Monday, May 2, 2016

Taiwan: Costco

The week that I spent in Taiwan recently was for the most part consumed by family matters.  It had been over a decade since the last time my nuclear family went back to the motherland together, so we had a lot of relatives to visit.

All this is to say that we didn't really get to go out and explore and eat new things.

We did, however, get to step foot into our first Taiwanese Costco.  It was weird because everything was so familiar and yet so different.  Instead of turkey and swiss roll ups, there were smoked salmon ones.  Instead of platters of cocktail shrimp, there were trays of fresh nigiri.  Chicken soup?  Forget that.  Buy laksa instead.  Head to the refrigerated aisle and you can get hot spring eggs and rice burgers.

And the free samples!  Such glorious free samples!

There was no way we weren't going to stop at the food court:

No berry smoothie, but there was a honey lemon slush (59 NT or almost $2):

So refreshing!  I actually still think about that slushie.  Sigh.  I miss it.  I'm praying that the Costco gods will one day bring it to the States.

No plain pepperoni pizza in Taiwan, oh no.  Your options are combo, Hawaiian, and seafood, which is what we ordered:

One slice costs 60 NT or about $2.

I was a little disappointed that they didn't have Peking duck pizza, which someone brought me once on a previous trip to Taiwan.  The seafood one wasn't bad though.

This isn't a normal chicken bake:

It's a bulgogi bake!:

Holy cow!  For 89 NT (almost $3), I would be at Costco all the time getting my bake on.  So freakin' delicious.

Costco is a magical place.  It's a magical place here and it's even more magical abroad.  I would definitely recommend checking out the local Costco whenever you travel.  You never know what you might find.

It may just blow your mind.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

South Bay: Poke House


I had a great time in both Taiwan and Japan, but before I can start telling you about all my adventures abroad, I still have one more post I have to get out from before my trip.

Right before my Ahyi took my sister and me to the airport, we walked over to Poke House for dinner.  The place had just opened fairly recently and even though it was a rainy evening, there was still a line out the door:

Just like all the other poke joints that have been sprouting up all over the place these days, Poke House is set up similar to Chipotle where you go down a counter and pick what you would like to add to your bowl:

So many options:

First, you choose what size bowl you want.  A medium goes for $9.95 while a large goes for $11.95.  Then, you select your base.  You can choose from white rice, brown rice, mixed greens, kale, or a mix of the above.

Protein comes next in the form of tuna, salmon, albacore, octopus, spicy tuna, and scallops.  For a medium, you get three scoops whereas for a large, you get four.

Once you have your protein down, you get to pick what dressing you want.  Your options include sriracha aioli and ponzu, kuro shoyu, wasabi creme, spicy ponzu, ponzu lime, and sweet unagi sauce.  You can pick as many as your little heart desires.

Before they start mixing your creation, you let them know what pre-mix toppings you would like to add.  There's everything from radish to edamame, pineapple to mango, jalapenos to cherry tomatoes.  Even after the mixing is done, you still aren't finished because you have to choose what post-mix toppings you would like.  Possible toppings include crab salad, sesame seeds, furikake, crispy garlic, and dried coconut flakes.

You can actually just order one of Poke House's pre-designed signature bowls, but where's the fun in that?

Here's what my medium bowl looked like :

There was so much that I had trouble closing a lid over it.  I had even more trouble trying to mix it.

Here's what my bowl looked like post-mixing:

I got both white rice and mixed salad.  For my three scoops, I went with salmon, tuna, and albacore.  I skipped the fruit options, but went pretty ham on the toppings.  I especially loved the crispy garlic.  I could eat those as chips.

The group of prom-goers who later walked in with their prom outfits on seemed to like their poke bowls as well.  I wish Poke House was around back when I was in high school.  Poke House for dinner before prom sounds pretty damn brilliant.

I am very pleased with Poke House (crispy garlic!) and I'm doubly glad that it is walking distance from my house.

I foresee many an excursion to Poke House in the future.

Poke House
1698 Hostetter Rd
San Jose, CA 95131
(408) 753-9361

Saturday, April 9, 2016

South Bay: Omega Family Restaurant

Today's the day!  T minus six hours before we leave for the airport.  But before then, I have time to squeeze in one more post.

This morning, my sister and I met with Nana and her mother at Omega Family Restaurant for breakfast:

Nana happened to be in the Bay undergoing training for her new job.  We managed to get together for dinner already once last week, but my sister couldn't make it, so this morning was for her.

My sister and I were a bit hesitant about Omega at first.  We never really noticed the restaurant when we went to that plaza in the past.  We always just shopped at the Asian grocery store and left.  We had also just never heard anyone talk about eating there.

So we were quite surprised to find the place bumpin' when we arrived:

We immediately fell in love with the old-time diner feel of the place.  Apparently the restaurant used to be owned by a Greek family, but has since been taken over by a Mexican one.  According to Nana's mother, the new owners have taken the place and made it their own.

Our original plan was to share an entree so we wouldn't end up with leftovers.  But then we saw the crazy long menu and said screw it.  We're each getting our own.

I got the chorizo skillet ($11.75):

That beauty had everything I needed in a morning meal: chorizo, onions, tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, country potatoes, and salsa.

It also came with a choice of toast or pancake.  I went with sourdough toast:

My sister ordered the Omega omelette ($11.55):

The omelette came stuffed with diced ham, sausage, onions, and green peppers and topped with melted American cheese and a slice of pineapple.  My sister elected to get hash browns over country potatoes and the pancake over toast:

That pancake.  That's it.  That pancake.  Wow.

I'm sorry we underestimated you, Omega.  Good food in big portions at affordable prices served by friendly staff.  We should have known that Nana and her mother would never take us somewhere less than awesome.

We'll be back.

Omega Family Restaurant
90 S Park Victoria Dr
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 946-8748

San Francisco: Arizmendi Bakery

My office observed Cesar Chavez Day last Friday.  Well, everyone from my office did except my supervisor and myself.  We had to work a workshop that day, so instead I got to take today off.  This actually worked out better for me since it allowed me to pick up my sister from San Francisco.

And make a side trip to Arizmendi Bakery:

I wanted to get my uncle in Taiwan something to thank him for helping me with my upcoming trip to Japan.

Oh yea, did I mention that I'm hitting up Japan after Taiwan?  Well, I am.  And I'm freakin' excited.

Anyway, back to my uncle.  I asked my mother what my uncle liked.  All she could think of was bread.  Ooookay...bread it is.

Now, Taiwan has a lot of great bakeries, as my mother has repeatedly reminded me via texted photos from Taipei.  I get that.  But I figured it would be nice to bring my uncle some bread that can't be found in Taiwan.  Ideally, I wanted to get bread from Boudin or Tartine.  But I'm also lazy and Arizmendi is closer to my sister's place.

Arizmendi has all the hippie vibes you would expect from a cooperative bakery:

Even though our purpose was to buy bread for my uncle, we couldn't help making some purchases for ourselves.  Like this breadstick ($1.75):

It was crackly and savory and just amazing.

We also got ourselves a slice of the daily pizza ($2.75):

The pizza at Arizmendi changes every day.  You can check the pizza menu ahead of time on their website.  Today's pizza was tomato, arugula, manchego cheese, and garlic oil.  Sounds simple and it was, but all the ingredients tasted so fresh.  And that sourdough crust?  Magic.

My sister couldn't resist the chocolate mint cookie ($2.25):

I can't blame her.  That cookie and super chocolatey and decadent.  I wish I had a glass of milk to go with it.

For my uncle, we got some suggestions from someone who worked at Arizmendi for baked goods that would freeze and travel well.  Based on her recommendations, we got the scone of the day,  strawberry ($3), and a corn cherry one ($2.75):

Arizmendi also offers different specialty breads on different days.  Friday boasts challah ($6):

And chocolate babka ($10):

Obviously, I haven't tried any of these yet, but based on what we did eat from Arizmendi, I'm sure the scones and the breads will be awesome.

I just have to figure out a way to hand the gift over to my uncle...and then ask for a bite of each.

Arizmendi Bakery
1331 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 566-3117

Friday, April 8, 2016

South Bay: Li Yuan Dim Sum

Last Sunday, I was feeling a little under the weather, so I went out with my parents for some pho from Pho Kim Long.  To avoid infecting the general public, we ordered our noodles to go.

While waiting for our order, my mother and I went next door to Li Yuan Dim Sum:

Li Yuan is about a basic as you can get:

Cash only, passable quality, and everything jumbo sized.  Just look at these siu mai (3 for $2.80):

Freakin huge.

The real reason why we walked into Li Yuan was this, the mochi (3 for $2.60):

Unless you're in the mood for cheap, mediocre dim sum, I would say the mochi is really the only thing worth getting at Li Yuan.  They're huge and the filling is generous.

You can choose between red bean and peanut.  We prefer the peanut:

The peanut sugar filling is great (love the large peanut pieces), but I actually wish the mochi was smaller so that there could be more mochi to filling.  So much of the filling gets a little too sweet if you eat a whole one by yourself in one sitting.

This is probably the only time you'll hear me complaining about food being too big.

My mom bought three mochi thinking we could have one per person.  But by the time we were supposed to leave for the airport, all three remained untouched.

I should probably mention at this time that my family is going on a family trip to Taiwan.  It's been about a decade since all four of us went back to Taiwan together, so we took advantage of my sister's last real spring break in med school to make it happen.  My parents left ahead of us last Sunday while my sister and I will be joining them this week.

Knowing that I would be home alone for the week, I forced my mother to eat at least one mochi before I took her to the aiport.  This left me with two giant mochi along with all the other perishable food in the house I was expected to clear out before my own flight this weekend.

I carefully planned out what to eat for which meal on which day in order to get rid of everything.  All of my plans were thrown off by a well-meaning family friend who thought I would starve home alone.  Just when I polished off the last of the mochi, I came home from work to find a bag of food tied to my front door.  In that bag was a random assortment of food, which included a box of not one, not two, but THREE GIANT MOCHI.


I'm leaving tomorrow night and the three mochi are still there.

Oh dear.

Li Yuan Dim Sum
2070 N Capitol Ave
San Jose, CA 95132
(408) 262-1988

Saturday, April 2, 2016

San Francisco: Szechuan Taste Restaurant

We drove by Szechuan Taste Restaurant a few times on our way to drop my sister off in San Francisco.  Each time, my parents would comment that they'd heard it was good.  We finally tried it for ourselves last weekend:

We got there for an early dinner, which was good because apparently it gets busy later in the evening:

The restaurant is called Szechuan Taste in English and the sign clearly states (in both English and Chinese) that it serves Hakka cuisine.  My father was really excited about that as Hakka cuisine isn't easy to come by.  But after perusing the menu and questing the waitress, we discovered that the restaurant isn't Hakka at all.  Or Szechuan, for that matter.

We were bummed for a bit, but then the food arrived and we quickly forgot all about our disappointment.

We ordered the set meal for three ($28).  It came with minced beef and tofu soup:

Garlic with mustard greens:

Spicy salted prawns:

Spicy salted spareribs:

And deep fried sanddab:

Everything was yummy, but I must talk about those spareribs.  THOSE SPARERIBS.  Our waitress told us the spareribs were really popular, but we've always thought of spicy salted spareribs as being a rather basic dish, so we didn't take her too seriously.

I'm so sorry, Miss Waitress.  I shouldn't have doubted you.  Those spareribs bordered on magical.  It had just enough fat to avoid being dry and was so freshly fried that the outside was super crispy.

We should have stopped there, but as usual, my parents couldn't help themselves.  My mother wanted the Fukien scallop and prawn over rice ($8.50):

While my father was tempted by the lobster with noodles ($15.95):

As if that wasn't enough, we added on some intestines in XO sauce:

The set meal also came with oranges at the end:

Szechuan Taste is my kind of Chinese restaurant.  Fast service (the food started arriving before we could finish pouring the tea), no frills, and affordable prices.  Not to mention everything tastes freshly prepared and delicious.

So even though it's not really Szechuan or Hakkan, I will definitely be back to Szechuan Taste Restaurant again.  Most likely with my parents.  THey really enjoyed it too.

Szechuan Taste Restaurant
917 Taraval St
San Francisco, CA 94116
(415) 681-8383

Monday, March 28, 2016

San Francisco: Sunrise Deli

I had a meeting in SF Friday afternoon, which worked out perfectly since my parents planned on picking my sister up that evening to take her home for the weekend.  This meant I got to save myself a BART trip and get dinner with my fam in the city.


Now, my father isn't the most adventurous when it comes to trying different cuisines.  My sister and I decided to cut him a break and spare him from Eritrean, which was our first choice.  Instead, we took my parents to Sunrise Deli:

My father has enjoyed Middle Eastern food in the past, so we figured it was a nice compromise.

Half grocery store, half restaurant, Sunrise Deli is made up of a counter and a couple of tables:

We ordered and paid at the counter, then sat at a table to wait.

The food came pretty quickly.  We got the chicken kabob plate ($12) at the recommendation of the young woman at the counter:

It came with our choice of two sides.  We went with babaghanouj and cucumber yogurt salad.  The chicken was tender while the babaghanouj was nice and smoky.  The cucumber yogurt salad, however, was not my favorite.  The yogurt part was just a bit too sour for my tastes.

The chicken kabobs were great, but the kufta kabob plate ($12) was even better:

You could just taste how fresh the meat in the kufta was.  And that seasoning?  Perfection.  The kufta kabob plate also came with two sides.  To switch things up a bit, we got dolma and tabouli.  Both were lovely.  

Both plates came with pita bread, which we gobbled up in no time:

But the winner of the night had to be the falafel:

We started with a half dozen ($4), but then realized the error of our ways and ordered another half dozen halfway through the meal.  We should have just ordered a dozen ($6) to start.  We'll never make that mistake again.

I always thought nothing could top the falafel from Falafel's Drive In.  But I was wrong.  The falafel from Sunrise Deli is different than that from Falafel's Drive In, though just as amazing.  While Falafel's Drive In falafel is crispy and lovely (that red sauce tho!), Sunrise Deli falafel has a creaminess to them that I've never experienced before.  Paired with hummus or tahini sauce...yum.  And so cheap!

Don't make me pick between the two falafel powerhouses.  I can't.  I just can't.  I love them both for different reasons.  Is that a cop out answer?  Why, yes.  Yes it is.

To round out the meal, we got some pistachio baklava and Turkish delight:

I can't say Turkish delight without thinking about Edmund from Narnia.  Given how much he loved the stuff, I always expect to be blown away by it.  On the contrary, I'm usually taken aback by how freakin' sweet and flowery it is.  Ugh.

Keep your Turkish delight, Edmund, I'll stick with baklava.  Even though it's ridiculously sweet as well and made me wish we had ordered another half dozen falafel.

Loved Sunrise Deli.  Great food in big portions and at affordable prices.  If I lived where my sister does, I would be there all the time.

All the freakin' time.

Sunrise Deli
2115 Irving Street
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 664-8210
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