Wednesday, January 27, 2010

breakfast in Taiwan

A series of 3.

Number one: the traditional breakfast shop.

A stroll through the city with Sally, my stepmother. Taipei (well we’re in the ‘burbs, technically, but the same holds true) is a really beautiful mix of modern and traditional, lush and green and modern city.

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The place is simple, with a short-order cook in the front with a grill and steamer. 


And a counter at the front with traditional buns, dumplings, and savory pancakes.


For drinksies, they have a big vat of fresh soymilk and (my new LOVE) rice milk with PEANUT POWDER. Like if you could drink peanut butter. Heaven!


I mainly had that for my brekkers :D Pork dumplings are a bit much for me at 8 am.

The next day we went to this rather bizarrely named Western/Asian breakfast chain:


After the NYC airport? Odd, odd.

Also odd, the menu:


Burgers and subs for breakfast. Sally wanted me to try these:


Traditional wheat wraps, not unlike tortillas. They break an egg on them and wrap them with filling, in this case ham:


I had a wee section, but even though it’s closer to American breakfast, I am just not a meat-for-breakfast-er.

More intriguing:


“Caix milk?” I asked Sally and she looked strained and said it was kind of like oatmeal.

I took off the cover to this:


Sweetish and vaguely oaty… sure enough, at the bottom:


Finally, today, CONGEE! Or as the Taiwanese call it, chi fan.


With dried pork and leftovers. Hahaha, I ate the rice!


More culture: the oldest temple in Taiwan, Lungshan (Dragon Mountain) Temple: 


Glitzy, huh?


They seriously pay attention to ceilings here.

People praying with incense:


Kitty on a dragon column!


The temple was divided into sections for each respective god and their blessing. Most fascinating was the section for the god of students.


Everyone brings in their exam registration cards (the papers with the faces on them)!

Also, see all the green onions? The words for “green onion” and “diligence” are very similar in Chinese, so they are a traditional offering. So cool!

Monday, January 25, 2010

shabu shabu!

I’ve decided to download LiveWriter to my… I guess “step-aunt’s?” computer. Cause… I don’t want my posts to be ugly!

This will temporarily be a “food and culture” in addition to “food” blog. Cause Asia is radddddd.

Our first stop was the hair salon because Moony wanted me to get my hair did.

It is an exciting looking place.


With a SHAMPOO MENU! I went for the tea tree, which smelled delicious. Getting your hair done is preceded by a RIDICULOUSLY skillful back and shoulder massage.


You take a certain risk letting someone cut your hair when you do not speak the same language at all. Moony wanted me to have a new look… I look… new.


For dinner, we got HOT POT! Or Shabu Shabu.


The place is called “Fat Calf”, and is apparently a very popular chain. Their menu explains how it all works.


Inside was quite beautiful, with fresh flowers (they are everywhere here- it smells so good!)


Carved wood…


And big communal tables with the pot in the center:


We got both kinds of broth in a kind of yin/yang bowl:


And then they started bringin’ out the ingredients!




Dried tofu that gets rehydrated in the broth…


Mushrooms atop my bowl of (obvi, this is Asia) rice

DSCN0527 Kebabs (these didn’t get dipped in the broth)- I tried beef, lamb, and chicken



Date tea (!) and “orange juice” which tasted like Tang and I passed off to my cousin and then replaced with:


Sour plum juice! Like fruit juice and barbecue sauce, all at the same time. Weirdly refreshing.


It is bloody difficult to eat corn on the cob with chopsticks.


Delicious bitter greens. I asked if there was an American name, and my stepmother didn’t think so. The Chinese name literally means “wife beater greens”! It’s based on a legend where some guy wanted his wife to cook him greens, and he gave her a huge pile of them, and she cooked them and they cooked down and it looked like there were less and… er…. Kind of a depressing story, but they are delicious!

And the food just keeps coming!


Balls (the lighter one is some kind of fish, which was a little cartiledgey for my taste, but the darker one was a shrimp ball and was SUBLIME)



Traditional dessert. Some kind of jellified fruity thing. So good!


After dinner we went and admired the restaurant’s pond. Obviously. They have a pond.

Finally, look at my aunt’s cigarette pack:


Pregnant belly! For a few horrifying moments, I thought this meant this brand advertised itself to expectant mothers. But no. It’s just their surgeon general’s warning is a bit more dramatic than ours!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

yum yum dim sum!

Nihao from Asia!

I'm here, after... 18 hours of flying, give or take? I am ensconsed in the beautiful home of my stepmother's unbelievably hospitable family.

You know how sometimes you're staying with people and it's kind of awkward cause you don't want to be "Uhh can we eat now?" but you're crazy hungry?
This does NOT happen in Taiwan!
Apologies for the horrible formatting, but I am Live Writer-less, and I have good pics I am itchin' to share! There's a description of everything... just not necessarily NEXT to it!

Lunch (dim sum!) yesterday was at I-Mei, which I think is kind of Taiwan's answer to local food. My stepmom's family would definitely give me a blank look if I used the word "locavore", but when you live on a small, agriculturally rich island, it makes a lotta sense!

This place was part bakery, part store, and part dim sum parlor. There were lots of places to look in and watch the cooks!

The table was, according to Moony, a traditional Chinese table. The first thing was the pouring of tea, which is served with every meal here (yessss).

Steaming things:

THREE types of shrimp dumplings:

I love you, Trader Joe's, but I can never eat your sorry dumplings again. They were all UNBELIEVABLE, but the ones with the little green bits (cucumber, maybe?) get a special shoutout.

Egg custard:

Radish cake (like a hashbrown patty but a gazillion times more delish):

Sesame buns with red bean filling (sweet and delicious)
A taste of Jewel (Moony's daughter's) udon noodle soup with bok choy.
Condiment bar! The Chinese mustard here is UNREAL. Not even comparable to stuff in America.

Another table shot:
Shrimp fried rice, a squajillion times better than in the US:
Almost burrito reminiscent; corn tortilla-like wrapper filled with beef and hoisin sauce, lettuce, and cucumber.

My faaaaaaaave and apparently quite traditional: taro cake with pork. Gelatinous and fab!