Archive | July, 2013

Street Food: 3 kinds of Seafood Snacks!

30 Jul

Nightmarket Streetfood:3 Seafood Snacks (Fish Balls, Fried Squid and Oyster Noodles)

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Above: 花枝丸 (huazhi wan) – Fish balls

Left: 炸魷魚 (zha youyu) – Fried squid

Right: 蚵仔麵線 –  (e zi mian xiang) Oyster noodles

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(Shilin Night Market, Shilin Station (see map)

Fish Balls

Ready for some street food? We’ll start off with some delicious Fish Balls. Fish balls are mostly made of fish (different kinds, cod or haddock is often used), and come in many shapes, colors and sizes. Boiling them in water and adding some spices and/or sauces afterwards is the easiest version (the snack version that is). They can also come in different flavors, like spicy or sweet, for which they are boiled in a certain kind of stock. There are also many fried versions. The color depends on the kind of fish used or what kind of stock they’re boiled in. Besides fish, you can also find lobster balls, shrimp balls and many other kinds of seafood. They can even have different kinds of filling, such as meat or roe. The texture is a firm, chewy outside, and the inside is somewhat like a soft sponge. It’s very moist from the inside and has a not too overwhelming fish flavor. I especially like the more spicy version, so the taste can linger around for a while. It takes a couple of bites getting used to the texture, but it’s really good.  Play around with spices and flavors until you find the perfect tasting version of this great snack. On the night market, this snack will cost you no more than 30 NTD. Totally worth a try, don’t you think?

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Fried Squid

I suppose this one speaks for itself. I guess you can compare fried squid to squid rings at your local fast-food chain (if they sell them), but it’s much less crunchy (less batter used) and you get much more of the squid flavor and texture. At night markets, there are often different ways to eat squid. Fried or grilled are among the most popular. My version was chopped up into smaller pieces and I could pick a flavor (there were different kinds of sweet, spicy, salty and sour flavors). It was then thrown into a small box, together with some sauce (depending on the flavor you picked) and herbs. I was surprised how much the flavor added to the taste. I like squid usually, but in soup or hotpot I find it a little boring. Combining it with sauce and herbs however, made it completely different. Also, I’m not a huge fan of fried food usually, but this wasn’t too oily and the bouncy squid texture was still there. Prices are usually around 50 NTD.  Not bad. Not bad at all. jjsquidjsquidnesssqui

Last but not least: Oyster Noodles

This dish should actually have its own post, as it is considered typical Taiwanese and doesn’t have be street food necessarily. But I happened to see it at the night market, and this place (阿宗麵線 – a zong mian xiang) is really popular! The noodles are a kind of vermicelli called Misua. These noodles are very thin and very slippery when cooked. The oysters are cooked in a thick dark brown broth. When finished, you can add herbs (cilantro) , black vinegar and/or garlic. It’s called oyster noodles, however they may contain pig intestines instead (like mine) or lack any of the above mentioned . It’s all about the noodles and broth though. Noodles and broth combined leave for a very thick, slimy noodle dish with a very strong savory flavor. 阿宗麵線 is also found at the popular shopping district Ximending (Ximen Station), where you’ll find people lining up around lunch or dinnertime and you usually eat while standing. You can’t go to Taiwan and not eat oyster noodles. Give it a try!

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Categories:                                                                                   Street Food

Japanese fast food chain: Yoshinoya

29 Jul

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Located at the Xindian District.  Qizhang七張  station (see map)

Information: Still avoiding KFC and Pizza hut? Well fine, here’s an alternative. The Japanese fast-food chain Yoshinoya serves fast and easy food for a small price. This chain is located pretty much all over Asia and even in some parts of the United States. They are located all over Taipei as well. There are a couple of main dishes, all of which contain meat or fish, rice and the occasional vegetable. These are set meals, for which the characters are 丼套餐. (These characters are used for pretty much any Japanese set meal). A lot of dishes came with a poached egg on top, which you had to mix into your meal. I chose a Korean style set meal (yeah, I like to be multicultural). The ingredients for the Korean style dish were rice, beef strips, kimchi and a poached egg. As a side salad I also got Kimchi (Kimchi is fermented cabbage/vegetables, by the way). The poached egg really adds to the flavor, as it leaves a very creamy aftertaste. Beef was well cooked and tender. Kimchi may have been spicy, but the softness and creaminess of the egg sort of took the intense kimchi flavor away. The salad was alright though. I enjoyed the food, it was exactly the right amount of food I needed for a quick lunch. You can also choose between a number of side dishes, such as soup, soy beans, tempura (fried vegetables), raw eggs and extra meat. In my opinion, this chain definitely succeeded in creating a good, savory and not too greasy alternative to regular fast food. I heard the chain was slightly better in Japan though. Then again, it’s Japanese food.  Enjoy!

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Rating: Good food, easy food, fast food.  The beef/rice ratio wasn’t too bad either. Oh yeah, no English (what a surprise), but as I said before, it’s basically just beef, pork, chicken or fish + rice and usually a poached egg on top. Nothing to be afraid of (I’ll review ”scarier” food in the future). Plus, they have pictures. Click below for the Taiwanese website and prices.

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an ACTUAL beef noodle restaurant + side dishes (must-visit)

28 Jul

老莊 – 牛肉麵

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Xindian district, Qizhang Station 七張 (see map)

Information: For more information about the contents of beef noodle soup, click here!

It’s good to know some people around here, or I would have never found this place. Located in an alley not too far from Qizhang station, you immediately notice the huge red sign which says: 牛肉麵 (beef noodle). The chef is cooking up dishes next to the entrance (a very kind lady), and inside are several waitresses waiting to take your order. The menu is placed somewhere in the back of the restaurant, consisting out of several beef noodle and other (noodle) dishes; but obviously, beef noodle dishes are among the most popular. Also, after knowing what main dish you want, you are free to walk back to the entrance and choose between a number of side dishes such as pig ears (yes, pig ears; try them, not so bad!), tofu,  vegetables or kelp. This bowl of beef noodle soup had huge chunks of meat (already a big difference when compared to my last beef noodle meal) and you could tell the stock was fresh and handmade, as it had a very soft and savory beef infused flavor. Also, I would highly recommend the tofu side dish. It comes with a “century egg”, which is an egg preserved in a certain mixture trough which the outside turns black and translucent and the inside becomes a thick liquid green/gray color.  (the taste is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten, so I suggest you try it out). Cut both into pieces and combine. I had never had this combination before and I pretty much ate the entire thing (there were 4 of us, that’s how good it was).  I also like that this place was a little hidden;  it wasn’t overly crowded, which made for a meal prepared with more care than the usual fast paced environment these people have to work in.

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Rating: The downside, again, is the lack of anything English.  But please, don’t let that stop you from going here. Write down 牛肉麵 on a piece of paper or point at the huge red and white sign, say : ”Tofu” after you let them read what main dish you want, and you will not regret going here. The staff was so nice and helpful as well. I don’t really have anything to complain about. You can see the prices on the picture below.  I know I will definitely go back for some more of this delicious noodle dish.

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Eating at Taipei 101 – 小南門(little south gate)

28 Jul

Taipei 101 Foodcourt : Little South Gate (小南門(傳統豆花)

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Taipei City Hall Station (See Map)

Information: Taipei 101 is definitely a major tourist Hotspot. I wouldn’t call myself a big fan, but the top view is beautiful at night, the building is pretty impressive, my all-time favorite restaurant is located right next to it AND; there’s a lot of food in the food court!  As Taipei 101 has a very international feel, selling brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and other expensive clothes and gadgets,  it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the food is also very foreign- oriented. You can find Baskin and Robbins, Cold Stones, American Fastfood Chains, a German bakery, Korean food and Indian food. All pretty swell I suppose, but I was still hoping to find some local foods to enjoy. Luckily, the ”Little South Gate” restaurant fit my needs. It was actually famous for a Taiwanese tofu dessert (I’ll leave that for later), but the food was pretty good. There were about 15 dishes on the menu, all consisting out of rice or noodle dishes, soup and vegetables. The names didn’t really explain all that much, as mine was called: ”special noodles, mushroom and meat soup and hot green vegetables”, (which was definitely true, they weren’t lying). It didn’t seem like it contained anything out of the ordinary. Food was good, not expensive at all (which you would expect at Taipei 101); prices varied from 100 – 120 NTD. Also, I couldn’t finish it; that was really a lot of food. So, going to Taipei 101? Enjoy some easy, fast local food at The Little South Gate ! (By the way: there’s no English menu, but the picture speaks for itself)

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Rating: Food courts are not well-known for great quality food. All of these dishes were prepared beforehand and served within 5 minutes. That doesn’t take away the fact that the taste was pretty alright.  I especially liked the noodle dish. It was just the right temperature and the stir-fried pork on top really added to the flavor (although there wasn’t a lot of it). The soup wasn’t all that great, it was only lukewarm. I didn’t really enjoy the taste either, but that is probably just personal. Overall I would say that it was pretty good food and I would probably go there a second time when re-visiting Taipei 101.

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Shaved Ice(刨冰)- A Taiwan Favorite

27 Jul

Shaved Ice  刨冰

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locationdes(this district can be found at Dongmen Station, just walk down the shopping district and you’ll stumble upon a place called 刨冰之家(house of shaved ice), which is hidden behind a huge orange dessert restaurant) Good Luck!

Information: Taiwan is king when it comes to desserts. Especially shaved ice is among the most popular desserts and on hot days like today, (boy was it hot) people crowd around shaved ice restaurants like they haven’t eaten for days.  Shaved Ice in itself is nothing special, but add some fruit and condensed milk (or just fruit) and you’ve got yourself a real treat. You can get several versions of shaved ice; there are shops or  street vendors just selling flavored shaved ice or shaved ice with milk and/or fruit juice. My dessert however had some fresh fruit and sweet condensed milk on top. Mango shaved ice is definitely a Taiwan favorite, as Taiwan produces a lot of the yellow fruit (and it is therefore found in any kind of sweets you can think of). This restaurant had many other options as well; there was strawberry, taro (a purple root vegetable with the texture of a sweet potato), green and red beans, candy, jelly; pretty much anything sweet you can think of. Prices vary from 70 NTD – 220 NTD . The size of this dish was huge, and not only at this restaurant, but pretty much any shaved ice place you can think of, so prepare to get stuffed! This is definitely a must-try when going to Taiwan. This place  was hidden behind a much bigger dessert restaurant, so it may be a little hard to find, but just like many other dishes, you will stumble upon many of these restaurants.

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Rating: I cannot begin to describe the many flavors and textures of this dessert. I am a huge fan of Taro for one, it’s chewy and incredibly sweet. Combine that with fresh fruit and cold shaved ice for a flavor explosion. But any kind of ingredient (except for candy maybe, that was a little strange) will do. It’s delicious; not only here, but probably wherever you go. ijsjemoeder

Ning Xia Night Market

26 Jul

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Information: Night markets are considered typically Taiwanese,  and they’re always overly crowded (which is fun, trust me). You don’t see night markets like this anywhere else (Hong Kong has some for example, but they look totally different). A bigger Taiwanese night market could be over a 1000 meters in length and consists out of 40 % products, clothing and games and 60% food & drink. The Ning Xia night market is a very small one; about 200 meters in length. It primarily sells food. Intestines, fried seafood, fried milk products, fruit drinks, noodle dishes, desserts and anything you can think of on a stick are among the street food sold. These are usually small snacks; so you could for example skip dinner and spend an evening munching on snacks sold here. (We will definitely review nightmarket food in the future, don’t you worry).  The Ning Xia market is a great introduction to what a night market looks like and it’s very close to the Zhongshan MRT station (about a 500 meter walk). Plus, if you do hate crowds (why go to Taipei), this one is probably the least crowded of them all .

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More nightmarkets to come!

Categories:                       Street Food, Taiwan

Dishes:Beef Noodle Soup (牛肉麵)

25 Jul

Taiwanese Signature Beef Noodle Soup

牛肉麵

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Restaurant: The name of the restaurant is 八方雲集,just like this place, so the name is often of no help. But it can be found in the underground mall here, which is Near Taipei Main Station.

Ingredients: Beef, scallions, cabbage, carrots, noodles. These go into a beef-flavored stock and all of that mixed together makes 牛肉麵 (niu rou mian) (vegetables may vary)

Information / Rating: Beef Noodle Soup is to the Taiwanese what Ramen is to the Japanese,  sort of. Like many dishes, you can find it in plenty of places and it is seen as typically Taiwanese. You often find restaurants only specialized in making different kinds of beef noodle soup or other beef noodle dishes. It often costs around 250 NTD (which is a little more expensive than your average meal). Mine was rather cheap (120 NTD), probably because of the amount of beef. The soup itself had a very strong and almost spicy meat flavor. The beef was really tender and the vegetables pretty much started melting as soon as I touched it. If you look up this dish however, you can tell by the pictures I posted, that mine was lacking the amount of vegetables and meat it should have. You can usually tell by the price whether a dish is going to be great or just so-so. Unfortunately, this was just so-so.  Great flavor, but merely containing 2 small pieces of meat, hardly any vegetables and loads of noodles. Still, if you’ve never had 牛肉麵 and you want to try a cheaper version, this is a place to try.  The underground mall has several restaurants selling beef noodle soup. Also, most places here have some sort of an English menu.

beef noodlz

Taiwanese Bento Buffet

25 Jul

(便當)Bento Buffet

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Location: Near Here(one street down) in this district. But there are many, many more

Information: If you’re in a hurry and craving food (like I was today) and there’s no time to sit down and chat; ordering a lunchbox take-out is a great way to still enjoy some pretty good food. It’s called 便當(bian dang), which the Taiwanese stole from the Japanese word Bento (same sound (ish). This place happened to be a buffet, but if you need food even faster, there are also many places were you can just take-out a pre-packed lunchbox. I heard these places are not very popular among foreigners, because they are told the oil in the food is unhealthy and you don’t know what kind of foods you’re eating. I’m sure loads of oil in food is unhealthy wherever you go and this restaurant sold steamed fish, chicken, cooked beef and pork and a lot of vegetables and tofu (both fried and steamed). So if you’re unsure about food, choose the food that you do know as there are plenty of options to choose from. Also, the man at the counter spoke Taiwanese (as in: I didn’t understand one bit) and I got around by pointing and smiling. He was juggling rice bowls and creating a show for each of his customers, which is one good reason to check this place out, right? Like the dumpling stores, bento meals are sold pretty much everywhere. Prices depend on the weight or amount of food you have (but generally  under 100 NTD).  Be adventurous, walk in and don’t be shy. Get a cute-looking box, pick out your meats and veggies; add some rice and you’re good to go!

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Rating: If you’re looking for great quality food; perhaps this isn’t your thing.  Some of these restaurants are good, some are better. You don’t know whether the food is fresh and you don’t know all of the ingredients in certain foods. However, as you can see on the pictures, there is plenty of food to choose from so there’s got to be something to your liking. People often go here during breaktime or on the way home; you sort of get to know what people like to eat on a daily basis and you get out of the comfort tourist zone. So I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for. It’ll be a great experience either way. Also; no stomach problems here !

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Dumpling Take-Out: 八方雲集

24 Jul

Dumpling Take-Out

八方雲集 (ba fang yun ji)

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Information: Dumplings! For those who don’t know, dumplings (餃子) are little pastries made of dough containing different kinds of filling. The name of this place 八方雲集 (which in this case means something like ” where people from all directions gather”  is a common name for pastry/dumpling restaurants (for some reason) and you find them (by which I mean this kind of restaurant) on basically every street corner. This particular place is meant for take-out, as no more than two people are able to sit. You can choose between many different kinds of cooked and fried dumplings. There is also a small selection of other dishes. The dumpling stuffing could be anything from all-vegetable to all-meat or a combination of the two. There are also many different flavors (sour, spicy etc). The great thing about this place (this goes for a lot of smaller restaurants) is that you are able to see people create the food right in front of your eyes; so besides them having lack of space to work, you at least get to know that it’s all handmade and fresh. Prices vary from 3 NTD to 6 NTD per dumpling (which is roughly 0.10 euros/ 0.13 USD). The taste is pretty good, the service is relatively fast and there are many options to choose from. Also, great news! this place has an English menu! 

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Rating: Good dumplings, service was relatively fast. The flavors weren’t as great as I expected; sour wasn’t very sour and spicy wasn’t spicy at all, but the overall taste was really good.  I would say there are better places out there though. The good thing about this place is that it has an English menu,which is very convenient. The food is really good quality wise, so if you happen to be close, take some dumplings along with you.

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百八 – Japanese Seafood Restaurant (Bai Ba)

24 Jul

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Information: As Taiwan was once under Japanese rule, you will find that Taiwan still has a lot of Japanese stores and restaurants. You won’t be able to miss this relatively new Japanese seafood chain. The place is usually packed with people and you’ll even find them waiting in line to get a taste of one of this restaurant’s many seafood dishes (which is pretty common among popular restaurants in Taiwan). The restaurant specializes in raw seafood, which is why the large bowl of mixed seafood on rice  is probably the most ordered dish. Other options are fried fish, sushi and a small selection of other meats (beef and pork). The seafood is fresh and you really get a large amount of what you order.  If you’re in a hurry, you can also order a take-out lunch or dinner box. An unlimited amount of cold snacks and miso soup goes with your main dish. You can olso order an extra salad (also often containing seafood). Prices per dish vary from 100 NTD to 250 NTD (which is roughly about 2.5 euros/ 3 dollars). Dishes are usually served within 10 minutes after placing your order. One of the downsides for travelers is the lack of an English menu, so bringing a Chinese-speaking friend is probably best, or you’ll end up just pointing at pictures and hoping you ordered the right thing.

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Rating:  This restaurant is great for lunch or dinner on a hot day in Taiwan. You get thick slices of fish and other seafood and the overall quality is good and most of all: fresh. If you’re not a big fan of seafood however, I’d recommend going someplace else as there are few other options. The fact that there isn’t an English menu is really a downside for non-Chinese speaking people, but unfortunately, this quite often goes for non-tourist oriented restaurants. People are really friendly and willing to help though, so you should absolutely try going here.
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