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Organic Hot Pot

14 Dec

Organic Hot Pot – 齊民集火鍋organic hotpotlocationdes

 Information: A new documentary hit the Taiwan screen recently called: 看見台灣(English: Taiwan From Above). Besides showing you Taiwan’s stunning scenery, the main focus of the film is on the devastating effects the Taiwanese industry has had on Taiwanese soil, air pollution, water pollution and so forth. It also tries to encourage people to care for the environment and it applauds the upcoming and slowly rising organic farming trend. So what better way to take part in improving Taiwan than going to an organic restaurant ey? Honestly, I am a big fan of wholefoods and was really excited to hear about this hot pot chain. I was not disappointed at all; not only were all of their products organic, but a lot of it was also handmade, which gave for some interesting and super tasty combinations of food. I recommend trying their homemade fish/meat or vegetarian balls, I couldn’t get enough of those. Overall you could tell that the quality of the food was really good and really fresh. Besides the restaurant, they also sell a number of handmade products. It was a new experience for me here, as organic food is hard to find.(and usually extremely expensive). I also liked their non-plastic approach on plates, chopsticks etc; the entire restaurant had a very no-nonsense feel to it. organic3

Rating: A little more expensive than your average hot pot, expect to spend 300-900NTD, but I think it’s worth the money. It’s less expensive than buying organic food in stores and there really is loads to choose from. Here’s their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/qiminmarketorganic2

Aboriginal Dishes in Wulai

20 Nov

Bees and Raw Meat (and a beautiful waterfall)

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locationdes
Wulai is a beautiful mountainous area just outside of Taipei New City, takes about 30 minutes by bus from Xindian Station (map). It’ll take you to a lovely market street, an uphill walk to a beautiful waterfall and an aboriginal theme park. Oh and a lot of hot springs.
Information: Wulai 烏來 is a town in Taipei County. It’s known for a large amount of public and private hot springs and its aboriginal history (not to mention stunning scenery). It’s crazy how you can find such beauty just outside of the city. One of the popular restaurants is Taiya Po Po, which specializes in aboriginal food, like that of the Atayal people. The restaurant was mentioned several times on the internet as well as some food programmes; so we had to give it a try. There were two dishes on the menu that were hard to resist for the average food adventurer; Fried Bees and Raw Pork Meat (的麼面), next to those we also ordered some traditional rice steamed in a bamboo tube and some stir-fried vegetables. But let me begin with the beeezzzz. I had no expectations, other than the fact that I hoped I wouldn’t have to taste any hair. Luckily the dish was quite good. The bees came on a plate with several fried vegetables, which made for a very crunchy combination. Bees were crispy and although they didn’t have that much flavor; they complemented the rest of the dish. Crispy protein rich treats, pretty tasty really, surprised me! The fried vegetables were really good as well. Texture-wise, I think this dish is worth a try. flavor-wise I’d give it a 7 or so. Speaking of flavor! Raw pork meat; something that was unfamiliar to us as well. This dish 的麼面 consisted out of raw mountain pork with rice and salt, stuffed in a jar, left to ferment for 2 weeks and served on a plate with ice cubes. Such a crazy idea, you might think, but if you were missing out on the flavor till now, then I wouldn’t skip out on this one. 的麼面 tasted like a very very salty dry-cured sausage. The texture was a little too tough though; the chunks of meat were quite big and it took a while to ‘devour’ them. (hah, website-pun joke in there).  But, trying new things (I believe) is all part of living here, and so it was worth a try and the flavors were worth it. Oh yeah, the bees were also caught in the mountains, and so the price for that particular dish was a little higher than expected (450 NTD). But what better way to blend in than to try the local food (that even Taiwanese people may not have tried before).  Wulai; highly recommended, beautiful place, interesting history.. and loads of food! wulai3 wulai4 wulai5 wulai6
Categories: Lunch / Dinner

Almond Tofu Dessert

26 Oct
almond dessertlocationdesRight Next to Jingmei Station Exit 1 (map)
Information: It seems all I can write about are desserts nowadays, but you can’t blame me, they’re so freakin’ delicious! Here’s one I tried at the Jingmei night market. Tofu in Taiwan comes in all kinds of flavors, textures and sizes; both savory and sweet. Just recently I bought a package of cold oatmeal tofu and the night before I had a lovely hot pot dinner with dried white tofu, cold white tofu and ”tofu skin”,which tasted a little meaty. You can also find it steamed with eggs and seafood; anyway, there’s loads. I am definitely into the dessert versions (check out the traditional dessert 豆花 here). The tofu of this dessert was mixed with almond milk and almond extract; it created a very creamy nutty flavor. Other ingredients were Azuki beans, chewy fruit jelly and milk. The flavors are always so interesting; like for example the fruit jelly and creamy tofu tasted somewhat like fruit with whipped cream; lovely. What I like about desserts here is that they’re not overly sweet, but always have a very rich flavor and you always taste ingredients to the fullest. Anyway; Almond Tofu; try it. You can also find plain almond tofu in your regular supermarket 🙂
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Categories:    Desserts!

芋圓 – Taro Balls !

15 Oct

Jiu Fen Taro Balls 芋圓(yu yuan)taro blz

locationdesJiu Fen (九份)is a mountain area near Keelung; it has a narrow but amazing tourist market, hiking trails, loads of beautiful scenic spots, an old street and oh yeah, food! The nearest train station (no MRT) is Ruifang; but I’d suggest to go there by bus. Buses leave regularly from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station (see Map)
Information: From a foodie aspect; the Jiufen market is an excellent way to try out so many new, different kinds of food. You wouldn’t even have to pay a single penny, you could pre-taste everything! The area is known for 3 different kinds of food, of which Taro Balls, I think, are the most recommended, as the food is said to originate from this area. (Besides taro balls, you’ll also come across a lot of Rouyuan(Bawan) (check my post on those here) and multi colored fish balls). As for Taro Balls, you can get them everywhere and all around Taiwan, but texture and taste are definitely best in Jiufen. Taro balls are made out of Taro and potato starch (most likely) and they have a thick doughy texture. Next to the taro version, you can also find sweet potato or red/green been balls (and probably other flavors). They can be eaten hot or cold and often serve as a topping for shaved ice or dessert soups. Unlike tapioca, taro balls do not only have an amazing texture but also add to the flavor of the dessert. I recommend eating them warm; that way you get a lush, rich taro tasting experience! 😀taro balls

Categories: DESSERTS

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.
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Categories: Desserts

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

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

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.

Categories: photo (5)

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