Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Taiwan: Zheng Xian Hui Zhuan Sushi

My sister and I had been neglecting our grandparents, so we had dinner with them last night in Danshui. We went to this sushi chain store:

The entire restaurant is taken up by a giant sushi moving sidewalk. The plates pass before you and you pick up what you want:

Each plate is 30 NT (around $1). Prepare yourself for a series of sushi pics:

In the end, I ate a total of 10 plates, as did my sister. I could (and should) have stopped at around 6, but both our competitive sides kicked in and we started trying to out-eat each other. We decided on a cap of 10 early on, thank goodness. I left feeling more than ready to give the failed sashimi place another try.


Taiwan: Fried Rice/Noodle Stand

Originally, we wanted to hit up this incredible-looking sashimi restaurant. Unfortunately, after the long MRT ride, the long bus ride, and the long walk...we arrived to find that the restaurant was closed. Later I found out that the restaurant is closed on Mondays. Boo.

We were basically stranded in the middle of nowhere, surrounded only by car repair shops. We got to a bus stop and buses kept passing us by as we tried to figure out which bus to take. Finally, I decided to leave our fate to God and we jumped on the next bus that pulled up. When we started to see food options, we got off at a random stop.

This is what we found:

This stand basically sold fried rice, chow mein, and chow fun. You can choose which meat you want.

We started out with the squid:

The squid was chewy in a good way, the ginger provided a fresh burst of flavor, and the sauce was nice and sour with just a bit of a kick.

We also ordered the lamb chow fun:

We originally only ordered two dishes but it didn't look like it would be enough between the 3 of us, so we added a lamb fried rice:

What can I say? I love lamb. So does my sister. We were happy.

God was really looking out for us. We didn't get sashimi, but we did get lamb and after dinner we crossed the street to Meet Fresh, which my sister loves as much as I do. We had been talking about going to Meet Fresh since the moment she arrived in Taipei and I'd already mapped out the ones closest to us. Totally didn't expect to find a Meet Fresh when we randomly got off a random bus in Neihu. Thank you, Lord.

Taiwan: Wan Fu Hao

I had to drop by the post office during my lunch hour at work, so I stopped by Wan Fu Hao to grab something to eat. I didn't have my camera with me, so I'll have to make do with their business card:

The card says that the restaurant has been around for 80 years. That sounds as impressive as their gua bao:

A gua bao is essentially a plain steamed bun wrapped around braised fatty pork, peanut powder, pickled mustard greens, and fresh cilantro.

Small, but tasty. Perfect for a quick lunch.


Taiwan: Taiwan's First Popcorn Chicken

Before my grandparents moved to Danshui, they used to live in Beitou. When we visited, my nightly manga rental runs would take me past the Beitou market, where I would get iced black tea and stop at this particular stand:

Everything on this stand is fried fresh to order. You can choose from popcorn chicken, squid, veggies, tempura, and a variety of other good stuff.

This is where I fell in love with chicken butt:

People always give me a strange look when I say my favorite thing to eat in Taiwan is chicken butt. Haters. Don't judge until you've tried it. The chicken skin...the fat...mmmm....

My second favorite is chicken heart:

Okay, laugh if you want but the best onion rings ever can be found here:

We used to go so often that the lady began to recognize us. We could be gone 3 years and she would greet us with a "So you're back to visit again?" We could get haircuts and she would still know us. She has to be one of the most efficient people I've ever known. The line is always long, so people put what they want into the baskets and leave the baskets along the top. She remembers which basket belongs to whom, if they want it spicy or not, and spits out prices like a machine gun. Even though my grandparents moved to Danshui, it's become tradition to visit this stand at least once everytime we're back in Taiwan.


Taiwan: KFC

Yes, this is a post about KFC. No shame, remember?

My uncle takes my grandparents to KFC every Saturday for coffee:

I passed on the coffee, but I've heard a lot about the egg tarts at KFC so even though I usually don't like egg tarts, I decided to give one a try:

What makes this special is the brown sugar mochi inside:

The crust is super flaky, like a croissant. The brown sugar mochi is very fragrant and adds an interesting texture. Definitely worth the embarrassment of going all the way to Taiwan and eating at KFC.


Taiwan: Xin Cui Yuan

Sometimes I think that my grandparents forget that I'm already 22, almost 23. I have a date with my aunt next weekend and my grandmother insisted that my uncle take me on a "test run" so that I would know how to get to the restaurant. All I really needed was the address and Google maps, but oh well. I got a nice lunch out of it. We ended up eating next door to the restaurant I will be going to next weekend:

The restaurants along this street are lined along the Danshui River, which is how you get fabulous views such as this:

Xin Cui Yuan specializes in Taiwanese 小吃 ("little eats"). We started off with some BBQ pork and a chicken roll:

I enjoyed the chicken roll so much that they ordered another.

Here's their lu rou fan (how many times have I eaten this in Taiwan?):

This fried fish was spectacular:

The crust was really crunchy, but the flesh of the fish was juicy and very meaty. Paired with the lime juice and the white pepper? Fantabulous.

Some veggies:

Kong xin cai, one of my favorite greens:

I should be used to my grandparents and how they worry about me. I should also be used to how much they try to feed me. I'll be surprised if I don't gain 10 pounds this trip.


Taiwan: Fu Le Taiwanese Shabu Shabu

To be honest, I detest hot pot. I blame it on my parents because everytime they make hot pot...I have to eat it for a week. Those of you who have hot pot at home know what I'm talking about. Anyway, my friend is a shabu shabu fan, so I sucked it up and went with her here:

Three big connected rooms of hot pot madness. What's nice is that everyone gets their own pot. You can control what goes in, what stays out, how hot it is, etc.:

As part of the meal, you can choose between rice, noodle, vermicelli, and LU ROU FAN. I didn't notice that lu rou fan was an option until it was too late. Dangit.

Every meal also comes with an egg (I think I got a duck one) and this platter:

I chose the lamb and "sour vegetable" pot:

It unexpectedly came with oysters. I didn't really know what to do with them. I like my oysters raw, but I wasn't certain that these were fresh enough to be eaten that way. I ended up passing some to my friend and swishing a few around in the pot.

There's a unlimited drink bar, 3 actually, one in each room. You can choose between soda, milk tea, winter melon tea, and various slushies. There's also unlimited soft serve.

For dessert, you get a banana:

I had to fight for this banana. Everyone else was handed one but we were getting ready to leave and we were yet to be offered a banana. Finally I just went up to one of the servers and asked for one. I paid 260 NT (almost $9) for that meal, no way I was going to leave without my banana!


Friday, July 23, 2010

Taiwan: Ba Kong Rou

The quest for fatty pork never ends. Our love for meat (and my personal love of fat) led us to this place:

Ba Kong Rou is known for its...kong rou. Kong rou is essentially a large slice of fatty pork belly, skin and all.

The meal started off with a complimentary bamboo soup in pork broth:

The broth was good, but a little oily, as you can probably tell from the photo.

My friend went for the kong rou ramen, while I stuck with the rice:

The kong rou wasn't as fatty as I was hoping it would be, but it was certainly tender and very flavorful.

I'm looking forward to finding a really fatty piece of pork and posting photos of it here. Woot woot!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Taiwan: Fruit 8

We passed by this place on our way to Wufengpu on Sunday. My friend told me about how it was featured on a TV show for its stuffed fried chicken cutlets. I vowed to be back...but when I said that I didn't expect to be back the next day.

After returning home on Sunday, I discovered that one of my purchases was too big for me. I contacted my friend to see if she knew whether that store had an exchange policy only to find out that she intended to return to Wufengpu herself on Monday. So despite our earlier talk about taking a short food break (to recover from our perpetual food coma), we ended up at Xian Guo 8 ("fruit 8") Monday night:

For 99 NT ($3), you can get an entire set meal. First there is an appetizer of fried yams:

I'm not a big yam lover, but the dried plum seasoning on these fried yams really brought out an unexpectedly interesting taste.

You get to choose between green and black tea (guess which one I went for):

There's also a side of fried yin si juan (a type of Chinese roll):

And the star of the meal, the stuffed fried chicken cutlet:

Mine was stuffed with cheese, tomato, and a slice of ham. Craziness! There's also a bamboo option and a kimchi one.

There's no way you can get this much food in the States for only $3. I was surprised that there was such a good deal even in Taiwan. Definitely worth checking out if you're in the area.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Taiwan: Rao He Night Market

Rao He was the second step in my mission to visit new night markets. It is one of the oldest night markets in Taiwan and around a 10 minute trek from Wufengpu:

The minute we stepped beyond the gates, we saw this massive snaking line. Without even checking to see what the wait was for we got in line. Any place with a line that impressive must be worth the wait. And it was. It turns out that the line was for 胡椒餅 (hu jiao bing) or...black pepper bun? If I can I'll post the video of how quickly these people were making these things:

First they flatten out the ball of dough, then they scoop in a large mound of meat filling. The fun part comes when they use the meat to pick up the chopped green onion. The buns are slathered with what I think is egg whites, dusted with sesame, and then stuck onto the sides of a deep oven. The end result is this:

Flaky outside, peppery marinated meat filling, and a buttload of green onion. Be careful when you bite into one...it's hot!

Our next stop was this stand:

We ordered a mixed box of fried tempura and fried shrimp rolls:

A couple steps away was this stand:

Where we ordered stinky tofu:

It's been years since I last had stinky tofu. I don't mind the smell so much as I dislike fried tofu. I love firm tofu that is dipped in batter and fried (agedashi), but there's something about the sponginess of fried tofu that just rubs me the wrong way. However, I swore to myself that I would try stinky tofu again this summer. I kept my word. I still don't like fried tofu, but it's not as bad as say, liver. I wish they could've added more soy sauce to this particular stinky tofu. It wasn't salty enough for me.

The one thing about nights markets that drives me crazy is the heat. Taiwan is hot enough without having to deal with the heat from all the food vendors cooking away, not to mention the body heat of all the people squished up against you.

This is why I drink a lot at night markets. We found a xi mi lu or tapioca stand:

You can choose from various flavors. I picked coconut:

I wish it'd been colder.

Since the tapioca wasn't as refreshing as I'd hoped it to be, I picked up another drink here:

Watermelon juice in Taiwan is fantastic:

Too bad it also wasn't as cold as I wanted.

I was pretty much stuffed by this time, but these pan fried buns were calling my name:

I split a cabbage one with my friend:

No night market run is complete without shaved ice:

That's peanut flavored ice with red beans and condensed milk:

Creamy like peanut butter...mmm...

You always end up eating more than you expect to at night markets. You snack from stand to stand, but things quickly add up. Even when you're full you try to convince yourself that it's okay to eat just one more thing because you're walking and sweating so much...and it works because the food looks and smells so good that you can't resist. But it's worth it, oh it's worth it.
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