Apr 142014
 

Gonna wrap up my Taiwan travel posts now with a couple more restaurants, and some miscellaneous photos of cutesy things…

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Chun Shui Tang (春水堂) is purportedly the originator of the now-famous bubble milk tea. Apparently this is a topic of hot debate in Taiwan, so I’ll try to stay out of the controversy, haha. But the story goes, the product development manager, Ms. Xiu-Hui Lin, created the combination of adding tapioca pearls to iced assam tea just on a whim at a corporate meeting, and it has become the ever-popular bubble tea drink that we know and love today.

Actually, I don’t really like the tapioca pearls. Haha. I just like milk tea.

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The milk tea from Chun Shui Tang is actually better than most others – with the price to reflect its quality. The thick layer of foam that you see at the top is a result of the tea being vigorously shaken, and the foam provides a pleasantly airy texture to the tea.

We also had some dinner here…

Kung-Fu Noodles

Kung-Fu Noodles

Kung-Fu noodles is basically noodles with minced pork sauce. As you can see, portion sizes in Taiwan area quite small compared with U.S. – but that was great for me because I could try more things, haha.

Oolong-Flavored Tofu Curd and Pork Blood

Oolong-Marinated Tofu Curd and Pork Blood

Turnip Cake

Turnip Cake

Taiwanese-style turnip cake is a little different from the Cantonese-style – there’s usually very little filling in the Taiwanese turnip cakes, whereas the Cantonese ones have Chinese sausage, mushrooms, etc.

Taiwanese Sausage

Taiwanese Sausage

Mmm… grilled Taiwanese sausage is so yummy. Continue reading »

Mar 162014
 

Taiwan has amazing street food. It’s one of the things I miss the most! I’ve already shared about takoyaki (octopus fritters) in the previous recap… Here are a couple more favorites:

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This place, “Hit Cookie Home” (a literal translation from the Chinese 打餅鋪) is found in the Yi-Zhong street market of Taichung. They’re not actually cookies – the translation screwed up. The pancake-like things you see are called “Laobing” – think flatbread, but with flaky layers, then rolled with toppings as shown on the menu. This is S’s absolute favorite street food item, and one of the things that he’s most excited about when we discuss food in Taiwan.

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You can kind of see the flaky layers of the laobing. I got one with “Beijing-style pork,” which was pork strips marinated in a sweet, Peking-duck-style sauce, garnished with thinly-sliced green onions. Honestly, the fillings aren’t even that important… The pancake itself is just that good. Some of our favorite toppings/fillings are seaweed & tuna (sounds weird but it’s good, trust me), pork sung, and corn & cheese.

Nearby on Yi-Zhong street, there was the best chicken cutlet…

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Literally, Yi-Zhong Giant Chicken Cutlet. I think this was one of the original “giant chicken cutlet” stands – they pound the chicken thigh really thin before frying, so you get 1) really tender meat and 2) lots more surface area for breading. Nowadays, the chicken cutlets get bigger and bigger – to the point where it’s kind of ridiculous and doesn’t even taste that good anymore. This place, though, is still as good as ever.

Fry ALL the things!

Fry ALL the things!

All your fried foods are belong to us!

All your fried foods are belong to us!

Lest you think that they only sell fried chicken, here are a couple of photos to show you all the items that they can fry for you: french fries, green beans, taro, fish balls, squid, different kinds of mushrooms, tofu, onion rings, chicken skin, etc…

We stuck to the original chicken cutlet. Since it’s street food, they actually cut up the cutlet for you so that it’s easier to eat on-the-go. So considerate! Haha. As you’ll notice, Taiwanese street food is often served in little paper pouches with several wooden skewers as utensils.

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Sorry for the bad pic – as I said, this is street food and I took it as I was walking, haha. The chicken was moist and tender, and the breading was really crunchy. Oh, how I’ve missed this! We also asked for them to make it spicy, so we got plenty of chili powder. S really likes the chili powder.

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We also got french fries with seaweed powder (again, sounds weird but trust me, it works and is amazing). The seaweed powder adds just an extra touch of umami, making these super addictive. Also, they fry everything in the same oil pots, meaning these taste sort of like chicken… haha. Continue reading »

Feb 192014
 

Yup, I’m still working my way through my Taiwan photos. Looking back, I didn’t even get pictures of everything that we ate… too bad. At least the memory of them will stay with me until my next trip, hehe.

On my first visit to Taiwan, S’s parents took us to a really nice Korean BBQ place called Yuan Shao, which I absolutely loved. Like many high-end restaurants in Taiwan, you order a “set” meal that includes soup, salad, entrée (in our case, it was a selection of meats for grilling), side, beverage, and dessert. I don’t remember much about the other courses, but I do remember really enjoying the meat, so S and I asked if we could return this time. His parents sort of laughed at us for wanting to go back to an old place instead of trying something new, but I had a serious craving for it.

Salad with cherries and seared duck breast

Salad with cherries and seared duck breast

Stone bowl "bibim bap"

Bibim bap with seaweed and salmon roe

Salad and rice that came with the meal set… I really enjoyed the duck breast (although there were no cherries to be found in the salad?), and the salmon roe was a nice, fusion-y addition to the bibim bap. But the main point of the meal was this:

Glorious meat

Glorious meat

This was an assorted beef and pork platter, which includes boneless beef short rib, pork loin, beef brisket, pork jowl (?), and pork belly. The meat here was very nice quality – just look at the amount of marbling on the beef. Another good thing about the beef here: they use American beef, which is fattier than Australian. (There’s a paranoia in Taiwan about American beef and mad cow disease, so Australian beef is more common. But it doesn’t taste as good imo.)

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Continue reading »

Jan 272014
 

Continuing with my Taiwan trip, I wanted to share a few more food-related adventures…

In S’s hometown, Fengyuan, there’s a downtown market/shopping area called Miao Dong (廟東). There’s a hidden gem inside that S’s parents discovered a couple of years ago…

Sashimi Platter

Sashimi!

Sashimi in Taiwan is really delicious, and really cheap compared to the US, so S and I always try to get our sashimi fill in Taiwan. A 10-piece sashimi platter here costs about $10 USD (240 NTD). As you can see, there’s tuna, yellowtail, salmon, squid, and – something I’ve only seen in Taiwan – marlin (旗魚). My favorite pieces were the marlin, which had a pleasantly chewy texture, and salmon. The salmon was really fatty, and I loved that they wrapped it around the onion slices to give it some crunch and kick. Similarly, the squid/cucumber combination was delicious as well.

Vegetable medley

Japanese-style salad

I’m not sure what to call this in English – in Chinese it’s called 醋物, literally “vinegar object.” Basically it’s sliced vegetables in a vinegar-based sauce, and very refreshing. Corn and tomatoes were really sweet, which went well with the vinegar.

Hana Sushi

Hana Sushi

Another Taiwanese invention – hana sushi (literally “flower sushi”), which is made with not-so-traditionally-Japanese ingredients. The rolls often include cooked or canned salmon and tuna, pork floss, shrimp tempura, etc. Also as you can see, purple rice can also be used. I actually really like these non-traditional sushi rolls – the flavors usually work pretty well together.

Cute sushi clock!

Cute sushi clock & sushi chef with fish

We decided not to eat too much at the sushi place to save room for some takoyaki (octopus balls)…

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Probably one of my favorite street foods in Taiwan. These little takoyaki balls are made of a flour-based batter with chopped octopus and cooked in the special molds that you see, and served with plenty of mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and a special BBQ sauce. We asked for garlic-flavored takoyaki, so we also got a generous helping of garlic salt.

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There’s a variety of delicious food stands in Miao Dong, and I wasn’t able to document them all. But some other things to try if you’re ever in Fengyuan are: Qing Shui pork chop noodles and oyster pancakes. The oyster pancakes in Fengyuan are probably the most famous – the sauce is quite unique and different from the sauce on any other oyster pancakes.

Continue reading »

Jan 202014
 

For winter vacation this year, S and I visited his family in Taichung, Taiwan. We spent two weeks there and had a really great time – the weather was quite nice (although apparently San Diego is even warmer), and we even got to spend New Year’s at the beach in Kenting, the southernmost part of the island.

We stayed in the Château resort (夏都), which is where the Taiwanese movie Capo No. 7 was filmed!

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S’s parents said that they’ve stayed in several resorts/hotels around the area in Kenting, but Château was their favorite because there was access to the beach right from the hotel!

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Of course, we had some fantastic food on our excursion to the southern part of the island. Every year in Taiwan, there is a contest for the best beef noodle soup. By the way, beef noodle soup could almost be called the National Dish of Taiwan, it’s so universally loved. So of course there’d be a contest for the best bowl in the country. The winning restaurant is located inside the Caesar (凱撒) resort, just down the road from Château.

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Beef noodle soup

 

It was indeed a wonderful bowl of beef noodle soup – the broth was really flavorful and rich, but not overwhelmingly so. The noodles were handmade and had a nice, springy bounce, and the meat and tendons were quite tender, having been simmered for a long, long time. For reference, here’s the newspaper clipping about the beef noodle soup award:

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Some other notable things we tried on the trip:

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Teppanyaki

Teppanyaki is Taiwan is commonly found in food courts of malls, and they’re quite different from Benihana (or whatever teppanyaki/”habachi grill” place you can find in the U.S.)! The setting is really casual, and the chefs definitely don’t do any of the shrimp-flipping trips or set onion rings on fire. But the food is really delicious. Above, the chef in the midst of cooking up some mung bean sprouts, with plenty of butter and salt & pepper.

Cabbage & mung bean sprouts

Cabbage & mung bean sprouts

Crispy chicken

Crispy chicken

Continue reading »

Jan 152010
 

I had the fortune of visiting several pretty high-end restaurants in Taiwan. The first was a grill restaurant called Yuan Shao (原燒) in Taichung, featuring several courses including appetizer, soup, stone-pot rice, and dessert. The meat that they provided for you to grill was of truly high quality, and although grilling takes a long time, the food was quite delicious.

Yuan Shao Grill at Taichung

Pork for grilling at Yuan Shao

Another splendid meal that I enjoyed was at a restaurant called Pumpkin House (南瓜屋), also located in Taichung. Don’t worry, they didn’t serve you pumpkin! The restaurant’s interior is decorated with American touches – plaques and signs hanging on the walls, dim lighting (for Taiwan standards), and they serve Cajun/ Italian food. Like other high-end restaurants, their meals also come in courses, and for my main course, I chose chicken in sherry cream sauce with mushrooms. The other courses were soup, veggie sticks, and dessert, which was fruit jelly – all very delicious and beautifully crafted. I personally enjoyed the other courses more than the main course itself, actually… Continue reading »

Dec 232009
 

For lunch, I present to you… bento (便當).

Bento is a concept originated in Japan, consisting of a packed meal for one person. It’s composed of the usual – rice, meat, vegetable – all in single portions, neatly packed into a box. In Taiwan, bentos are a popular lunch item. You can choose a few “side” items with a main protein.
Pictured below is the grilled pork bento. My four side items were cauliflower, slivered cucumbers, chicken hearts, and some sort of sliced bean curd. The grilled pork was really good – it was well-seasoned and tendered, and the sesame really added a great final touch. The side dishes were all very good except for the bean curd, which I found slightly odd. I think it was the fact that it came with dried anchovies – the two flavors didn’t mix well together or something.
Bento 烤肉便當

Another popular lunch item that I tried was the soup dumpling (小籠包), which originated in Shanghai. They are not your typical baozi (包子, or steamed bun) – thus, the word dumpling describes them more accurately. They are, however, steamed in a bamboo basket, just like baozi, and their shape somewhat resembles baozi, so they are called “xiaolongbao” – little steamed bao. They are filled with not only the ground meat, but also soup – so that the whole bao becomes super juicy.
I’m not too big a fan of these soup dumplings in the first place, but I tried them since the Taiwanese are quite obsessed with them. I must say, out of all the soup dumplings I’ve tried, these are not the best.. they were not the juiciest I’ve had.
Soup dumplings 小籠包
The soup dumplings also came with a bowl of soup, and I chose corn chowder. Taiwanese corn chowder is not the same as American corn chowder, which adds cream to make it very thick. I like the Taiwanese style more… yum. Although from this photo, I guess it looks just like egg drop soup, haha.
Taiwanese corn chowder 玉米濃湯
Dec 182009
 

O.m.g. breakfast is heaven. Or maybe it’s just breakfast in Taiwan.

At school, I rarely eat breakfast due to 1) a late morning schedule and 2) a busy morning schedule. But here, due to jet lag, I’ve been waking up early enough to eat breakfast. Plus, I want to catch as many meals as I can. The first morning, we went out to get 蛋餅 (dan bing – Taiwanese omelet), which is very, very different from the Western omelet:
It’s made with a thin Chinese crepe wrapped around a fried egg. You can get yours stuffed with a different ingredient such as tuna (canned tuna, that is), pork sung (Taiwanese pork sung is so much better than the stuff you can buy in the U.S.), corn, ham, etc. I got mine with corn. They also add some thick soy sauce (醬油膏) and sweet chili paste (甜辣醬) if you ask for it spicy – which, of course, I did. It was delicious.
蛋餅 Taiwanese omelet
Next day, we went to eat 飯糰 (rice ball), which was AMAZING. Inside was fried dough (油條), pickled radish, pork sung, marinated egg (滷蛋), and corn, seasoned with sesame. Mm… the fried dough and pork sung provided the crispiness of every bite. So delicious – I loved it.
飯糰 rice ball

Did I mention that I got real Chinese soymilk both mornings? Mm-hmm. Yup, goodness in a cup.
Third morning, we went back to the Taiwanese omelet place, but I decided to order a breakfast sandwich instead. It’s quite simple, and I’ve made it before back at school: toast, Asian mayo (which has an addicting sweetness), fried egg, pork sung, and slivered cucumbers. But honestly, the Taiwanese pork sung makes all the difference – and makes the sandwich soo much better.
早餐三明治 Breakfast sandwich
All in all, deliciousness. Are you jealous yet? ;)
Dec 182009
 

The plane ride was… long. The route was from RDU to ORD to NRT to TPE. Two meals on the Chicago to Tokyo flight, one meal on the Tokyo to Taiwan flight.


I didn’t bother taking any photos of the airplane food provided. Needless to say it wasn’t very appetizing. Watch out for the dinner roll from AA – I think it can really be used as an assault weapon. JAL was slightly better – the cold noodles with sesame sauce was actually pretty decent. However, all the entrees were so salty! I couldn’t eat more than two bites of each…

The highlight of the trip was definitely the layover in Tokyo. I had originally planned to splurge on sushi and sashimi at the NRT airport, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for my wallet), I didn’t land in the terminal with the sashimi place, so I ended up just getting noodles instead:

味噌拉麵 miso ramen
As you can probably tell from the name, this is miso soup with ramen. Some additional ingredients include cabbage, corn, carrots, tofu, and sliced pork. The soup was full of flavor, and the noodles’ texture was perfect. As S says, they look really rubbery but have just the right amount of chewiness.



牛肉烏東 beef udon
The beef udon has a fewer ingredients than the miso ramen – only onions, thin beef slices, and scallions for garnish. The udon texture, again, is wonderful. The soup is pretty heavy in flavor – I wouldn’t have finished the entire bowl. But without the heavy flavoring in the soup, I suppose the udon noodles wouldn’t taste as good since they really soaked up all the aroma of the soup.

So those were the highlights of my ~30 hours of travel. Oh, and the biiiig cup of milk tea that S’s parents brought me when we got picked up from the airport =D