Friday, April 23, 2010
Meet Fresh 鮮芋仙 is a fairly new chain restaurant specializing in old style/old flavor desserts, with the theme ingredient being taro. This particular branch is located in Yongho 永和 Township inside Lir Hua Night Market 樂華夜市.
There's a lot of supposed old school style desserts and the ilk. Given their namesake, it should have been a no brainer to order taro. Unfortunately I didn't get their signature offering, and everything else sampled was less than stellar.
The website claims a couple founded the business and insisted on making their taro ball dumplings from scratch and all by hand. I'm sure the first location did very well, but for some reason this branch by Yong Ho's Lir Hua Night Market isn't up ta snuff.
Cream top tea in a nice little mug. The mug was actually the best part. There are chains that do this deconstructed cream tea a lot better.
Yea yea, I know, never order tofu fa from a vendor that does not specialize in it. But I wasn't feelin' taro. Better than what we can get in the USA easily, but for Taipei this was a flopperdoo.
If memory serves, this was fun yuan (fresh tapioca) with grass jelly and di gua (sweet potato/Taiwanese yam). Another lackluster version, although the tapioca easily blew away the dehydrated stuff in the US called "boba".
Perhaps other chains execute better, but this was one a doooooozy....
Meet Fresh website: http://www.meetfresh.com.tw/
234台北縣永和市永平路160號 (234 Tapei County, Yong Ho township, Yong Ping Road 160)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Every time I visit Taipei, a trip to the neigborhood night market in 永和 township, Lir Hua Night Market 樂華夜市 is inevitable. It's not a super foodie destination by any means, but it has that great local atmosphere and of course, not visited heavily (or at all) by foreign tourists. There are also lots of shops selling non brand name and brand name clone type wares, clothing, lots of cheap trinkets, and a few fun things for the kids (including a pet vendor that sets up a giant tub of mini feeder fish for kids to play fishing games on busy days). Definitely one of the slightly more family friendly places.
There's not a lot that I would recommend here, but this stall called Da Han (full name is Da Han grassy fields) 大漢草原 caught my eye. They specialize in Xinjian style lamb skewers 新疆羊肉串. I'm sure there are other places that do this even better, and perhaps this isn't even near the best what the night market has to offer, but this certainly did not disappoint.
Da Han at Lir Hua Night Market appears to be the flagship stall, and they have operations in Rao He night market as well. According to the website, the owner of Da Han had a nostalgic craving for the lamb skewer, and personally flew over to Xin Jiang to apprentice the art of lamb grilling on skewer from a master. The rest is history...
The prices are quite reasonable, about NT$12 or US$0.40 a skewer. Choose between the signature lamb, beef, pork, chicken, and something that is called soft bone (lamb cartilage?) Since Xinjiang is heavily inhabited by Islamic Chinese, pork is nothing something on the menu, but this is in Taiwan so one must adapt.
It's really easy. Pick the # of skewers you want, specify type of meat, and how spicy you want it. They are then grilled to order. The smell alone while you wait, is a major tease in itself. I only had a chance to try two lamb skewers, and it was quite amazing. It's like yakitori, but cheaper. The amount of meat on each stick is not a lot, but cooked to perfection, and the various spices and salt really bring it all together.
Oh yeah. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaa baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa gooooooooooood!
大漢草原 新疆羊肉串 (Da Han Grass Fields Xinjiang Lamb Skewer Stall)
永和 樂華夜市 (located inside Lir Hua Night Market in Yong Ho Township)
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Sure you've had popcorn chicken, popcorn shrimp and whatever deep fried little morsels.
But have you had popcorn porkchops? And mostly boneless at that too? This stuff will surely make Colonel Sanders give up the buck buck for a night in trade for some oink oink...
For a measly shade less than US$1.50 or NT$50, you get a paper bag of marinated and deep fried boneless popcorn porkchops, or Pai Gu Su 排骨酥 at this vendor with the same name as the offering, in Ningxia Road Night Market 寧夏夜市. (Disclaimer, this was circa Dec 08, I am not sure if this vendor is still around). Double that cost for a bigger bag. There's red vinegar flavor and a five spice flavor. Both are equally sexcellent and Crazy Sexy Cool in their own way.
Makes for a great movie snack too. This is what a good little popcorn porkchop should be like!
寧夏夜市 (Ningxia Road Night Market)
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
OK let's step out of the USA for a few minutes here, and imagine you are on a plane to Taipei, then find yourself on the MRT subway getting off Jientan station to the largest night market in the area, Shihlin Night Market.
You walk along the perimeter until you find the Yang Ming 陽明 movie theater, and you'll find a few Shanghai Shen Jian Bao 生煎包 vendors (think xiao long bao, but a soft mahn toh doughy white bun exterior, pan fried over an iron grill with an incredible amount of juicy porktastic goodness inside). But there is one that I would say, trumps them all, and the stall is called Da (as in , "big") Shanghai Shen Jian Bao 大上海生煎包.
There is an open area room at the back of the stall, where uniformed staff are preparing the ingredients, namely the dough for the buns and the sexy ass meat mixture of seasoned porcine piggy pleasure.
You as the cu$tomer, have two choices. You ask for either "tsai bao" 菜包 (veggie bun) for NT$10 per (that's like US$0.33), or "rou bao" 肉包for NT$12 per, and indicate the amount. Pay, and you'll get your quantity shoved into a plastic bag (like the kind at your local supermarket to hold fruit). Then mosey over to the left and add condiments at your pleasure. Highly recommended is a few scoops of their spicy oily yet integral to the experience chili sauce, which elevates this insanely delicious thingy to greate$t height$.
Two buns are really not enough, you should savor a minimum of three, but not too many as you have so many other eating choices.
The pork meatball inside has a ton of flavor (moist enough) but does not spooze out soup, unlike Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale California that not only has a sexy meatball but a feckload of soup inside. If you are the kind of person who adheres to the philosophy that a bragworthy meat bun (be it xiao long bao, shen jian bao, or beef pancake in hockey puck form) that the "soup" should be in the form of the filling's natural juices, versus a piece of aspic/gelatin or gelatinized broth inserted separately) then this vendor will fulfill your dreams.
Sure you can likely find cheap and fulfilling Shen Jian Bao at Shih Da night market, and while I have yet to do a taste test, this might just be one of the better bets at Shihlin Night Market.
Let's have some BTV karaoke, that's Bao TV
大上海生煎包 (Da Shanghai Shen Jian Bao)
台北市士林區文林路101巷口 Shihlin District, Wenlin Road #101 (alley mouth)
(士林夜市陽明戲院隔壁巷子進去約走一分鐘左邊的攤販) - walk about 1 minute by the right side of Yang Ming movie theater, it will be on the left.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Look no further than Taco Bell, Chipotle, Chevy's for "authentic Mexican" if you want La Raza to roll their eyes, Panda Express for "authentic Chinese" or ahem, PF Chang's (PFC) if you want to see even more squintier eyes of disdain by native Chinese, Taiwanese, and last but not least, tell a native Singaporean that SF Bay Area's (or Atlanta's) Straits Cafe is da bomb diggidy.
The fact is, I wouldn't mind so much if someone upscaled street food with fancy decor, so long as the food kept its original root$ with a flair (whether it be re-inventing, innovation, or fu$ion done right). However this fails to be the norm in the US. And what we end up is douchified comfort food.
Enter Formosa Chang, a very successful chain in Taipei. Perhaps Tawian's answer to PF Chang, but absolutely not related at all.
Sometime in 1960, Mr Chang Yun Chuan set up an outdoors food stall on Mingshin West Road that sold various small bowls and plates of food.
His minced pork rice that was of uncompromising quality that made him very busy and rich, so busy to the point that they say he slept 3 to 4 hours each night, had no time to shave, and thus grew a beard. Locals nicknamed him HuSooChang (hence the Chinese name of FC) or Bearded Chang. He continued to innovate and improve upon his operation and offerings while insisting on quality, taste, service, and providing a hygienic environment.
Chang's philsophy extended to "I will serve if if I will eat it also"
Years later the business became so successful it became a chain of about 20 locations.
In 1999 FC got ISO 9002 certification (similar to Little Sheep Mongolian Hotpot, a measurement of success and quality) and eventually many other awards.
Each sit down restaurant (in nice moderately upscale digs) also offers a take out counter adjacent to the restaurant for quick ordering and pickup.
They even have those cardboard American Chinese restaurant takeout boxes!
Still the same food and offerings, basically very typical and authentic non touristy Taiwanese food like
-Jianzi (beef flank dish)
-Hailu Shuanpin (what looks to be fried yuba roll and roast pork)
-Zhujiao (stewed pig's trotter)
-Tipang (stewed pork hock)
-A cai (A-choy, local green veg)
-Sunsi Lu (stewed bamboo shoots)
-Jirou fan (chicken rice)
-Lu Rou Fan (minced pork belly rice) - signature item. at the Ningxia Night Market location, you can see a fake plastic "statue" in earnest dedication to the signature dish and that made Formo$a Chang a rich man.
- soups including bitter melon and spare ribs
Prices are higher than eating at the street food stalls, but apparently the quality is really good. Japanese and foreign visitors can easily partake in authentic fare in a comfortable environment that even locals go to, without having to eat at the stalls (not all of them are exactly prim and proper clean). I missed out this time round so archiving this one in case I end up eating at Chang's (not PF, or PFFFFFFFFFFFFFFT).
There may be one minor gripe for those in the know
Formosa Chang's logo design is a bit sketchy...
It looks like someone ripped off Nigo's BAPE for logo and image design...
Note the name "Pizza Cut Five" on top. Could there have been an indirect reference to the Japanese group "Pizzicato Five"?
Seems to be a collaboration to help sell FC swag, branding, design, and uhm fashion.
You have to check this shit out that PC5 is doing to promote FC
What a marketing monster!
Formosa Chang (鬍鬚張)
台北市大同區寧夏路62號 - Taipei City Datung District, Ningxia Road #62