Archive | September, 2013

A tour around Taichung (台中)city

30 Sep

Taichung City; 南天(NanTian)temple, Taichung City Park, Taichung folklore museum park & FengJia Night Market .

templeNan Tian 南天 Temple: website: http://www.tcntg.org.tw/。 Famous for being the largest temple in Taichung worshiping emperor Guan Yu of the Han Dynasty. A 6 storey building filled with symbolism, ancestral worship and amazing artwork. Taichung is pretty famous for its temples in general (probably because all of them have huge statues in front of them). Have something to confess? Looking for love? In need of money; try to find some good luck in one of these.  🙂 Check out the website, as taking pictures inside (of Gods and sacred places) is considered disrespectful and so I didn’t take many. 
park 2park taizhongTaichung City Park: In need of some relaxation? Why not go to the romantic Taichung Park.  The park was built under Japanese Rule in 1903 and the pavilion (see above picture) was built in 1908 (and is still there;  as many changes have been made over the years). Besides the many large trees, park benches and bridges,  there’s also a music stage, some tennis courts and other exercise facilities. The music stage is often used by elderly, playing traditional Chinese instruments. You can also rent a rowboat to float around on the park lake. It’s also a place for youngsters to hang out, smoke and be their loud self though,  so there may be some disruption in the romantic image pictured above. The scenery is beautiful though 🙂

museumpark2museumpark1Taichung folklore museum park: the Taichung Folklore museum will tell you everything you need to know about aboriginal cultures in Taiwan, the Japanese occupation, Buddhism and ancestral worship (then and now), some old style architecture and a beautiful tea garden. You’ll also find old movie and propaganda posters, old toys and some Qing Dynasty art. It’s a little small for a day out, but there’s no entrance fee, you can buy food and drinks and it’s a very good place to relax within the bustling city center. 

nightmarket 1 nightmarket 2FengJia Night Market: One of the most famous night markets in Taiwan; and there’s a good reason for it. It’s huge, much more open space than usual cramped markets and the food! my goodness the food! Looking for anything specific? FengJia will have it!  More to come in the Night Market post 😉

Categories: Scenic Spots

Taro, Coconut Milk & Tapioca Dessert (芋頭西米露)

22 Sep
taro coconutlocationdesClose to NCCU University, The Zoo and Maokong Mountain. It’s also close to where I live, if you want to stalk me. Anyway, it’s a little hard to find, but I think this place is worth going to because it’s local, traditional and cheap.  Take any bus towards Jingmei Girls Highschool (景美女中)from Qizhang七張 station or Taipei Zoo Station (map) and walk about 5 minutes down the street towards NCCU University.
Information: Ahh yes, Taro. Finally I get to introduce a dessert with Taro as its main ingredient. Taro is a purple root vegetable similar in texture to that of a potato. Like Sweet Potato, it can be added to both savory and sweet dishes. The original flavor of Taro is actually a little bit salty, but when adding sugar(sweetener/honey/anything) and any liquid, the texture and flavor change completely, which is what makes Taro so interesting. In this dessert, sweetened taro is added to a traditional dessert soup from Hong Kong (I think, or southern China). It’s called ”Sai Mai Lo” in Cantonese, but the slightly cuter Xi Mi Lu (西米露) is used here in Taiwan. It’s made out of coconut milk and tapioca and you can eat it like that (hot or cold), or with other ingredients, like Taro. When taking a bite of this dessert, you’ll feel like you’re eating frosting off of a cake..without the cake! Cooked/Steamed taro and creamy liquids really complement each other. Tapioca is added, again, for the texture. The pearls used in Xi Mi Lu are really small and you don’t need to bite on them, which is why you won’t get much of that ”jelly” feel.  Try anything sweet with taro! It’s delicious.
taro coconut2
Categories: Desserts

Prince Ramen Restaurant

21 Sep
photo (1)locationdesNearest MRT station is Xindian. Walk towards the river and look for the boulevard.

Information: There is this perfect spot around Xindian MRT station where you can relax along the river, rent a paddle boat while watching the turtles in the water, and have a refreshing beverage. On the boulevard there are lots of small restaurants with all sorts of different food. Prices are generally a little higher, because of the lovely view and location. A ramen restaurant caught my eye, while strolling along all the eateries, and after some thinking we decided to take a seat there. There is a minimum order of NTD 220 per person, but we wanted to order less than that. After consulting with the manager it was okay to just eat a single bowl of ramen. The ramen being sold here is tonkotsu ramen (ramen with a broth made of pig bones). I decided to go for the original bowl of tonkotsu ramen. The slices of pork seemed a little burnt to me and after a taste test it did not really impress me; it was tough, a little burnt, and the flavor was off. The egg was hard-boiled (we seem to get that a lot here) and not soft-boiled, which I prefer. The broth and the noodles were good though. The broth was fatty and very tasteful and complimented the noodles very well. The rest of the garnish was so-so: a little scallion and konjac. It left me with mixed feelings of how to rate this ramen shop.

photo

Rating: Overall the ramen here isn’t bad at all. The broth and noodles are good, but the meat and egg were disappointing. If I would be nearby I would like to test out a different bowl of ramen here. Besides, the scenery and the atmosphere definitely make up for its flaws.

Categories: photo (5)

Street Food: Hot Stinky Tofu & Duck Blood

20 Sep

tofu ducl blood
Location: This amazing looking snack can be found at plenty of night markets, but I bought it on beautiful Maokong Mountain. Nearest MRT station : Taipei Zoo Station (Map).

Information: Sometimes.. names of Chinese or Taiwanese dishes are really creative.. and sometimes you just get what you pay for: Spicy Stinky Tofu & Duck Blood is exactly that: pieces of foul smelling Tofu, Dark Duck Blood Jelly in an extremely spicy red-brown colored broth. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound appealing; but the interesting thing is, the creamy tofu, the slippery duck blood and the hot broth go together really well. The duck blood is simply congealed, which feels like you’re biting into flavorless pudding; but because it’s been simmering in a spicy broth, you get the full hot flavor coming out of it when taking a bite (have some water ready). Stinky Tofu is actually not as bad as it sounds. I think you can compare it to cheese; smells bad, tastes less bad. All it is is fermented Tofu (Like pickles, sour cabbage and yogurt. All fermented food products).  I like cooked versions of Stinky Tofu because the taste of ferment lingers when taking a bite. The outside of any version is usually firm or crunchy and the inside is soft and creamy. All these combinations of flavor and texture make it a really interesting snack! Prices are usually under 50 NTD. Note: I’ve given up on checking for anything English, because it’s usually just not there. So I’ll try to provide the Chinese characters as much as possible. If you have any questions on anything, just post in the comment section below 🙂

blood1bloodz

Categories: Street Food

Night Market Snacks: Pig’s Blood Cake & Pork Gelatinous Dumplings(BaWan)

13 Sep

porkybpielocationdes

The much bigger than expected Jingmei 景美 night market can be found behind Jingmei Station, exit 1

Note: These dumplings aren’t actually dumplings; it’s just a term I used to describe their appearance; read more to find out

Pig’s Blood Cake (豬血糕 , zhu xue gao)

Information: Finally, I get to introduce my favorite snack in Taiwan (Pig’s Blood Cake). This pitch black snack only has a few ingredients, but the consistency and texture are to die for. Pig’s blood cake is made of exactly that: Pork Blood. You can find it in plenty of dishes, but the night market version is the best. The blood is combined with sticky rice which is then steamed and put on a popsicle stick. When you order one, you can choose whether you want chili paste on it or not. The savory popsicle is then dipped in soy broth (not always) and rolled around in peanut powder. Sometimes cilantro is added. Texture is sticky, chewy, like a spoonful of savory-sweet thick rice pudding; but better. Imagine eating peanut butter chewing gum that falls apart into your mouth. I’m not sure if this description makes you want to eat it; but it is really good; I never skip this snack when going to a night market and neither should you! Note: Jingmei is the only market so far where I found a cake shaped like the picture below

bloodcake

“Pork Gelatinous Dumpling” (BaWan)

Information: When walking further down the market, we stumbled upon a dish called 肉圓 (rouyuan), another traditional Taiwanese snack which in Taiwanese (local language) is called Bawan. It’s some sort of big dumpling made of rice flour, starches and water, which gives it a somewhat gelatinous appearance. The stuffing apparently varies ( I read this.. on the internet), but ours was stuffed with some pork, cilantro and bamboo shoots). It was topped off with savory and sweet sauce (there were different kinds). The texture was very soft and gooey and even a little creamy when biting on it. Taste of the stuffing was a little bland, but the sauces added to the flavor; not bad! I came home only to find out later that this is quite a special and traditional dish; so there must be better versions out there. Excited!  More to come!bawan

Categories: Street Food

Maru Sushi

11 Sep

Upscale Sushi Restaurant photo (2)locationdes

The nearest MRT station is Taipei Main Station. Follow M8 until you are in the station hall. There are two locations; one on the ground floor and one upstairs in the food court.

Information: For me, sushi is one of those things that I all of a sudden get a real craving for. Today was one of those days and then I immediately start looking for a sushi bar. We happened to be around Taipei Main Station and decided to go to a more upscale sushi bar. Maru Sushi has two branches around the food court there. We went to the one that only had the conveyor belt along the counter. But don’t be fooled by its appearance, it is not really the same as Sushi Express. Most of the sushi has to be ordered; only a few different kinds of pieces are actually on the belt. Every seat had a menu as a placemat on which all the different sushi was being shown with their prices. At Maru Sushi it is not the usual two or three different types of plate that point out the price, but there were a total of seven. Some colors fairly similar to one each other. Many of the pieces can be found at every sushi shop and most of the standard ones were around NTD 60-100 per two pieces. The quality was, as one might expect of these prices, a lot better than at Sushi Express. There were also unusual pieces, which we had not seen before. We had salt roasted tuna sushi that was tasty, but for me not as good as raw fatty tuna (which they unfortunately did not have). The dried scallop sushi was NTD 150, but the flavors were weak and the texture was too soft. The most interesting piece was a sushi, which at first glance looked somewhat like poo, but was actually crab meat (the black parts that can be found in the shell of the crab) with miso and topped of with roe. The taste was somewhat interesting; the texture combined with the rice was good, but the aftertaste was way too strong and did not go away. In addition, we ordered a donburi (bowl with rice on the bottom and a topping on it) with tuna that was so-so and somewhat expensive.

photophoto (1)photo (3)

Rating: The quality of the sushi was good, but some of the sushi was too expensive. I don’t think the extra money is worth visiting this shop, but if you stick to the standard (cheaper) ones it won’t hurt your wallet too much. Expect to spend around NTD 800 a person.

Categories: photo (5)

Cold Tofu Dessert: 豆花

8 Sep

Traditional Tawainese Dessert: 豆花douhualocationdes

Name: 三兄妹。Located in the popular shopping area Ximending 西門町. (Ximen Station Exit 6. See Map)

Information: The great thing about Taiwanese desserts, is that it often isn’t super processed, and so you get ”pure” ingredients, which can makes desserts here much lighter. You can also often choose ingredients and the amount of sugar added. So there’s always room for dessert! Yay! This dessert restaurant is located in the food area of Ximen and It’s probably the biggest one in the area because it offers a wide selection of traditional desserts. You can pick many variations of shaved ice, snow ice, fruit ice and the dessert I chose: 豆花, a bean curd dessert. What you get is a big chunk of cold, flavorless tofu combined with other ingredients such as sweetened kidney beans, red beans, green beans, fruit, soft peanuts, sweet potato, taro,  jelly, tapioca and lots more. If you find a shop selling primarily 豆花,  you usually get to pick your toppings. I picked a peanuts and tapioca pearls version. They start of with pouring some black sugar water into a bowl. Then comes a huge amount of tofu, toppings and some crushed ice (optional). The peanuts were softened and thus created a somewhat peanut buttery taste when eating it. I’m a fan of wobbly desserts, so I really love Tapioca (and so do the Taiwanese, you can get it with nearly everything sweet!). but it doesn’t necessarily add a lot of flavor, it’s the texture that matters. Be sure to give it a try!

peanuttapioca sanxiongmei

Categories: Dessert

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