Wednesday, April 14, 2010

[台北] 公館 - 墾丁蛋蛋ㄉㄨㄞ奶 Fresh Tapioca with Milk in Taipei Gonguan

Every time I go visit Taipei, a visit to the 公館 (Gong Guan) area is inevitable. It's right across the bridge from Yong Ho township, and right across the street from Taipei's #1 university (NTU). In addition to having lots of small mom and pop type retail stores and shops (with the inevitable chains of 7-Eleven, Happy Family convenience stores, at least one Starbucks), there's a myriad to almost endless amount of average to very decent food, best of all very affordable. We've all been starving students at one point, so good quality food on the cheap is a must. Unfortunately for the most part, your typical American university or college town food isn't exactly cheap in comparison, but good thing for NTU students, if you are willing to walk, you can get good grub and drink. So don't be a stupid NTU student and eat on campus, where at the student union there's a Burger King and a localized Korean place that doesn't look entirely interesting.

Ahhh beverages....tons of places that serve to go teas, milk tea drinks. The best known name brand is Ten Ren Tea Station (which of course blows away anything in California North or South), but you're looking at NT$70 for a kickass cuppa lemon kumquat green tea (cheap by California standards, PRICEY for local).

Enter this joint called 墾丁蛋蛋ㄉㄨㄞ奶, pronounced Kenting Daan Daan "dwai" Nai. I'm not so sure about the "dwai" part as that's some serious Boh Poh MoFo shizzle I never learned.

This is actually Taipei's only branch of a family business that started off in Kenting (the southern end of Taiwan).

Here's the kicker, they do not use or add any tea in their drinks. It's all milk.

But not just any milk. They use Lin Feng Yin brand, which locally is known for being all natural and rich in flavor. I've tasted this from a local Welcome supermarket (Ding Hao) and it's super smooth and creamy (even low fat version). Pretty much puts our US organic milk to shame (even the Horizon's and whatevers).

So every successful business has a beginning, and in the Chinese food culture, when you're blogging or doing a documentary/program, you have to begin with a sappy story as to its humble beginnings and struggles.

This is taken directly from their brochure, and hopefully I didn't F it up with the translation.

"In early summer 2001, a loving mother who worried about her little boy's nutritional intake containing too much in the way of artificial ingredients (food coloring, flavoring, sweeteners) and who also suffered poor health from eating not so healthy herself, came up with a beverage idea to not only be nutritionally healthy for her son, but also delicious. She borrowed an idea from her grandmother on a receipe regarding black (brown) sugar (unprocessed), and thus 墾丁蛋蛋ㄉㄨㄞ奶 was born."

The tapioca they use is freshly made every day and after cooking it, is never left sitting out more than 2 hours. Anything older than that, is tossed out and replaced with a new batch. Or so they claim.

And the great thing is, it's true, and you can taste it.

All drinks are NT$30 or about US$1. It's unbeatable, delicious, fresh, and quite an unusual combination that works.

Fresh quality milk makes the basis of most of the drinks with your choice of black sugar tapioca, grass jelly, and/or green (mung) beans. You can also opt to have the milk as a latte (with coffee), or if you are lactose intolerant, they offer a lemon juice base option.

墾丁蛋蛋ㄉㄨㄞ奶 (Kenting Daan Daan "dwai" nai)
台北市中正區汀州路三段165號 Taipei City, Zhongzhen District, Dingzhou Road, 3rd portion #165

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

[桃園機場] - 寶島晶華 - Taiwanese Cuisine and Snacks (sit down restaurant) Taipei airport)

For those who have departed from Taipei International Airport (actually located in Taoyuen), might remember that upstairs on one side beyond the Rose Records CD store, used to be a food court that sold sandwiches, a Starbucks stand, a noodle and dumplings stand, and a xiaolongbao and snack stand.

Well fast forward to late 2009, all that is GONE.

It appears that the Jing Hua corporation (that also owns some exquisite hotels) and apparently has a very upscale almost kaiseki like Taiwanese restaurant inside the National Palace Museum, has an outpost at the airport, basically replacing what I described in the first paragraph.

I didn't take  photos but you can see pictures here:

Picked up a takeout menu, so you can have some idea of what prices and varieties to expect

Xiao Long Bao - NT$220 for 7
Formosa Beef Noodle - NT$250 (what looks like 3 slices of beef, two stalks of veg, and sides of whole marinated egg, and two mini sides)
Tendon and Beef Noodle Soup - NT$290
Hualien Dumpling Noodle Soup - NT$220
Braised Beef Soup with Thin Noodle - NT$260
Braised Beef Soup with Dumpling - NT$250
Chicken Noodle Soup with Sides - NT$250
Vegetarian Noodle Soup - NT$200
Chicken Leg with Rice (Bento) or Noodle (soup included) - NT$250
Pork Chop with rice or noodle (soup included) - NT$250
Curry chicken with rice (soup included) - NT$250
Egg and Beef in Sauce on Rice (soup included) - NT$250 (looks slightly Cantonese-ish)
Egg and Shrimp in Sauce on Rice (soup included) - NT$250
Minced Pork Rice with boiled veg and served with soup - NT$150
Preserved Egg and Pork Congee - NT$170 (definitely Cantonese)
Egg and Beef Congee - NT$170
Formosa Cold Noodles with Bamboo and Pork Bone soup - NT$200
Boiled Water Spinach - NT$80 (kung xin tsai)
Boiled Bean Sprout - NT$80
Boiled Spinach - NT$80
Boiled Green Cabbage - NT$80 (Tsing Jiang Tsai)
Dried Mountain Yam and Pork Rib Soup - NT$150
Chicken Soup (yuen zhong ji tang) - NT$150
Club sandwich - NT$280
Spaghetti with meat sauce - NT$280
Chef's Salad - NT$280
Ground Beef Burger (6 oz) - NT$320

Drinks ranging from NT$60 to $85
Blck Tea, Jasmine Tea, Oolong Tea, Passionfruit tea, Plum tea, Lemon Tea, Grapefruit tea, Chrysanthemum Puer tea, lemon juice with jelly, milk tea, bubble tea, american coffee, latte...

NT$120 juice and milk driinks
Papaya milk, banana milk, watermelon with aloe, kiki orange juice, lemon juice, mango juice, mixed fruit juice, and various smoothies

NT$150 for budweiser, corona, heineken, asahi, kirin

Taiwan local beer - NT$180

This might be the only half decent option in the airport before going through security (after that you're on your own). Of course you're better off stuffing yourself silly before arriving at the airport, or bring some food with you (beverages need to be consumed before going through customs...)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mister Donut Taipei

Ahhh nothing like finding a pretty boy idol type from Japan to promote your then latest offering. These pics were probably taken 2 to 3 years ago, so you may not find this limited edition seasonal kind of offering.

Why is it that a dirty old man who looks like a pseudo grandpa popeye, wearing the classic yellow raincoat who could potentially be a total perv exhibitionist chode extraordinare, is the logo of a company pimping the signature Japanese style cream puffs, be soooo popular in the SF Bay Area amongst Asian foodie fetishists (of the dessert variety), when this was hip in Japan and Hong Kong 10 years ago, and is now considered blasse over there? (remember cream puff is a French like dessert so the pronounciation in French is aptly, BLAH-SAY)

This needs to be imported into the San Francisco Bay Area ASAP and PRONTO, and kick the Bearded Dirty Papa in da ballsac, and to the curb. (For reference, there is a Beard Papa Cream Puff location upstairs from the Taipei Main Station).

Anyhoo, one of the greatest fast snack dessert food fads spreading across Taipei in the past 3 to 4 years is a company called Mister Donut, which strangely started off in the USA back in 1956 to compete against Dunkin Donuts (we'll get to that one later...) and someone in Japan bought the license to franchise MD in Japan and Asia.

Creative styles of green tea (matcha) themed donuts.  

Many years later, some Taiwanese conglomerate imported the Japanese side of the MD franchise to open up franchises in Taipei. This was an absolute smashing success, as it introduced an originally American snack with a Japanese take and spin, offered and taylored to local Taiwanese tastebuds.


The variety offered is stunning. They even carry ponti's, which kind of look like Baby Einstein Caterpillar teething rings for infants, round circles put together to form an almost octagonal shape, with a hollow center. The latest ponti and donut offerings are quite amazing (yes NEW flavors introduced when they can and often too!), where they even fusionize it with matcha (powdered green tea) with red bean paste interior! The green tea with red bean ponti was definitely a highlight of my last visit.

The best part is that all of Mister Donut Taipei's offerings (and arguably virtually identical to Mister Donut Japan) were rich in flavor yet light on the palette and stomach. They even have 5 grain and whole wheat donuts for the health conscious! Nothing overly sweet, very natural tasting. After eating even upwards of two or more, you don't end up feeling like an overweight pot bellied American couch potato (unlike Krispy Kreme that is not only too rich and sweet, but lethal in so many forms).

I honestly believe that Krispy Kreme would FLOP in Taiwan, if they cloned the exact US receipes. Why? For a country that has an extremely heavy snack culture, like Singapore, a single Krispy donut might mean taking away the valuable appetite or stomach space (from a calorific perspective) for potentially even tastier eats, for the average citizen who eats more than 5 meals (or bites) per day. That's pretty hardcore!

And get this. Dunkin Donuts is available in Taipei! I don't know who opened the DD franchise there, but whoever came up with that, did so to compete with Mister Donut Taipei.

I did walk into a local Dunkin Donuts, and was expecting to find the kind of shit eaten by police officers, stereotyped in various forms of media. Instead I found offerings very similar to Mister Donut! Daaaaaaaaayum.

So yeah, Mister Donut Taipei. Cheap, plenty of variety, light on the lips and also the hips. Sexiest donuts that even Japanese celebrities are endorsing for whatever yen and free donuts are paid to them!

Numerous locations around Taipei city, although check the website in case they come and go.