Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chocolate... not chip cookies

Candies, contraband?

It would seem that there are people who are somehow offended by some of the things my friends and I make. Yes, part of it is because we're curious as to how it'll turn out, if it's even edible, or if one of us is stupid enough to eat it as a challenge, but part of it is simply that we actually enjoy eating this stuff. Listen, I realize that the internet is a precious commodity (not to mention very serious business), and I'm sorry if you believe I'm wasting your bandwidth, but until my inevitable heart problems catch up to me, my posting will continue. Or until I'm broke. That might come sooner. Without further adieu, I present something that we made looooong ago... assorted candy cookies. Hmm, maybe I need a better name for that. I don't actually recall the specifics of us deciding to make a batch of these, it might've been fueled by a candy surplus. Anyway, onto the specifics.

Everything batter

First you start with a giant batch of candy. I um... somehow fall into mass quantities of candy bars and M&M's. It's just one of those things that's always in our suite, guaranteed. In fact, there's a bag of probably 20 or 25 bags/bars of candy in one of our closets right now. Between Twix, Butterfingers, M&M's (peanut, dark chocolate, and regular), Snickers, and all the usual suspects, we have a fairly diverse selection to choose from, but let's be honest, eating chocolate by itself gets boring at some point, and I do use food as a means to relieve stress from school.

Everything cookies

With a dough recipe lifted from 'The Girl Who Ate Everything,' a bit of everything went in to replace the chocolate chips. Broken Twix bars, some remnants of Butterfinger filling, Snickers, M&M's, Almond Joy and Mounds both, and I think some Milky Way, all of them found their way into our batter. There was a concern that the chocolate and caramel bits would burn well before the dough counterpart baked to completion, so we scaled back the temperature to 275 and let it sit in the oven to cook on latent heat. For some reason, the picture above makes them look really flat (and yes I fail at portioning/spacing), but the end result was a fairly moist, almost cake like cookie. The candy bits more or less all melted into the dough, so there wasn't any hard shell like remnants from the Butterfingers or the M&M's. All in all, it was a pretty pleasant experiment, that I would most likely repeat. Nothing overly heavy, but definitely not something I'd want to have on a nightly basis.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Canadian take on donut burgers

Packaged Luther Burgers

I've done this before previously. When I did this the first time at the beginning of the year, I had sworn that I wouldn't do this for a long time. You feel tremendous eating the 1st one, but by the 2nd you begin to feel it, and by the 3rd, you just feel awful. It really makes you wonder how something can taste so amazing, but 5 minutes later... is the last thing you want to look at. Anyway, more than a few people got pissed off at me for not inviting them for the first go, so it was more or less a given that we had to give donut burgers another shot (I was also chastised for calling them 'Luther Burgers' when I didn't use Krispy Kreme, so I'll avoid that this time).

Tim Horton's donuts!

Like I said, a Canadian take on this abomination. Last time we used Dunkin, I think because there was a sale. Well, we were in midtown, and I love me some Tim Horton's. Mostly for their coffee ice cream drinks, but this was a mission, with a single thing on mind... donuts. It was kind of embarrassing when we walked in and just started saying... "We'll take all of the honey glazed, and um... all of the vanilla frosted... and all of those too." Whatever, in the end we walked out with some 24 donuts, since we figured about 3 or 4 per person (and some that would inevitably be eaten prior to cooking).

Ground beef, with size comparison

We used just over 3 pounds of ground beef for 15 burgers (yes 9 donuts disappeared mysteriously... ~weird). Just about a quarter pound per, it was appropriately sized given the small diameter of the donuts. My hand is there for size comparison. Like I've said previously, I have small hands, but not comically small, so that's a fair amount of ground cow.

Final product!

Holy crap those were good. Chris mixed it up with the double chocolate and honey glazed for a little bit of mixed action. We chose American cheese (not because it was preferred, it was just really cheap), but it worked well. The classic honey glazed were what you'd expect, overly sweet, with an overwhelming amount of oil spilling out of the homemade patties. The vanilla frosted ones were similar, slightly cloying with the amount of sugar present between the frosting and the glaze. Like I said, the winner was probably the double chocolate mixed with the honey glazed. Since the double chocolate donut uses a non-glazed cake base, it was just slightly bitter, and managed to hit the perfect spot in terms of sugar. Sigh, where am I gonna find friends who are willing to indulge in my stupid food experiments like this at Penn? I'm kinda sad that I'm graduating (as much as I hate Columbia).

On a side note, why am I getting so many visitors from NYU lately (end creepy stalker questions)?


Monday, April 19, 2010

M2M... summarized

New Yorker from M2M

I've been told of a mythical place near Bowery, a 2 story version of M2M. Hopefully I'll get a chance to visit it before leaving NYC. Anyhoo, back to the point of this post. I love M2M. Probably more than I love Hamdel. If it weren't so damn far across campus (yes I will sit and row for hours, but walking across campus is an ordeal for me), I probably would never go anywhere else. Let that be a testament to how much I like this little deli. In fact, despite the distance I need to walk, I've gone so much that the Filipino guy behind the counter knows my order for a cheeseburger. So clutch. Lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles, and ketchup on 1 side only. I do this because they really like to pile on the ketchup. Anyway, I'll do something similar to what I did for Hamdel, and I'll pick 8 sandwiches that I happen to like a bit more than the others, just as a 'suggestions' list for when you're confused by all the options.
  • New Yorker - Pictured above, it's basically a Philly cheese steak that uses cheddar and bbq sauce instead of red/green peppers and wiz. To be honest, I only took that picture because I was impressed by how oily it was. Grab some tums, but the shine on the bread doesn't do the taste justice.

  • Spicy Grilled Chicken Wrap - Simply... grilled chicken (covered in Sriracha), mozzarella, red beans, rice, avocados, and lettuce. It's spicy enough to make you hate your mouth, but the mix of avocado and red bean gives for nice textural variation. You can sub any type of chicken in here btw. Actually, they might get pissed at you, but if you ask often enough, they stop caring.

  • Cheeseburger Deluxe - Uh, this is going to sound really stupid, but for $5.42 (it used to be $4.91!!!) it's a really good deal. Their burger isn't all that incredible, but they put it together for you... unlike Hamdel, and it tastes more like real beef haha. No, but the real reason you get this is for the fries. They're fried in the same oil as their tempura shrimp, so they pick up the same flavor.

  • Roll Broadway - Turkey, swiss cheese, onions, and... cranberry sauce. I fuggin' love cranberry sauce. You put that on any sandwich and I'll order it. This is no different.

  • Hot Roast Beef - A combination of roast beef, meunster, and gravy... oh and some other nonsense like lettuce and tomatos. It's nothing incredible, but it has gravy in it. Anything is better when it has gravy in it right? Hm, that's up for debate, but their gravy is pretty delectable.

  • Turkey Gobbler - It's like the hot roast beef, I like it for the gravy. It's just juicy turkey breast (which I think might be left over from the lunch time hot food trays) and gravy. I mean, of course there's other stuff, but those are the main points. Have I mentioned it's sandwiched by garlic bread?

  • Honey Bunch - Grilled chicken in honey mustard plus swiss cheese... and spicy honey mustard for that extra bit of kick. Actually, I can't taste the spicy aspect at all. I really like honey mustard though, and this hits the spot. Most people probably wouldn't think it's anything special, and it's not, but you could do worse.

  • Fresh Turkey Wrap - Sorry, this is cheating. It's the same thing as the Roll Broadway, just in wrap form. Uh, have I mentioned I really like cranberry sauce? Heh, yeah, I guess I don't really have 8 sandwiches I like at M2M.
I guess most of the novelty in M2M for me is the fact that they sell Asian drinks and snacks. Not really in the sandwiches. That's not to say the sandwiches aren't pretty incredible on their own, just that milk tea makes everything taste better. Also, I haven't seen Yakult sold anywhere else in the UWS, and that makes me sad. On a related note, I bought coffee soda there once. Where'd that go? I thought it was pretty good. Maybe I'm the only idiot who was willing to try it. Sigh, that's unfortunate.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hamilton Deli (I will miss you)

NYPD from Hamdel

Someone once mentioned that there should be a list of suggestions for sandwiches to get at M2M. Well, this isn't it (I'll get to that in a future post). Instead I'm going to visit Hamdel, a place that keeps my wallet much thinner than it has to be, and keeps me going to the gym. After my points and meals ran out after freshman year, Hamdel became my second home. Some people claim they go there a lot, well... I'd put money on the fact that I collected more free gold cards in my sophomore year than they have in their college career. Anyhoo, it would be incredibly stupid to try to analyze every sandwich they serve (Although I have actually tried everything on their menu, also known as the Tour de Hamdel), so I'll just make a list of my favorite 8 (don't ask... it's a lucky number) and reasons why I love them.
  • NYPD - It was the first sandwich I ever got at Hamdel, basically roast beef, cheese, bacon, and bbq sauce. Nothing outrageous, but there's nothing to dislike. It was a favorite of mine for well over a year. The picture at the top is the NYPD in all its glory.

  • Fat Boy - I have to be honest, I only like this sandwich because when my friend ordered it, the lady at the counter said "Fat boy for the fat boy?" I do like pastrami and cole slaw though. Overly salty meat countered by questionably sweet cole slaw...

  • Mojo Melt - This is basically a Fat Boy but with roast beef instead of pastrami. The combination still works. Hmm... maybe I just like their cole slaw.

  • #3. Grilled Combo - A basic grilled chicken with mozzarella and teriyaki sauce. It's a sandwich I'll order if I feel like I need to eat 'healthier.' Ha, that's debatable.

  • Undergrad - Combination of corned beef, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut. As for the mustard, I always replaced it with honey mustard. I'm not sure why I like this, but I do.

  • The Judge - Reserved for when I have a free card. Always ordered deluxe. Covered in cheese, bacon, ham, and fried onions, it's a heart attack waiting to happen. I like to think I'm living dangerously when I order it.

  • The Don - The idea of mozzarella and marinara sauce on a burger appeals to me. It's like I'm having a meatball sub, but with fries and all that jazz.

  • E-Mail - The novelty of having guacamole and raw onions in a burger is sorta unique. Some people probably won't like the idea of that much fat in a burger. Meh, I embrace it.
To be honest, this list is purely based off my own opinion. There are a lot of sandwiches I absolutely can't stand (namely Jaws, and the tuna melt), and I feel like their paninis are rather mediocre, so by no means is this a comprehensive ranking for things you should get. I only wrote this hoping that someone might run across it when they're plum tucker out of ideas at Hamdel. Anyway, just don't flip out and leave hateful comments when you realize you order The Judge and your left arm starts to hurt. I'll do one of these for M2M too, as that was the original request haha.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bacon pizza (not what you'd think)

Final Product

So now that I've finished my backlog of posts on Taiwan, I can finally get around to posting about the stuff that I actually ate during the year (not overly exciting for the most part). My suitemate and I got into a lot of baking at the beginning of the year, so I'm probably going to knock out those things first. This list... starts with a bacon pizza. What you see above is the final product. Although I must warn you that when I say bacon pizza, it's not as simple as it seems. Since we made this from scratch, we were able to take some, let's call them liberties.

Makeshift dough riser

We first started by making dough from scratch. With a recipe borrowed from somewhere on the Slice website. Really simple, basically the standard mix of flour (although we had to use a lot of whole wheat when we ran low on white), sugar, salt, yeast. Mix it all together, beat the crap out of it and let it rise. Since this was in the dead of winter (yes, a long time ago), and Columbia doesn't know how to regulate heating/cooling relative to the seasons, we borrowed the heat lamp from our turtles to make our dough rise. SORRY GUYS!


While we were waiting for our dough rise, and oh did we wait, we prepped a full package of thick cut bacon. By our estimation, the baking time in the oven wouldn't suffice to cook through the bacon, and we wanted a crispy topping, not a soggy strip of bacon that wouldn't break. Let's be honest, the thought of gnawing on semi-cooked strips of pork fat isn't very appetizing.

Sausage out of casings

We also took some sweet Italian sausage and separated it from the casings, crumbled it, and pan fried it until it was just browned. It was a group consensus that a single type of meat on pizza was somewhat weak. I think this was actually cooked in the bacon fat, so that it would infuse the flavor. To be completely honest, I don't think it made a difference, but it sounded good in theory.

Chris, shredding cheese

What post of pizza baking would be complete without a picture of Chris shredding cheese (obviously taken without him knowing). I will probably be murdered in a few hours for posting this. Worth it.

Homemade crust (with bacon!)

And there is our crust, post rising, and post beating. It was recommended that the dough be separated into 3 smaller pizzas, but when we were rolling it out, it seemed to tear way too easily. In retrospect, post baking, it rose quite a bit, and even though our pan was way larger in area than a traditional circular pan, it would've been smart to split it into 2 batches. Whatever, it ended up being a super thick pizza, although it wasn't overly doughy. We would've eaten it one way or another, so it's really a moot point, but note to self... scale back dough for singular pizza. Oh, and if you have a really sharp eye, I'm sure you can notice that our crust is actually lined with bacon. That wasn't on purpose, I just did a craptacular job of tucking it in.

Daven... is a fob

What post about baking pizza would be complete without a picture of Daven being 100% useless and continuously throwing up peace signs. If there were an award for the most Asian white person, he would win it. For real, his Chinese is probably as good as mine, and he's even better at Japanese.

Waiting to be baked

And... the pizza ready to bake. We should've used green peppers. There's all too much red on this pizza between the sauce, sausage, and peppers. Did I mention that we used an entire pack of cheese on this beauty? I think the final thing probably weighed close to 5+ pounds between the dough, cheese, sauce, and other crap that we added. Easily finished between 3 (yes it was just the 3 of us... shut up). It was delicious and I kind of want to do this again before the end of the year. I'm also tagging this as a recipe (questionably haha).


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Excellent Pork Chop House

Excellent Pork Chop House!

Well played NYC, you managed to satisfy my Taiwan food desire (if only for a few hours). A trademark dish in Taiwanese culture, pan fried pork chops cut over rice ladled with pickled vegetables and pork sauce, is something akin to soul food to me. As an Asian American, I freakin' love rice. As a fat kid, I love fried things. When you combine the two, something magical happens (I stop complaining about Columbia and I'm just generally a happier person to be around). Anyway, I've always known about Excellent Pork Chop House, I passed by it almost every week when I went around to all the noodle shops, why I didn't go for such a long time... I'm not sure, but I've been several times over the past year.

Pork chop over rice

First time I went (by myself... sadness), I got their trademark dish, pork chop over rice. An bone-in pork chop is pan fried and served over a rather generous portion of rice and pickled veggies also known as 酸菜 (suan cai). Their pork chop wasn't all that crispy compared to that at Hua Ji, but it's more than adequate in terms of taste. Well spiced, and not overcooked, the meat itself was adequate. The sauce and pickled vegetables were the star of the dish though, overloaded with MSG, it just reminded me of the stuff that my grandmother makes. For $5, I would've been happy to just have rice and sauce. The pork was just an added bonus that was kind of... there.

Chicken leg over rice

Second time I went back, it was for my friend Chris' birthday. Naturally nothing went to plan, and one of us showed up about an hour late (hi Wayne!). I went with the alternative, this time going with the chicken leg over rice. As far as this dish, it's more of the same (as the pork chop I mean). The rice and the sauce are tremendous, the chicken leg could be better. It was just the right amount of greasiness, and the taste of 五香 (wu xiang) was certainly there, but the meat to bone ratio was a just a bit too high. Still, for $5 the sauce and rice would've sufficed. In summary? I like this place. It's not amazing, and you shouldn't expect it to be. To kill a craving though, it's certainly up to par. OH, and they have shaved ice (although I didn't try it... I didn't want to ruin my image of that with a substandard interpretation).


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chocolate pie... bar?

Slice of chocolate pie

What happens when 3 ex-rowers get their hands on 20 candy bars (don't ask how or why I have so many candy bars lying around)? Of course something stupid. Somehow, between Chris, Dominic, and myself, we ended up with about 10 or so bars of Nestle Crunch, 7 or so bars of Hershey's bars, and 4 or 5 packages of peanut M&M's. Yes we could've gone the lazy route and simply shoved them in our mouths, which we've done before. Nope, we decided to get slightly creative (albeit nothing earth shattering) and we melted all our candy bars in a makeshift double broiler. We then crushed our peanut M&M's and layered a pie tin with them. Working in layers, we alternated between M&M's and melted chocolate before we were left with a full tin of melted chocolate. After 30 minutes of thumb twiddling, we took out our masterpiece and sliced it. This was the end result. It's basically a richer Crunch bar with peanuts in addition to rice. Again, nothing incredible, but the sheer scale of it was nice. Chris had 1/4, Dom had 1/4, and I had 1/4... and the last bit of it for breakfast. Breakfast of champions. Does this qualify as a recipe btw?

This is basically what Chocomize does, but with more exotic ingredients. Founded by former C150 rowers, so I felt I should at least support my former teammates.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Taiwanese people and bento

50 NT bento

I wanted to write this post about a specific bento place that I went to, but realized how stupid the concept was. There's a billion of these places littering the streets of Taipei, so what's the point in writing about a generic no-name place that serves with the same menu as a lot of other places (I'll probably post about a bento box place in the future, so I'm going to make a disclaimer that I fully understand my hypocritical nature)? Anyway, a couple of days before leaving Taiwan, I was wandering around Taipei Main Station and was super hungry. Having spent most of my money on... well, probably something stupid, I just wanted a cheap lunch that wasn't from 7-11. When I saw this giant yellow sign that screamed 50 NT ($1.50) for bento specializing in roast meats. Cheap street meat... basically Taiwanese chicken and rice.

Bento artwork

Sorry for the glare on the picture, I just wanted to show how pimp the artwork on their bento boxes are. Not that there's anything wrong with a silver aluminum bowl with a white cardboard top, but that artwork just screams 'classy.' No, seriously though, while it's nothing important, I've noticed that a lot of bento place in Taipei customize their boxes with their own artwork, to the point that I don't actually think they're using templates anymore. Pretty creative if you ask me...

Roast duck bento!

I had a hankering for roast duck. For 50 NT, you get quite a bit of food... a serving of rice covered in 魯汁 (basically soy sauce used for marinating and roasting the meats), a portion of sliced roast meat, and 3 sides (randomly picked on the day as corn, bean sprouts, and vermicelli stir fried with tofu). The meat was clearly glistening of fat, major plus. It was tender, and fell apart upon being prodded with chopsticks. The sauce... was good, thick enough to coat the skin, and just sweet enough to take the edge of the oily skin. The sides were... uh, I don't remember, they're side dishes. All in all, pretty average in the grand spectrum of bento places. Seeing as this is a cookie cutter example of this kind of food in Taiwan, all I have to say is that, NYC would be a better place with fewer Halal carts and more bento places. A boy can dream right?


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Come, come... restaurant? (來來現鈔飯麵)


The full name of 來來港式台式現鈔飯麵 (Lai Lai Gang Shi Tai Shi Xian Chao Fan Mian) is more than a mouthful that translates to 'Come Come HK/Taiwan Style stir fry rice and noodles.' In short though, 來來 simply means 'come come,' a short phrase that elicits (in me at least) heartwarming images of my grandmother yelling at me to come back inside for dinner time. Too kyoot. Located on 118th street in Taipei's 大安 district, is an unimposing, and honestly, kind of dingy looking mom and pop shop that serves stir fried dishes. You know it's legit when the mom and dad deal with the money, the kids take your order, and the grandfather cooks the food! Anyhoo, the inside looks beat up, with wobbly chairs, wobbly tables, and poor lighting. For all its inadequacies, the restaurant is packed with people who appear to be regulars, as they're all ordering without menus. It's both a massive turn off and at the same time eerily charming.

來來 Menu

As far as the food goes, everything's under 80 NT ($2.50) so everything's a good value. I chose the 干炒牛河 (gan chao niu he) which is basically flattened rice noodles stir fried with beef, onions, bean sprouts, and cabbage (on a side note, I always thought the first character was '乾,' but I guess not...). It's one of those comfort dishes I remember from my childhood that I'd get at dim sum because I wouldn't eat seafood. Their rendition was okay. The beef was well tenderized and marinated, the noodles were chewy and resilient. The vegetables... well, they were all there haha. The only thing I would gripe about (very minor complaint) was that the sauce was too heavy on the sesame oil. That's a debatable point, as I'm sure some would like it, but I was a bit annoyed. Basically, it's nothing I'd recommend, but I would go back if I were in the area. It's in a bit of a weird gray area in terms of how good it actually is, I think I just like the novelty of the idea. Oh, and the prices.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Traditional Japanese food at 添財 (Tian Cai)

添財 storefront

Nestled in an alleyway near the Taipei Main Station is a street called 武昌街 (Wu Chang Street). Rather unimposing, and actually dingy looking, there's not much located here outside of a few tailor shops and custom shoe places. I would never think to set foot down this street to be completely honest. There is however, a single restaurant here that makes me come back every few weeks, called 添財 (Tian Cai). Hehe, part of me just likes it for the name since it's a homonym for genius or '天才,' but part of me likes it for the traditional feel, the authenticity (the people who work here are actually Japanese!), and because it's a place I went to a lot as a kid. Whatever the reason, it's my favorite Japanese places in all of Taiwan. Oh, and sorry for the pictures, they got pissed when they saw my camera so I took all of these really quickly.


On this trip I chose to get the gyu-don or 'beef bowl.' This thing cost, I think... 110 NT ($3.50), so the prices aren't terrific. In fact, they border on the high end if you consider what a similar thing could cost in a less formal restaurant setting. In any case, it's as simple as it looks, thin beef strips marinated in teriyaki sauce is stir fried with onions cooked to transparency, peas, and scallions that are sliced into thin flattened strips. All of this is served over medium grain rice that is soaked further in teriyaki sauce sweetened with a slight bit of sugar and rice vinegar. The combined flavors of tart sweetness accented by the sweet flavor of the beef is a winning combination. No overpowering flavors, just a bunch of tastes that meld together perfectly. Simple yet effective.

Fried fish... don?

My grandmother got fried fish of some sort. I tried it. I'm not in love with fish, but it was lightly battered and somewhat soggy by the time I got to it. The fried asparagus was good though, and I for sure jacked her fried sweet potato too (I love those things with a passion). I think the price might've been slightly higher since it was seafood, but I have a really bad memory. From the parts I had, it was solid. I just don't really like fish is all.

天婦羅 (Japanese Tempura)

Final thing we ordered as 天婦羅 (tian fu luo) or Japanese style tempura. Similar in selection to the street variety I guess, you go an pick your own dish from a pot of daikon and pork broth. We got fried tofu, some daikon radishes cooked in miso, and a giant tempura disc. All of them were good, and I think the combined price of this dish was actually under 100 NT ($3). Interesting to note, the daikon radish actually managed to infuse the flavor of the miso entirely. Bonus, sweet sweet brown sauce on the side.

This is hands down my favorite Japanese restaurant in Taiwan. Disclaimer... it's not because it tastes incredible, or because the prices are so outrageous, I just happen to have a sentimental connection to this restaurant. When I was still a toddler, this was the only place I'd be willing to go to with my family, since it didn't reek of fresh fish. As such, my grandfather would take me here all the time, with my order being the same everytime... the katsu-don. So if you're gonna go here expecting the world, don't. That's not saying it's not amazing, I just happen to give it bonus points because of my childhood is all.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Oysters... now in noodles (阿宗麵線)

阿宗麵線 banner

First off, I'd like to say... I'm switching my photos to a larger size. Mostly because I got some complaints about the thumbnail size ones that I've been posting (but really, if you clicked on them they'd blow up to full size). Oh well, everyone wins this way I guess. Anyway, back to the food. I go to 西門町 (Xi Men Ding) all the time. Mostly when I'm bored, and mostly for the food (let's be honest, with my default dress being a rowing shirt and jeans, I'm not there for the latest fashions). The selection there is pretty decent, a mix of street vendors, Japanese, Korean, and fast food litter the small grid that comprises maybe 5 city blocks. There was always 1 place that I really wanted to visit, but never did in the past because of my aversion to seafood. That place is 阿宗麵線 (Ah Zong Noodles). It might sound stupid that I'd want to visit a place that specializes in oyster noodles, but this was for good reason. They're really famous, and there's always a super long line. This past Summer, I finally got my chance to have a bowl.

oyster noodles

For all of 50 NT (which is $1.50 if I remembered the price correctly), you get a large serving of oyster soup with thin noodles, known as 蚵仔麵線. The thick oyster soup is made with a base that tastes strongly of miso, combined with pork broth, garlic, oysters, and then thickened by corn starch. Use of thin rice noodles is preferred for both the character of the strands as well as the increased surface area for coating. End result is a bowl of noodles unmatched in flavor when compared with traditional noodle soups, and what I'm sure is incredibly satisfying in cold weather (not that I'd ever know in Taipei's Summer season). Definitely worth checking out even if you're not close, but be prepared to stand while eating. There are no tables, and nowhere to sit either. That hasn't stopped a ridiculous number of customers from visiting everyday, and should be considered a testament to how good it really is.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mmmmm... fish paste (頂級甜不辣)

I posted about 甜不辣 (tian bu la) before, at a place my mom used to eat at when she was in high school. I also mentioned that I used to hate anything that came from within feet of water with a furious passion. Well, I've grown to embrace most types of seafood, going so far as to eat them despite knowing that I'd break out in hives at night. My favorite (aside from the fried octopus balls of course) is probably this. I'm too lazy to rehash exactly what 甜不辣 encompasses, you can hit the link at the top to read about it, I'll just introduce a bootleg stand that I found that makes one of the best versions I've ever had. Located near 龍山寺 (Long Shan Temple) exists a 4-way intersection of the 2 main streets that encompass the night market. On this corner, you will find a giant yellow sign with the characters 頂級甜不辣 (Ding Ji Tian Bu La), which roughly translates to 'top quality tempura.' If you looked at their 'operation,' it comprises simply of a stand, a bunch of cheap plastic tables out in the middle of the street, and wobbly metal stand chairs, fenced off with cheap twine... no lie. In all honesty, it screams insanitary, and it is devoid of any charm whatsoever. What made me sit down is beyond me. I'm sure glad I did though...

For 40 NT ($1.25) you can pick up a small, but for 55 NT ($1.75) you can pick up a large, which is probably twice the size. Inside you get the same variety of differently shaped tempura which are deep fried, then cooked in diakon broth, as well as some fishballs, meatballs, daikon radishes, and of course... the 'sauce.' The tempura here is unrefined, unlike that at Simon's, with textural oddities that remind you that fish... probably shouldn't be in paste form. While that was the plus at Simon's, this homemade quality manifests itself as an indication of quality in my opinion. The tempura were delightfully springy, moderately oily, and the fish taste carried well, despite being masked by the sauce. Oh my, the sauce. This is the one place that makes Simon's look bad. Sure... it's simple mixing miso, sugar, soy, and chili paste (and let's be honest, MSG), but they managed to do it in such a fashion that the flavor started off entirely sweet and ending with a spicy aftertaste. Not sure how, don't really care, it was delicious. As far as the leftover sauce, of course they'll let you fill your cup with soup broth, which makes for the complete meal. Moral of the story, go here. I will actually go out of my way to say you should make an out of the way trip to look for this place. Unless you're some sort of mega germaphobe, I promise you won't be disappointed.