cannot be underestimated: “After three days of the atrocious food at the Hotel Oriente, her stomach almost jumped out of her throat to lay claim to a loaf.” (See more on the hotel’s disappointing food in the American era in the next post.)

Contemporary advertisements for Clarke’s taken from Philippine Magazine and page 326 of The Filipino Teacher.

Moreover, the coffee was locally grown in Luzon and roasted by Clarke himself. (I used to have a farm in Indang, Cavite, and they still grow beans in town and dry them out on every road and driveway available.) But don’t take my word for it. Read a contemporary account:

Clarke’s Coffee!—its delicious and aromatic flavor is suggestive of Arabian poetry and romance of deserts and camels of swift steeds and beautiful women. The beverage itself exhilarates you, gives you a feeling of buoyancy. Perhaps you are a connoisseur of coffee, and during your travels in Oceania or China you have been nauseated with the horrible concoctions served to you in hotels and on steamers—the vile black liquid that they call coffee. If you are, Clarke’s is the place for you. The coffee served to you there, nicely, daintily, temptingly, will make you smile with satisfaction, and you will begin to understand how the Americans do some things in Manila.

Another image of Clarke’s, as published on page 77 of the Magazine of Business in 1914.

Clarke would have been the next Midas of Manila had he “not been a plunger,” according to a Magazine of Business account. He made and lost a fortune in gold mining and hemp-stripping machines. But this is the way of the early American period in the Philippines: everyone was trying to make a buck. Respectable businessmen (and women) had no reason to cross the Pacific. Those who did make the trip were often hucksters, carpetbaggers, and scoundrels. Clarke seemed one of the better of the lot, since he was not implicated in the quartermaster embezzlement scheme that rattled Manila in 1901 (and was the inspiration behind the scandal in Hotel Oriente):

Contemporary accounts of the quartermaster scandal in Manila, along with the destination of the guilty: Bilibid Prison.

Of course, Moss, our hero of Hotel Oriente, is not so certain that Clarke is innocent, just that he is crafty: “As if the police would know where to look,” he says. “That man has more warehouses than the Army itself.”

Sadly, Clarke’s empire was only to last until about 1911, when his losses in the mining industry sent him swimming back to California. Or did he really leave? Maybe he just changed his name to Starbuck…

Sugar Sun series glossary term #17: bodbod (also spelled budbud)

Javier approached her, but she was too engrossed in her study of the food to notice. He positioned his chin behind the nape of her neck. “Bodbod,” he whispered.

Georgina spun so fast that she lost her balance. Javier steadied her before she could crash into the table and ruin the peddler’s week of hard work. She recovered, though he suspected her heart was racing. She pulled her wrist from him before he could count the beats.

Javier handed some change to the vendor and took the sweet in question. “Bodbod,” he explained. “It’s made of sticky rice and chocolate. Here. You’ll like it.”

She tore off a small piece and held it up for further inspection.

“Really,” he said, trying not to laugh. He counted off the ingredients on his fingers. “Rice, coconut milk, sugar, salt, and chocolate. No tricks, I swear.”

— From Under the Sugar Sun

Needless to say, Georgina liked the bodbod. I mean, what’s not to like? Sticky rice with mango alone was responsible for a fifteen-pound weight gain back when I was 19. Add chocolate to that mix? I’m a goner.

I was inspired to write this post because Suzette sent me a picture of a the Budbud-Kabog stall in Legazpi Market in Makati, and I got all jealous, like Fifty Shades of Green. And the owner is from Bais! And he has sugar baron stories! I’ve got more research to do…checking PAL fares now.

Anyway, bodbod was one of the highlights of my research trip to Bais, Tanjay, and Dumaguete. Apparently, I’m not the only one: Andrews Calumpang wrote a song about the delight, entitled “Ang Budbud sa Tanjay.” Tanjay even has a festival to bodbod every third week in December, where they make the world’s biggest bodbod (80 kilos) and the world’s smallest (fits in a matchbox).

The famous sweet sticky rice treat of Tanjay, next to Bais, called Bodbod. It includes native chocolate, so of course it’s good. Photo (c) Jennifer Hallock.

If you’re new to street food, you’ll notice the eco-friendly banana leaf packaging. Given my fight to extricate new earbuds out of their blister pack this morning, I think we should sell everything in banana leaves. According to Choose Philippines, the antibacterial properties of the coconut oil will keep the bodbod fresh for a week.

All signs point to bodbod! Fate wants me to eat all the sweet treats. It’s destiny!

Sugar Sun series glossary term #15: pandesal

Pan de sal. Salt bread, literally. Think of them as delicious little rolls that go with anything. My husband made pulled pork shoulder for an American Fourth of July while we lived in the Philippines, and I realized the pandesal was born to be a slider. It was like they were made for our cross-cultural family extravaganza.

Of course, they weren’t. They were made for the Almighty. The Spanish brought wheat flour to the Philippines because how else can you make a proper Christian host for communion without wheat? (Update: The Vatican still thinks gluten is required!) Early versions were cooked directly on the oven’s red brick floor, according to food historian Felice Prudente Sta. Maria. This method gave the bun a crisp hard shell.

Americans, though, introduced metal pans in the name of hygiene, it is said, resulting in the softer bun which still dominates today. (They also introduced a reliance on American wheat by eliminating tariffs on US goods coming into the Philippines while still charging tariffs on Philippine goods sent to the States. A good old double-standard, but I digress.) Either way, the original pandesals were larger: 9 to 15 centimeters long, 7 to 9 centimeters wide, and 4 to 6 centimeters thick (according to a source in Sta. Maria’s fantastic book, The Governor-General’s Kitchen).

These days, a typical pandesal is about the size of a fist—or the maximum amount of bread you can stuff in your mouth at one time. I’ve tried. Instead of salty, they also tend toward the sweet, some being made with milk or even condensed milk. (This is similar to a Portuguese sweet bread roll, probably an ancestor or cousin of the pandesal.) Finally, they are rolled around in bread crumbs before baking, which gives it a great texture.

They are lovely for dipping in Spanish tsokolate (see glossary term #5) or coffee or anything you want. They are considered by many as the national bread of the Philippines. When fresh and hot, they are manna from heaven. (Featured photo by Alyssa Sison in the Creative Commons.)