Thursday, March 31, 2011

Taipei: Old Favorites with a Little Bit of New - Sun 3/20

Since it was still the month of the "Qing Ming Day" according to the Lunar calendar, I went with the family to go "掃墓," which is when Chinese heritage go to visit the deceased and pay their respects. After visiting my grandpa at the National Memorial Hall for Military and baibai-ing on Sunday morning, my aunt suggested the family go out and eat at the family's favorite, Ding Tai Fung.

soy milk (top)
Before we got to the memorial hall, had to get breakfast and went back to 永和 Yong He for some fresh soy milk. None of that stuff that can be kept on shelf for over 3+ years :P

soy milk
I love how almost all drinks in Taiwan are sealed like that. Never have to worry about the cap loosening or popping up.

Remember how I ate the egg crepe wrapped egg roll, well, I had it again haha. Inside is pork sung, pickled vegetable, and you tiao 油條 (fried donut).

Got to Ding Tai Fung around 12pm and still had to wait about 40min even though my aunt went early to get a table. Their mascot is a xiao long bao! Coooool haha.

Since I post so much on Ding Tai Fung every time I go back, decided to just post some of the new stuff that I tried.

Seaweed sidedish. My aunt is one of those people scared by the radiation scare in Japan so whenever there's seaweed, she always order :P

wheat gluten sidedish
滷麵筋 Braised wheat gluten. You know those veggie dogs or fake meats you see at the market? Well... this is 100x better than that. Has more of the texture of an oil tofu.

shrimp gyoza
This is one of the new items: 蝦煎餃 shrimp potstickers. A potsticker with pieces of shrimp inside. The reason it looks like that is because as you pan fry the potsticker, you add water to create this steam effect, and some of the water mixes with some flour that ran off the postickers and solidifies. As soon as the water is evaporated, the solidify part becomes part of the dumpling skin.

After a satisfying meal at Din Tai Fung (I think we ordered almost at least one of everything :P) I headed off to the convention, walked for another few hours, and then went to Taipei 101's foodcourt again to grab a drink.

auntie anne taiwan
Auntie Anne's under 101.

coco milk tea
Ahh perfect, found what I was looking for, CoCo Milk Tea.

royal milk tea
Didn't see oolong milk tea on the menu so I went for the Royal Milk Tea. It's "royal" since it is made with English black tea. Sorta pricey at $50 NTD but meh, gotta pay the price under Taipei 101.

I received a free voucher for the Taipei 101 observatory so I was gonna check it out but when I got there was a line FULL of Chinese tourist from mainland, along with a Japanese tour group, and some Westerners sprinkled throughout. So rather than going up, just chilled on the 5th floor overlooking the indoor plaza of Taipei 101.

Took the bus to 統一板急百貨 Uni-Hankyu Department Store. Saison du Soleil is one of my favorite bakeries with some amazing and creative baked goods. I was hungry and wanted real food so I didn't get anything.

crepe cart
Crepe cart. Last time I saw this place the line was looped around 3 times like at Disney.

free waffle sample
Free waffle samples. There's a layer of sweet butter between the waffle pieces.

katsu shop
Wanted to eat here at 九州杏子 Anzu Katsu, which is a shop specializing in tonkatsu as its name implies. It is known for its thick cut pork medallions and there's actually several locations throughout. Unfortunately there was way too many people since it was around dinner time so I had to skip it. Didn't want to wait in line by myself :P

Right when I turn around, I saw 翰林 Hanlin Milk Tea. They call themselves the true originator of milk tea. I had it last time, so decided... why not get another milk tea haha.

hanlin milk tea
This time I got to try the boba milk tea. Last time I went they sold out and I was devastated. The boba's not bad: made with brown sugar, got a good chew to it ("QQ") and not overly sweet. The milk tea is the star though. Taste exactly like how a good milk tea should be!

combo meal
Since I had a milk tea in my hand, decided to eat something that's more Taiwanese at the food court and went for a Taiwanese food stand. (7:30pm)

minced pork rice
魯肉飯 minced pork rice. Every time I come back I have to have minced pork rice at least once.

pork belly
Ah man look at that beautiful fatty pieces of braised pork belly :D

meatball soup
肉丸湯 meatball soup. Yes, the meatball is not round. Who said it has to be round?

boiled veggie with sauce
燙青菜 boiled vegetable with garlic soy paste. They serve cabbage here. Simple but delicious.

fried tofu
炸豆腐 fried tofu. Sauce was bomb. Wish it was stinky tofu but still tasty regardless!

After dinner, shopped around a bit at Uniqlo. Didn't really see anything unique or cool but had to get something.

On my way back to my aunt's, I suddenly realized that I haven't had 鹽酥雞 popcorn chicken yet, so after I got off the MRT, headed straight for 饒河街夜市 RaoHe Street Nightmarket and found my fried food stand! Of courseeeee gotta get a drink with the chicken! Decided to take it easy and just got 烏龍綠 oolong tea + green tea drink. (9:10pm)

popcorn chicken
You have no idea how fast I walked home just so I can take this stupid picture and eat it hahah.

basil & garlic
The perfect bite: chicken, a piece of fried basil, and some fried garlic.

lian wu
If you ask me what my favorite fruit is, I would have to say it is guava but 蓮霧 wax apple comes pretty damn close, and it is exactly what I capped off the day with :] It's actually in season around this time so it was a huge one and super sweet. It's expensive now though, with one running around $50-60NTD (~$1.60-2 USD).

As I was drifting off to sleep I was saddened that this was my last night in Taipei for this trip, so I was determined to make the next day count!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taipei: AYCE Thai! - Sat 3/19

Unfortunately on the 2nd day of my stay in Taipei, I didn't get to go out of the convention hall as much. After all, I did come here for work, which meant I was there approximately 8 hours talking, networking, meeting with suppliers. Heck... I even skipped lunch due to meetings and all that... "fun" stuff haha.

However, I did get to meet up with a few friends, Hubert and Tina, for dinner, and to catch up with the two after not seeing them for almost 2 years. Crazy how fast time goes by.

Gotta have a good breakfast to start the day off right! Decided to go to Brother Hotel's bakery 兄弟飯店 麵包房, which is across the street from Nan Jing East Rd MRT station. Also went to 7-11, for some tea egg and the milk coffee. 7-11 in Taiwan really is the most convenient thing ever.

tuna ham pork sung bread
Decided to get a bread that is stuffed with pork sung, tuna, and ham. Crazy combination right?? It's even shaped to look like the scales of a fish! I love Taiwanese people and the magic they perform on bread.

inside of bread
Who knew the combination of pork sung, tuna, and ham would taste so damn good. There's a little bit of clear sweet mayo to help moisten the inside but the bread itself is fluffy, yet firm to the bite.

tea egg (7-11)
Tea egg from 7-11! Glad to say it still taste great, but sad now it is $8NT. I remember when it was only $5NT!

Proof that I was actually working XD

salad bar
After another day at the convention center, met up with Hubert & Tina at Sun Yat Sen Memorial MRT station and decided to have some AYCE Thai at Tai Fu Hao 泰富豪 (7:30pm). For $480NTD, roughly around $16USD, you can order anything off the menu, as many times as you want! It has a salad bar as well.

thai milk tea
Unlimited iced Thai milk tea.

red curry chicken
Having curry at a Thai restaurant is almost a must, so we got the Chicken with Red Curry. Didn't get the bamboo shoots in red curry but it's tasty with the tender pieces of chicken.

taiwan beer
Saw they had big bottles of Taiwan Beer Gold Medal for only $100 NTD (~$3). We had to do it.

spicy chicken
辣子雞 fried chicken in spicy sauce. Even though it's suppose to be spicy, it has a lot of citrus flavor that complements the spiciness. Lots of garlic and other aromatics. This is absolutely one of my favorite dish when eating Thai food in Taiwan, so it's a must every time.

shrimp paste on-choy
蝦醬空心菜 on-choy with shrimp paste. Don't know what shrimp paste is? Well, I don't know what the ingredients are but there's shrimp, it's briny, and it's good :P And really, I'm just a sucker for on-choy, aka water spinach (what a lame name).

fried tofu
炸豆腐 fried tofu. With the same sauce as the fried chicken.

shrimp cake
蝦餅 shrimp cake. Fried shrimp cake is a staple for all Thai meals in Taiwan.

lemon fish
檸檬魚 steamed fish in lemon dressing. Every Thai restaurant will make it with a different kind of fish, but it really doesn't matter as long as it is fresh and from the ocean so it doesn't have the freshwater fish taste. It's best when it is the whole fish like that too! The star is definitely the sauce/dressing. Lemony, tart, refreshing, and addicting. You just can't stop eating it. I love pouring the dressing over my rice!

tom yum
Tom Yum soup. Same as everywhere except with a little seafood! Got a little kick.

curry beef
Beef in curry sauce. Probably my least favorite. The beef tasted a bit weird. Probably pounded the hell out of it too much and added too much baking soda to try to make it tender.

yogurt cup
After dinner (9:30pm), walked over to Hubert's store Yogurt Art to sample his new flavors!

Original tart and GRAPEFRUIT tart. Oh man that grapefruit tart is... tart! The tartness from the first taste actually surprised me. Hubert said that customers have been wanting a really tart flavor so he developed the grapefruit flavor. Can't say enough about how awesome it is, since I love tart yogurt. Check it out, they have 3 Yogurt Art locations in/around Taipei now!

To be honest, I quite like the idea of an AYCE Thai place, that's not a buffet. Yes, the dishes are small, and it does take a long time sometimes for them to make a certain dish but it is just better to get food cooked to order, rather than it sitting under a heat lamp or a water buffet heater!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Taipei: Good Way to Start the Weekend! - Fri 3/18

Last year in March, the Taiwan Trade Center offered a free flight for buyers from foreign countries to go to Taipei to check out the trade shows, and I was lucky enough to be the one sent for that particular trip. Of course, I fully took advantage of it, stayed for roughly 5-6 days and ate as much as I could. Too much probably.

This year, they contacted us again and the same incentive was offered. Since I went last year, it was decided that there should be a sort of continuity since now I know what products were there last year and what not so just 2 weeks ago, I got a short little business trip to Taipei once again :] Not as long as last year, roughly the same as a long weekend, but hey, any chance I get to go back, I'm gonna take it!

This time I jotted down when I had the food to kinda check my pattern of how I eat. Don't think I went as crazy this time as before but... man, I ate more than I thought hahah.

VIP lounge seating
With enough miles, I upgraded to business class on China Airlines and with it comes lounge privileges :]

VIP lounge
The food station.

blueberry apricot danish snacks
Didn't want to go too crazy since I had a big dinner before I left, so just got some snacks and a blueberry apricot danish. Of course, it's almost a tradition for me to have at least one ginger ale when I travel!

sushi taiwan beer + watermelon
The sushi selection that was offered for the Asian travelers. The lounge is a shared lounge among many airlines so they try to accommodate. Also couldn't resist the call of Taiwan beer :P

chicken set
After the plane takes off, they start serving "late night dinner" and this time opted for the Szechuan Chicken.

szechuan chicken
Not really spicy... but meh, it's good enough.

seafood salad garlic bread
Comes with seafood salad (with this huge piece of shrimp), and unlimited garlic bread.

porridge set
About 3 hours before the plane lands, they'll serve breakfast, and you can choose between Oriental style or Western. Western usually involves some weird looking omelette so the Oriental style it is.

chinese bun
Comes with two types of plain buns.

sidedishes sidedishes
With porridge, there's always side dishes. From left to right: pork sung, chilled stir fry veggie, pickled veggie, and braised oil tofu.

After landing around 6am, I took the bus to my aunt's place from the airport to Taipei. Street vendors are already out around 7am selling breakfast!

Cha! Didn't know TenRen started Cha in Taiwan as well haha.

Aunt's place, where I stayed for the next 3 nights.

Around 10am, left my aunt's place and headed over to my grandma to see her. Never a big fan of food on the plane, I had to get some traditional Taiwanese breakfast while on my way to see my grandma.

fan tuan with egg crepe
飯糰夾蛋餅 egg crepe wrapped rice roll. Posted this numerous times, but still, just as good as I remembered.

fried donut and sesame bread
燒餅油條 fried donut in sesame bread. As for as traditional breakfast go, this is as old school as it gets.

milk tea
Yes, had to get some milk tea :P Small, but only $15NT!

handmade dumplings
And before officially starting my work, some homemade dumplings around noon for lunch.

milk tea
On the way to the convention center, had to get an oolong milk tea (2pm) :]

After the end of 1st day of the convention, decided to walk across the street to Taipei 101's food court.

MOS Burger! I had to do it. (5:30pm)

pork rice bun
Oh maaaaaaaan, how I miss the marinated pork and the awesome rice bun.

After window shopping and feeling like crap cause I can't buy anything at 101, decided to head back but not before I head to 清心福 Qing Xin Fu for milk tea!

milk tea
Oolong fresh milk tea. So what's so good about this place that everytime I come back to Taiwan I get it 2-3 times? Well, to start, their oolong tea is great. Strong roasted tea flavors that can withstand the milk and sugar. Also, fresh milk in Taiwan has way more of a milky flavor to it, so when you mix fresh milk and good tea together, it's a drink that the shops in US cannot compete with. (6:30pm)

Street food near the Da An MRT station.

ji dan gao (雞蛋糕)
Had to get 雞蛋糕 egg cake (6:40pm)

Didn't expect it to be hollow but crispy outside plus the little bit of cake in the middle = good eats!

After eating the egg cake, headed back to my grandma's cake and somehow... somehow still manage to eat dinner with the family. Definitely a good start to the trip :]

Most more to be posted when I have time haha.