asian cuisine

Maru Restaurant (Brussels, Belgium): A Small Korean Restaurant That Might Be Your New Favorite

THE STORY

I spent a weekend in Brussels because I wanted to see Janelle Monae. It was self-indulgent, but also a birthday gift to myself.

I also knew this would be a great opportunity to try a few Asian restaurants, since lately The Asian Craving has been mostly about restaurants in the Netherlands.

Naturally, I looked up ramen spots. It’s an easy Asian cuisine to research in a city, and the ramen spots that pop up in a search are dependably good. But ramen is a streak I’m trying to break.

And so somehow, due to the incredible Instagram algorithms, I learned about Maru.

Maru Restaurant Korean Food Sea Bream Brussels seafood kimchi pickles spinach daikon steaks

The first picture that was on their feed when I looked at their account was of a green tomato kimchi. The following pictures were all just as intriguing, and so I added it to my list.

The restaurant had maybe 12 tables, including the tables outside, and seated maybe 30 people at once. When I arrived, there seemed to be one table left, and so I sat down. A waiter came over and asked if I had a reservation. I didn’t, but they were kind enough to let me stay.

Maru Restaurant Korean Food Brussels Asian Craving

The menu itself is simply yet chaotically designed. Its section titles seemed to be illustrated by hand (entrees, beverages, sides), but the menu items appear in a typewriter font with possibly hand-stamped elements.

Upon first glance, the menu didn’t seem to offer what I expected, but then again, what did I expect? I went into this restaurant without looking at their menu online, or with any idea of what I wanted to eat. As a person eating alone, any BBQ seemed out of the question. But as a person eating alone, I could also order whatever the fuck I wanted and not worry about whether another person would be willing to share it.

Maru Restaurant Brussels Bruxelles Belgium Korean Sea Bream seafood fish

THE REVIEW

I ordered the sea bream. Not what I would consider standard Korean fare, but most Asian cuisines prepare fish in a way that European cultures don’t – whole and with clean, intense flavors. Unless the fish is small enough to be fried and eaten whole, many Westerners tend to eat fish filets, rather than the entire fish. (I know, not all Westerners.)

The sea bream came out, cut in half, served with thin daikon steaks on a bed of chopped leaks and soy sauce (or were they green onions?). It was also accompanied by kimchi, spinach, pickles, and rice.

Maru Restaurant Korean Food Brussels Sea Bream pickles kimchi spinach daikon steaks Asian Craving travel

Every bite was such a delight. The light saltiness of the daikon melted with every bite. I’d pinch a healthy piece of fish onto the rice and savored the combination of flavors and textures. I’d cleanse my palette with a bite of kimchi, pickles, or spinach, just to enjoy the fish again. It had been a minute since I had eaten a whole fish with bones, but it’s not a skill easily forgotten.


Maru Restaurant (make reservations!), Chaussée de Waterloo 510, Brussels, Belgium 1050, +32 2 346 11 11

Tensai Ramen (Rotterdam, Netherlands): Handmade Noodles in the Center of Rotterdam

THE STORY

I remember in our early explorations of Rotterdam, the Ramen Marauder and I were on the tram heading back home. We passed the sign for Tensai Ramen, and we quickly saved it on our Google maps. Later, it popped up on my Instagram newsfeed from Liyen Food Moments, and recently Lazy Pig Passion mentioned they are making a video about Tensai.

It was all promising information. People were raving about the newly opened ramen shop and only had good things to say.

Tensai Ramen Restaurant Black Tonkotsu Noodles Rotterdam Netherlands Holland

What made me less eager to try it were the pictures of the noodles. Why weren't they yellow? Why didn't they look curly and springy? I had read that they were made in the shop, but I just wasn't convinced by the photos that these noodles were worthy of my attention.

But since when did food photography become the authority on what to eat? I kept reading that these noodles had great texture, and that this is quickly becoming a favorite spot in Rotterdam, so we checked it out.

Tensai Ramen Restaurant Interior Rotterdam Netherlands Holland

At this bustling intersection by the Beurs train station, Tensai Ramen has large windows that keep the noise to a minimum. The inside is modestly decorated, with (as seemingly always) a handful of tables.

We went around 4 p.m., when the restaurant was at a lull. By the time we left, however, the tables were filling up quickly, and some were eager to take our table.

Tensai Ramen Restaurant Black Tonkotsu Noodle Soup Rotterdam Netherlands Holland

THE REVIEW

Look at this bowl of black tonkotsu ramen noodles. When I look at this picture, I see that perfect little soft boiled egg nestled in a bed of broth, the corn gently sprinkled across the bottom of its yolk. A couple strips of bamboo lay beside it, sharing a piece of nori like a pillow, resting on a bed of noodles. It's peaceful, like the calm before the storm of my spoon and chopsticks coming to destroy.

This is a bowl of ramen that you will want to savor. Enjoy a spoonful of just broth, then maybe a pinch of noodles, followed by a spoonful of broth, noodles, and a few kernels of corn. Take a moment to appreciate the texture of the bamboo and the black mushrooms, contrasted with the crunch of the corn and the spring of the noodles.

I always try to save the egg towards the end of my ramen experience because I want to savor the richness the yolk adds to the broth. Sure, I could beat it up with my chopsticks and mix it into the soup to be enjoyed throughout the meal, but more often than not, I just can't. The few bites I was able to take of that egg, accompanied by a spoonful of broth and noodles, were luxurious.

I highly recommend Tensai ramen for the seasoned ramen eater. A newbie will also enjoy it, but beware: it may ruin other ramen shops for you.


Tensai Ramen, Schiedamsedijk 1, Rotterdam, Netherlands 3011 EB

Noo.Me (Rotterdam, Netherlands): Your Go-To Asian Restaurant For All Noodle Soups

THE STORY

As I've mentioned before, The Ramen Marauder and I have relocated to Rotterdam. When we tell family and friends, it's not unusual that A) someone assumes I meant Amsterdam; or B) someone asks "How far is that from Amsterdam?" Even when I've booked Airbnbs or flights, the emails I received titled "What to do in Rotterdam" are filled with things to do in Amsterdam.

And by all means, keep visiting Amsterdam.

Someone said to me that, when they visited Rotterdam, they got out of the train station and felt like they were staring at a concrete wall. It seems to me they forgot to turn around.

Kralingse Plas Rotterdam Netherlands Sailing Boats Park Spring

As I get to know Rotterdam, I feel like this city has been preparing for my arrival all my life. There are Asian restaurants, bars, cute cats, green spaces, markets, board game shops, and still more to discover. Everywhere I turn I see diversity, and nearly everyone I speak with is happy to talk to someone new. (Or they're politely tolerating me.)

Daniel at Noo.Me explained to me that the Dutch in Rotterdam are eager to learn more about Asian culture and cuisine. His crowd-funded restaurant offers dishes from multiple southeast Asian countries, but what makes his place truly unique is that he does the dishes justice. When Asian restaurants offer dishes from multiple countries, they almost seem to lose credibility by combining all these cuisines under one umbrella.

Noo.Me Rotterdam Netherlands Holland Laksa Pho Bao Dumplings Asian Food Malaysian Vietnamese

Not Noo.Me. Daniel clearly cares about what he offers on the menu because he wants customers to have a positive, authentic experience, and ultimately hopes they will want to learn more about Asian cuisine. He also approaches it all with good humor - if you check out their menu, you'll understand.

This may be just the honeymoon phase of our new move, but I have a feeling I will continue loving this city.

Noo.Me Rotterdam Netherlands Menu Noodle Soup Malaysian Laksa Seafood Asian Food

THE REVIEW

The Ramen Marauder ordered Vietnamese pho, I had the Malaysian laksa, and we shared an order of Chinese fried dumplings and a cha siu bao. I almost wish I had ordered a larger size because it seemed like all the goodness couldn't fit in a small! Or maybe I just wanted a little more broth, which was a bit spicier than I expected (but pleasant). The pho, which we both enjoyed when we ordered to go another time, was also delicious. Afterwards we both enjoyed a Vietnamese coffee, which came with a mini stroopwafel.

This is a great place to try a variety of good food from different Asian cultures - bring your friends!


Noo.Me, Botersloot 18A, 3011 HG Rotterdam, Netherlands, +31 10 737 1865

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