Eating Ramen Alone – The Ichiran Experience.

Working abroad isn’t bad. Working in Tokyo isn’t bad.   However when the weekend arrives this is what happens:

  1.  You live in CBD district where it’s surrounded by Offices and restaurants and Cafes that ONLY OPEN during Monday to Fridays.
  2. Colleagues spend time with Family.  Left all Alone.

It actually is a lonely feeling but after days of eating one pot noodles and what ever is selling at Lawsons or 7 – 11; due to many restaurants do NOT offer English Menus and even have signs not accepting Non Japanese Speakers you find yourself going to the Tourist Spots.  Shibuya.  Ueno.  Shinjuku etc. Japan is actually one of the most polite cultures I encountered and I’m Thai….  Thailand is a different concept – If you don’t speak the language they will guess something until they get it right.  I assume in Japan it’s not worth the hassle.

So i found myself getting off in Shibuya mercilessly trying to follow the google map. (which from personal experience and  my sense of direction had a part to play) It took me 30 mins to find – apparently google map doesn’t work so well in Japan and especially South Korea.

When you arrive its on the basement floor but theres a sign before you step down on the staircase.  Being remarkably early there wasn’t any ques as of yet.

You wont miss it! The sign is quite big.

Walking down a flight of stairs you will see a vending machine. This is how you order:

Choose your options according to preferences.
You can opt for plain or with Sliced Pork, wood ear mushroom, and seaweed.

They also have something called the second round noodles. Kan Dama – Which means after you finish your bowl they will refill it with 1 order of noodles – 190 Yen or half bowl of Noodles 130 Yen. Interesting! I assume it’s not to waste any of their thick broth. There are extras such as their special vinegar, half boiled eggs and extra onions for toppings.

Closer look at the additional toppings you can order.

After you paid, a waiter will show you to an empty booth.

Check your preference and hand your order with your receipt.
Choose how you prefer your ramen. Luckily it’s in english!
I ordered their premium vinegar. Quite pricey.

Walking to your booth there are hangers to hang up your coat as well as tissue paper and toothpick dispensers on the wall.

This is your little booth – Water dispenser is on left side.
They will lift up the bamboo divider to take your order and deliver your order.
The sides – My egg and a wet napkin is delivered first. Smells fantastic. Albeit a bit lonely.
Bowl is quite big and the red paste is a blend of some spice and red chilies i presume.

The food arrived and you can smell the porkiness. Mine was with 1 clove of garlic, extra rich soup, medium dashi and medium noddles. The noodles was on the thin side which i prefer i’m not a fan of too thick ramen noodles. The broth is very fatty. I’m sure there’s alot of pork richness in there as well as lots of pork fat emulsified into the soup and probably marrow. The mouth felt like cream. Light, yet a dense texture. The pepper paste wasn’t too spicy maybe should have ordered 10. I think the best way to go is to eat some of the noodles with the broth, then with the chilli paste and then with the vinegar to cut the richness. The egg was a half cooked egg with a slightly runny yolk, the pork felt a tiny bit dry to me although dunk it in soup and it’s fine. The wood ear mushroom i think helped give that nice texture. The vinegar has a slight body to the acidic taste. Expensive but you need some vinegar to cut through the fat. Quite an interesting experience. Lonely eating but not bad. Honestly i preferred this to Ipudo. However, i had Ippudo in Thailand so maybe it can’t be compared. Do buy their instant ramen home as a souvenir to friends and family. Maybe you can bring a bit of Japan back home.

Arrive early to beat the ques and dont get lost! Allocate about 1500 yen per person or 1000 with plain with no additionals.

A Taiwanese Breakfast Experience

You cannot just go to Taiwan and not experience the full on Taiwanese Breakfast Experience. We read through many blogs and wanted to try out what the fuss was about. We chose to go to Young He Soy Milk as there were so many reviews.

You can see the sign and the Ques from far away!
To Go Que

How to order? There are 2 lines. The lines on the outside are the to go orders. At the left side of the restaurant are the lines for eat in options. Get your friends to grab a table and you go inside to order.

The line snakes outside for the eat in options.
About 10 tables inside and more outside
Steaming Vats of Soy Milk on this side, the aromas make you hungry!

Now luckily there are menus in english however there are some decoding if you have never eaten this before. So tick on the paper given – We matched numbers on the english menu and when it’s your turn hand over your paper to the chefs/cooks behind the counter. (English Menu Pictures at the end of the blog.)

Tick the corresponding numbers on the English menu.
Crueller Station and the Crepes and Crispy Thicker Pancakes.

They will put your food on the trays and calculate the bill according to the food they placed on the trays. They calculate real fast! To the right of the counter there are spoons, sauce bowls etc. Grab that and tissue and start eating.

Making our order now! We ordered 4 Trays of food!
Working so fast but never splashing hot soy milk on themselves. Amazing!

At each table there are soy sauce, chilli oil, some salty bean paste and vinegar to mix your own sauce as well as salt and pepper. We made a blend of soy, chilli oil and vinegar for our table and we squished about 7 people so you can see there’s not much room for pretty picture taking.

Tiny Table for 7 people, and steaming bowls of various types of Soy Milk.

Lets talk about the real reason why i wanted to come here. In thailand we dont have salty soy milk but rather a more sweet version with some toppings like jobs tears, jelly balls, red bean etc. So i was curious about this savory salty soy milk that they call Dou Jiang here.

Condiment Tray for the Salty Soy Milk

As you can see at the counter the condiments are dried shrimp, scallions and i believe a bit of saly and sugar and vinegar to “curdle the soy milk”.

Looks like Tofu doesn’t it?

The result is a warm soft broken tofu in a savory “whey” soup? Honestly it’s like a soupy tofu soup with Yu Tiao or Crueller or Patongo as we call it in thailand – The long sticks of fried dough although i observed that in Taiwan they make it huge and long whereas In Thailand it’s more smallish in size.

You can see the huge cruelly and egg peaking our of the flat bread. Yummy.

Next order of business is the crispy flat bread wrapped around the Yu Tia (Fried Dough or Crueller) and a omelete with scallions. I think they call Shao Bing. Strangely if you put in some chilli sauce it actually tastes pretty good. The Flatbread is piping hot and crispy and with the chewy crispy Patongo and savory egg it’s kind of like a crispy burrito. The crepey one i think is called Jian Bing. Same Concept except this was more of a soft crepey version. I prefer the crispy one but other people in my crew were divided on this.

Thin crepey hotdog?
Sticky Rice Roll with Pork Floss and Egg

The element of surprise was that the most memorable dish which was completely unexpected and i must say hands down the best best most delicious dish was…

Xiao Long Bao
Juicy, soupy soft pork filling. The best i ever had.

Honestly everyone even said it was the best they ever had and sorry better than Din Tai Fung. The wrapper was not too thick and not doughy and lightly chewy. The pork was soft, oozing with juices very well seasoned and all around the best pillows of joy to eat.

The next dishes – Radish / Turnip Cake Lo Pa Ko was fine with the sauce – Now fine was quite good just the Xiao Long Bao just trumped everything. The Sweet Soy milk and unsweetened Soy milk here had a savory creaminess that we don’t really experience with bottled or boxed soy milk.

Still wondering why we ordered that lone fried egg….
Pork Bun was Soft and the filling was great as well…
He definitely prefers the crepey one….

So allocate about 100 – 150 Taiwan Dollar per person if you eat alot but definitely there’s so much more on the menu even though the english is a bit confusing…

Young He Soy Milk –

No. 102 Section 2 Fuxing South Road

Open 24 Hours a day – Monday to Sunday…

High Expectations at InkWell……

Making the trip to New Orleans for work and a quick stop over to LA just for Top Chef favorite M. Voltaggio’s new Inkwell restaurant proved to be a bit sad and disappointing.  Considering the miles flown for food it was a let down.  The hype and maybe the expectation was too high.  First we reserved way advance and the restaurant was quite empty.  Service was friendly but sometimes a bit snobby when we said the food was salty.  I don’t like people to tell me how the way the dish is supposed tot taste.  Salty is Salty.  Period.

Masculine Minimalistic look – Black Leather Sofas, White Walls Clean lines very sleek look.

The drinks we ordered were the blended whisky and sloe gin.  Prices were sort of reasonable i mean for the amount you expect to pay at a restaurant and from a Top Chef restaurant no less.

 

The blended scotch tasted ok not memorable however the sloe gin tasted like a chinese medicine brew with a coffee aftertaste.  Like not good. You can smell it and a lingering after taste in your mouth.  The menus seemed kind of reasonable for some dishes and pricey for others.  Again I ate at Craft many years ago and prices was higher although the food was impeccable.  (Skirt steak was still soft 5 hours later)

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The waitress suggested 5 dishes to share for the two of us but we went a bit over board as it was a loong way from Thailand.  The waitress also said the kitchen will determine the order of the courses according to taste.  Sounded smart to me.

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Heirloom Tomatoes, Watermelon, Pickled Rind, Sheeps Feta

All components was yummy.  Tomatoes fresh – Lovely Taste – Feta strong and Delicious.  Yet the dish had no ooomph to it.  It was not something you remember forever.

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Frisee Salad with Crispy Pork Ear & egg yolk pudding…

Of the evening this was one of the dishes that i will remember.  Simply well dressed greens – Crispy delicious Pork Ears.  And underneath.. A supremely eggy pudding/custard that was so fine, delicate without being too eggy even if it was very egg yolk.  Together the combination was marvelous.  I admit. Savoury, Creamy, Sharp Vinaigrette, Crispy Pork, crunchy greens, soft smoothness on tongue from pudding.   10 / 10

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Eggy Pudding – Soft, Silky Yummy

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Streeet Corn – Foritos with Cotija Cheese

Cheese was delicious and the puffy Chip was delicious.  Stops there.  The creamy corn was saltier with every bite and we informed the waiter but he said that was how it is and that it’s not salty.  So we left it at that.

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Beef Tartare with Banh Mi Flavours

The tartare was yummy (but not memorable) we didn’t see any Vietnamese flavours aside from the asian herbs on top.  The mayo was the star of the dish – Airy, fluffy cloud of deliciousness.  I will remember this mayo forever.  9/10

The interesting part of this was that the fish dishes came after the heartier savoury beef tartare. Even in the menu the meat dishes was listed after the seafood ones.

I thought this dish was rather well executed, i think the delicate tuna meshed well with the celery root.  However I didn’t really understand the tofu mustard.  Didn’t taste like tofu or mustard.

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Tuna Tartare with Tofu Mustard

The balance of fattiness and the crispy celery root was well done.  The green powder wasn’t really needed as there was so little of it and can’t taste the flavour but i thought it was quite fun and easy to eat.  9/10

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Creamy, tangy and delicate Flavours.

Unfortunately things are going downhill.  The octopus was burnt and over cooked.  Like a dog’s chew toy.  Quite awful sadly.  The pasta was way undercooked – Not al dente.  You can see the raw pasta in the middle when you bit into it. The flavours seemed alright however i couldn’t get past the rubbery octopus and hard pasta.  It was very sad.

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Octopus, Ink shells and Pimento

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Lamb Belly and Pine nuts cassoulet and yogurt curds…

I was really looking forward to this dish.  I love bellys of every animal.  It’s fatty, rich and tender.  Strangely it was stringy, chewy and not a great texture of lamb belly.  The pine nuts felt like it’s past it’s prime.  When nuts aren’t creamy but has that stale taste it’s a bit of a huge let down.  The yogurt curds was delicious. Creamy, sourish and thick.  That was it.  Kind of heart breaking at 30 bucks for delicious yogurt.  Curds…..

Sadly it was a memorable evening but i remember more of the bad bits rather than the good.  I think it was the expectation and considering i was a huge fan.  I would rate the overall experience at 4/10.  More of an ink blot than ink.well……

Omelette a Le Mont Saint Michel – A Copy Cat Version

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Seeing the Internet Video of the famous Omelette from the famous restaurant made me curious whether i can copy it.

Apparently it’s possible….

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Quite Oooozzzyyy and flufffy.  Feels like you are eating a cloud.

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This really is the fluffiest omelette.. Ever……

Making Japanese Curry – From Scratch

Another part of the Young Family Dinner Challenge… Making a version of Inspired Japanese Curry with no Roux Cubes, no artificial flavorings seemed like a very long challenge.  I did my research and used the following ingredients for my Japanese Curry.

1 Pound of very very sinewy beef shank

A mix of Veggies – 1 Onion, Baby Potatoes, 3 Carrots, 20 Baby Carrots — Depending on Taste & Haricot Verts Beans quarter of a Pound & 3 Apples for the Sweetness & Sauce Thickness. Half a Pound of Chopped tomatoes – Skin Removed.

Curry Flavor – Tumeric Powder, Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Paprika, Saffron & Dark Chocolate.  I flavored as i went no measurement but roughly 2 heaping table spoons of each except for the saffron – Maybe 5 strands.

First up the beef: – Marintate with Pink Himalayian Salt and Black Kampot Pepper and lightly dust with rice flour.

Sear on High Heat with Rice Bran Oil until browned – Stir in Onions for 10 mins until softened.

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Pour off the excessive Oil.  Now it looks like soup….

Add water and simmer with apples and chopped tomatoes. – Let Simmer for 2 Hours Low Heat stirring gently.

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At this stage the apples should smash easily….

Add all the seasonings and stir to combine.  The color should now turn quite dark. Let simmer on the same low heat for another 2 hours – Try smushing the apples into the sauce after the 2 hours.  As it’s on low heat the cooking time is much longer.  I prefer the oven but this time i wanted to try using the stove which i thought worked perfectly fine.

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Gently Heat – so it doesn’t burn and everything gently cooks….

Enter into the 5th hour.  Add Carrots and Potatoes – Always cut potatoes larger ad carrots smaller to ensure similiar cooking times.  Taste after almost done – 45 minutes – At this stage i add in brewers yeast for a darker flavor and color.  You can leave this step if you prefer and add in some chicken stock if you like.  I like my curries sweet and light.

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It’s delicious – sweet, mild and you can taste the richness…. See the beef sinews?

Add in the baby corn and beans – 5 Minutes and close the lid, turn off gas and leave over night.

The Beef sinews becomes like a fatty expensive cut.  It melts and breaks in the mouth with a rich fatty mouth feel without the fat.  Really nice.

Enjoy Dinner – Young Family way…..

Hot Pot for the Soul…..Megan’s Kitchen

Megan’s Kitchen caught my eye many years ago when i stumbled across an article about a hot pot restaurant actually being in the Michelin Guide. Of course I asked my cousins in HK about it and all i got was posh posh and very expensive.  I checked out their website and indeed it was very very expensive – it can run almost 80 – 200 HK dollars just for the soup base.  Very expensive indeed even for HK pricing.  6 years later working alone and no one to have lunch with i gave it a go.  I went to the website to reserve a seat – and there was a special promotion – Lunch set for 148 dollars.  Off i went….

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Choice of Japanese Miso, Malaysian Satay and Coriander & Salted Egg and I chose Winter Melon Soup

It was interesting that hotpot is a communal activity – Even if you had individual pots you almost never see people eat hotpot alone.  I’m not surprised when the waiter asked me “How many Miss?”  “For one?”  Nothing bothered me as I settled for the Beef Hotpot Set with the Winter Melon and Yunan Ham broth.  With the lunch set i suppose as it’s the bare minimum you wont get much of the usual things you might get with the normal price – but i think it was good enough as it is.  The condiment set came with Chillies, Spring Onion, Garlic, Shallots and their soy sauce.  I asked for some vinegar – Chou which they gave me at no extra charge.

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Condiment Overload – Chillies-Garlic-Shallots-Sesame Seeds-YUM…

 I peeked at the other tables though and some people paid another 25 HKD for the big sauce condiment – I thought i saw OX sauce, fried shallots etc.  I honestly believe you don’t need anything else as the broth was so good already.  Eating for one gets you the luxury of being able to do as you please – I ordered the Shrimp Paste (Which was almost 70 HK Dollars – GASP) this is something you don’t get in thailand.  Fresh beaten and flavored shrimp is pounded until it’s a sticky paste, when you drop in boiling broth it becomes sort of a misshapen meatball with non of the fake floury taste.  It transforms into a soft, sticky chewy deliciousness.

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A giant Scoop gets you around 8 mouthfuls

In the set there was 2 meatballs and 2 wontons.  I”m not really a boiled wonton person, i feel sometimes the wrapping is too thick and the filling is sad.  I also have a mistrust with meatballs – Either you get rubbery icky borax filled bits of minced mystery meat or you hit the jackpot with something very good.  The meatballs here is a delight – you can feel how fresh the beef is with a carrot filling.  Usually meatballs come precooked which you jsut sort of reheat, these ones were fresh beef which were a bit bouncy and very juicy and with the carrot in the middle it was a surprise.  However the wonton actually won the show.  It was pieces of chopped beef with cheese.  The wrapping was a perfect ratio to the meat.  IT wasnt smushy but chewey and nicely dense.  It was amazing!

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Lovely Chunks of meat in Cheese Sauce

The set itself was quite plentiful – The beef is nice marbled and not too thickly or thinly cut.  It was amazing.  I think it’s very important and I judge alot of these hot pot places by the thickness of the beef – It’s crutial to have extremely good thickness – Too thin and the beef has freezer burn, too thick and it’s too tough and chewy.  You really can’t find problems with Megans Kitchen except for the fact that it’s expensive.

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Good Quality Beef – Perfect ration of fat to meat 

The set came with 3 different kinds of lettuces, 2 giant shitake mushrooms, 3 tomatoes, some Eringi Mushrooms, Rice noodles, the 6 slices of beef (Quite big sized slices) and 2 meatballs and 2 wontons.  The soup is great it’s bubbly and always topped up by the nice staff.  It’s really delicious and great for spending that lunch hour alone.  It’s a treat noone should miss….  (Theres a 12 HKD for the tea and a 10 percent service charge.

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Megans Kitchen

5th Floor Lucky Centre –

Wan Chai Road

Hongkong

Homemade Miso Cured Salmon & Egg Yolk

 

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Silky and Smooth – Serve Piping Hot!

The secret to congee is low heat and constant stirring.  Low heat and constant stirring.  For hours and hours, in this case around 4.  There is another trick however that i learned, if you set your rice cooker on warm and bring it to boil every hour it also works with less effort!

Egg Yolk in miso works if you leave it over night.  The egg yolk turns jelly like and with a creamy rich consistency.  Drop it in the piping hot congee which helps cooks it and eat right away.

Ingredients:

  1.  4 Cups of Rice – Warm on  Low in Rice cooker and bring back to boil every hour and stir (Min 4 Hours)
  2. 4 Fillets of Salmon – I used Organic Raised
  3. 6 Tablespoons of Miso
  4. 6 Egg Yolks
  5. Spring Onion
  6. Pepper

Salmon – Rub Miso on Fillet and Keep in Fridge over 24 hrs / Draining Water off every few hours

Egg Yolk – Line a small tupperware box with miso – separate the egg yolks and gently add the miso to cover.  I left mine over night.  Gently remove the egg yolks and drop in hot congee.

Simple and Home Made Goodness!

Easy Cheats Homemade Sausage Rolls

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Piping Hot!

Everyone craves a good homemade sausage roll once in a while, yet no one who has a job, family and a bunch of dogs should even have to time to act Martha Steward and roll her own puff pastry.  Guilt as charged.  Buy a roll of ready made puff pastry from the freezer section, in Bangkok we have a great brand that made fresh with no preservatives – hence the short life span.  Usually i made a mixture of pork, carrots, potatoes as the mince but after a hectic week i just grabbed a package of Cumberland sausage, a few carrots and potatoes. I thawed my pastry overnight in the fridge.  Makes it easier to roll without breaking.

Dice the carrots a bit smaller than the potatoes so you have an equal cooking time, saute them in some olive oil and garlic.  Season well with salt, pepper, paprika and a tiny hint of sugar.  Just a small touch to offset the saltiness of the pork.

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Lovely golden brown and not soggy at all!

I unwrap the baking paper on the baking sheet and unroll the puff pastry directly on the baking sheet.  I mix the sausage mixture into the cooled veggie mixture and mix well gently.  I dont season anymore now as sausages tend to be quite salty.  Shape into logs on the puff pastry and roll it over.  Leave a bit of space before cutting it.  No need to be neat.  Roll it over again so the edges are on the bottle.  Flatten slightly and cut into pieces with a wet knife wiping in between.  As you see i cut into different sizes and they bake at the same time.

Rub a bit of beaten egg and throw in oven with fan at 125 degrees.  Rotate tray after 15 mins and brush some more egg wash and they are ready to be eaten hot in 10 – 15 mins.

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Crispy, buttery and juicy!

 

 

Pan Seared Tenderloin with Pasta

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Cooled & Sliced – Perfect Medium & Medium Rare Parts

Another rough day at work and wishing for a sumptuous dinner.  Sister says want beef the night before.  Nice beef tenderloin defrosting whilst at work.  Everyone arrives home and demand to be fed.

45 Mins Dinner Challenge:

  1. 1 Beef Tenderloin – Rubbed with Olive Oil and Smashed garlic with salt into a puree
  2. Package of Pasta from Italy
  3. Home Made Tomato Puree (Roasted Tomatoes and crushed)
  4. Home Grown Basil from Garden
  5. Salt & Pepper

Heat Pan to HIGH.  Use non burning oil, I used Rice bran.  Sear Beef on all sides – 3 Mins on each side, lower and cover pan for 5 mins.  Reheat to high and sear again on all sides (pouring off juices to make gravy)  Cover and set aside.

At the same time I have boiled a medium salted water and threw in the dried pasta.  This type takes around 9 mins to cook on the pack. I turned of the heat at 6.  And took pot of stove.  In another pan, heated the tomato sauce, threw in the beef drippings and flavored with salt, pepper and a touch of sugar to help balance the acid.

Drain pasta and mix with sauce.  I find that if you time pasta correctly you can turn it off the heat before cooking time is over but this takes experience and lots of mistakes on my part.  I find that you dont need to add any more pasta water as the pasta has water in them.

Slice beef and place on pasta, sprinkle basil to each person’s liking and serve.  Usually i serve with thin slices but Sister said she was hungry.

Guaranteed it was soft and tender.  Was hoping for leftovers but everyone devoured it.  Completely.  Happy Tummy, Happy Family.

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Dinner in 45 mins