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 Hokkaido: Jingisukan

September 23, 2017 § 1 Comment

JingisukanCredits: Jsprague TW Dialog template; papers by Splendid Finns’ You are Awesome and Sus Design’s Saving Memories Kit.

Named after the Mongolian ruler, Genghis Khan, Jingisukan is essentially Hokkaido-style Yakiniku.

family-style-cooking

In a dome-shaped cast iron looking a lot like the helmet of the Mongolian soldiers, thinly sliced meat (in this case, lamb or mutton) is grilled on the table and shared family style much like how the Koreans do it. It also reminded me of the Laotian Barbecue (sans the soup) I so enjoyed in Luang Prabang some years back. An unforgettable meal, that was. Come to think of it, Asian cuisines although diverse in flavors have a lot of similarities, especially in how meals are cooked and shared.

On our last night in Asahikawa, we chose a restaurant close to our hotel, highly recommended on Foursquare.

Facade

The line was not visible when we arrived because it was so long, the weather so cold; we were asked to wait in a room across the restaurant.   It was worth the wait. Right off the grill and dipped in a soy-based sauce, the lamb was superb.

IMG_9069

It was tender and flavorful and not gamey at all. We ordered several cuts and all were satisfying. Do find your way to a Jingisukan place when in Hokkaido. Better yet, if you find yourself in Asahikawa, make sure to look for Jingisukan Daikokuya. It could be your best meal in Hokkaido.

Other Must-Eats when in Hokkaido:

The island of winter sports, hanging cliffs, and endless lavender fields is also known to offer the best food adventures in Japan.

seafood

In fact, it is one of its biggest attractions, specifically its seafood and agricultural products grown on its extensive farmlands.

king-crabs

The prefecture has a massive dairy industry that produces about half of Japan’s milk and other dairy products like butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.

melon-soft-serve

The best melon in Japan is grown here too, making it quite a popular flavor for milk and ice cream.

hokkaido-cheesecake

And of course, don’t forget to grab some of Hokkaido’s famous cheesecake.

Jingisukan Daikokuya
5 Chome 4-jodori,3,4 Naka, Asahikawa
+81 188-24-2424

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

Vietnam Eats

September 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

If you’re thinking of visiting any part of Vietnam, the first thing you need to know about is that food is an integral part of their culture and livelihood. Anyone who has traveled to Vietnam will tell you that it is one of the major attractions. You can’t go to Vietnam and not have a taste of their cuisine.

food-cartsMore often than not, the street is its stage – street food stalls can be found anywhere from the main roads to the alleyways. Small plastic stools and a table taking up the sidewalk is a common scene.

small-tables-and-chairs

So what is Vietnamese food? It has a distinct flavor yet it is almost universally accepted palate-wise. The taste comes from fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, and fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, and lemongrass – think spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet when combined. Influenced much by the Chinese and French, Vietnamese love their noodles and bread. Theirs is a cuisine that is light and refreshing, which is probably why it is easy on the palate. Their taste for fresh ingredients and simple methods has actually placed their cuisine on the map of the foodies.

On my recent visit to Hanoi, I rediscovered favorites and got introduced to new staples. So without further ado, here are a few staples and must-haves when in Vietnam, in my opinion.

Pho – THE staple of Vietnam, available all day and night long.

phoThe national food is a steaming, fragrant broth of rice noodle with chicken or beef topped with bean sprouts, mint, and a few more herbs. Squeeze a wedge of lime into it and the freshness of this simple noodle soup raises the bar for all noodle soups. It’s impossible to walk a block without bumping into a hungry crowd slurping noodles in a makeshift pho stand on a sidewalk.

Banh Mi – The French has stamped its mark on Vietnam through its baguette and has since been given a Vietnamese spin.

banh-miThis Vietnamese sandwich (more commonly called Banh Mi) is a heavenly concoction of crusty baguette filled with pork, pâté, butter, and an array of local ingredients (cilantro, cucumber, jalapeño and pickled carrots and daikon). Indeed a product of cultural and culinary blend that managed to put Vietnamese cuisine on the map.

Bun Cha – If Pho is Vietnam’s most famous dish Bun Cha (ubiquitous in the North) is what everyone prefers over lunch in Hanoi.

bun-cha-up-closeIt’s charcoal grilled patties and sliced pork belly served with a basket of herbs, cold vermicelli noodles, a bowl of nuoc cham (fish sauce, sugar, and rice vinegar mixture).bun-cha

Nem Cua BeBun Cha lovers normally order a side dish of this spring roll filled with small amounts of crab meat, minced pork, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, and glass noodles, then deep-fried to juicy/crisp perfection.

nem-cua-beDipped in the same Bun Cha sauce, this spring roll has become a favorite. Ah, Nem Cua Be! I’m dreaming of you now.

Goi Cuon – Fresh spring rolls, light and healthier version of Vietnam’s many spring rolls.

Goi-Cuon-Spring-RollIt is definitely a wholesome choice especially if indulging too much on the fried ones. Dip it in peanut sauce and your taste buds will be jumping for joy.

Nem Nuong Xa – Grilled minced meat on lemongrass skewers.

Nem-Nuong-XaI’ve always loved these and have long been one of the familiar Vietnamese dishes on my side of the world. It’s meat patties wrapped around lemongrass stalks/skewers then grilled. Simple yet so satisfying.

Ngo Chien Bo – It’s sweet corn kernels fried in butter. Introduced to us by the locals we befriended at the beer corner.

ngo chiem bo buttery cornThe one served to us had salty dried fish added to it. Crunchy, buttery, sweet and salty goodness… so definitely addictive, this little kernel of heaven.

Bo Bia Ngot – a dessert so intriguing though it didn’t call out to us at first sight until some kids on a night out convinced us to buy some.

bo-bia-ngotIt’s a rolled up crêpe made up of shredded coconut, sesame seeds, and light sugary candy pieces (sometimes just sugar). Made to order at a food stall. Another simple concoction that delivered a sensation of complex textures and flavor.

And because I have caffeine running through my veins, all meals end with coffee,

coffeeVietnamese style of course.

Ubud Eats

June 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

Ubud. The heartland of Bali where gently rolling rice paddies and volcanic hillsides offer a cinematic backdrop to a land steeped in culture.

Ubud-culture

Add to this a vibrant dining scene and you can’t keep me away for long. In this wonderland of art and culture, one can eat extremely well whether it be in fine dining spots, warungs or roadside eateries. Global or local, the choice is likewise abundant. Barely scratching the surface on our last visit to Ubud (last year), here’s sharing with you some delightful new discoveries and old favorites.

Bridges

Campuhan Bridge, Jalan Campuhan, Ubud. +62(0) 361 970 095

Bridges

Our Ubud escapade started here. Fine dining without the steep price tag tucked neatly along Ubud’s famed Campuhan Bridge.

Campuhan-Bridge

The elegant multi-level white veranda overlooks the tumbling river through lush greenery. A few small nooks at the corner of the upper dining hall offer uninterrupted views of the river, so I recommend calling ahead for these corners.

Bridges-tables-with-a-view

The menu is a mix of modern continental with local dishes thrown in, beautifully executed.

Open-Mushroom-RavioliOpen Mushroom Ravioli

Bridges-creme-bruleeCinnamon Creme Brûlée

Bridges-lemon-slice-strawberry-basil-sorbetLemon Slice with Strawberry Basil Sorbet

Bridges-PavlovaLemon Scented Pavlova

Expect salads, pasta, meat dishes and an array of imaginative desserts.

Naughty Nuri’s

Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud +62(0) 361 977 547

Naughty-Nuri's

A simple shack this place may be, but the irresistible aroma of pork ribs grilling by the roadside is what will lure you in.

Naughty-Nuri's-grill

This grill house located halfway along Jalan Raya Sanggingan (and luckily, a stone’s throw away from our wonderful boutique hotel) has as main highlight its pork ribs—succulent and fall-off-the-bone tender.

Naughty-Nuri's-Pork-RibsNaught-Nuri's-sauceSauce To Die For

So pleased with the ribs, we forewent exploring more restaurants for a last bite here before heading to the airport. This might indeed be the best ribs in Bali.

Bebek Bengil

Jalan Hanoman, Padang Tegal, Ubud _62(0) 361 975 489

Bebek-BengilBebek-Bengil-Accompaniments

Bali is known for its duck. Set in beautiful, relaxed surroundings, Bebek Bengil (also known as the Dirty Duck Diner) serves a wonderfully tender and flavorful dirty duck with skin so crispy. Steamed in Balinese spices then deep-fried to crispy perfection.

Balinese-Smoked-Duck

Another specialty is the Balinese Smoked Duck. This needs to be ordered one day in advance. The duck is smothered with Balinese spices, wrapped in betel nut leaf then slowly smoked the traditional way, which is the whole day.

 Warung Pulau Kelapa

Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Lungsiakan, Ubud +62(0) 361 821 5502

Warung-Pulau-Kelapa

This came highly recommended by our guide instead of Bali Guling (Balinese Suckling Pig). I can’t say though that this is a better choice as I have not tried Ibu Oka’s famous suckling roast pig, but I can say that this was one of the best recommendation one can give.

Warung-Pulau-Kelapa-entranceWarung-Pulau-Kepala-interiors

First of the all, the warung is a beautiful, original Javanese village teak wood house with a beautiful herb and vegetable garden at the back.

Warung-Pulau-Ayam-Bumbu-Rujak

Ayam Bumbu Rujak: Stewed roasted chicken cooked in a mixture of coconut milk, Indonesian spices, and mild chilis. An East Javanese dish.

Warung-Pulau-dessertsDesserts of Banana in Coconut Cream and Red Rice Pudding in Coconut Milk

The menu is an extensive array of authentic Indonesian dishes taken from different islands cooked without MSG—Bali, Borneo, Sumatra… No disappointment there.

Cafe-at-Warung-Kelapa

At the back, behind the restroom area is a café where they serve excellent Indonesian coffee. They were test-running and invited us for a free taste of their coffee. We returned the next day to enjoy another round of coffee and dessert, this time we insisted on paying.

Coffee break at Café Angsa

Jalan Hanoman 43, Ubud

Cafe-Angsa-coffee-and-dessertBanana Fritters and Coffee

All over Ubud, coffee shops with scenic views of the paddy fields abound. Walk into any along Ubud’s three main roads, JL Monkey Forest Road, JL Hanoman, and JL Raya Ubud and enjoy a break from shopping or walking around town. In between shopping, we came across Café Angsa along JL Hanoman.

Cafe-Angsa-rice-fieldsCafe-Angsa-lounge

A cute little café with views of the rice paddies, cushions on the platform makes for a beautiful relaxing rest.

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.

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