Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More crap I eat at school (baking surprise)

More of a teaser post than anything, I'll update later on... if you can guess what it is (and you aren't already aware), then I'll give you a prize. Serious. In another installment of 'Crap I eat at school...,' Chris and I decide to make another dinner that I'm pretty sure almost every person we know would call disgusting. Our glorious concoction was one in which there was an overabundance of bacon, hot sausage, way too much bell pepper, and really a bit too much of everything. It was a starchy mess that, strangely enough, included graham cracker crust (meant for pie baking). Are you confused yet? Yeah so am I. In any case, we set out for Appletree Deli, our new go to supermarket (screw you Morton Williams and your outrageous price gouging! I'm well aware you get all your crap from Shoprite), and collected our ingredients and began to go to work. For the record, this wasn't some sort of intimate experience Chris and I shared alone, but rather... a gathering of 'has been' rowers, as we were joined by Davenport (who I should mention has the coolest name I've ever heard), and Dominic. Really it was a sausagefest brofest more than anything else.

I'm also including another photo of Chris', so whoever keeps clicking on his picture can continue clicking *wink. So I'm finally getting around to finishing this post. Have you figured out what we made yet? Yeah, homemade pizza. I actually have no clue what went into the crust, Chris handled that part, the toppings though... all me baby.

So yeah... we made a lot of dough, I think we actually doubled the recipe given on some random site. When it came time to roll it out into our baking pan, it felt really thin and weak. It was really a struggle to get it to stretch to the edges, but after baking, we realized we basically made a pan pizza. The dough was not as we expected at all... that is to say, thin, slightly charred, and kind of crunchy.

Um... this is my friend Daven. He is hands down the most Asian white person I know. He speaks Japanese and Chinese that could probably rival my own. How did I come across such a character? Former rower. In addition to being one of my favorite people to talk to about Japanese or Chinese culture, or random stuff in general, he's also one of the few people who will openly try virtually any Asian food I find. Oh, and he's also the jerk who started me on my killer 20k erg a day program last year. I really should thank him and Chris for helping me shed myoutterfatty. Look at the picture, did I mention he's really Asian?

Right before we shoved her in the oven. Just a final rundown on our awesome ass pizza. Start with enough dough for 3 pizzas and stretch them over a baking pan dusted with graham cracker crumbs (no flour, that can be construed as healthy). The dough should seem like it's not enough, but trust me, it's plenty. Top this with a full jar of pizza sauce... which I think was supposed to be enough for, you guessed it, 3 pizzas. Spread on half a pound of mozzarella... a.k.a. the entire package. This only happened because our 'back of the envelope calculations' suck ass (not mine, I never took Frontiers of Science). Throw on 3 strips of bacon, browned enough to crumble, stuff 4 more strips of bacon into the crust :D... secret twist there. Then brown an entire red pepper and 2 hot sausages in said bacon's fat, and throw all that on too. Bake for... I actually forget how long, until it looks right, and voila. You're well on your way to becoming obese.

There's the final product on the left, and the up close shot of the crust, so there's proof I actually stuffed bacon in there. How was it? Excellent. The crunchy bacon provided a nice contextual contrast to the soft pillowy crust we had made. The sausage and peppers gave just enough heat to offer a variation on plain bacon pizza, and the bacon in the crust... ugh, just a nice way to finish off a slice. Come to think of it, I wish every one of my meals ended with bacon. Oh wait...


Dear whoever...

Someone from Columbia, I'm not sure who... keeps clicking on my buddy Chris' picture (the one of him making burger patties). I just wanted to let you know, that's kind of creepy, and his number is (601) 26... ha, just kidding. No seriously, that's really weird.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

KFC in Taiwan... moderately awesome

As per some sort of unspoken rule, no fast food chain in Taiwan can have a menu without adding some sort of weird twist item. McDonald's ups the ante by featuring a 4 layer Big Mac, a double layered spicy McChicken, as well as a green tea flavored McFlurry. Burger King wasn't as adventurous, but even so... they added a honey mustard chicken burger. Pizza Hut? All they did was stuff hot dogs in their crust (review to come btw). Now, 7-11... that's a whole 'nother level of amazing. Finally, let's not leave out Mos Burger in the discussion of specialty fast food. Where else in the world can you get an octopus burger where there are actually visible chunks of tentacles in the patty? In any case, I don't normally go to KFC, but it was raining, and I was kind of forced into it (which I don't really regret btw). It was there... that I realized how KFC could change something plain into something sort of amazing.

I know that KFC in America has those small snacker sandwiches. They're, well... okay? They tend to be unsatisfying though, and nothing really new. Chicken strip inside of a small dinner roll drenched in BBQ sauce has been done already. What you see above is the Taiwanese variant of the snacker. If you're familiar with Japanese style donuts, that is... airy dough made with the addition of rice flour... which is then fried, then you probably have an idea of what this entails. Plain chicken strip (or hot dog) is stuffed inside a 'bun' made of Japanese donut bread. Then instead of sauce, they use Kewpie mayo. That's pretty much it. Instead of dismissing the idea right away, consider the fact that this is a fried chicken cutlet (or processed stick of meat) stuck inside more fried bread. That's a lot of frying... awesome. They cost 39 NT a piece ($1.10 or so), which was their sale price... down from 45 NT, so they are essentially equivalent to the snackers in the US. They taste as you would expect. Somewhat oily, but incredibly satisfying. The one negative though? They're tiny as hell, roughly the size of an iPhone. That said, I never went back to have it a second time, not because I didn't like it, just because there were so many better things to eat at similar cost. Still, I thought something like this deserved its own post... so yeah.

Yes that picture above is my hand, and no I do possess the hands of a carny (neither oversized nor petite). This is purely for size comparison lol.


Friday, September 25, 2009

以利泡泡冰 (Yi Li Bubble Ice)

So I'm a shaved ice fanatic. I don't think there's any denying that. If you shred up ice and put sugar of some sort on top, I'll most likely put it in my mouth, that's just how it works. I am also a fan of ice cream, I can polish off a half gallon container fairly easily. If only there were some sort of awesome intermediary between full out creamy ice cream, and the characteristic crunch of shaved ice. Oh wait, there is! Originally a store that was only open at 士林 (Shi Lin), 以利 or 'Yi Li' is a store that specializes in something they call bubble ice. Okay, so a cultural lesson now... shaved ice is traditionally served just as a giant plate with toppings on top. This is all well and good, but when you go to eat it, you're supposed to chop up the toppings into the ice, so that it's fully integrated. By the time your done 'playing' with it, the heat in Taiwan will most likely have melted part of it, so your final product is watery, but still semi-viscous, and retaining chunks of unmelted ice. The annoying thing here is that the ratio of topping to shaved ice is sometimes inadequate, leaving you a pool of ice water at the end. This makes me sad. Yi Li takes the guess work out of it. They mix the ingredients with ice and milk to make what is essentially a more watered down ice cream, but somehow manage to freeze it so that it's softer than a sherbet, but still firmer than a shake (note: do not tell me that this is just soft serve, because I assure you it's not). The flavors range from egg (I think they mean vanilla custard), red bean, peanut, taro, mango, Japanese plum, passion fruit, and a whole lot that I'm forgetting right now, each for 40 NT ($1.25 or so). So is it good?

My mom insisted on passion fruit, so I got 2, since I wanted taro myself. Um, I wouldn't go here if I didn't like it haha. The flavors are subtle, but distinct enough that you know what they are (which is to say, taro has a clear aftertaste that is undeniable). The texture is like having ice cream... with fiber added lol. What I mean to say is, it doesn't melt instantaneously like a Mister Softee does in your mouth, nor does it retain it's structure like Italian ice. It just kind of, becomes soft and creamy. Passion fruit was pretty win, as is taro... actually, there isn't any single flavor I dislike. Would I recommend this place? Yeah I would, especially if you're in the area. There's a couple locations, the first across from 台大 (NTU) in the 公館夜市 (Gong Guan Night Market), and another in 西門町 (Xi Men). I think there are more... but those 2 places tend to be bunched around more food, so I go more often.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Corn topped shaved ice? (楊記冰)

In the land of strange that is Taiwan, there exists a multitude of flavors for everything. Ice cream, shaved ice, and iced teas tend to top that list, since the variety of ingredients you can mix with milk are virtually endless. In this case, the twist is on shaved ice. Instead of a traditional bean topping, or fruit topping, you have... corn? At a real famous old time shaved ice joint called 楊記冰 (Yang Ji Ice) you can get the traditional toppings of taro, red bean, green bean, mango, lychee , oatmeal, (and the list continues) but what they're really known for is their creamed corn shaved ice. The shop itself is nothing to brag about. It looks run down, and if it were in NYC, there would be absolutely zero doubt in my mind the department of health would have closed it years ago. Alas, this is Taiwan, where cockroaches roam free (and fly too), so there is virtually no regulations as far as sanitation levels. That might gross some of you out, as it should, but in my opinion... if the cost of a good meal is a few hours of torture, it's well worth it. In any case, back to the shop. Metal stools all around, no air conditioning, lopsided tables that are sticky from the syrup of customers past (sounds dirty, I know :D), it definitely gets points for not caring about image. How was the actual specialty?

Bring on the porn corn! See, in my mind, shaved ice should not feature corn. I thought they'd straight up take a can of Green Giant, pour it out, and add condensed milk and syrup. What they really did was... take a can of Green Giant, pour it into syrup, stew it for hours until the corn took on such a ridiculous amount of sweetness that it made candy corn seem tame. What I figured to be disgusting turned out to be okay. The kernels aren't noticeably distinct in texture, in fact, you could mash them with your tongue... that kind of consistency. The syrup/milk was adequately sweet, without inducing a sugar coma. It was, in a single word, okay. Does this mean I'd get it again? No, probably not. I think it was like 40 NT ($1+)... not sure on this, it's been so long, but either way, if I had 40 NT to spend, it would be money well spent on lychee Slurpees instead... oh, wait, that's a future post.


Peking duck pizza, are you kidding?

Okay, so this'll be a really short post, since I'm just waiting for my lazy friend to wake up so we can go biking... but, trust me... it's a good one. In America, people are used to large warehouse type places like Costco or Sam's Club, but in Taiwan, where there is a distinct shortage of real estate, megastores that sell things in bulk are pretty hard to come by. Enter Costo of Taiwan. Same thing, slightly smaller, but still huge in the eyes of Taiwanese people [insert dirty joke here], the only thing that's changed? The stuff you buy in bulk isn't boxed mac and cheese, but rather... Pocky (a multitude of flavors btw), Calpico, or you know... Heysong sarsaparilla instead of Coca Cola. Oh, I forgot to mention, their food court is drastically different as well. How you ask? Look at the picture in the upper left hand corner... yea it looks just like a regular pizza, except... it's covered in Peking duck! Instead of tomato sauce, try 甜麵醬 (er, I don't know how to translate that, it's the sauce you put into those thin pancakes when you have Peking duck). Then to replace normal onions, you have scallions. To be fair, the pizza wasn't amazing, the crust was kind of soggy (I did carry two boxes back from 10 miles away on the back of one of those Vespa scooters, so you'll have to be understanding), it was overly doughy, and lacked the char on the bottom. Whatever, you find me a Peking duck pizza, and I don't care if the crust tastes like cardboard, I will still eat it. So undoubtedly I'll recommend this to anyone I know, don't get your hopes up that the pizza itself is amazing, but the novelty of it still hasn't worn off.

Also on a complete tangent, I'm really sorry to the Asian woman I plowed ran into at Central Park yesterday. I realize it was a walk sign, but the whole stop go thing really threw me off. The probability of you reading this is virtually nil, but my conscience tells me to post this.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My heart still hurts

For the amazing conclusion to part 1... I present our dinner! So after we made our beef patties (cheaper this way, rather than buying premade burger patties), we began our cooking. I realize this was fully possible on a frying pan, but to ensure full meltage of both the glazes on the various types of donuts, as well as the cheese, we chose to go the George Foreman route. Plus, it seems like kind of a waste if we don't, since we have one sitting in our kitchen. In any case, 7 burger patties went on and cooked for just about 5 minutes. There was a moment of anxiety when we thought the patties were going to fall apart, but this quickly passed once we slapped on the cheese (muenster if you're curious) to act as a binding agent. Once the cheese got all viscous and whatnot (sorry, my chemE background is showing), bacon got slapped on a few selective burgers. Why only some? To be honest, we ran out... probably because I make disgusting peanut butter and jelly bacon and egg sandwiches sometimes. That deserves its own post. Back on point, we removed the burgers so as not to burn them, then began our assembly operation. I had previously sliced the donuts open, so all it required was flipping the donuts inside out and closing the grill. Out of the 4 with bacon, 2 went to the maple syrup glazed donuts, with the others going to the Bavarian cream and the strawberry glazed.

Look at that close up... way too much cheese btw, since I had anticipated our patties being, well, flatter. All was good though, it just meant that there was more to pull away in strands when eating. In addition, since we chose not to add eggs to our burger patties, it was essentially our adhesive.

So my personal favorite ended up being the strawberry glazed. The maple syrup was nice, but a little bit cloying (weird for me to be saying that). While the maple syrup flavor did shine through, I thought it more or less destroyed what semblance of flavor the bacon was supposed to bring to the show. The jelly donut was... meh? I mean, I can't say it was bad, they were all pretty good, but the jelly just kind of confused my mouth. It wasn't supposed to be tart, but it ended up leaving that odd aftertaste in my mouth. To be honest, I'm kind of on the fence about that one, meaning, I probably won't make it again. Bavarian cream... now this one was all Chris' idea, and I'm glad we did it. It was nice and milky, with the cream complementing the cheese oh so well. The muenster provided a nice kick, while the cream balanced it out, aside from the logistical difficulty of squeezing the cream out when grilling it, it was probably my second favorite. Now the strawberry... was winner, like the maple syrup donut in structure, it allowed for even browning on the flat interior, but... it offered a sweetness that was more subtle than that of the maple syrup, and a tang that wasn't offensive like the jelly donut's. It was the perfect blend of exotic and just enough artery clogging for me to deem it my favorite. Now the remaining votes... Chris said Bavarian cream (no arguments here, that's arguable), Wayne seconded strawberry, and uh... Han will eat anything that has calories, so his opinion is gonna get ignored.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Disgusting things I eat at school (part 2)

What could you possibly make with these ingredients... donuts, ground beef, bacon, and cheese? Hmm... I'm sincerely curious (well not really since I already made them), but let me just say it was delicious. On a day where I was too annoyed to do anything, I decided to do the one thing that makes more sense to me than anything else. If you haven't guessed yet what I mean, I'm talking about eating. Given my personality though, it would be completely pointless to eat something normal like ice cream, pizza, or a cheeseburger. No, to alleviate my stress, I needed something that was so calorie dense, and so overwhelmingly fattening that it would clog my arteries melt my troubles away. So before Chris and I left to go get my new bike... a Cannondale Caad9 (they're not paying me to say this btw), I came up with a plan for an irregular dinner. On our way back, we collected our ingredients, which made biking back to the dorm a little bit more difficult, and we were on our way to culinary success (or I guess some people might say failure/disgust). On a completely unrelated side note, it might've taken me something like 12 or 13 years, but I've finally figured out how to ride without hands on a road bike. It's something that I could never do for fear of crashing, but it turns out that it's incredibly easy once you learn to overcome the fear of sitting up, double win? Anyway, wtf is it that we made?

Start with a dozen donuts (+1 since the guy at Dunkin gave me an extra for some reason... I think he might've been hitting on me, but that explains why there's a 'friend tag' on this post).

Continue by making 6 balls of ground chuck. I'd like to note that there is something like 1.6 to 2.0 pounds of meat in those 6 meatballs (which eventually became 7 when Han arrived). So yeah... 4 to 5 oz. per. These were made into perfect circles, because... well... look at Chris go to work on those balls!

This will continue when I decide to end your suspense, if you're friends with me on facebook, you probably already know what I made, in which case... stfu, don't ruin it for the other 20 readers I have hahaha. With that said, I have a favor to ask of my readers (not many of you), if you could introduce just 1 person to my blog... just 1 is enough... I can double my reader base! Maybe that's wishful thinking, but I like to think that there are actually people reading my senseless rambling, and even possibly enjoying reading it too (big LOL at that). In any case, thanks?


Sunday, September 20, 2009

饒河夜市 (Rao He Night Market)... er night

I wrote this before I started crying in a corner because of school, so yeah... I'm just posting this now ha. So yeah, from my office, or rather my lab, at Academia Sinica, I can get to Rao He relatively easily by taking the 276 bus. The only two problems are that it's impossible to wait for, and there are a shitload of stops between there and here. So one night after work, I decided to make a trip to the night market (which has been advertised as one of the longest in Taiwan), just to see what set it apart from... you know... all the other night markets I've been to. After a combined hour and fifteen of waiting and bus riding, I get there. Or rather, I get lost. I got off at the stop strategically marked '饒河觀光夜市' or 'Rao He Tourist Night Market,' and given how terrible my sense of direction is, I walk the wrong way. Half a mile later, I finally give up my pride, ask someone, and realize the entrance was right behind me at the bus stop... in big honking lights. Fail. Anyhoo, the gates are certainly impressive, nice and flashy, and obvious to most people who aren't me, but that's not really that important... lights don't make things taste good.

I first ran across an okonomiyaki stand, and since I've been crazy about the whole... seafood pancake thing (whether it be Korean or Japanese or Chinese), I figured I had to try one. It was 60 NT (or about $2 for each) so it wasn't exactly cheap, but then again the portions weren't exactly small either. You get a box about 8"x8" filled with their um... actually it wasn't really the okonomiyaki I was expecting. Cabbage, egg, tuna, and dried fish flakes combine to form a messy concoction, which is then adorned with... kewpie mayo (ugggggh~), wasabi, and more bonito flakes. To be honest, I wasn't so hot on it just because it had tuna in it (I always hated the kid who brought a tuna sandwich to lunch in grade school... and no breath mints), but it was pretty filling. I wouldn't get another one, but hey, if you like tuna, knock yourself out.

I continued down the street, finding a lot of stuff I wanted to eat, but I was pretty strapped for cash, so I passed on everything unless I had to have it. The next thing that caught my attention happened to be 炸花枝, also known affectionately as fried squid legs. I think the small serving was 45 NT ($1.50) and the large was 55 NT, but I'm not 100% on that. In any case, what they do is pretty simple, as the name implies. You cut up squid legs, batter them, fry them, and voila... delicious. They have no fishy taste, or any discernible taste at all really. They're mainly loved for their characteristic snap, more like the casing of a good hotdog, than any flavor they bring to the table. The flavor comes from the breading and the spices, both of which meld together to make a ridiculously hot (both in taste and temperature) snack. To be honest, they taste like chicken nuggets in the US... you know, except they don't suck. I think these carts are all over the place (this one was at the turn near the end of the night market), but yeah, get some from any generic cart and it'll probably still be pretty win.

The last thing I ate... is from the shop (whose name I can't entirely decipher... damn you 3rd character!) near the entrance of the night market on the left hand side. I just wanted another Taiwanese hamburger, or 割包 (Gua Bao). It was 45 NT ($1.50) and rather fulfilling at the tail end of another night of eating. Not that anyone really cares, but every single time I went to one of these night markets, I'd wake up the next morning 4 or 5 kg heavier without fail.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Break from blogging

Hey loyal readers... I'll be taking a hiatus from posting, I've become overly stressed lately (too many things happening at once) and I really just need to take a breather from everything I normally do. Don't stop reading my blog though... I'll be back, I swear!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Unknown (by me at least) Japanese place at Taipei Main Station

I told you I was a curry nut this Summer right? Well, I'm trying to make my posts in chronological order, so if you see back to back to back curry katsu posts, I most likely had them for lunch or dinner on consecutive days. Back to the point, I went to um... oh right, I have no clue of the name. It's not because I didn't try to catch the name or forgot or anything, it's because neither my mom or I could decipher the hieroglyphics the owners printed on their stupid menu. Listen, I understand that calligraphy and shit is awesome, but when you're making your strokes so artsy that the customer can't even read it, then it's a problem. What wasn't a problem though was the prices. So if you go to the underground mall at Taipei Main Station (and it does span a ridiculous length, and go to the end of one of the halls, you will find an assortment of restaurants (actually there are probably 3 halls that fit this description... but), across the hall is a stinky pot shop, and right next to this shop is another, more upscale, Japanese restaurant. Er, since I'm terrible at explaining, just go by the address in the first picture. Anyway, this shop looks pretty crappy. The tables aren't exactly matching (or level for that matter), the chairs follow suit, and the entire store is crowded as hell. So, why eat here? Oh yeah, the amazing prices. They have specials of 60 NT (less than $2) for either their katsu curry or their fried chicken cutlet curry over rice. Winnar. To the food I say...

The katsu curry was good for 60 NT. Nice crispy skin, still hot enough to burn your mouth, so rest assured no hygiene issues existed (I think...). The pork was tender and juicy, not overcooked to oblivion, so that's another plus. The curry didn't really taste all that special, but I wasn't really expecting an orgasm in my mouth for $2, so I guess if I had to describe it I'd say it was more than adequate.

The chicken kind of creeped me out a little just because... well it was still kind of bleeding. In Taiwanese places like this, there's no such thing as sending food back to the kitchen (unless you're a dick and want spit in your food), so I just ate it. I mean, it was good... again for $2, you shouldn't be expecting anything remarkable (now if you bump that to $5+... haha then I'd expect a lot). In any case, it was cooked properly, aside from the bleeding, crispy skin, tender and juicy, blah blah blah... everything I said about the pork applies here too. In any case, I don't think I'd tell you to go out of your way to try this restaurant, but if you just got pick pocketed (likely given the surroundings) and you only have $2, you could do worse. Wait... 7-11 always has... ha nevermind.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What do I eat at school?

Well since I can't sleep (don't ask why, I should be tired as a dog), I figured I'd make a short blog post on what I eat at school... i.e. what I normally eat when I'm not wasting money like water. Well, that's kind of a stupid statement. I eat like any college student, which is to say, I'm always on the lookout for free calories, be it in the form of pizza, cupcakes, or handouts (wink wink to anyone near Columbia). When I'm in the suite with my suitemates, my meals usually consist of cereal, oatmeal, toast, or carbs of some variety. Not very interesting. Once in a while though, I like to mix it up... you know, try something different, or what my friend Wayne would describe as 'disgusting.' Yesterday was one of those days where I just wanted to experiment with something. The monstrosity you see in the upper left? It is a whole wheat bagel that's been toasted with peanut butter, topped with 4 strips of bacon, a fried egg, a hamburger patty that I think was 6 oz., mixed cheddar cheese, lettuce, and my of course barbecue sauce. Keep in mind this was post workout, so that makes it okay... I think?

btw, I'm calling this a recipe because I included all the ingredients necessary... I don't know how else to tag this without adding a 'stupid' tag.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It almost pains me to say...

I made a twitter account :(

end of my life as I know it (I'll get way into this for my own good)... the least you can do is follow my demise right?


Curry House (no not the same one)

So like I said, this Summer I went on a curry bender. Last year it was beef noodles, this year it became curry of every variety... katsu, beef, chicken, plain, and in this instance even with tofu! Lost amongst an amalgam of computer and electronics stores is this small alley, whose name I have absolutely no clue about (it's located at the old 光華 market, near 忠孝 or 'Zhong Xiao'). Inside you can still find the old time electronics places, selling parts for far less than market value should be (also of questionable origins), as well as various assorted music and movie stores, and some drink stands that specialize in bubble teas. As you wander deeper and deeper into the recesses of the alley, you'll find more interesting shops... the same tempura shop that I talked about before (but bastardized into a chain and also worse in quality), a variety of... ahem... adult entertainment establishments, and finally you nearly reach the end which houses 6 or 7 different restaurants. Like I said, this Summer I went nuts over curry, so I side stepped the 3 beef noodle places, the fried dumpling place, the scallion pancake stall, and the other Japanese restaurant and walked straight into 咖哩屋 (Curry House... see how creative Taiwanese people are at naming?). A small unattractive sign adorned the door, barely visible, and the entrance was so narrow that only 1 person could squeeze through. The inside was no better, filled with about 10 tables made of imitation wood and seats that were almost all rusting and wobbling... but it was packed. What gives? Of course curiosity got the best of me, I had to try their food

Well, upon first looking at the menu I understood. The food was crazy cheap. I think my curry tofu was 55 NT ($1.60 or so), and my croquette... affectionately known as 可樂餅 (cola pancake) was + 10 NT (33 cents) if purchased with another bowl. This combined with the fact that it's located not far from the National Taiwan University of Technology (NTUT) explained everything. College students are poor, curry tastes good, curry is cheap... recipe for success. In any case, the food was decent, much better than the price (although nothing gourmet). My tofu curry was spicy enough, and fulfilling enough to warrant the price. The reason I can't say anything more is because it was what it was, good and cheap. The pancake however was pretty excellent, it's essentially a potato pancake with various Chinese vegetables, curry, onions, and I believe shrimp. Nice and crispy, piping hot, but not drenched in oil... it was definitely a steal at 10 NT. Would I recommend this place? Yeah, sure, if you're a poor college student. If you're a tourist though, and you want to try local fair, then fine... go to it, but don't make a special trip to find this (unless you're somehow a pervert and in the market for adult movies anyway... in that case, knock yourself out :D).


Monday, September 14, 2009

Just what you've all been waiting for...

I finally added a feed! So you can get updated content without having to visit my page all the time. How 'bout them apples... more of me on your screen, 24/7.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ireland's Potato... where fries meet fruit

So fries are good. They're carbs... they're fried. What's not to like? Yes I know, there are countless numbers of places that fail at making such a simple food. The end result is either too soggy, undercooked, over salted, or all of the above. No one wants that. The question here is... how do you make something so simple, yet perfect, even better? This is where Taiwan, or rather Ireland, steps into the picture. Located in the 信義 (Xin Yi) district near Taipei 101, on the outer wall of the VieShow Cinema exists a bustling area of culinary delights. Nevermind the fact that most of it is overpriced (given the surroundings), a lot of the offerings are truly unique, that you can't find anywhere else in Taiwan. One of these stores (okay, I lied, this is a chain) is Ireland's Potato... a fast foodish kind of place that serves only fries. The store is literally just a nook on one of the corners of the movie theater, so it's pretty nondescript, but it's relatively easy to find once you see all the logos of pumpkin faced potatoes. Anyhoo, the menu consists of only fries, but an abundance of varieties (sort of like Box Frites). Amongst the listed are (since it's really hard to see, I'll list 'em)... color sugar powder potato (I think they mean rainbow...), plum pepper, nori, garlic powder, curry, yogurt cream, sesame cream, wasabi mayo, pickle mayo, fruit creams (of which there are strawberry, passion fruit, and pineapple), cheddar, meat sauce, sour cream, and honey mustard... whew, that's a lot. Out of all of them, the ones that seem to stand out are the nori (dried seaweed), yogurt cream (is this anything like tzatziki?), sesame cream, wasabi mayo, and the fruits... unfortunately, I didn't have enough time/money to try them all. Yeah sad panda again... Enough of this! How's the product?

I chose to get the passion fruit fries for 85 NT ($2.50) which at first I thought was a ripoff, but hey, compared to the US, that's not too bad. First up, the fries. They were good... not I gotta have these all the time good, but good. Thicker than the McDonald's thin (though not shoestring) fries I love oh so much, but not yet on the level of steak fries or wedges, they had an adequate crunch on the exterior, twice fried... I watched them! Because it was prepared on order, it also had the nice splash of oil when you bit down through the outer layer which, while pleasant, also left me with a scalded mouth. The inside is cooked through and through, yet remains pillowy soft, so really the criteria for good fries was met. The sauce, was really just a passion fruit jam kinda thing that was mixed with cream (or maybe yogurt?) and thickened with cornstarch and sugar. It was piping hot (which is nice in Winter, hint hint), and did a nice job complementing the saltiness of the fries themselves. My only real gripe is... it kind of lost the passion fruit taste after 2/3 of the cup, simply because the sauce was a tad overly sweet. In any case, if you end up in the area, I would make a detour to go find this place, because it is pretty unique, and the fries are pretty solid.

Last thing I had to add. I don't know if Irish people really say this, but I thought their logo and slogan were so legit that I had to take a picture. Although it seems to me that they're joking about potatoes by making it look like a jack-o-lantern... so yeah, way to go Asian people.


Friday, September 11, 2009

兩喜號 (Two Fortune Numbers... wtf kind of name is this?)

On a semi random trip to 萬華 (Wan Hua), I stopped by the famous night market there, and... didn't find anything I wanted to eat. Wow that seems weird for any place I visit. I mean, usually there's at least something I find interesting, but whatever... maybe I went too early this time. It was still bright outside ha. Anyway, feeling rather dejected, I began trudging back to the bus stop, but on the way, I happened to stumble across a restaurant that was more or less packed with people. There was a line wrapping out the door into the sidewalk, and I have this stupid rule that I 'have to explore every place that has a mass of Asians, since they know what's up.' So I did, and it just so happens that I came across a restaurant that has 80 years of history... I think, if I remember correctly. It's called 兩喜號, or if translated directly, the number of two fortunes? Yeah, it sounds stupid to me too... but what do I care if something sounds stupid if it tastes stupid good lol. The storefront isn't too spectacular, sound familiar? It's just another shop stuck into a small nook on the side of the sidewalk, and the only reason anyone would go in is because they know of its history or they see a crapload of people. Inside, it has dual floors, where you order on the first and your food gets sent up an elevator to you. You then have to wait for your order number and go pick it up from the chute (logistically, I guess this means people steal food all the time?). I actually thought this was a pretty nifty idea... increased seating, but not at the cost of efficiency. At other places it's nuts how slow your food comes just because of a set of stairs. Back to the food..., the order consisted of their famed '魷魚羹' or squid soup, a small rice with meat chunks (think soy sauce based marinara haha), and an order of greens because I am not very smart and checked the box below what I meant to. Fail. Back to the food... how was it?

Uh, the pork sauce rice was okay. I mean, they all pretty much tasting the same after a while... like gym socks soaked in soy sauce and cooked with minced pork (I mean that in a good way btw). The squid soup was good, but not my cup of tea. My mom liked it a lot if that means anything. I mean, I can understand the reason why it's famous, it was nice and thick, the squid was adequately chewy, and the cilantro/sauce made it really pleasant smelling, but I feel like the flavor was more of sauce than of the fish broth base. That and I ate a hot bowl of soup when it was blistering outside, maybe if I had this in Winter I'd have loved it. Sorry I forgot all the prices... this was probably more than 6 weeks ago, but I can tell you that our bill didn't top 100 NT ($3) between 2 people. Yes, it was adequately filling. That said, I'd probably tell people to go here just to try it, the dish is rather uncommon (maybe not in Taiwan), and if you're going to try it, you might as well do it at a place the locals love.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

四海遊龍 (Overseas Dragon) and how I ate 40 potstickers at once

It's no secret that I love fried food... be it deep fried or pan fried. It's also no secret that I love dumplings of all kinds. Fatty meat filling stuffed inside carbs? Yes please. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that when you combine the 2 into 鍋貼 (potstickers) that I will inevitably go nuts when I'm hungry. In any case, 四海遊龍, also known as Overseas Dragon, is actually a chain store in the same strain as McDonald's or Burger King... except, instead of burgers and such, they sell potstickers. Likewise, while I would never say that their potstickers are so insanely good that they're the best in all of Asia (who would say a Big Mac is the epitome of a burger?), they are good at what they do, which is to make mass quantities of cheap food. I imagine Taiwanese college kids would frequent this kind of place when hungover, but then again, I don't know that many Taiwanese college kids. Anyway, it's got the commercial feel to it. You know what I'm talking about. Chock full of generic posters, giveaway back lit plastic signs, and menus that have a mass produced kind of feel, it doesn't give you that warm bubbly feeling that you're supporting a mom and pop store. Inside, it's probably about 20 tables large, cheap metal stools (hey! not that different from Chinatown), and usually pretty empty aside from dinnertime. Outside... well yeah, it kinda just looks like an Asian fast food place, not much to describe there. Again, most importantly... how's the food?

Winner. Maybe it was because I was hungry, maybe it was because I was bored, or maybe I just like fried food, but everything tasted good to me... not jaw dropping, but solid. Check the menu as far as prices, since I'm too lazy to post all that jazz (33 NT to $1), but just know that nothing on the menu tops $1.50, so does it really matter that much? Ha, even on a college student's budget I could afford enough food to make me feel sick.

First up was their potstickers. Who goes to a place like this and orders anything else (okay, so I've done it in the past... shoot me)? They have several varieties, including kimchi flavored... for those inclined for a bit of kick, original... which is just pork as far as I can tell, as well as seafood varieties... which I shied away from given my aversion to most kinds of seafood. All were adequate, the flavoring on the kimchi did give off the characteristic pungency of the side dish, in addition, it added a bit of sourness to the flavor that makes it different than just dipping a potsticker in chili oil. The original was, again, fine. It's really hard to mess up pan frying dough with pork in it. Nice and juicy, they actually came out within 5 minutes, and hot enough to burn the inside of my mouth (whatever, it was worth it). In addition, they have a discount if you pair your order of potstickers (at least 10) with soup, so I got 2 bowls of 酸辣湯 (hot and sour soup). Not the best I've had, but certainly not the worst either... I've gone back and had the soup by itself if that means anything to you. Probably not :D. In this one night, I polished off 40 potstickers and 2 bowls of soup. Know the total bill? Something under $10 for sure.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hello Mister Donut

So I know everyone always says that NYC is terrific because we have our cupcake places, our small niche bakeries, and terrific doughnuts (thank you Doughnut Plant). While this is all good and true, what people don't realize is that, at some point it all becomes redundant. No matter how unique your cupcakes are, it doesn't matter when you charge friggin' $4+. See what I mean? Yeah, it might taste like heaven in your mouth, but do you get any satisfaction from being broke (okay, maybe it's because I'm a college student, but my point remains the same)? No... you don't. So in the never ending comparison between Taipei and NYC (or at least I run out of stuff that I have to post), it seems that it's another +1 to the Asia side. Krispy Kreme, a challenger appears! Enter Mister Donut, a small chain that is much more prevalent in Japan, but has been gaining steam in Taiwan... it's a store that lives off the unique characteristic of combining mochi into traditional yeast and cake based donuts. Their stores are located all over the metro Taipei area, and are popular enough that there is often a 20 minute wait (used to be around 1 hour when it first opened) just to place your order around lunchtime. So, how does this place stack up against US chain corporations like Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kreme...? Pretty favorably actually. From a taste standpoint, they live off their trademark 'Pon de Ring' donuts, which as previously mentioned are mochi and dough mixes, as well as their unique variety of filled crullers. As for value, priced around 25-35 NT each (75 cents to $1), they're certainly not cheap, but for what they do, they're very good.

On my trip, I chose the one seasonal flavor that I had never seen before... their mango creme cruller. I think I actually only paid 25 NT for this despite the price being 35 NT, I think it was because that branch was moving and they were having a promotion, but that's irrelevant, I would've bought it for 10 NT more anyway. With regards to taste... it was indeed excellent. Soft yielding dough is what you hit first. While you expect it to tear easily based on first contact, the mochi makes it fairly resilient, leaving you pulling away long 'fibers' of dough... kinda like pulled pork I guess (if that makes any sense). The dough is semi sweet, with only the hint of powdered sugar and rice flour adding to the flavor, so all in all, not overpowering. The filling was the star here, freshly made whipped cream was doused with mango syrup and infused with small chunks of fresh fruit, it was the perfect complement to the mild sweetness of the outer shell. Luckily, it was very sweet and mildly tart, or else you'd just be eating bread with a subtle sweetness. I'm not sure if it's still offered since the Summer is almost over, but if you have a chance, grab one!

I didn't get this, I just thought people not in Taiwan or Japan should know... they make a tofu donut. Think about that for a second. Haha, I'm not sure what it tastes like since I didn't have enough money (see a recurring theme here?) to buy more, but the guy at the counter told me they had 2 varieties, the traditional glaze and the maple syrup glaze. The tofu, as far as I can tell, is added simply to keep the dough moist. I guess in these, the mochi aspect is replaced with silken tofu. Color me puzzled, I'll try it next year if it's still around.