Sandwiches, wraps, or snacks?

Posted by on Sep 18, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 6 comments

When the words ‘night market’ are mentioned, images of crowded streets and stores ranging from food to shoes to lingerie pop up. When visiting the Shilin night market, you realize that this is the night market. Traffic is atrocious due to pedestrians spilling off of sidewalks and into the road. Entering the throng may mean having to fight your way to an exit after several hours of traversing a maze of small alleys and side streets…but is it worth it? Oh yea. Separate from the rest of the shopping area in the night market, Shilin has an entire section dedicated solely to food. That’s right. Nothing more and nothing less. Just food. The place is so crowded that people are no longer lining up inside the actual building itself, but down a line that winds back so far it’s intimidating to the eye. One can only imagine how long the wait for certain stalls are. Here’s one stall that caught my eye while passing. At first, it looks like a sandwich. That is, until a thick slice of plain toast is quickly fried in hot oil, leaving a crunchy outer crust while the inside is still soft. Once the bread has been fried to a lightly golden perfection, it’s sliced so that one ‘crust’ is able to be pried up, leaving a ‘shell’ to be filled with various fillings. Slop some corn chowder in there, top with shredded chicken and tuna along with a few pieces of shrimp and you have something similar to an Asian version of a clam chowder bread bowl. When just passing by, this strange concoction had caught my eye and sparked my curiosity. Now that I had it in my hands…I’ll admit, it didn’t look too appetizing. But this just wouldn’t be fun if we didn’t try out strange foods right? You have to admit, that looks pretty disgusting. I don’t blame you at all for being grossed out since I had to think twice before taking a bite myself. Surprisingly? Not bad. Even though the mixture of ‘filling’ seemed strange, the flavors managed to combine well together and it just tasted like chowder…just thicker. The bread exterior was light and crunchy, not too oily. If I hadn’t watched her making it, I would have thought that she’d scooped out the bread in the middle and left only the crust – that’s how thin it was. The eating was messy (as expected) but I think that it was an interesting new take of chowder bread. Next up, this stall is famous for their simple, but tasty snack wraps. Two different ‘crackers’ are the main ingredients of this wrap. One large outer layer (da bing aka big cracker) that closely resembles that of a tortilla skin, and then a smaller and crunchier ‘cracker’ (xiao bing aka small cracker) is smashed to bits and wrapped inside with your choice of flavoring. We got the sesame flavored wrap (left) and the original wrap (right). Apparently all flavorings are basically just added in the forms of powder. I suspect that it’s the same powder used for bubble teas…but I could always be wrong. Either way, the combination wasn’t as spectacular as I would have expected from the line. Besides the additional flavoring of sesame, it was what it was. A soft dough that would probably be a tortilla if it had been baked any longer, with the lightly salty crunch of the crushed crackers inside. Though in actuality, it should probably be described more as a fried cracker instead of salty. Until next time! For now…envy me as...

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Delicious Randomness: Snack Till You Drop!

Posted by on Sep 17, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 1 comment

Heyyyy all. So. Delicious randomness. What does that mean? It means, salty, sweet, fried, iced….Taiwan street food smashed into one long post! So let’s get started, and hope you guys like my occasional random pictures. First up is this delicious grass jelly milk drink. A sort of milk tea, they add plenty of sweet cream and grass jelly to make the overall taste a light sweet milky flavor with a bit of tea thrown in. Yum yum. Next are these mini pancake treats with various ice cream mousses inside. My sister and I were walking the streets of Taipei, Gong Guan when we saw this vibrantly green store. Immediately we were all “Stop! We must get these!” but alas, the adults ahead just kept on walking in oblivion. Luckily, I was able to snag them the next day, and thankfully I was able to remember to remember the shop location. Mmmm, they were cold and frozen on the outside, but melted as you ate it, and had a soft chewy texture. The mousse had a nice whipped airy consistency. Here they are: green tea&red bean, taro&mochi, and cranberry&vanilla. Oh, and we also had this great soup with fish balls stuffed with meat. The store we went to is supposedly famous for this soup, and I can definitely understand why. Although it looks plain on the outside, the soup is well flavored and has a meaty flavor to it. The balls also have a chewiness on the outside, but the inside is juicy and fatty with plenty of meat. Just the juice dripping out of the balls was good enough for me! Next, we have sweet and cold little chewy balls made out of powdered rice and turned into a chewy sort of jelly. They were filled with green bean and red bean. A strange first for me, as they were cold, but not hardened. Very interesting. And here’s the cute little birds and rabbits a lady was selling right nearby! Okay, now let’s get to…fried food! Now everyone loves fried food (unless you’re a health fanatic, in which case I sympathize) and once again the food I’m going to introduce is balls…fried that is. Hm, it feels like all the foods so far have been circular haven’t they? Anyway, these were absolutely addicting. First, they make two different types of batter: yam (purple), and sweet potato (orange). Then they fill the batter with taro mochi, roll them into bite sized balls, and proceed to fry the life out of them. The result is hot, chewy, gummy, sweet, and most of all, fried. No need for anymore words to explain this. Alright, I guess I’ll continue my babble next time…look forward to tons more little snacks soon! By the way, I decided not to title it as my street food series since a lot of the foods I talked about weren’t exactly sold on the street, but rather in stores, so hope you guys like this new post! Peace~ – Jas Photos taken and provided by Jasmine...

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Soup Dumplings

Posted by on Sep 12, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 0 comments

On Yong Kong Street in Taipei, Din Tai Fung’s original restaurant can be found popping out steamer after steamer of their specialty all day long – soup dumplings. Although a bit pricier than what you might find at other stores, this place is still worth a visit for the Taiwan tourist. With stores located all around the world, this shop is not only well known but they know how to attract the tourists. A small gift shop selling various accessories with their mascot is right in front of the shop, giving the people waiting on line plenty to do until they’re seated – not to mention possibly emptying their wallets before even eating. Inside, the restaurant is surprisingly big and of course, packed. The middle of the floor is occupied by the kitchen. Glass panels make it so that all curious customers can peek in on the busy chefs and attempt to invade their personal space. Or at least try to win a staring contest while making sure nothing’s slipped into the dumplings. I kid. Seeing as how all the other tables are busily gorging themselves on various assortments of soup dumplings, we decided that a steamer per person (ten dumplings each) should be more than enough. First off, the vegetable soup dumpling. Let me just say that I have no idea why we ordered this. Sure, it wasn’t all that bad. The inside was stuffed full of finely chopped veggies. The skin itself wasn’t too thick and didn’t fall apart once you poked it either. But where’s the soup? And that’s just it. There wasn’t any. So, I’d like to throw in my two cents and suggest that this thing just be called a dumpling without the misleading ‘soup’ attached. Even though the first steamer left me a bit disappointed, I was quickly put at ease when the second steamer arrived. Now these were the real deal. Though it broke my heart to do so, I poked one open just so that you lovely readers could get a better look at it in all its delicious glory. Lightly seasoned meat, skin that was nice and thin – the little knot at the top didn’t even taste too doughy – and most importantly, the soup. One poke said it all when the precious little spoonful of meat broth spilled out. Things were looking up and the last steamer didn’t disappoint either. What do I like more than an original soup dumpling? Soup dumpling that has tender bits and pieces of shrimp in it, that’s what. When the container came, I was feeling a bit skeptical since I saw that these dumplings had been shaped the same way as the vegetable ones. These fears were soon put to rest. Do you see that? That’s not bits and pieces of shrimp. That’s a whole entire shrimp hiding in my dumpling! Not to mention it’s still got a decent amount of juice lurking inside it too. Now how could I not get excited by this? Compared to the original, these were lacking in the soup department, but what they were missing I felt was completely made up for by the shrimp. All in all, the place really isn’t that bad and I was pretty satisfied at the end of the meal. Full actually. With the prices though, I probably wouldn’t go back too often despite their fame. If anything, this is a one time thing just for curiosity’s sake. By the way, for the tourists under the age of twenty, you’re viable to apply for a Youth Travel Card. If you pull...

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Taiwan Street Food: Part 3! (plus my 7-eleven ramble)

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 1 comment

Hey guys, sorry I haven’t posted for awhile. With my birthday and school coming up, I haven’t found the time in the past few days. But not to worry! I’m back in the mojo, and would like to start off this post with a great big THANK YOU! to my dearest big sis for putting so much effort for making my birthday special. Not only did she make breakfast and a delicious cake for me, she also blackmailed tons of you guys for your birthday well wishes. (Thanks guys!) I thought I would revisit Taiwan’s awesome street food, as I miss it so much more now that I’m back in New York. First up, I have to point out that the 7-eleven’s here in the US are nothing, NOTHING, compared to the ones in Taiwan. The Seven’s in Taiwan come fully equipped with: ready made food, microwavables, an ATM, a post box, a movie ticket machine, magazines, face wash, ointments…you name it. Man, I miss the Sevens. Here’s a taste of what I got there last: Tea eggs. Although I technically didn’t buy this in the streets, they are sold pretty much everywhere. What I noticed about the ones in Seven are that they are all cooked thoroughly with the delicious tea sauce, allowing the flavor to fully seep through the skin and into the yolk. When they are cracked and easy to break open like this one, you know that it will be a tasty little treasure. Mmmmm. A variety of sandwiches made fresh everyday and packaged to the stores. These come in flavors that usually aren’t found in America. They have more asian flavors, such as shrimp, or egg salad with tuna. The one I had was very satisfying, and the fillings were stuffed to the brim, so no skimping there. Milk! The milk in Taiwan usually has a much sweeter flavor than what we Americans are used to. Since Taiwanese usually prefer sweeter drinks, the milk made in Taiwan usually has sugars added in it, which I don’t particularly like. However, Dr. Milker doesn’t add those sugars, resulting in good, rich, natural milk. Quite a find. Oh, and my friend kept raving to me about this particular brand of pudding made in Taiwan, so I had to try it: Honestly? Not bad, but I can make better pudding than this. =] Alright, now that the 7-Eleven ramble is over, let’s get back to the real street food. My Uncle took us to this little shop one time that was famous for its shi sen soup (large intestine soup with four kinds of grains). I can see why the place is well known, as the soup was good, and they even gave free refills of the soup as long as you didn’t finish all the grains and intestines. The soup was well flavored, with enough wine to keep it from being tasteless. We also had a rice bun, a meat bun, and more importantly, Peanut Milk! Sadly, I forgot to take a picture (gasp!) but I remember it perfectly nevertheless. Being the first time that I’ve tried peanut milk, I automatically assumed it would be thick and goopy with chunks of peanuts. Boy was I wrong. The peanuts are crushed so fine and mixed so well in the milk that it just tastes like peanut flavored milk. Pretty thirst quenching as well. So good that I regret only having half a cup. Here’s another little snack that I enjoy: baby tomatoes stuffed with sour plums. The sweet yet tart chewiness of the plums go amazingly well with...

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Tian Mama

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

On our last day visiting family in Ilan, we stopped by San Xing (Three Stars – literal translation) for dinner at Tian Mama (Mom’s farm) restaurant. Even though it was rather late, resulting in deserted streets and empty storefronts, the workers were more than happy to serve us – the last customers of the day. Out of the entire meal, there were three dishes in particular that I feel deserves mention. Not that everything else wasn’t delicious, but just that these few were a bit more…special shall we say? First up, is something that falls in as an appetizer and is rather common. Scallion pancakes and meat buns. Some of you are probably wondering right now what’s so special about plain old scallion pancakes and a couple of meat buns. Don’t shake your head in denial, I know because I was thinking the same thing when they set the plate down. Piping hot, these pancakes were crisp and flaky with plenty of scallion in every bite. However, these weren’t just dense pieces of flattened dough. Instead, you could see several thin layers making up the entire piece. Thus the delicious crunch and flakiness. The meat buns were best when hot (like practically every other food out there) and may need to be juggled around a bit before eating. Soft dough that didn’t stick to your teeth and still had it’s own chewy texture, you find that after biting into it the juice from the meat within hits your tongue first. The ‘juices’ aren’t too oily and is flavorful enough that you almost don’t mind a bit of tongue-burning in the process. This tells you that not a lot of fatty meat was used for the filling, and with a nice amount of veggies it was good enough to warrant a ‘mmm’ and greasy thumbs-up. The downside to the ‘appetizer’ is that it almost left you too full to finish the rest of dinner. Almost, but not quite! Next up is this succulent dish of squid. What makes this dish special? Besides the fact that it was the only cold platter in the entire meal, this dish is spicy and sweet. Chunks of pear and peaches are hidden beneath the squid and make for a pleasant surprise to the taste buds. Light and refreshing, this cold platter made use of the season’s fresh fruits and turned a simple dish of squid to something new and delicious. Last but not least, pears make yet another appearance in traditional herbal chicken soup. I’ve always loved herbal chicken soup, the flavors of Asian herbs mixed together with chicken broth? Always a nice way to end the meal. This time, there was an additional flavor added to the mix. The light fragrant sweetness of pears. Truth be told, I thought they were radishes at first glance (same with the squid dish) but one bite told me I was wrong. Added to the soup at the end, the pears were cooked but not to the point that they had lost their own flavor. All in all, a satisfying meal that showed me alternative ways to incorporate fruits into ‘traditional’ dishes. Not surprisingly, we found out from our grand uncle later on that the restaurant is famous for their scallion and pears. Hrm…no wonder! =] ~ AJ ~ Photographs taken and provided by Jasmine Hwang. For complete selection of photographs, please refer to the photo gallery: Tian Mama...

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