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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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Categories: Street Food

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

13 Sep

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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.

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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.

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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

Some unusual Parts of the Pig

1 Sep

Pig Eyes, Pig Head, Pig Colon… for Breakfast

piglocationdes

When you get to this bus station (closest MRT: Wanfang Hospital Station (map)), cross the street and turn right and walk for about 200 meters. You’ll find a traditional market on your left hand side (a little complicated). Many other (but not all) markets will have this kind of food. By market I mean the more or less traditional markets, not the night markets. These may sometimes open very early in the morning and close around lunchtime. Markets like this are more local.  They can either be indoors or outside. Ask around! There’s bound to be one where you are now or will be in the future! Alright, let’s start!

Information: Somehow, when I was told about pig eyes (豬眼睛) as a local delicacy, I got exited immediately (I’m all in for trying out new kinds or styles of food) . It was only a few days before the actual date however, when a friend told me it was breakfast food; we had to go there early, as pig eyes are really popular and sold out quickly. That’s when I needed to man up a bit (eyeballs for breakfast; as Taiwanese as I am trying to be, that doesn’t sound good no matter how hard I try). But, as the brave adventurous western person I am, my mind told me that anything chewy, squishy and round was going to be amazing and I was fully prepared. Again, I was in for a surprise. We got served some pig eyes, pig head and colon. These were accompanied by a bowl of noodles and some side dishes (tofu, soy egg, Chinese spinach). The eyes tasted like biting on very tender pork fat. Nothing chewy or squishy about them. They were well cooked and had a very soft and savory meat flavor. There was nothing unsettling about it. The head consisted out of very tender pork meat, but since it was scraped from the entire head, every piece of meat had a different size. Pig colon just tasted like your average intestine (to me), if you’ve ever tried any. The aftertaste is usually very strong and a little bitter (a little like liver). You either love it or hate it. All of the dishes were topped off with thickened soy sauce and ginger. For breakfast however, this is still a very heavy meal and so if you want to try it (please do, you’ll miss out if you don’t), you can take some home and eat them at a later time. I found out that this is a really local kind of food. Many people my age haven’t tried it and it may even sound strange to them. Therefore I feel that it’s a must-try food! Also, I think it’s much more common outside of Taipei. Well, enough rambling; Picture Time!

pig eyes colon headeyescolontofy

Categories: image photo (3)

market table

Cash City (錢都): Shabu-shabu Restaurant

30 Aug
imagelocationdesNearest MRT station (although not that close to the actual location): 七張(Qizhang).  Take a bus towards Jingmei Girls Highschool (景美女中)and you’ll find the orange colored restaurant on your right after a mere 50 meters.

Information: Taiwanese cuisine has been really influenced by Japanese food. Adoption of similar flavors and names can be found in the dishes. A popular dish is shabu-shabu, a hot pot, which originated in Japan. Just as in the case of other hot pots, the idea of shabu-shabu is to put various ingredients into a cooking pot and then dip them into a sauce before eating. We tried shabu-shabu at a local chain (one of many) where you can pick from various meat and fish options. An assortment of ingredients was already included in the price and served right away once we took our seats. We each had our own small hot pot built into our table, which is not that common in Japan where it is usually shared. We struggled a little before we were able to figure out how to turn on the heat (push a button that was under the table). Unlike Japanese shabu-shabu the hot pot was filled with chicken stock (but there were various other kinds of stock to choose from). After putting some of the ingredients in the pot our option of choice was served; thinly sliced pork and a seafood banquet. Slowly simmering we feasted on these accompanied by vegetables, tofu, fish balls, surimi, and fried seafood. This hotpot chain also offered a sidebar with free tea, various sauces (different from Japanese sauces), and ice cream. It was a very pleasurable experience overall. Nom nom nom.

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Rating: The food was nice, service was fast and the prices were really reasonable (200-250 NTD a person). We will definitely visit this place again; also because we received a coupon for some free meat or seafood.

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Sushi Express

28 Aug

 photolocationdesNearest MRT station 西門町 (ximending), but you can find Sushi Express nearly everywhere in Taipei.

Information: It is inevitable to not write a review about the biggest sushi chain in Taipei: Sushi Express. I’d heard some bad stories about their take-away food, but we still decided to test their conveyor belt sushi. It was extremely busy and there was actually a line right after we were seated. The idea of conveyor belt sushi is that the sushi  (on a conveyor belt) passes all the tables. If you see a piece of sushi you like, you just grab it. At Sushi Express there is a lot of a sushi that is normally not on a normal menu in Japan: sushi with pork floss, sushi with soy sauce egg, and sushi with chili peppers. I didn’t feel so adventurous today so I picked a lot of normal sushi. The salmon sashimi and nigiri was fairly tasty, but the tuna was really tasteless, but I find that this is really common in these cheaper sushi restaurants. The tamagoyaki (grilled egg) was way too sweet and the herring was also disappointing. I had my doubts about the pork floss sushi, because it is pretty dry, but once it is in your mouth for a split-second it is actually really tasty. There was one thing at Sushi Express of which we had not idea what it was. It turned out to be artificial abalone, but it is still a mystery how this was produced. Surprisingly, its taste was close to squid, but less chewy. It is certainly worth a try.

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 Rating: This sushi is really not that bad especially considering the price of 30 NTD per plate. If you fancy eating some quick sushi without paying a pretty penny you should try Sushi Express.

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Steamed Bread Dumplings (蒸包)

28 Aug

 location dum+lingsNearest MRT Station: Zhongshan Elementary School Station (See Map).

Information:  When I first heard people were going to take me to eat steamed dumplings, I just thought I was going to eat the regular kind (like this one), but steamed. I was in for a surprise. Located around a small temple, breakfast/brunch restaurant 圓山老崔蒸包 serves up some delicious steamed dumplings made of a chewy kind of bread. These were just like filled Chinese buns (包子), in the size of a regular dumpling, but the texture was very different, probably because of its smaller size. The dumplings came with many kinds of homemade dipping sauces. You could choose between a pork or beef filling;  the taste was wonderful. Steaming food is a great way to preserve flavor and you could really tell that none of the juices and flavors had left the dumplings after taking a bite; full flavor, really nice. Sauce created that little extra ‘oomph’.   As a starter you can order some hot and sour soup (酸辣湯) with stinky tofu; very thick, rich and tasty soup; give it a try! It tastes different every time.dumpling breaed restaurantdumpling bread

Rating: Prices: 10 dumplings for 80 NTD; I couldn’t stop eating! Fresh, handmade, delicious. A power breakfast! I was told this restaurant had great quality food. I was also told people often go here because it’s close to a temple and people believe buying food around a temple will give them good fortune. (A little contradictory; nevertheless, great food!) The restaurant opens around 5:00 and closes around 13:00, so better go there early! (Although I’m sure you can find other places. I also wonder if this could also be served for late lunch or dinner; any ideas?)

Categories: image

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