Taiwan: The Kingdom of Fruits

Posted by on Aug 20, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 2 comments

Due to a lack of stable internet, S.S.Munchies has not been able to update with new posts for quite a while now. So, while I still have a steady stream of access, I’ll leave you all with a quick post about one of Taiwan’s specialties: fruit! Everyone loves fruit! Okay, I suppose I can’t speak for everyone but I know that I love fruit…even the ones that I’m allergic to. But an itchy throat doesn’t mean much to me as long as I’m rewarded with sweet juicy deliciousness. Thus, I persevere and continue to stuff my face (my specialty). =] Fruit in America just doesn’t compare with those of Taiwan’s. Here, everything is fresher, bigger, and ohmygawdelicious! From the common pear to the exotic Custard Apple, I’m more than happy to eat a meal that consists of fruit and only fruit…Oh wait, I already do that. Silly me~ Unfortunately, this will only be a small sneak peek at the wide assortment of fruits available in Taiwan due to: My being shamefully unprepared with a camera many times when stuffing my face, and Certain fruits are either out of season or not yet in season Nevertheless! Here is a small introduction to fruits that I’m sure everyone has tried before, and some that you may not yet have had a chance to.  Starting off with the Custard Apple, as mentioned above in my program, this fruit is quite unique. Named after Buddha’s head due to its strange shape, it falls apart easily in your hands (which can sometimes be inconvenient) but the taste is an awarding sweetness, pleasantly similar to that of custard. There’s quite a lot of seeds and it can be almost a hassle to eat, but makes a good snack for when you’re just sitting around watching television or something. The Dragon Fruit, also known as the Pitaya/Pitahaya orhuǒ lóng guǒ (火龍果) in Chinese [literally translated as the Fire Dragon Fruit], is the fruit of a cactus. Which cactus? I haven’t a clue, but I imagine its flowers are rather impressive little creatures. All I know is that despite the outside of the dragon fruit looking like a hot pink, underdeveloped artichoke of sorts, the inside is a monochromatic contradiction to the brazen colors of the outside rind. The fruit is made up of supple white flesh, flecked with a scattered design of black poppy-like seeds. With a mouth-watering, light, sweet taste, the texture of the flesh is soft and creamy. I’m told that the Dragon Fruit is highly concentrated in Vitamin C, minerals, and a high fiber content…not like any of that actually crosses my mind while I’m busily peeling its rind. Next up is the pineapple, but not just any pineapple! This one’s albino. The pineapple is seen as a symbol of luck and prosperity in Taiwan. This is due to the leafy parts of the pineapple looking similar to that of a crown, as well as it being called ‘ong lai’ in Taiwanese which is pronounced closely to the word ‘prosperity’ (wong lai). The white pineapple is supposedly sweeter and juicier than the regular yellow pineapples. I was a bit skeptical at first until I took a bite. Then another, and another, and another… Last but not least are the Fragrant Melon (xiang gua) and the beloved mango. I have to say, I wasn’t a very big fan of the Fragrant Melon, but then I realized my mistake was that I never had it when it was fully ripe…or overripe even. When the melon’s not yet ready to eat, it tastes like a cucumber...

Read More

My Ilan Trip: Day 1!

Posted by on Aug 10, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 1 comment

Hey guys! In the middle of July, I went on a short one week trip to Ilan to teach kids english in a church program there. Not only was it a fun and memorable experience, but we were invited to dinner nearly every night with the staff. I thought I would post some of the delicious delicacies I was able to enjoy in Ilan. So first up, day 1 of my Ilan trip! We arrived in Ilan Sunday night, even though the program didn’t start until Monday. Right away, the first thing on the agenda was dinner. As I had just gotten off a very bumpy bus, I can’t say I was that excited, but the food kind of made up for it. Here’s just some of the main dishes we had, roll over for some short descriptions! We spent the rest of the night getting to know all the other volunteers, and began planning our teaching courses. The next morning, we all woke up bright and early to grab breakfast from the various street shops just outside the church. I was amazed that I didn’t notice all the great food places the other night! There was even a whole traditional styled fruit and vegetable market just one block away. Since we didn’t know the area that well, we just went into a random shop that looked appetizing. Luckily, it was! My mom had a rice roll filled with eggs, veggies, meat, and etc. However, it wasn’t the usual rice roll. This was made with black whole grain rice! They mixed white rice and black rice together to get that nice purple color: I had a little sandwich, which was quite satisfying and filling. We both had the same drink, which consisted of whole grains, seeds, and other good stuff. It was surprisingly delicious, and had a pretty purple color. Lunch was prepared by the church, and completely free of charge. Now I was one happy camper! It was mainly just dumplings though, and sour&spicy soup. Nothing special, but then there came dinner. After a long day of looking after kids who were struggling with English, I was definitely hungry. Since there were just too many dishes to review, I’ll post all pics in the Photo tab. Go take a look! Here are my two favorite dishes of the evening, scroll over for my opinions!: Whew, that brings Day 1 to a close. It was definitely tiring for me, but good things always come at a cost! My stomach was happy, if not overly full. Have you guys tried any of these dishes before? — Jas Photographs taken and provided by Jasmine Hwang. For complete selection of photographs, please refer to the photo gallery: My Ilan Trip – Day 1...

Read More

The Very Thai Restaurant & Bar

Posted by on Aug 6, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 1 comment

After a day of satisfying shopping that left hearts filling with excitement at new purchases and breaking with loss as precious bills departed from the wallet, we wrapped up the shopping bonanza with a visit to the Very Thai Restaurant & Bar. Located on 319 Fu-Shin North Rd., Taipei (just in case anyone ever visits Taiwan and wants to check it out) the restaurant’s interior is rather modern and even classy. Mostly a dark environment, the place has a slight elegance to it and you feel as if your very own table is private despite the other patrons around you. Quite nice, especially with the curtains that can be drawn to ensure that special ‘private’ feeling. So anyway, enough about the surroundings and on to the good stuff. First up, the Ipomoea aquatica…or the Water Spinach, Water Morning Glory, Water Convolvulus…okay! Geez, I’ll stop quoting Wikipedia and just go with the good old “Hollow Heart Vegetable” in Chinese [空心菜]. Cooked in shrimp sauce, these veggies didn’t need any extra oil or salt to liven them up. The first bite hit my tongue with a blast. I’ve always liked the hollow heart vegetable but the shrimp sauce really gave it an edge. The distinct flavor of the little crustaceans were quite strong, the vegetable still had a crisp and crunchy bite – not overcooked. However, my second bite had me quickly realizing that this was a dish that needed to be accompanied by rice. Next came the seafood salad. Accompanied by squid, scallops, and shrimp – all marinated in a mildly tangy spicy/sweet sauce – this was a simple dish of tomatoes and onions fancied up with a bit of scallion and cilantro. You could still taste each individual bit from the salad, nothing really overpowered the other. Very light, very simple…I had seconds. =] At first glance, I thought that these were just regular old Indian pancakes or even scallion pancakes (without the obvious green speckles showing everywhere) but one bite told me that these were shrimp pancakes! How odd…and delicious! The little bowl of sauce was a sweet little concoction that sat as a nice glaze atop the salty pancakes. Not too salty and not too sweet, these pan-fried shrimp pancakes had a thin crunchy ‘crust’ with a soft and chewy center that had the unmistakable texture of shrimp. I always forget that Thai curry is a bit special and different from what I’m used to eating from home. A special ingredient that for some odd reason never crosses my mind until I’m eating it once again – coconut. Personally, I like my curry to be a bit more on the chunky side. Potatoes, carrots, meat, etc. Taking into consideration that Very Thai is a restaurant that tries to serve traditional and authentic Thai food in a modern way…I forgave them. After all, while the curry itself was mostly sauce with four chicken legs and three chunks of potatoes, the sauce is really what’s most important…and it was good. The sweetness of the coconut was refreshing, though not so sweet that you couldn’t taste the curry itself. Chicken was tender and cooked long enough that the taste of the curry had permeated it, and the potatoes? There could’ve been more. A small plate of pickled vegetables was served on the side with the curry, but I didn’t find anything too special about it really. The lemon fish – although staring at me blind eyed and slack jawed – was probably my favorite dish by far the entire evening. I know I must have referred to the other dishes...

Read More

Taiwan Street Food: Part 2 <3

Posted by on Aug 6, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 2 comments

Hey all! Thought I’d post up some more yummy street food for you guys to enjoy. These were eaten at various different places, and of course, at various different times. First up, Dou Hwa! Dou Hwa is basically a very light tofu made out of soy, and would be directly translated as Soy Flower. Pretty huh? It is usually eaten with syrup, and various toppings such as peanuts, red bean, or tapioca. This one that I had upon arriving at Taiwan for a few days was pretty good: Next up are spring rolls! The ones I had below were very, very, very delicious!! We ate these on the high speed train as we were traveling from Kaohsiung back to TaoYuan, and they hit the spot. Filled to the brim with veggies, juicy bits of fatty pork, egg, mushrooms, and other surprises, they left me very satisfied. Not only that, but they also used a special sauce besides the usual peanut one. It was a bit of a twist on a classic spring roll. Here is the baby below: While walking the night market in Ilan, I saw something I’ve never seen before! There was a show advertising it on the TV placed outside the stall that specialized in this snack. What I’m talking about is, White Tapioca! Cool right? What caught my interest was: 1) It’s white. (or rather, clear)  2) It’s supposed to be softer than regular tapioca.  3)It’s supposed to be chewier than regular tapioca. And, 4) It supposedly won’t harden, even if you stick it in the fridge! So basically, I just had to try this new fangled tapioca out. I got regular milk tea with it, and I have to say, you can’t really tell much of a difference between the two tapiocas. It was softer and chewier for sure, and definetely not bad overall! Since this is a relatively short post, I’ll end it once again with one of my absolute favorite -will die if I don’t eat it after coming to Taiwan- foods. And that is: Roasted Chicken Butt! (on a stick ) Ever since I had some heavenly roasted chicken butt as a child in Taiwan, I’ve been questing to find that same chicken butt all these years later. It was big, it was roasted, it was seasoned well, and most of all, it was crispy on the outside and JUICY on the inside! Heaven. Now, the ones I’ve had just don’t compare to the one from my memory. However, this one bought from a night market stall in Gong Guan, Taipei was pretty dang good, if I do say so myself. It was crispy and seasoned well, but much too small! Alright, hope you guys enjoyed the eye candy! What are your opinions? Don’t be scared to try delicacies like chicken butts! =] — Jas Photographs taken and provided by Jasmine...

Read More

Breakfast = Milk + Fish?

Posted by on Aug 4, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 3 comments

That’s right. It’s not cereal that’ll be joining the milk this morning, in fact there isn’t any milk at all! Instead, let me introduce you to the chanos…or what’s widely known as the milkfish. A delicious fish that lives in tropical and subtropical ocean regions, the milkfish is a staple of Taiwan ‘s aquaculture industry.When cooked, the fish’s eye becomes cloudy and turns a milky white – thus its name. So, now that I’m done boring you half to death, how about getting to the actual food? Ah, I see that got your attention (and if it didn’t then it did in my own personal world so shush). Down a small side street in Kaohsiung, this humble little restaurant doesn’t even have a banner at the front. Instead, it relies solely on its own longstanding reputation and that’s what keeps the regulars (and newcomers) coming for more. After admiring all the cooking being done up front – and learning that rice cookers are apparently great for cooking milkfish in  broths for long periods of time – we settled down in the back of the little store…right in front of the air conditioner. Ahh~ Bliss. Actually I take it back. Feeling nice and cool isn’t nearly as blissful as it would be after eating. A problem quickly solved when our orders were delivered to the table after a mere few minutes. Milkfish is served in a number of ways. In a broth, as a soup, over rice, baked, fried, what have you. It just so happens that we chose the soup, the rice, and broiled please! along with a side dish of its very own innards cooked up to a squiggly charred perfection. Yum. So first, the fish broiled in meat sauce. With thin strips of ginger on both the fish and the soy sauce as garnish, the fish itself had managed to soak up every drop of flavor that the sauce provided. Soft and tender, ‘juicy’ couldn’t give it justice. Personally, I think that the soy sauce on the side wasn’t even needed. On to the intimidating looking plate of black stuff…it was like an explosion of flavor in my mouth. A rather concentrated taste of liver was the most prominent flavor. If anything, you don’t even realize that it’s not just fish liver that you’re eating but its intestines as well. For the carb fans, this would be great over rice. Unlike the previous two dishes, the milkfish in soup was very lightly flavored and you’re able to truly sample the taste of the fish itself. Note that while you may see a few fins here and there, they only use the stomach portion of the fish (no head and tail) so that you’re able to enjoy the meatiest part of the fish. Pretty considerate of them eh? It also means less bones to pick out while eating. The fish itself was actually pretty fatty but it isn’t the kind where you take a bite and gag from the oily blob (such as eating a piece of fatty meat – steak anyone?), instead it’s very light and flavorful and I imagine that that is why people pop little fish oil pills on a daily basis. As in, good fats not bad fats. In fact, I’m guessing it might be due to all that fat that the fish itself is so soft and tender. Oh and how was the fish over rice? I didn’t try it personally but from the way the others scarfed it down…I’m guessing pretty good if not acceptable. ~ AJ ~ Photographs taken and provided...

Read More

Taiwan Street Food: Part 1 <3

Posted by on Aug 4, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 1 comment

Hey guys! Thought I’d put up a post introducing some of the popular and delicious, yet cheap, street food in Taiwan. Most street foods are sold in vendor stalls that are pretty much everywhere in the shopping districts. More successful businesses, however, might be located in tiny stores that are marked out by the extremely long lines snaking around the corners. Street food really is the essence of Taiwan, in a way. It’s in the little shops, not the fancy ones, that you get real Taiwanese flavor. =] First up, delicious red bean and cream filled cakes! These are made fresh as you order, and customers can see exactly how these things are made. The workers have a huge grill, with several cake sized holes, which they pour the batter into. After they swirl it around and the batter bakes, they put in huge helpings of red bean or cream. Then they cap the top with another piece of batter and viola! These babies are filled to the brim, and are not overly sweet! Next up is Winter Melon Tea!! Personally, I love to drink this stuff. It’s sweet, and tastes of brown sugar, but at the same time has this subtle melon flavor that reminds me of when I was small. The store we went to was in a small obscure street in Kaioshung, and specializes in winter melon tea. In fact, all they sell is winter melon tea! Winter melon tea with lemon, with oolong, with honey…you name it! Here we’ve got three flavors: original (love), lemon, and oolong. I still love original the best, as I felt the other flavors obscured the winter melon a bit. They also sell winter melon candies. The shopkeeper was nice enough to let us try a few samples. These are made from fresh winter melon, and covered with brown sugar. They are then dried up, and retain all the sweetness of the melon and sugar. In a sense, it’s concentrated winter melon tea! Just plunk them in to boil, and you get tea. It’s really interesting right? The candies are tasty to suck on as well, although I know some people are content to chew them up. Although the candy is super sweet, the drink itself is not overly so. Adults would enjoy it too, and the melon flavor doesn’t get covered by the sugar. Now here is a classic, shaved ice! No need to explain the beauty behind this. Shaved ice, drizzled with syrup, condensed milk, or both, and topped with various fruits, chews, and jellies. Delicious! Not to mention it’s low in calories too! Here is a picture of one I had recently in Tainan: Finally time for something salty! I’ll end this post with another of my loves: takoyaki! Although this is originally a Japanese snack, you can find them in many night markets all over Taiwan. Takoyaki are basically little balls of grilled and fried dough filled with octopus and veggies. They end up crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, and are served piping hot with several toppings and sauces heaped on top. Usually, these include wasabi, sweet soy sauce, and bonito flakes. They usually come six in a boat, which is far too little for me! Hope you guys enjoyed the post! What are some favorite on the go street foods you guys enjoy? =] — Jas Photographs taken and provided by Jasmine...

Read More

Seafood Galore

Posted by on Aug 2, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 4 comments

As some attentive readers may have noticed, S.S. Munchies shall be categorizing Taiwan related topics underneath the category of “Eating like an Emperor – in Taiwan”. Now, why so long? It’s certainly a mouthful isn’t it? We decided to dub our Taiwan ramblings due to an old proverbial saying of: Chī fan, Huangdi da. That is to say that eating is similar to that of being an Emperor, the act of it is so important that no one is allowed to bother you. Fancy that! Next time I’m busy and I don’t want to be bothered all I have to say is “I’m eating!” and silence shall follow…or not, but wishful thinking never hurts. Speaking of eating, or feasting rather, like an Emperor – that was exactly what we did on our trip to Tainan, Taiwan. Stepping gingerly through the sliding doors of A-Sha, a restaurant specializing in the traditional foods from Southern Taiwan, we were treated to several dishes of delectable seafood. Seafood’s always been a favorite of mine (along with several other food groups) but a family favorite that we view as a Lunar New Year treat would have to be Wu Yú Zi, or fish roe. For some, this condensed piece of fish roe may be overwhelmingly salty but eating a few pieces of fresh radish washes it down to a nice salty tang. For those who favor a bit of spice in their life, slices of fresh scallion or even garlic is yet another option to try. Mm-mm! That does look scrumptious, now doesn’t it Jas? Ah, I see that she’s busily eying her food and committing it to memory before it disappears into her bowels. Poor thing. But the fish roe (delicious as it was) was only the beginning of our meal. Followed with abalone and these interesting little shrimpy crab balls. For those of you who have never had abalone before, it’s a rather large clam that’s sliced and served with mayonnaise. The fishy smell and taste can be a bit intimidating to some but the texture itself is tender and chewy like…well, clam! The shrimp/crab balls were quite interesting. Fried just enough so that its thin outer layer is crisp, but the inside is soft with the slight surprise of a crunch from water chestnuts here and there. Afterwards, a plate of assorted foods (from sausage to chicken, all the way to veggies to tofu) with shrimp. Not just any shrimp! Shrimp with curly feet. Yes, that’s right. Curly. Almost as if they’re dancing for joy…straight into my mouth that is. Anyway, drooling aside, what really stood out within this meal blew everything else away. The crab sticky rice, the steamed fish, the stir-fried peppers and scallops…the winner of the meal was…this little sucker. Ooh yea, just look at it staring so venomously at’cha. Pretty intimidating huh? Not so much when its body’s a mere bony patch. Served in a ginger broth, much like a soup, these little critters were just swimming around in there until fished up by us. A light finish to the meal, the fish sat nicely in the stomach along with the refreshing ginger broth. Soft and tender, the meat easily falls off its bone with a little nudge of encouragement from my spoon and chopsticks. Apparently the Flying Mud Fish like to jump onto the shore’s rocks and sun themselves for a while – which also happens to make them rather easy to catch. All in all, a delightful afternoon spent with family…some of whom I’ve never met until just then! If any of you readers have...

Read More

Traditional Foods in Taiwan: Bitter Melon

Posted by on Aug 2, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 4 comments

Alright people, let me introduce a delicious vegetable that people often overlook or even dislike: Bitter Melon! Now, at first I didn’t like the bitterness of this veggie either, but the taste really grows on you. Before, I would say my favorite way to eat bitter melon is with salted eggs or meat. However, this all changed when my grandpa treated our family for dinner at a nice little restaurant in Taoyuan, Taiwan. I can safely say that my grandpa, as a lover of all foods, has supreme taste buds and a knowledge of where to get good food. Here’s my favorite dish of the evening:   Alot of my friends can’t stand bitter melon, but a bite of this just might change their minds. This was probably the best bitter melon I ever ate! The reason? It was cooked and let to simmer for several hours in a fragrant meat sauce, allowing the bitter melon to suck up all the good flavor and become extremely soft and juicy. Cooking this requires experience and technique, something that makes it difficult to recreate at home. The best way to eat this is to take a good chunk, pour some of the sauce on, and eat it together with some rice. Yum Yum! In case anyone was wondering, the dish next to the bitter melon is actually pig large intestines. This was the first time I had large intestines that were cooked in a sour sauce. They were extremely chewy, and even got progressively more sour as I chewed. Extremely interesting, and definitely not something I’m used to: On another note, the sweet bread we had was great as well. They used two types of dough for this, a soft yellow dough on the inside, and a hard crispy one on the outside to fry. Then they sprinkled it liberally with sweet peanut powder mixed with sugar. The result is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and it is deliciously warm as it fills your mouth with sugary goodness: The restaurant we went to is called Chuan Jia Fu, or directly translated, the Whole Family. Hope you guys enjoyed this post, leave comments below! What kinds of foods do you guys enjoy? — Jas Photographs taken and provided by Jasmine Hwang For complete selection of photographs, please refer to the photo gallery: Traditional Foods in Taiwan...

Read More