Thursday, August 5, 2010
Lir Hua Night Market 樂華夜市 has a more down to earth neighborhood feel with slightly more shops than there are eating places, unlike the more famous and touristy food night markets e.g. Shihlin where on weekends they bus in tourists from Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea. Thus, you are competiting with these folks just for valuable elbow space and a table at some random yet not so spectacular eatery. And suddenly you feel like a tourist yourself, even if you are just visiting.
Every night market in Taipei serve more or less the same snacks, small eats, local specialties. Some things are more common than others, with varying quality. The key to maximizing your decadently indulgent food orgy snack munching bingefest (with hopefully no purging) at such places, is to quickly identify and be familiar with what the more seemingly popular places are, what they truly specialize in, and to concentrate on those.
In the midst of food vendor stalls and sit down eateries that appear rather random and potentially ho hum is one sit down restaurant that not just dishes the variety and goods out (street food style), but does it so well that it has the full patronage of locals filling up almost all of the foldable stools at the tables. Don't be surprised if you have to wait when you get here.
Almost every rice, rice noodle, regular noodle, bean thread noodle dish you can find at any night market, you can also find here. Their menu sports over 50 items, and arguably more.
The interior is not fancy at all, just white tiled walls with various signs including some excerpts of the menu. Each table has a pad of paper with the menu printed on it in Chinese. The procedure here is simple; you mark off the item you want, quantity, then give it to your server. Disposeable chopsticks are wrapped in plastic, the wooden but circular variety that is arguably a notch better quality than the low brow bleached wood kind made in China that is everywhere. No chairs here, just foldable stools, so get used to it.
No smoking allowed in here. The only alcohol they serve here are 3 kinds of beer (including Taiwan beer which is an aquired taste they say)
Here's what we ordered:
Stir fried vegetable - one can only have so much meat and nasty bits. A juicy, flavorful, garlic stir fried local greens dish is just what the Taiwanese doctor ordered to lessen the guilt of the bingefest (and to make you feel a little better, like ordering a Diet Coke with Three Big Macs and Supersize Fries).
I must say that it was quite a pleasurable experience to go into a neighborhood joint like this. It's not famous or touristy by any means, and while some of the stuff might not be terribly appealing, it is interesting nonetheless.
樂華夜市 - 樂華米粉湯 (Lir Hua Night Market restaurant stall)
台北縣永和市永平路151號 (Taipei County, Yongho Township, Hir Ping Road #151)
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
you're so fine
you're so fine
you blow my mind
Just SICK, absolutely SICK
So DISGUSTINGLY GOOD.
Wait, WTF is Arashi? It's actually Kagetsu Arashi. らあめん花月嵐
I was told there was a place in Taipei City (NOT IN THE USA) that supposedly has some of the best Japanese ramen, which ended up being a consolation afternoon snackeroo after learning that the best Japanese tsukemen in town closed for the New Year.
Enter Kagetsu Arashi ramen, which is actually a popular chain restaurant from Tokyo (http://www.kagetsu.co.jp). There's a location by Narita Airport (Japan) and apparently by expert ramen blogger $tandard$, the Narita location was decent mall food quality (ouch). There are two other locations in Taipei, and this one is upstairs in the Breeze Center food court (a proper sit down restaurant) from Taipei Main Station.
But hands down some of the best ramen I've had so far.
Their signature broth appears to be a shio tonkotsu ramen, so disgustingly creamy and rich, it makes Saint Nizzle ramen in San Mateo an afterthought.
But I ended up checking out their seasonal limited edition offering a while back
just called BLACK
Once you go BLACK you never go BACK. And no I'm not talking about BALACK OBAMA, although I'm sure he'd endorse this BLACK ramen.
Here's what's inside this SICKENINGLY DISGUSTINGLY GOOD bowl.
1) Pure Porcine Porkgasm Bliss of pork bone broth (arguably Taiwanese black pork), as a hybrid shoyu tonkotsu, so rich and so creamy it hurt$ $o good
2) minced garlic pan fried (HELLA garlic) that melts into the soup
3) nice chewy noodles with decent texture
4) digustingly unhealthy FLOATIES, also known as upper (back) side fat of the pig. Doesn't taste like fat but bone marrow for some reason. OINK OINK OINK!!!!
5) Ni-tamago (slow cooked in soy sauce/broth) but sadly overcooked
6) Good chewy menma (bamboo shoots)
7) Piece of nori (yummay)
8) two pieces of porktastic perfectly stewed chashu that is nicely marbled
9) and finally to make it BLACK, delectable kuro mayu (black sesame oil) drizzled on top (like R.Kelly doing a number on a girl)
All this for NT$190, or a few shades over US$6!!!! You can't touch dis, Kuro Ramen @ Maruichi Mountain View....
They have a small pot of self help kim chi. No cabbage here, just spicy chives. Soooo spicy it caused instant hiccups...very potent stuff. Plus several self help special sauces and seasonings for your own application.
Best of all? Crush it yourself garlic cloves. To add more HELLA garlic to your ramen....
In addition to the signature ramen and BLACK ramen...
they seem to have this new seasonal offering called Aka Oni (red demon/ghost) which is supposedly a spicy aka (red) miso flavor.
Also highly recommend but did not try, teppan yaki meshi or cha han. Fried rice on a cast iron skillet. You can add additional bits to kick things up a notch (like butter). Think Benihana style teppan fried rice, but DIY at the table. Even the plastic display behind glass looked so good I wanted to eat it.
The Black Ramen I had around 2 to 3 pm that day. Less than four hours later, I blew out my belt buckle and had a grilled unagi over rice (unaju) dinner at
followed by an extra large sized tapioca milk tea as a late night drink.
Guess what the combo of greasy, fatty, unagi, and milk did? LOL you don't want to know...
But was it worth it?
One more thing. A surefire sign of authentic ramen is that AFTER you eat the bowl of noodles, you sweat like a muddafugga. As if you engaged in hot monkey love. Kagetsu Arashi was like hot sweaty funky monkey sex.
None of the San Francisco Bay Area ramen places made me sweat after eating. Maybe Daikokuya in LA did but then again it was 108 F that labor day weekend in 2007 when I went....so didn't count. So what's up with that?
A fairly recent visit a year ago, the Black ramen was no longer offered. But one of their broths that had fish and meat bones in it, in addition to shaved bonito flakes, was out of this world. They skimped quite a bit on the chashu unfortunately. There may be better ramen spots, but this place is quite excellent otherwise.
Kagetsu Arashi Ramen [らあめん花月嵐拉麵」
Taipei Main Station, Breeze Center, 2nd FL