Easy Going in Taipei

July 4, 2018 § 1 Comment

I fell in love with Taiwan and vowed to return and explore the other parts of the island. Well, it took us seven years (unbelievable but true), this time with parents in tow. And so we didn’t venture too far away from Taipei.

Fushan-Temple-JuifenFushan Temple in Jiufen
Honeycomb-rock-formation-YehliuHoneycomb rocks in Yehliu

The itinerary was loose and relaxed with only 1 full day outside the capital. A family of foodies, the natural thing to do as soon as we landed was to enjoy a bowl of Beef Noodle Soup, Taiwan’s pride. While there are several recommended spots for this, we chose Yonkang Beef Noodle.

Yongkang-Beef-Noodle-Restaurant

Founded in 1963, this small family run, 2-level restaurant serves up signature beef noodle and tendon soup.

Yongkang-Beef-Noodle-Soup

It’s Sichuan style hot and spicy soup with huge chunks of tender Australian beef – cooked to perfection and best with a bit of their fantastic chili paste.

Yongkang-Beef-Noodle-side-dishes

Besides having a large variety of side dishes, the restaurant also serves steamed spare ribs and steamed intestines – something to try next time.

Yongkang Street

We walked off that fantastic noodle soup in Yongkang Street, Taiwan’s cuisine mecca. It is not a very long street, but one can spend an hour or two just browsing. Not to be missed when visiting Taipei.

yongkang-Street

Old-school-eateries-Yongkang

Initially owning fame for its traditional cuisines such as Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao, Yongkang Street and its neighboring lanes and alleys are now dotted with old-school eateries, coffee shops and dessert shops, clothing and souvenir shops, tea shops and some quirky cafes.

Kao Chi

And speaking of xiao long bao, we found another gem just around the corner from Din Tai Fung serving a similar menu but is far less crowded. Perpetually overshadowed by its heavyweight competitor, Kao Chi has been serving Shanghainese dishes since 1949, about 8 years earlier than Din Tai Fung. The 3-story flagship store is quiet, though somewhat a favorite among the affluent locals. Signature dishes include their Shen Jian Bao – pan-fried pork buns, Xiao Long Bao (of course) – Steamed Pork Dumplings, and Steamed Crab Egg and Pork Dumplings, among a wide array of dishes on the menu.

Kao-Chi-XLB

Still full from the massive bowl of Beef Noodle Soup, we opted for an order of Xiao Long Bao, not knowing then about the pan-fried pork buns (later on recommended by a local friend). I find that the XLB was equally good, and we didn’t have to wait in line for it. Another option to keep in mind for XLB fans.

Tu Hsiao Yueh

Another noteworthy restaurant not to miss is Tu Hsiao Yueh. Highly recommended by a Taiwanese friend, we didn’t waste time to go check it out. Established in Tainan in 1895 with an interesting story to boot. The name means “survive a month” or “living through the bad months” referring to the hardship endured by the fishermen in Tainan. In those months, a fisherman named Hung would go to town and sell Dan Tzai noodles in front of the local temple to make ends meet.

Tu-Hsiao-Yueh

Fast forward to present day, Tu Hsiao Yueh has evolved into a modern restaurant chain serving traditional Taiwanese fare and still specializing in the same noodles that is now a Taiwan staple.

Dan-Tsai-Noodles

The signature dish is a small bowl of noodles topped with minced meat, dried shrimps, and black vinegar. One can choose between egg noodles, rice vermicelli or bihon, or flat noodles, and if you want it with or without soup. We decided on the dry bihon just because I love bihon that way. I was pleased with our choice, but I heard that the soup was exceptional and elevated the dish. That gives me another reason to go back.

Tu-Hsiao-Yueh-dishesFried Oysters, Stir-fried Tomiao, Minced beef topped rice (reminds of my youth…)

Fried oysters with white pepper and salt on the side was another remarkable dish that we enjoyed so much that we placed a second order – A definite must try!

Bubble-Milk-Tea-Ice-Monster

We followed it up with a bowl of Bubble Milk Tea Sensation – shaved ice dessert likewise made famous by the Taiwanese. Ah… another must.

Useful Info:

Yongkang Beef Noodle: No. 17, Lane 31, Section 2, Jinshan South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106

Kao Chi Branches:

No. 1, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City

No. 150號, Section 1, Fuxing South Road, Da’an District

Tu Hsiao Yueh branches:

No. 9-1, Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City

No. 12, Alley 8, Lane 216, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da’an District, Taipei City

Ice Monster Zhongxiao Flagship branch: No.297, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei

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What to Eat in Myanmar: Laphet Thoke

January 11, 2018 § 1 Comment

Myanmar's-Tea-Leaf-SaladCredits: Quick page by retrodiva {designs}

Laphet, also spelled lakphet, lephet is fermented or pickled teal leaf, and it has a very long history in Myanmar. Thoke means salad. Myanmar’s national dish is a salad made of tea leaves.

Laphet-Thoke

Teashops around Myanmar pour gallons of green and black tea every day yet half of the tea consumption is eaten not drunk. An extraordinary characteristic of its national dish is the delicate use of fermented tea leaves.

fermented-Tea-leaf

The slightly bitter leaves are mixed by hand with shredded cabbage, sliced tomatoes, crunchy deep fried beans, nuts and peas, toasted sesame seed, crushed fried shrimp, a splash of garlic oil and slices of chili and garlic. It’s actually a versatile dish that can be eaten as a snack, an appetizer or with rice, a meal hard to miss when in Myanmar, actually. I instantly fell in love with it and prefer to take it as an appetizer – it has lovely textures and flavors that is umami, tangy, and savory in one mouthful.

Myanmar culture is diverse and multi-ethnic and their cuisine is testament to it.

What to Eat in Kunming: Across the Bridge Noodle Soup

January 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

Yunnan-Eats.jpgCredits: JSprague Digi In Deeper Course Material

This noodle soup dish has a typical Yunnan local flavor that could only be had in some parts of Yunnan and carries with it a love story. A scholar, preparing for the imperial exams retreated to an island in a lake. The wife delivers lunch to him daily, crossing a long wooden bridge. Dismayed that she couldn’t keep it warm, figured out that adding a thin layer of fat on top prevents the heat from escaping. And by doing this, she discovered that she could bring the broth across the bridge and cook the rest of her Noodle Soup there.

And with that, I had our driver bring us to Qiao Xiang Yuan, a restaurant chain famous for its Guo Qiao Mi Xian, which translates to Across the Bridge or Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle.

IMG_3115.jpg

Driver Wang ordered for us. Minutes later an attractive mix of ingredients laid before us. There were slices of lightly cooked (some raw) meats, Yunnan ham, strips of bean curd sheets, mushrooms, vegetables, rice noodles (of course) and a piping hot broth with a layer of chicken fat and oil glistening on top, the key to this noodle soup. The meat sliced wafer thin so that it will cook almost immediately when added to the broth. Once the vegetables and noodles are added, stir it a bit, and the Guo Qiao Mi Xian is ready to eat.

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A must try when in Kunming.

To read more about Kunming and Yunnan, read this and this.

Qiao Xiang Yuan: Shulin Jie, Wenhua District, near Jinbi Guang Cheng

Where to Eat in HK: Under the Bridge Spicy Crab

April 12, 2016 § 1 Comment

Work will bring me to Hong Kong in a few weeks and I am reminded of the last dish I had a few years ago in Wan Chai. We walked from Gloucester to Lockhart Road to look for Hong Kong’s famous Under the Bridge Spicy Crab Restaurant. Known for their authentic and mouth-watering typhoon shelter crabs.

Back in the day before modern HK, there lived a community of fishermen living in typhoon shelters. Within this community rose a distinct culinary culture that centered on freshly caught seafood. As Hong Kong’s status as a fishing city decline, this community started moving to land, the younger generation trading up for better jobs.

Under-Bridge-Spicy-Crab

We found the modest restaurant with staff that hardly speaks English. With an atmosphere like this, it almost always promises an authentic meal. The star of the show is the bits of garlic, chili peppers, and spring onion stir-fried till crisp then tossed with the deep-fried mud crab—insanely addictive. I love this version because I prefer fried or just steamed crabs sans any sauce, which sometimes masks the sweetness of the crab.  The dry chill-garlic bits, albeit on the oily side, adds just the right flavour and heat to the crabs.  A must-try when in the area.

See you in a few weeks Hong Kong. I hope to devour your impressive crab dish once again. And hopefully, introduce you to the people traveling with me.

Shop 6-9, G/F, 423 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai

Where To Eat in Puerto Princesa: La Terrasse

March 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

For the last few years, I’ve wanted without success to try La Terrasse that it has somehow become an obsession.

breadstick

My first attempt was in 2012; they were closed for the Easter holiday (seriously, on one of the busiest week?). It is, to me, a sign that they don’t really need the tourist patronage.

cozy-atmosphere

Suffice to say that when we were planning our trip to Puerto Princesa last January, I had my mind set on this cozy, open-aired restaurant-cafe. And the truth be told, it was our first agenda after touching down. Straight from the airport with bags in tow, there we were at their doorstep.

tranquil-vibes

From the idyllic vibe to the service, appetizer to dessert, La Terrasse did not disappoint.

fresh-oystersFresh Oysters. Our appetiser.

The duck was superb.

Duck-Roll

Crispy minced duck in a Hoisin-based sauce combined with cucumber sticks and leeks wrapped in a soft thin pancake adapted from the very popular Peking Duck. We loved it and went back for it on our last day before heading to the airport.

Another memorable dish was the Adobo Overload.

adobo-overload

Adobo fried rice served with fried chicken and pork adobo and topped with pork adobo flakes. Now that’s overload in a good way. More importantly, the flavor of the sauce is how I prefer my adobo to be, not too acidic but very flavorful from the blend of soy and garlic. Started serving my adobo the same way. Love the idea of serving the rice already flavored with the adobo sauce.

The killer. Their Palawan nougat made with wild honey and cashew nuts

Honey-Nougat

and their Candied Orange Peel.

candied-orange-peelTo die for.

It’s really more of a “pasalubong”, something you take home, but we had it for dessert and I was floored, blown-away. I, of course, had to bring back some of these babies for when I need a pick-me-up.  That good.

Highly recommended when in Puerto Princesa, do make it a point to drop by La Terrasse. It’s on Rizal Avenue and a hop away from the airport.

Taste of Hida

July 26, 2013 § 3 Comments

It’s been over six months since our Takayama trip.  So much has happened since then.

autumn-leaves

But when I close my eyes, I still see the foliage, still feel the autumn breeze on my face, still taste the beef that melts in the mouth, the savoury sweetness of miso that we’ve come to know so well.  Oh to reminisce.

One of the many highlights of our trip to Hida is the eating.  Located high in the Hida Mountains in the Gifu Prefecture, Takayama was kept fairly isolated during the old days allowing it to develop its own culture. Land-locked, they depend a lot on mountains and rivers for ingredients, taking inspiration but veering away from the cuisines of Tokyo or Kyoto.

quaint-toen-takayama

If you’re looking for quaint towns, a wealth of excellent street foods and sake, a unique way of enjoying miso dishes, and different melt in you mouth beef dishes, then you must go to Takayama.

Along with their carpentry, lacquerware, and pottery works, Takayama is likewise known for its local cuisine. I truly enjoyed the food in Hida.

soft-serve

There were small shops, and stalls of food, from their famous dango balls to soft serve green tea ice creams everywhere we went.

anmitsu

And the mochi.  Oh the mochi.

One of the popular street foods, in this part of Japan, is Mitarashi Dango, little mochi (sweet dumplings made of rice flour) balls on bamboo skewers, dipped in a mixture of dashi, mirin, and soy sauce then grilled.

mitarashi-dango

The chewy dumplings glazed with the sweet soy mix lets out a slightly burnt fragrance that is addicting, tempting me at every corner.

The unique combination of Hida’s landscape and climate produces excellent buckwheat and local soba noodle shops are all over Hida using the buckwheat flour to make their noodles.  Locals love their soba paired with sake.

hida-soba-with-mountain-vegetablesZaru Soba with edible wild plants

These handmade noodles are served hot in miso broth, a favorite during winter or cold (zaru soba) dipped in a light soy broth during summer time – hot or cold, the earthy flavor and the firmness of the noodles always shines through.

And the beef.  Holding its own against Kobe and Matsuzaka is the pride of Takayama.

Butcher

We tried it in various ways, and I can’t emphasize enough how satisfying those meals were.

hisa-beef-with-hoba-miso

One distinctly local and considered Hida’s specialty is Hida beef cooked with another of Hida’s specialty, Hoba Miso.  A plate of sliced raw beef is cooked at the table.  On a ceramic brazier a hoba (magnolia) leaf topped with Hida’s special miso, the beef cooked over it.  The miso added another layer of subtle fermented bean flavor.  But what doesn’t go well with miso anyway?

This special miso is one thing I bought to take home with me.

hoba-miso

Savory miso paste mixed with leeks, shiitake mushrooms, and pickles placed on dried hoba leaf then heated over a charcoal fire – simply divine over plain rice.

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