Thursday, June 18, 2009

The wonder that is '118th street' (一一八 巷)

First off, I'd like to say... with great power comes great responsibility... wait, no that's not quite right. Uh... with great pleasure comes great pain? Yeah... that's the one. Know how sick I got from eating shaved ice in Taiwan? Actually I can't say for sure that it was the shaved ice, since I've been eating a lot of questionable items multiple times per day, everyday, for the past 2 weeks. I'll spare you the details, but it was so bad that I almost didn't go for a run this morning (if you read my blog with any frequency, that explains a lot).

Ugh, but away with the unpleasantness. I'll share one of my favorite (new) places in Taipei, that I found last year (I just so happened to find it because one of my favorite persons in Taiwan lives there... we'll call her Aunt K). Anyway, it's not so much a street as it is an alley off a main road... 和平東路 (He Ping East Road). It's right next to 台大's (NTU's) campus and if you ask anyone, you won't have much difficulty finding it. Apparently, if you're anywhere near any of the large Taiwanese universities, there's bound to be cheap (and good) eats... Columbia should take note.

The entire street is a literal gold mine of culinary options up for exploration. There's a really famous beef noodle place known for it's knife cut style (nope, still nothing compared to 良品), a pretty famous Japanese curry place, and a myriad of dumpling places that would make Eldrige street look like a joke. Today's highlight is a place called 北平鄉味 (Bei Ping Xiang Wei). This is a pretty nifty name, because it acts as a homonym in Chinese, if you use the word for 'smell' as xiang, it would mean 'Good scents of Beijing,' but how they've written it... it means 'Family tastes of Beijing.' Maybe that bit is lost in translation, but I thought it was pretty clever. Anyway, it's a small shack style store clearly run by one family. The store is cluttered with only 4 tables, a spattering of metal stool style chairs, and an open kitchen in the back, which I would venture to guess doubles as their home kitchen (they were preparing dinner in the back at the same time lol). The prices are extremely reasonable, with nothing on the menu clocking over 100 NT ($3). I wanted to try the 木須炒餅 (Mushu cooked pancakes... see top) which was 80 NT ($2.50), and the 牛肉大捲餅 (Big beef pancake roll) which was 65 NT ($2). Whatever conception of Mushu you might hold from Chinese restaurants (I'm looking at you Zach brooks), it's probably not the actual thing, or at least the Northern Chinese interpretation of it. More commonly found with cooked noodles, the Mushu cooked pancakes I got here simply replace the knife cut noodles with scallion pancakes (sans the scallion, but retaining the awesome sesame flavor) sliced and cooked into a noodle dish. It has Jew's ear mushrooms (haha, this always makes me smile), cabbage, carrots, fatty pork, bean sprouts, green onions, and scrambled eggs. All of this is tossed with sesame oil over ridiculously high heat. The amalgam of strange ingredients ends up tasting amazing, something you should try if you get the opportunity. The beef roll was exactly what you'd expect. It's thinly cut beef brisket, thick duck sauce (not the orange stuff, the stuff you get with Peiking duck), and a sprig of onion, all wrapped inside the same type of pancake... maybe thinner. This dish was less noticeable, and more of an overall... meh. Still, while I might not go back repeatedly, simply because of the overwhelming variety located in such a small vicinity, I do recommend you go if you get the chance.

I had a bowl of shaved ice yesterday, and a package of Oreos (the large packet, not the wussy 6 pack), a bunch of brown sugar cookies, and some Taiwanese pastries (which I'll review later). Obviously I had a bad run haha. Especially given my preface. I thought I ran for a pretty good distance today, but mapmyrun... a.k.a. deflatemyego tells me I only ran 5.69 miles. Great. I also ran ultra slow today. I think I'm getting slower.

distance for the day: 4.56 miles
distance biked for the day: 0.00 miles

distance on the year: 325.82 miles
distance biked on the year: 142.68 miles


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