Dean’s Taiwan Food Diary

Day 0 (Tuesday January 10)

I flew UA-ANA (All Nippon Airways)-UA

UA (Boeing 757) (Philadelphia-Chicago)
Domestic flight = no food

ANA (Boeing 777) (Chicago-Tokyo/Narita)
[this was my first time on ANA and I loved it. I love ANA. Great service.]
Snack: Rice crackers
Lunch/dinner: Japanese-style fish with rice, sobe noodles, salted fish, miso soup, green tea
Desert: Haagan-Dazs vanilla ice cream (I skipped this one, after feeling in a healthy mood after all that light, Japanese food)
Breakfast: Korean-style Bibimbab

UA (Boeing 777 Premium) (Tokyo/Narita-Taipei/Taoyuan)
Lunch/dinner: Uninspired curry chicken, salad with dressing, triple chocolate brownie. 😦

*remember, Taiwan time is 13 hours ahead during no Daylight Savings Time…

Day 1 (Wednesday January 11)

BREAKFAST
Grandma’s Homemade Egg-ham-cucumber-cheese breakfast sandwich, 莲子红枣白木耳甜汤 (Lotus, jujube, white tree-fungus soup), MOS Rice burger, with 米浆 (rice milk – made of different rices, grains, and even quinoa (/KEEN-wha/))

LUNCH

I don’t know the name of this one, but I know what’s in it.
I know this is a family favorite. Intestines and pieces of blood.
It sounds horrible, but tastes great!
The rest of the food…

At 金品 – We had…a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are 3000 words for y’all:

Tofu with some seafood sauce wrapped in a leaf.
You can’t see the leaf in this picture.

This is just some small, everyday kind of joint. Looks good, right? Better stuff to come. This is just to whet your appetite. A little appetizer, teaser, or something, the firstfruit of greater pictures to come…
And speaking of fruit, we went to buy some fruit afterwards. We get some cherries. Man, they were huge. They look amazing:They taste even better! Amazing. Super sweet. You can only find this once every few years, and this quality only during Chinese New Year time…

Pear before swine.

Oh, and we’ll probably have a huge pear tomorrow or something like that. I’ll be James…as in James and the Giant Pear:

Yes, that’s right.
I used an iPhone charger for scale.
Typical, I know.

DINNER

We ate a lot, so we decided to have a “small” dinner at home. Grandma was apologetic, because there was “no food” left in the house. We “ran out of groceries.” This is what “没有菜” looks like. Just saying. Oh, and that was my very own fish tail…okay, so we did just buy the fish.

Day 2 (Thursday January 12)

BREAKFAST
Okay, so grandma and grandpa went out, so I hit the town for breakfast. I walked around, and went to a busy, delicious-looking store (the food they served look delicious, not the store itself. I don’t eat metal and wood). I got the, surprise surprise,

肉松(蛋)饼 (shredded pork egg pancake) for 25NT*
Eek! I forgot to bring my own chopsticks.
Won’t forget next time!
I will now walk out with
chopsticks in my pocket.
I put it next to my wallet
so I won’t forget!

(*Sorry, I’m including the price so I can also keep track of spending.) because 1) I love 肉松 and 2) I could recognize it on the menu. 抓蛋饼 also looked good, but I didn’t get it because 1) I love 肉松 and 2) I could recognize it on the menu BUT I wasn’t 100% sure 抓 was zhua1, and I didn’t feel like embarrassing myself. Afterwards, I took a picture of the menu to go back to practice my Chinese. The egg pancake was good, but I would like to be able to order other stuff should I want to…I was explaining how I was from overseas and needed to improve my Chinese reading. 🙂 Even funnier was the fact that I walked for like 5 minutes and had to come back, because my original picture was too blurry.

Well, I wandered some more, wanting to take pictures of more menus. I finally went up to another store. It had a nice menu with a lot of words, but I didn’t feel like I should go in just to take a picture of their menu, so I bought something from them as well. Pictured here is their sandwich selection. Guess which pre-made sandwich I got? Bad me…(*wink*) turns out my selection also had 肉松 ((sweet) shredded pork)! I’m going to die from 肉松 poisoning…okay, no more for now…(well, I later wandered into a bakery and was tempted to buy more 肉松 buns, but I came to my senses…). It was 20NT, so, now I’m up to 45NT.
Oh, and then I went and bought some 豆浆 (soymilk) for 17NT. That brings me up to 62NT (From http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert/?Amount=1&From=USD&To=TWD 1 USD = 29.9602 TWD), which comes to $2.07. Pretty reasonable price for breakfast. 🙂

LUNCH

Warning! English Faux pas!

We went to some new steak place. It was really, really good. I had a mushroom-pepper sauce made in-house. The chef was really good, and as I said, they don’t even need to ask you how rare you want it. They make it so that those who like it rare don’t find it too dry or over-cooked, and those who like it well-done won’t find it too bloody for them. It was amazing. But first, the store’s English name and logo:

Wow! Nice hair. Quite the charmer, aren’t cha?

There was really good, complementary cream of corn soup and amazing ice-cream and an awesome waffle cone! See below:

You look nice today!
I wish I were as cool as you.
You’re something special, aren’t you?
Anyway, enough suspense build-up. Here’s the steak! It was amazing (with Taiwanese, new-flavor A1 Steak Sauce – different taste but good). We asked the owners, our suspicions were confirmed. This steak chef was probably some big chef in some restaurant and now has moved here to open his own small shop. It was a juicy, 9oz. sirloin, and believe me, it didn’t taste cheap at all. It was very moist and succulent, tasty with its pepper-mushroom sauce (you can choose in-house-made pepper or mushroom or both for the sauce). Grandma kept telling me to tell Ruth that this was so much better than that 199NT steak she had. She kept saying it was so much better. Grandma really liked the steak and the complementary cream of soup. It was dense, and we could add pepper corn and powdered pepper. All this for 210NT. Oh, and did I mention complementary red tea? Very much worth it. Here’s the price:

Then we went out to spite mommy and had some stinky tofu. Same owners, only different, bigger store. The pickled cabbage was especially good.
AFTERNOON “TEA”
Okay, so there’s this famous place, 三民面线, that has oyster noodles. It only opens late. The owners want to retire, but they can’t, because customers demand their product. People come all over Taiwan to eat at their place. They are on TV. They are really good. Their food makes others taste water-downed.

45 NT, though to be honest,
people would easily pay double.

For a while, their product was not as good (which means it is still amazing and to die for), because they couldn’t buy oysters, but as grandma noted, right now, they have more stuff (料): I had like two fat 鱿鱼羹 (squid stick?) and like 4 big, juicy oysters. I had a little extra black vinegar.

Man, this hits the spot. I tell you. You could be stuffed like a pig after a buffet, and if you sat down and ordered one, you could finish it. No doubt. Two bowls, too, if you didn’t eat buffet. Three or four bowls if you weren’t full.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. This should make those who know drool. If your mouth doesn’t water, then you’ve never had this place’s (either that or you’re a robot or dead). (Oh, I told him the old owner I came from America just to eat his and I wouldn’t eat anyone else’s. He recognized my mom as 小毛). Mommy, these pictures are for you. Be jealous. But you’ll have to wait until April…

DINNER
Another “light/lite” dinner: Fish & other stuff. We shopped nearby for groceries!

Day 3 (Friday, January 13)

BREAKFAST
I had the homemade sandwich again. This time I got the pictures, oh, and 酒酿 with 黑芝麻汤圆! (It’s like Chinese eggnog, but it’s light and delicious)

LUNCH
Shrimp noodles:
light but full of delicious shrimp flavor
过桥米线 (辣的)
(Spicy (Southern China)
Over-bridge rice noodles)

I’m starting to get lazy, so maybe I won’t be writing as much. I’m letting the pictures talk, though it is hard to place the pictures, because there isn’t a lot of text to wrap the pictures.

Thin-sliced pork with a sweet-sour sauce
(not actually sweet&sour sauce).
I think the sauce is actually the sauce for 交麻鸡.  

Anyway, we went to eat Thai. The place is very nice, and the food is delicious. To be honest, I don’t think it was a stomach bug or anything, but after breakfast, I felt really full and even a bit sick/nauseous. I wasn’t sure I had an appetite at all. I was feeling a little better when we ate, and then after a few bites, I knew I could eat a lot. It was appetizing at the very least. For space sake, I won’t post a picture of the moon-shaped shrimp pancake. (Another reason is that there was only one left by the time I remembered to take a picture.)

Oh, and even normal 空心菜 looks and tastes good! Sorry for the blurry picture of 交麻鸡. I don’t want to brag, but, while the dish looks much more exquisite and “delicate” and refined and presentable, I make a mean jiao ma chicken myself, and my sauce tastes just as good as theirs (if not better). Just saying…
And, being Thai and what-not, you can’t leave without a coconut curry something. In this case, it was fish. Ruth loved this sauce. I thought it was okay, but I will say it did taste better and better with every bite.
DINNER
Simple, at-home dinner. Still very nice, though!
Day 4 (Saturday, January 14)
 
BREAKFAST
I decided to have a “lighter” breakfast (you’re starting to see a trend in my meals, right? Light, but not really. Anyway, I first started with fruit: 牛奶蜜棗 (some kind of sweet, crispy peach). It’s huge even by Taiwanese standards. Only during Chinese New Year’s!
Then I had a 鼎泰豐 (restaurant name) 红豆大饱. It was very good (for if it weren’t, why would anyone buy one for 40NT?). Perfect with milk. Oh, and then I had more pastries…one was mochi-like with a strawberry in the middle.

LUNCH
Okay, so I went to one of my favorite restaurants yet! It did help that it did delicious northern chinese pastries/noodles. That was its specialty. But I think another reason was that I ate a lot these days (especially a lot of meat), and my stomach needed a break. Also, perhaps my body is still acclimatizing to this weather, because I still feel nominally nauseated, but this restaurant was very veggie-heavy and light and delicious. Once again, my supposedly-lost appetite is once again whetted. It wasn’t too salty or heavy, but it was still very much full of delicious natural flavor. Wait, did I mention it was … delicious? Also, there was a lot of vinegar/sourness, so it was very easy to digest! This is the restaurant to beat!!! Enjoy the mouthwatering-inducing pictures!!! Bring a bib.

醋溜鱼片

We started out with the mouth-watering fish fillet pieces with fresh black tree-fungus and cucumber slices in a light vinegary sauce. Oh, just a heads up. We ordered a lot, and grandma is the kind who doesn’t want to waste anything (so even the one bowl of rice, we scrambled to finish with herculean effort!). I had a lot of the fish. The Chinese name means vinegar-slippery fish pieces. The fish pieces are self-explanatory. The fish tasted fresh and soft and had no bones. Did I say they were delicious. They also tasted mildly sour, hence the vinegar. Also, they were slippery because of the sweet potato starch or whatever thickener was used.
Grandma always wants a green-leaf veggie dish, so I asked for sweet potato leaves. Then we got stinky tofu.

丝瓜虾仁汤饱

I forget the order of the dishes, but the noodle-based dishes were up, and here we have the steamed soup-buns. The Chinese is “[something]-melon, shrimp soup-bun.” Or something. My English is bad when it comes to naming tasty Chinese culinary delights. Of course, custom is we eat this with thin, vinegar-soaked ginger strips. Personally, I thought it was a bit too light. I couldn’t taste the shrimp. Only the melon, so this wasn’t a home-run for me, but grandma liked it a lot, and I must say it wasn’t bad by a long shot. It was just a bit lighter than I needed.
We also had potstickers, and these were really, really good. They were very crispy and delicate, and they were the epitome of light, but tasty and full of subtle flavor.

锅贴

We also had some wrap with amazing in-house sauce (I am too lazy to check up on the actual words for tian2 mian4 jiang4). Well, I’m biased, because I’m a sucker for that kind of sauce. If you don’t know what tian-mian sauce is, it is the sauce used for Peking duck.
Finally, we had some hot & spicy soup. Yum. By then, we are up to our necks in food. Still, we must press on. Waste not, want not; also, it is relatively okay to stuff yourselves for lunch. Eat less for dinner. That was grandma’s mantra. I try telling her I don’t eat as much as I used to, and I tell her not to buy so much food for dinner, but she doesn’t listen to me. It’s as if she doesn’t care if I’m fat or not. In fact, I think she is secretly trying to turn me into a stuffed pig. I told the very same, and she didn’t deny it. She said that my mom returned to the U.S. fatter (implying I might as well/should too).

You look very nice today!

Oh, and we received a delicious cold-veggie platter/salad (Northern-China style). It was very vinegary in a good kind of way. Apparently, the vinegar they use is imported from China, and not from Taiwan. It is very special, indeed. We had to reserve our spot for 11:30. In less than an hour, the small joint was packed, and people had to wait outside. It’s a very popular place. I told grandma this was going to be one of my favorite restaurants, and I know Ruth would love this place because of its light, refreshing, vinegary deliciousness. As I am writing this, dinner is coming up (being served in roughly an hour or so). I’m still stuffed. I think the 三民 oyster noodle place might have been open today, but I had no room/appetite to eat it. I hope grandma doesn’t cook a lot, but I know better. You’ll see. The leftovers alone would be more than enough. But grandma demands variety in what she cooks, so we’ll have like 6-7 dishes. I know, because she did the shopping. She asks me what I want, and I tell her I’m stuffed and don’t want anything and that I want to rest my stomach. She goes okay, and then turns to the vendor and buys a lot of stuff. She will cook what she wants to cook. Darned if we can’t finish!

DINNER

Is it me, or are the homemade dinners getting bigger and bigger? (Granted, I request for smaller and smaller dinners, to the point of not having dinner…) Apparently, grandma and grandpa feel they cannot face my mother if I go back to America skinnier. They think if I come back thinner, I won’t be allowed to visit them again…oh, and the pink slab with gray down the center is expensive, famous top-brand Canadian smoked salmon. Yum!

Day 5 (Sunday, January 15)

BREAKFAST
Grandma made me an egg pancake. The eggs here are sick (in a good way)! The yolk was dark orange/almost red. So delicious! And I had more 酒酿 with sweet 芝麻汤圆 (sesame(glutinous?) rice balls (for lack of a better word)).

LUNCH
Okay, this one had less pizzazz. Probably because I chose it myself. It was a local joint near Taipei Friendship Presbyterian Church (信友堂). It was a Middle Eastern place: Sababa Pita House (or something). Here’s the menu. I’m a sucker for anything that has the words “pita” and “hummus” in the same sentence, with the emphasis on the hummus. I guess I wanted something that wasn’t too heavy. My stomach kind of hurt in the morning, but it felt better by then. Still, I think my body is telling me it can only process so much…I decided to get the Pita Beirut for 150NT. I wanted to taste the falafel and Israeli egg, whatever it was. My curiosity was piqued. Here’s what I got:

The thing sticking out is more pita.

Disappointing. I guess I misread the menu. What did I expect from this? I was expecting a lot of hummus (hopefully on the side). I guess I was thinking platter. First mistake. I shouldn’t have spared myself 60NT or so just to have a miserable, little sandwich. I should have chosen a platter…
Let’s just say this sandwich definitely qualified with flying colors as a light lunch, but not much else. Also, I was stupid for choosing chicken. I mean, chicken is lame and boring (and not even tender and juicy) (sorry chicken lovers… but really, you guys are safe, but definitely not intrepid… and some among you may qualify for lame and boring…jk…jk…). That was my second mistake. I should have followed my instincts and went with the Lamb Hummus. I mean, the Middle East know how to make a mean lamb. Really (and not mean in the “mediocre” sense). The chicken was uninspired/uninspiring. Pssht! I shouldn’t have listened to the waitress. I always try to ask what the waiter/waitress likes, because they are supposed to know what tastes good. However, I should have been suspicious of anyone who says she likes to eat chicken in general. She must be the timid, cowardly, safe type who can’t appreciate food that isn’t chicken. Okay, so I’m overstating my case…it was my bad judgment to listen to her…
But yeah, I should have went with the Lamb Hummus. Also because any dish with hummus in its name would probably have a lot of it. But the Pita Beirut barely had any!!! Those cheapos! I mean, I came to this pita house for hummus … and maybe for pita, too. I came for the hummus. But I barely got any hummus. Grrrr! I was so expectant for hummus that I gathered my courage and my “thick skin” to ask for more hummus, whether they would put it in a cup or something… So I asked for more, but they didn’t give any. They turned me down. No, they let me down. They said there was a light coating of it inside the pita. Bah humbug! All I got instead was a nonchalant referral to some self-squeeze sesame sauce or something (it tasted like light Caesar dressing without the gritty parmesan cheese).
Maybe my mistake was this restaurant. (Yes, I’m ranting, but this is what happens when you promise hummus and don’t deliver. No one takes away my hummus. You say hummus, you give hummus. Easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy/japanesy. Sababa promised the world of hummus to me, and they took it away from me…)
But I didn’t want Chinese or Taiwanese food. And I won’t come here to Taiwan to eat pizza or burgers or coffee or European food. So if I could redo it again, I would have still went to that house, probably, because I wouldn’t have known better then anyway…because I was promised hummus! I would have sat and shook hands and done all sorts of tricks for hummus… I love Middle Eastern food. I guess I should have known better than to have Middle Eastern food in Taiwan, made by Taiwanese people… Stupid me. I guess I was kind of expecting like Arabs or Muslim Taiwanese people to make my food…Luckily I am trying to lose weight and rest my stomach. I still felt full from yesterday (or even from the day before that). I have yet to be hungry since coming to this little island. On the positive side (to be fair), I got free WiFi. If you ever go to Sababa Pita House, the password is goodfood. How cute! Typical. Pssht!

AFTERNOON “TEA” (I still don’t know why it’s called tea, because I didn’t have any tea…)

Note: Technically, I can’t legally say “ping-pong”
because some jerk company trademarked “ping-pong.”
I’m supposed to use “table tennis.” Screw that.
I’ll say ping-pong if I want.
I refuse to bow down to outrageous greed.

So I finished Sunday service at 10:45am. I needed to pick out two books written by Paul Tripp in Chinese from some nearby bookstore. But it ended at 2pm. So what should I do (besides finding that bookstore)? Oh, I know, explore this portion of Taipei and go out on the town! So I did. I walked until after 2pm. I went in a big circle and even went to look at National Taiwan University’s Sports Center. Check out the picture. Emotion: jealous. I mean, so many ping-pong tables, and on what court? Badminton courts!!! That’s too good to be true. It’s not fair. I mean, we don’t even have actual badminton courts here (it’s all taped-over basketball courts/gym floors). And here, the badminton courts are used for ping-pong…grrrr!

Anyway, I figured, since I had to stay until 2pm, I might as well wait a bit more until the 1:10pm service finishes at 2:30pm, so I might meet up with an old family friend. Sure enough, I met my dad’s best friend, Freeman. He’s a great guy. Very funny too! I was expecting maybe someone from our old Philadelphia Bible Study group, but he’ll do just fine. He then took me out to a nearby franchise of this store (see left) for delicious dumplings! The green veggie dumplings were delicious. I was saying, hey, he’s going green, even in his diet. He joked that he didn’t want to die early. He wanted to stay around a bit. This guy. Can you believe him? What a joker (no, not the Heath Ledger kind)!
Here are some pictures…oh, just to cover my bases. We had soup, though it’s not in the pictures below. You can see his hot & spicy soup. Mine was some fish ball seeweed soup. Not bad. Not bad at all. Anyway, the pictures as promised (unlike that pita house with snaring words of promised hummus, what I say I will deliver, I deliver):

BEFORE
AFTER

DINNER
Finally, after eating late (and convincing grandma I’m still full and ate late), and with grandma and grandpa full from going to her brother’s for hot pot (in celebration of (马英九) President Ma’s re-election victory), and with uncle not coming home to eat, my wish is finally fulfilled, and we’ll be eating leftovers! So no extra cooking from grandma. So that means no pictures for you. But that’s good news for me, right? Aren’t you glad for me? Yes? No? Too bad. Deal with it. ;P

Day 6 (Monday, January 16)


BREAKFAST
So for breakfast, I had long 粽子 (glutinous rice dumplings, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zongzi). In the right, is a bowl of milk (with the rice milk). The mixture was surprisingly good, especially with the sweet “zongzi.” I had a 牛奶蜜棗 (if you forgot what it is, cf. the green, crispy peach pictures for Day 4’s breakfast). We had a lighter breakfast because we wanted to leave room for lunch…

LUNCH
Which is Mongolian BBQ!!! I’ll just shut up and show you the pictures (DISCLAIMER: as it turns out, my captions turned out quite long, so I just went and talked as usual, so I didn’t really shut up). For 400NT, we got Mongolian barbeque and we got complimentary hot pot (and ice cream and shaved ice and fruit and light salad, etc. Don’t worry, I won’t have them compliment you in the captions…). But yeah, I’ll give you a lot of pictures (we ate a lot, really!), and I’ll walk you through minimally, because 1) I’m too lazy and 2) let the food speak for itself (I mean – you take meat, and then you heat it up, sometimes in a hot pot, sometimes on a huge Mongolian flat-top oven). Meat + heat = open mouth and eat (also known as chewing by opening and closing your mouth, letting your jaws do the work. All you have to do is to sit back and enjoy the tasty meat and meat juices). And you readers should do the same, minus the chewing. Sit back and pretend to eat. Bring the drool bucket.

 I added the picture on the left for the flames licking up on the side. Cool stuff.In case you aren’t the sharpest tool in the shed (or the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree), that’s the Mongolian BBQ flat-top oven. (Hint: that’s where they cook your beef a la Mongolian style). On the right, we have the chef (one of three huddled around the grill, meaning three orders can be cooked at once) cooking my dish with uber-chopsticks.The best part, besides eating, of course, is seeing the chef swoosh your food into the plate in one fell swoop. Skill.

From left to right: chicken, venison, pork, lamb, beef
(chicken gets just a smidgen in the bottom right corner –
it barely deserves any space; I didn’t eat any.
If you don’t understand, cf. Day 5’s lunch post.
Line-up of sauces for the Mongolian BBQ
(soy sauce, shrimp sauce, ginger water, garlic, lemon water, etc.)

Here’s the finished product. My second dish was better, but I forgot to take a picture. Too bad. You’ll live. One pic is good enough anyway. But basically, you’re supposed to use a lot of sesame oil and ginger and lemon water,to make it more moist. But the chefs add water for you anyway. Okay, so Mongolian barbeque isn’t the most beautiful and presentable dish in the history of food (i.e. no Michelin stars for Mongolian BBQ restaurants), but it looks at least “aight,” right? I mean, if you’re looking at this from afar, you can’t be too choosy. Take what you can get, right? And you can even get this. I’ll bet you want some of this. But you can’t have any of this.

Close-up
Far-up

Oh, and we had some hot pot to go with the food as well.

My own blend of sauce for the hot pot stuff,
with a full raw egg as the base.
Mmmm…salmonella!

And here’s my own blend of sauce for the hot pot stuff. There was a little bar with a lot of tasty sauces. We were given eggs. So a full raw egg was the base of this sauce (in this actual, delicious-looking sauce, I added a bit too much soy sauce, because the soy sauce didn’t look salty, and I didn’t realize the other non-say sauce sauces are pretty salty as well.

烧饼 (pastry bread to go with the Mongolian BBQ)
I ate two, which comes out to one too many.
Once again, a waste of precious stomach space.
A veteran eater like myself cannot afford these costly errors.
Unprofessional…

Oh, and I also had some other stuff, too.

I know, salad is such a waste of stomach space,
but I needed a break from the meat.
Amazing, I know.
My meat-devouring abilities of olde
is greatly diminished of late.

And then there was desert. There’s ice cream (green tea flavor, too). But what really got me was the shaved off stuff/toppings.

粉果 with passion fruit sauce – with a little bit of shaved ice.
In reality, these are more side toppings on shaved ice,
so I should have had more shaved ice.
The passion fruit sauce was great, but it was a little too sweet.
Still, may your mouth water without end…

DINNER
So I was so full that in order to actually process all that Mongolian BBQ and stuff, I had to go out and run 8 miles (*wink*) and cooled down by running up a flight of stairs 10-stories high (we live on the 10th floor).
And let’s say while I was running, there was a lot of human air pollution…giving me extra propulsion, if you know what I mean…
Well, so for dinner, grandma didn’t feel like cooking. Woot! So grandpa and I went downstairs to a small 客家 (Hakka) restaurant right outside our building. I also went because my mom was asking if I had their 克家汤板条 (some rice noodle soup). I didn’t, so grandma said I probably should. Mom really likes that stuff. And it was indeed super “Q” (for non-Chinese, “Q” means really elastic, bouncy texture).

We also had a dual-variety side dish. The right is some tofu (or was it veggie chicken? I forget, but I mean, veggie chicken is made out of tofu pretty much…). The left dish is bitter melon with salty egg. It was amazing. The rice noodle soup was 70NT for the small size, and the side dish was 50NT, so my meal came out to $4! (Grandpa had another small rice noodle soup, so the grand total was 190NT.)

Day 7 (Tuesday, January 17)

BREAKFAST
I had a glass of water (thought it was in a cup), a kiwi, a fresh, homemade egg-cheese-ham-cucumber-in-milk-bread sandwich, and some 酒酿 with 芝麻汤圆. Yeah, nice and simple. Emphasis on the nice. For my non-Chinese readership, cf. Day 3 breakfast.

LUNCH
(Okay, what you’re seeing here is the second draft. I typed for like two million words, and all that was wiped out, because I pressed the wrong keyboard hotkeys…grrr…I was on a roll with my writing and saying the right things in that classic, funny wit that you’ve all come to love from your humble blogger…okay, I’ll drop it before I get a heart attack from the high blood pressure that comes with essentially deleting everything I wrote…my body is not creating any tears right now, but I am silently crying…I think I just died a little…let’s try again while my words are still hazy in my mind…okay, after writing the rest of Day 7, I luckily remembered most of my good jokes, and I even had some new ones thrown in. Lucky you! You’re welcome.)

Okay, so today I went out with Serena’s parents to a small, local sashimi joint that’s one of their favorite spots for sashimi (for those who are clueless, sashimi = sushi minus the rice, i.e. the raw fish). And, boy was it was good. This place’s sashimi may be the BEST sashimi I’ve ever had. Not even kidding. No exaggeration.
For my appetizer, I got a shrimp caviar (虾卵) hand wrap. Pristine. The veggies were crispy without being brittle, and the shrimp caviar lived up to its name. It didn’t disappoint. Now, you might think from the picture that there’s a chunk missing. That’s because there is. I took a bite out of that sucker before I remembered to take a picture of it and cement it for ages upon ages on the cloud (or cyberspace, for those of you who remember days of olde before there was the internet).

Thanks Peggy Tang for the food and the picture.
Thank you Mr. Jiang  for the food and for the driving.


Then we had our main course. I had the medley sashimi bowl. Yes, there’s a nice, fresh raw scallop in the mix, along with two fresh, uncooked shrimps. The texture is just fantastic. Like the salmon and whatnot, the texture was both Q (discussed previously) and melt-in-your-mouth. How that works out, I dunno. But it does, and you’ll only know what that is like if you have had excellent sashimi personally. Anyway, the bowl was famously good. There was thin-sliced radishes underneath, no surprise, and two thin-slices of dried seaweed (海苔) on a bed of rice (with some Japanese flavor bits).

Oh, you see that lime-looking thing? That’s citron, and it was amazingly sweet for such a small thing. It was definitely the little citrus-fruit that could (If it ran for president, its slogan would be “Yes We Can!”). It was also very aromatic, though in an appetizing way (as opposed to adding Chanel No. 5 to your Philly cheesesteak). It added a subtle, acidic layer to complement the protein. If you’ve learned anything from Food Network or Bravo’s Top Chef, it’s that protein in general (fish in particular) needs a little acid. (Now, though I made the citron to be Obama, it wasn’t all that big, so the flavor could only be subtle. You can’t pack that much juice in that little sucker).

Yes, the white stuff wrapping the cucumbers is squid!
The brain-looking thing is the sea urchin.

Anyway, I’ve been holding off one last thing. You see that mystery orange spongy-caviar-looking lump? (I apologize if I’ve offended the discriminate foodie/seafood connoisseurs among us who already know what it is…I didn’t then.) That, my friends, is sea urchin! First time ever! Amazing! I don’t want to describe it for fear for doing it injustice. But, let’s just say this: in the words of Dracula, it was love at first bite.
Now Serena’s dad really likes sea urchin (as proven by the fact that he chose the sea urchin bowl over our medley bowl). And he said it was one of the best he’d ever tasted. It was really sweet and of excellent quality.
And I had also had tiny-mushroom miso soup. It was … guess what word I’m going to use, Stone Chen…it starts with D and ends in ELICIOUS! That’s right, it was delish (gotcha!). In the words of Yoda, really balanced this meal was. Delicious this sure was.
I guess I’m really lucky. Now I really know what it means to have 口福. Yesterday, I had my first venison. Today, I tasted fresh sea urchin for the first time, and it was of optimal quality. So the moral of the story is this: for my drooling American-dwelling Taiwanese ex-patriot viewers, don’t feel too bad, because even Taiwanese residents don’t necessarily taste food as good as I’m having. My cousin (not mentioning any names…let’s just call her the Pooh) living in Taiwan is already jealous of the food I’m eating, and she says she wants to live at grandma’s!

[TRAVEL EXCERPT]

Taipei 101 on a nice, clear day

Now I know this is a food post, but I just want to share with you my travel experiences this afternoon.  It was too good to keep to myself, and believe me, it really does eventually relate to food, albeit indirectly. After an amazing lunch (though, to be fair, my other lunches have been stellar as well), Serena’s dad dropped me off at Taipei 101 , which would have been the Tower of Babel (tallest building known to man), if it weren’t for that stinking Tom Cruise and his Dubai tower in MI:4 (though by “his,” I actually mean the United Arab Emirates).   And the weather was just perfect. It was 70ºF and sunny, dry (which is a good thing in Taiwan, and not American winter dry, as in you’ll lips will split all over like sliced bread), and breezy. Fabulous. Also, on top of all this, I hit the town with some tunes, namely along the lines of U2, Queen, Abba, Lady Gaga, Bee Gees, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, etc. Let’s just say I was really cruising that day, more specifically at an altitude of 10,000 ft., also known as “I’m Walking On Sunshine,” or if I had to use a song actually in a playlist, I was feeling “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen).
(Of course, I am not writing all this dispassionately. I am consciously framing my words in way so as to make my experience out to be super-amazing, all for the purpose of inciting jealousy and envy from my readers. But, then again, even if I were less evil and didn’t want to make you jealous, you’d still be, right?)
Anyway, I went into the shopping complex attached to Taipei 101. But I didn’t stay long, because Gucci, Prada, Marc Jacobs (more specifically, Marc by Marc Jacobs…I mean, who names a designer label after him- or herself, and then create a sub-label that is also named after said designer/narcissist? Don’t answer. I know. Marc Jacobs.), and Tiffany’s & Co. isn’t exactly my cup of tea. 1) I’m not that rich. 2) I’m not a woman. 3) I don’t have a high-maintenance gf. Whew!
Well, I moved on out and continued to walk (and bask at the same time) in the sun’s caressing touch with a persistent touch of cool breeze ever flowing around me. Well, I actually went to a music store and snatched a CD of 文章 for 99 NT! Nice. What a steal! (LIMITED-TIME OFFER: While I’m in Taiwan, you will be able to hear him on my blog. Remember to allow Windows Media Player plug-in to run! So there, I also answered the question of who’s playing in the background.)
Then, after walking around some more and enjoying the sunny, cheerful urban cityscape, I went to the Apple Store and used their sinfully thin MacBook Air to surf the web. Using Google Maps, I mapped my directions for walking the 4 miles to home on 三民路. Let me tell you, that MacBook Air was blazing fast, like when you keep on getting sets in Bejeweled Blitz, and eventually you are on fire, and everything blows up in blazing glory. But, I tell you, it’s always faster in the store. Once you take it home and put stuff on it, it slows down, right? Don’t be fooled. Don’t be nobody’s fool. Those Apple guys are making the money. Oh, but it was so pretty. Stop it, Dean!
So what was the point of all this travel writing? To tell you how full of delightful fun my day was, and what better way to end the day than with 三民面线 oyster noodles? After all, I had worked up quite an appetite with all that walking. Lucky for me, it was opened today.

AFTERNOON TEA

SO much stuff!

Here, as a reward, you guys get fresh pictures. I didn’t reuse my old one. But you only get the picture of the first bowl (I gave you two pictures of the same bowl). Yep, yep. I ate two bowls! Yum^2!
Then I came home and finished off the rest of the milk. I had to do it quickly, because it was past its sell-by date. I’m not calling it the expiration date (expiry date, if you buy Asian-labeled products), because it wasn’t expired. But technically, I won’t know until tomorrow, right? ;P Now, I feel fine. No need to worship at the altar of the porcelain god. I’m a good Christian! Anyway, then I had an orange. (Well, I had a shower in between, so it wasn’t like I was dunking my oranges in the milk! Oranges and milk don’t mix well together. It would be like putting orange peels in apple pie! (Yes, I have many chips on my shoulder.) I mean, putting orange peels in anything is one sure way to ruin good food. Save the orange peels for natural insect repellent or for my citrus-based bike chain degreaser. Seriously! … not that I have strong feelings about orange peels, Sara Lee! (or maybe it was some other store-brought pie brand).) Then I had another 牛奶蜜棗 (peeled by grandpa), and then a grape and a brined (卤的) chicken foot. Apparently this was the best chicken feet grandma ever had. It really wasn’t shabby at all. I just don’t regularly enjoy me some chicken feet is all. But really, what a lucky guy I am. I get the best food ever, so I’m told. 没办法。有口福就是有口福。命好的就是命好。And speaking of luck and having a good life,

DINNER

Grandma made another full table. Feasting like a king, I am! Sorry if it’s a bit blurry. It’s my fault, believe me. It’s not the food. When I had it, it wasn’t blurry. Honest! I was there, okay?

Day 8 (Wednesday, January 18)


BREAKFAST

饭团
烧饼油条

Grandma and Grandpa took me out to eat breakfast. We had 豆浆 (soy milk) & 烧饼油条 (Basically, it’s Chinese non-sweet churro in a crispy bread blanket). It was super, super crispy! But I only had a bite. I really had the hot, sweet, soy milk and little steamed soup buns (小龙汤饱). And I finally had my 饭团 (fan tuan)! It’s basically a glutinous/sticky rice roll with shredded pork!!! and a 油条 (you2 tiao2 – Chinese non-sweet churro). Here are the pictures:

小龙汤饱

LUNCH
Afterwards, Jenny’s dad took me out biking. We went to Yi Lan 头城 (base city) at Taiwan’s Northeastern edge (东北角海岸) to 龜山島 (Turtle Mountain Island*) to bike around the island on the coast (环岛).
(*sounds like a family, adventure movie Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would be in…(cf. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1075417/ and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1397514/)
Driving along, one couldn’t help but notice a nice, warm, sunny day. It was about mid-70s (or so it felt). It was such a beautiful day. Such good days like these are not every day! The first picture on the right was taken in the car (you can see the window reflection, mayhaps). I just had to show y’all the sun.
Our first stop (before biking), I think. There is no Turtle Mountain in the background, but the water is very shiny/glittery/glisten-y!
Now some of the pictures of the coast (left and right), I’ve taken when we stopped by the road in the car. So most of them are taken when we’ve been biking, but I think these early pictures were taken from the car. In the first picture of Turtle Mountain Island, I have to say that our angle prevents us from seeing the turtle head. So it doesn’t like it a turtle just quite yet. In actuality, it looks more like King Kong/a gorilla sleeping on the water. From the left: long forehead, then face and chin…the actual turtle head pops out on the left. You’ll probably see it later…
Then we went biking! Now I had to rent a bike. It was actually a pretty good mountain bike. I’ve included a picture of the bike I used. Jenny’s dad is holding it for me. Guess what? It only cost 80NT to rent for the whole day (that comes to about $2.67). And it even came with two water bottles! I mean, in America, for 80NT, you can get two water bottles, maybe. We haven’t even talked about renting a bike yet!

Then we went to eat the famous lunchboxes there (55NT each). Here are pictures:
Soup in a cup.

Oh, and with my affinity for dogs, and the affinity of Jenny’s dad and me for not wanting to get fat, I asked for the extra fat and fed it to a cute dog who looked hungry. Besides, her “udder” was inflated, so she was most certainly preggers. She could use the extra fat. She was extra cautious/nervous, so I had to make her work for the fat. If she wouldn’t come, she wouldn’t get the fatty meat. That simple. I wasn’t going to throw it to her and make her life too easy. She’s got to work for it. I was rewarded, though, with her tender nibbling. Though, once I gave her huge pieces, she wouldn’t come for a morsel of fat. Spoiled!

Anyway, more pictures of scenery whilst biking (the trip was 21.5km, I think…also, remember you can click on pictures to enlarge):
Now the mountain looks like a turtle. Or a human face, IMHO.

Toward the end, with about one more kilometer/mile to go, we stopped by a fancy, ocean-view coffee shop (though with no other customers – surprisingly, this wonderful day, there weren’t too many cyclists today. But anyway, we stopped in for drinks. Jenny’s dad got a coffee, I think. Jonny got a milk tea, and I got mango ice. Also, that day the sun was so nice I got slightly burnt (in a way that didn’t hurt – I was only baked a slight, healthy hue of red). Enjoy these pictures. Delicious (my keyword here in this post)! (The only downside: one cup was 120NT! It may explain why it was so good, though. The mango was very rich, and the drink was not watery at all!)

BEFORE
AFTER

When we finished, it was about 4pm. Since we ate dinner early in America, I was stupid and thought Jenny’s dad (also my uncle, I should add), he took us to Seven-Eleven. Seven-Eleven’s in Taiwan are more robust than those in the States. They even microwave stuff for you if you want.
So I got a lunch-box thing along with the seaweed-wrapped fan tuan, because I stupidly thought it was going to be dinner (but uncle isn’t that cheap, of course, you’ll see. You just wait. Dinner was good…I’m just baiting you and whetting your eye-appetite). Oh, and we were talking about how Apple Sidra is so hard to buy in America, and how its sugars are real sugars, and its ingredients all natural. So I wanted to get an Apple Sidra, and I did. I think I’m bring the bottle back home!

DINNER
Afterwards, uncle took me out to a Japanese restaurant that specializes in pork chops (and no, even Jenny had not been to this place before…). The food was incredible, and so was the presentation (which is no surprise, as the Japanese are into food presentation and that sorta stuff). Let’s start with the salad. The lettuce was light and crisp and naturally sweet, and it was just so fresh and refreshing. Also, it is so thinly sliced it has to be machine-sliced!
The white salad dressing was a 紫苏 (some kind of plant). It was amazing, though we had to ask to make sure, because we thought it would be purple (that’s what the first word means, I think). The other was some kind of vinegar (it’s like a Japanese balsamic?). Anyway, it was all-you-can-eat, and we went through many a bowl (8 people: me, Jenny’s bro Jonny, my aunt with a homophonic name as my dad, my uncle, and then Jenny’s 3 aunts on her father’s side and one uncle…I just called them what Jenny would call them: 大姑, 大姑爹, 二姑, 小姑.)
Since we asked for a lot of refills on the salad, some of the salad pictures are later. In the picture with the bamboo cup on the left, you will see their pickled radishes. That was good too.
Now for the fun, hands-on food: some of the dishes qualified for a grind-your-own sesame bowl for your sesame dipping sauce. It was very fun.

Finished product
Then came the main course for me. It was the TORO pork chop special (350g/12.35oz.)! Yum. And it came in a tray. But the waitress didn’t give me the tray to save table space, but I thought of my dedicated readership and asked for the tray in order to wow you with the original presentation. If you look carefully underneath my chopsticks, you will see that a yellow blob. That was the mustard-wasabi sauce for the pork chop. After some experimenting, I found that the optimal taste could be had with the pork chop lightly dipped first in that yellow wasabi semi-solid sauce and then dipped in the sesame sauce. Yum. Also, I got the purple rice (because who wants plain, white rice…colored rice is much more nutritious anyway!)
And in case you were curious what was in the black covered bowl, it’s miso soup (many Japanese restaurants apparently do that…they use the same exact bowl, too).
Then we had desert. I got some delicious, custardy desert and a famous Japanese drink that kids love to have (in Japan, I think).
Day 9 (Thursday, January 19)
 
BREAKFAST
I had a kiwi and some sweet rice congee (粥) for breakfast. This is the calm before the storm. Normal stuff, so no pictures, but I’ll make it up at lunchtime…
LUNCH

On our walk today, we couldn’t help but notice how nice the weather was. It was a good week overall. Not perfect, but it had some really nice days. Nice and dry. Don’t even think about getting that climate in summer…
Well, today was grandma’s birthday, so we had to go somewhere special. So we decided to go to the Pariss (yeah, I would be spelling the name wrong if I spelled it right…go figure. Yeah Asians!) Seafood Buffet. I decided not to make y’all mad by taking the pictures of everything (I unofficially made a promise, kind of, of only posting pictures of food I’ve personally consumed (or its equivalent)). I will only post pictures of stuff I ate. However, I remedied the situation by eating as much as I could from different stations.

I started out with a raw oyster platter. I’ll let the pictures do the talking (the funny guy is uncle Oscar). I had some fancy sauce with that. Unfortunately, it couldn’t beat plain ole’ American cocktail sauce. Oh well. It is better to have the oysters instead of the sauce, though it would have been best to have both. Oh, and I basically took all the big ones. For the rest of the two hours there, I couldn’t find any replacement oysters quite as big…teehee.

BEFORE
AFTER

At the same time, I had a sashimi platter to go with that. I must say, my presentation wasn’t too shabby. The reason I am actually in the picture is because Aunt Pearl wanted me to show that I was actually there and that these aren’t fake pictures. I do have an eye for plating/food presentation, though perhaps not for modeling.

Now to make sure I didn’t burn out too quickly/fill up too quickly, I had a healthful, wholesome veggie intermission. Feast your eyes, veggie-lovers! Then I went plating crazy, French-style (i.e. big plate, little food). It did look good, though, and with low-density plates, that meant I had to walk a lot (and therefore exercise and digest more) per plate, which had less food, so more exercise and less food = a winning strategy. Remember, buffet’s are a marathon, not a sprint. (Oh, and before I forget, we had hotpot at our tables, but there’s no need to take a picture of that amid the plethora of fancy foodstuffs…).
Round Two: Special plating dishes…

More shellfish…
Crab lovers, anyone?
Crab and cheese on seafood/veggie stuff.
I had to eat this one crab in order to take the picture (above)
of all the crabs.
Honey turkey in flour wrap with gourmet thousand island
and some rich seafood hotpot broth. Yes, I’m an excellent plater.

And then there was dessert. No need to say much. I’ll speak in pictures, starting with some fruit and ending with pastries, etc.

I made some cute, tiny ice cream scoops.
I used one of the soy sauce bowls (so creative!)
The lime is for scale.
More ice cream pics
Smogasbord/Medley “birthday cake” –
the whole = greater than sum of its parts…
given that this restaurant wants Paris (or Pariss)
in its name, its cakes can’t be shabby. They weren’t.
All these look good, but they’re not.
But you can’t taste them.
But you can see them.
That’s why it’s posted.
Close-up
Some chinese gelatin. Not bad.
 Fine.
DINNER

Well, I then went over to Jenny’s place, and I played some badminton and ping-pong with Jonny. I had a nice, simple homemade dinner with Jenny’s dad as chef. Oh, and he specially cut for me a lot of special sausage. See especially the black sausage with the white stuff. That’s squid. It was pretty good. Unique. Never had squid in my sausages before. Another first here on this Formosan island.

Day 10 (Friday, January 20)

BREAKFAST
 So we went back to the classic Taiwanese breakfast foods of 豆浆 (soy milk) and 烧饼油条 (cf. Day 8’s breakfast). This time I got an order of 烧饼油条 for myself (I only ate a bite last time…remember, I also had to eat most of the 小龙汤饱 (steamed soup buns in a bamboo steamer)!). This time, I had the 烧饼油条 and my favorite 饭团 (my rice roll), except this time, in addition to the shredded pork, grandma ordered it with an egg wrapped in it! Double yum! Very nutritious and all-around amazing!!! And, after some consideration, I still chose the sweet soy milk, because I want a sweet drink, and the salty soy milk would have been like a savory food item, and that would have been too much “food (as opposed to drink).” I’ve only included the picture of the new item (or variation): the 饭团 with egg. But you get two pictures: whole and bitten/open/close-up!

LUNCH
Jenny’s dad took me out to eat an extended lunch, after which we went to play badminton and ping-pong (I played for like 2 hours of badminton and an hour of ping-pong. We were playing a lot of men’s doubles, which was super fun (me and Jonny against uncle and Jonny’s cousin who is older than me…I then played with three other junior high students who were just my level…we had some great games). But back to the lunch. It was an extended lunch, meaning it was in two parts.
Part 1 was going to 阿婆甜不辣! I’ve heard that this was one of Jenny’s favorites! Jenny, if you’re reading this, now is the time to rage!!! (Though maybe that already happened with your dad taking me to the tasty Japanese place that you never went to, I think…but I was a good replacement. I ate in your stead.)
So I’ve included the pictures of the store and the tempura. After you eat the tempura (with a pig-blood chunk…yeah, it sounds gross in English), you can go and help yourself to round 2: a free soup refill (with cilantro if you’d like, and I do like!) to finish off all the sauce and everything.
And then there was part 2 of lunch, which was some nice sushi joint. I’ll just give you the pictures. You may have seen something like what I’m about to show you a few days ago. Yeah, lucky me!

DINNER
Now for you old-timers/ex-pat Taiwanese islanders, THIS meal will really hurt/hit home! Because I went to the Keelung (Miao Kou) NIGHT MARKET/夜市!!! (though, if it makes you feel any better, you can laugh at me, because I didn’t eat the really famous stuff according to grandma…oh well…still plenty enough of yummy foodstuffs to drool over…). Remember the hustle and bustle of yore/of olde?

We got dropped off at the entrance while uncle went to park the car. Jonny started off the ordering by ordering squid baked over coals on the spot! The sauce was a subtly sweet barbeque sauce. Delicious! Or “yum,” if you feel I overuse “delicious.” Yum’s the new delicious.
LOL! Looking back, I didn’t actually take a picture of the finished squid cut up in pieces and put in a bag with long toothpicks for eating, but that’s okay. You can see the raw squid/octopus in its full form in all its glory. Oh, and the lady (wo-)manning the station didn’t look too bad either. My older “cousin” (Jenny’s cousin was my cousin) was joking with Jonny by calling the squid the 正妹鱿鱼. He didn’t think she was all that, but I must she wasn’t ugly. She had a long way to go to a 10 out of 10 (she probably won’t even get a 9/10 in my book), but she wasn’t too difficult on the eyes. (Why am I saying this? Whatever…)
Also, I had a bite of Jonny’s black pig-blood chunk on a stick. Yum! (<– the new “delish/delicious”)
Then, for the “main” course of the night, we had 卤肉饭 (amazingly delicious, to-die-for rice with pork) with a 卤蛋 (brined egg) with 肉羹汤 (pork “stick”/cluster soup). Mmmmmmm. We wanted a large bowl, but we knew better, so we got a medium bowl. Because we have to try a lot of stuff, and that requires a lot of spare stomach space. Room for other stuff. 卤肉饭, you need to share. The rice with pork, with egg yolk mixed in and with soup on the side to complement it and wash down some of the rice was a perfect way to kick-start the eating (if you don’t count the appetizer of coal-baked squid lightly coated with a sweet Chinese barbeque sauce).

Then we went on to get some octopus/squid…balls…(I can’t think of anything else to call it…sorry…*giggle*). Uncle insisted that I eat some, and I wasn’t going to refuse his offer. The sauce with some wasabi (the green stuff) was delicious, and everything was really good. The taste was spot on, though in terms of the squid/octopus (I don’t know which it’s supposed to be), the actual amount of squid was lacking. There wasn’t enough squid. Still, it was really good, especially with the 干才鱼片 (ultra-thin dried eel peels/chips) on top.

Then we had some fried crab in 胡椒盐/”pepper salt.” Jonny wanted this, and so naturally I ate some. It was alright, but I’m sure we have a lot of crab-lovers/crab-fans out there, right? Feast your eyes!
Then I had a bite-sized sausage for 7NT (~$0.23). And then we had Taiwan’s famous oyster egg-pancakes. If you look at the picture, you can see the oyster pancakes cooked on a round flat-top oven, and though you can’t see it from the picture, the same structure has a circular vent built in on top. So the steam goes straight up. Pretty cool (especially if you can see it…and if you’ve never seen something like it before, but you old-timers already know what it looks like. This is old stuff for you. And old stuff leads to memories/trips down memory lane and reminiscing and nostalgia, right?).
Also, if you look at the picture on top, that’s President Ma Ying-jeou (his official English spelling in the Taiwanese tradition, perhaps…the spelling looks Korean, actually…so if he were Korean, he would Presidentu Kim Park-jeong). And we also had some oyster soup to go along with it. I actually like Dr. Fan’s sauce better. I prefer my oyster pancakes sweeter. The red sauce you see is more pungently sweet (albeit only a little bit) than I am used to, even if it’s “more authentic,” and the Taiwanese like theirs savory/salty, so the black sauce on the other side of the pancake is just plain ole soy sauce. Needless to say, I ate from the red-sauce side. And the oyster soup had like a little bit of garlic soy sauce added on the bottom and ginger strips added on top.
And then we had a small bowl of fried tempura. I told uncle we already had tempura, but he said this was different. I guess he was right. I mean, it was fried, and the ones we had earlier weren’t. So there you go. Undeniably different! And it wasn’t bad, of course.
Then we had a dessert interlude. We got 泡泡冰/绵绵冰. Basically, it’s like shaved ice, except it’s really churned up so it holds together and looks and tastes more like ice cream (in terms of texture, though of course there is no cream/milk). Unsurprisingly, if you know my flavor preferences, I went for passion fruit as my flavoring. I had the best out of the three of us boys (the other two being chocolate for Jonny and strawberry for my older cousin, who loves strawberry, and he even admitted mine tasted the best). I mean the two other flavors weren’t bad, but ice is best with passion fruit, because passion fruit has a strong, fragrant flavor, so it really enhances and flavors ice well (I know, I overuse words, adverbs in particular). That’s why when there’s not enough ice, as in when I had it with the 粉果, it was too much/rich/strong and borderline nauseating. Definitely too much for the palate. But with ice, it is great. I even have a movie for y’all. It’s of the people preparing the ice. They had to churn, baby, churn like crazy. Their arms must be tired, or super buffed up! That’s some tiring stuff. I wouldn’t want to be punched in the face by these people…
Since we were in the “dessert” phase of our food tour, we followed this up with a warm, Chinese dessert. Those who love this stuff will know exactly what it is just by looking at it. But basically, it’s dessert tofu in a sweet soup with lots of good stuff. And the 粉圆 (the black (milk-tea-)bubble-like stuff) actually has a sweet red bean in it, too! Yum! And there’s other good stuff in it. You Asians know what it is. You Americans won’t. Sorry, you’ll have to taste it to know. It’s hard to explain. But I guess I can say that the texture is similar to bubbles (as in the stuff you find in your milk tea), except it’s not. It’s softer. There! Does that help? (Probably not.) And we also had sweet red bean soup with lotus (莲子).
Yeah, that about wraps up my epic food traipsing through the night market at Keelung. What a tour de force to keep up, huh!

Day 11 (Saturday, January 21)

BREAKFAST
Well, grandma decided to take grandpa and I to the breakfast shop just around the riverbend, I mean corner. (Now before that I had some lian wu fruit and like a few orange slices.) I had a Chinese croissant-esque sandwich with a pork chop and egg and some kind of Asian version of thousand island (though it was much redder, probably more like Catalina dressing (cf. http://www.buythecase.net/uploads/products/200/2100064453.jpg). It was very delicious, though it had a slightly higher price tag to go along with it (55NT).
And I had 米浆 (rice “milk” – cf. Day 1’s breakfast) to go with it. Now you know what it looks like. It’s a dense drink (not too dense, but still pretty dense). It is probably a little sweeter than soy milk, because it’s thicker, but it tastes really good, especially with that breakfast sandwich! Yum! (What did I say? It’s my new, overused word, Stone Chen!) But I was being risky, eating so much hearty food (I actually had to eat the other half of grandma’s sandwich), because we were going to a banquet…

LUNCH
We went to the banquet feast of one of grandma and grandpa’s old friends (I think grandma and the hostess were childhood/elementary school friends). It was like a replacement “wedding” banquet, though much less formal, thank goodness (1) I didn’t bring formal wear and 2) I hate super-formal events, especially when it involves really, old Chinese people…that stuff gets real formal real quick!). Basically, the host and hostess’ son was married to his wife in the Philippines, but they didn’t want their Taiwanese friends to miss out on the wedding celebratory feast (喜酒). Anyway, the feast, according to grandma, was “meh” alright as far as banquets go (i.e. far from the best). But that means it was still pretty good/pretty okay at the very least. Some dishes were better than others. Allow me to introduce them to you.
I’ll display them in their order. Starting with the menu. I can’t read it myself, but I tasted what it said, so that’s good enough. So this is really for those who can read Chinese but can’t taste it. LOL! HAHAHAHAHA! (Note to self: need to be less evil…but then again, you viewers are gluttons for punishment. No one is forcing you. Teehee!)

20-year-old Cognac!!!

Oh, first, just a few pictures of the drinks involved in this production. Of course there is the famous guava and orange juice combo (and combine the two in my glass I did). Then I had a really good, aged alcoholic drink that was 20 years old! It was almost certainly older than me!!! And wouldn’t you believe it, it was cognac! No wonder it was so rich and complex. It had overtones of…high notes of…okay, I’m no sommelier! Never had it before in my life! I’ll bet neither have a lot of you either. Another huge first in my life happening Taiwan Winter Break 2012! Another notch in my belt (Is this the idiom I’m looking for? No, I’m not an idiom. You, sir, are the idiom!). And, I don’t think refilled after that, but once the cognac was finished, the replacement was aged brandy, I think. Fancy stuff the drinks are, Yoda said. Leads to the dark side they do.
Now as you see, the serving sizes aren’t too big, as there are mostly old people (and if you were in the banquet room of 30 people – 3 tables, 10 persons each). And speaking of old Asian people, these fogies really liked to karaoke (no surprise, right? That’s the Chinese/Philippine “singerlust” (/zinger-LOOST/ – it’s supposed to be a made-up German word, after the like of “wanderlust”) coursing through their veins. Though, unfortunately, the host really loved to sing, but he was terrible. Just loud and gosh-darn awful! It’s always those who love to sing the most that sing it badly, I tell you. Of course, there were good singers, too, but only one of them wasn’t too loud. One more thing, maybe the old folks were deaf or something, but it was super loud when we entered the room, and later the lady in charge of the volume decided it wasn’t loud enough and turned up the volume some more. Oh, and we sat in front the speakers to boot…).
Anyway, the food! Carry on, then…

Da Menu. If you can’t read Chinese, it’s okay.
I’m sure you can read pictures.
First course: smoked salmon and some fish something in the bowl.
There is also cold-cut marinated/brined duck and the like, and tofu-wrapped stuff.
Close-up. This was my individual serving served to my plate.
2nd Course: Fish fin soup. It wasn’t bad, but considering its appellation/
what it was marketed as, it was a terrible flop.
Okay, so maybe fish fins may be banned in Taiwan
(in terms of fishing, not in terms of consumption, oddly enough)
One could barely notice and taste the fish fins, if at all. I most certainly did not.
3rd Course: Giant Fried Shrimp
See next picture. These look small, right? But they’re not
(or if you’re South African, “But they not.” … at least that’s what
South African English sounds like. I think they drop the “to be” verbs)
4th Course: Beef (Chuck?) Short Ribs (??? I’m no butcher…)
This was the bomb/the one that distinguished out from the rest of the pack.
Top Dog. Finalist/Gold Medalist/Home Run (though maybe not quite Out of the Park/Out of this World).
Still, the texture and flavor profile is a solid A in my book.
Probably the best non-steak beef I’ve ever had…yeah, definitely right there at the top in terms of non-steak cuts.
This would explain a lot/make a lot of sense that this is their signature dish, according to grandpa.
It was succulent and melt-in-your-mouth. It was not overly chewy or tenacious.
5th Course: Sea Cucumber-Pistachio soup with I-forget/
more-accurately dunno-what-white-stuff that I’m sure I’ve tasted before…
Absolutely delicious and super tender sea cucumber with softened yet slightly Q pistachios.
My individual portion. I did have refills.
Remember, old people can’t eat too much.
6th Course: Shrimp and fried 油条 (Chinese churro, remember?) in lettuce
This was meh…definitely not a home-run. I didn’t care too much for it.
7th Course: Rice Porridge-Chicken Soup (米浆 base)
I’m not a fan of rice-porridgy stuff, so this wasn’t a clear home-run for me,
but it is an impressive dish, given that it was of a thick porridge consistency,
yet it didn’t burn. Pretty cool. Grandma says it was probably cooked in an electric steam pot,
and not over fire (to prevent the bottom from burning/browning).
8th Course: Fish Course
Is this monkfish or flounder or bass or…? I don’t know my fish…
Anyway, the soup and flavor was good (how can you go wrong with garlic and scallion?)
It could have been served warmer, but the taste was good.
No fishy taste/腥味. The fish was not as tender as it could be.
The explanation for both observations above is because it was brined in salt water,
according to grandma.
9th Course: Dessert (Asian style)
It was a sweet variant of 八宝 rice.
The dessert rice was purple and long-grained.
It was delicious. I had the pineapple and at least half of the dessert.
We were the only table that finished ours.
Because of the air conditioning, the outside was slightly harder/crisper
than these desserts usually are. But the inside was moist and soft as it should be.
It was sticky as it should be throughout, though.
10th and Final Course: Fruit Platter
The fruit was uninspired and positively disappointing.
The tomatoes were not special, even bland.
The oranges were not too sweet, nor were they all that tart or orange-y.
Not strong flavored. Disappointing.
The grapes were somewhat more flavorful. But they were quite sour.
The only possibly redeeming quality was that it was easy to eat.
You just slightly bite a small opening in the skin, and the whole grape popped out.
Now most Taiwanese grapes already do that, but the key was its strong skin.
The skins of these grapes didn’t rip open. They were pretty sturdy.

DINNER
Another homemade dinner from grandma. It’s been a while since I had one. I did kind of miss it. Grandma says that unlike outside food, hers has a mother’s touch/taste. I couldn’t agree more. Except, as grandpa reminds, grandma is really mother^2 (squared). Yep. Unfortunately, you cannot see the 荷叶排骨 (it’s some kind of breaded pork chop steamed inside a tea leaf (the leaves zongzi are wrapped in)), because the other picture is too blurry (even by my low standards) to post.

Day 12 (Sunday, January 22)

BREAKFAST

Here’s my breakfast: warm soy milk, a salty (i.e. meat and fried egg yolk) 粽子 (zongzi, cf. Day 6’s breakfast, except it’s not sweet this time around) (oh, and might I add that the store from which we bought our zongzi is famous for its zongzi…no surprise, right? I’ve been eating the best of the best…fit for a king, won’t you say?). Oh, and if you look at the top, that’s the green, crispy peach and lian wu (with the red skin), which is really crispy. I had the fruit beforehand. Sorry for the blurry pictures. I always seem to take blurry pictures, though to be far, my zoom/focus device is Apple’s built-in automatic iPhone camera zoomer. But it is legitimate for you to ask me, in the words of a famous DC villain, “Why so blurry?”

LUNCH
We had leftovers with some new dishes. It was delicious, of course, and it didn’t look too bad, but grandma doesn’t think the leftovers worthy of pictures, so I’ll respect her wish and not post anything. But, needless to say, it was delish. ;P She said we would get a big dinner before New Year’s, though it will be “sacrificed” to/set apart for/paid (as) homage to Pu Sa (and also be food that ancestors are invited to eat as well). 😦 But grandma will leave a portion of the food for me.

DINNER
So you won’t get any pictures of the food dedicated/offered to Pu Sa and grandpa and grandma’s ancestors (I guess those ancestors are mine too). Though I must say, the presentation is very good. But here is my portion left for me that I can eat. 🙂 In this way, grandma is very tolerant/sensitive. Here it is. (Now think. If this is what the normal, non-presented stuff is, then the banquet they laid out for homage is really good. I cannot agree with what grandma and grandpa practice, but they are sincere.) I’m finally updated! Woot woot!

Day 13 (Monday January 23) HAPPY NEW YEAR! 新年快乐!


BREAKFAST
So for breakfast, I had my classic 酒酿 and, surprise surprise, year cake! ‘Twas a light breakfast, but good, nonetheless. The image is not cooperating with me. It makes more sense as a landscape instead of a portrait, but whatever. The year cake is the kind where you don’t have to cook it. You can eat it straight up.

LUNCH
Because of travel plans, etc., I moved to Aunt Pearl’s house. And here we had the yummy and abundant leftovers from their night before. The sticky rice you see has eel in it, and it was really good. Auntie bought it from some restaurant, I think, that is good with the Chinese New Year’s banquet food prep. And the wine was really good, as it was made by some aboriginal friend of theirs, and it was sweet with the fragrance honey used to ferment it. And there was goose meat as well. Oh, and there’s Apple Sidra as well. It’s the small, cute kind. It’s a drink that’s so normal and easy to get here in Taiwan that barely anyone drinks it. Though in the States, it’s a totally different story.

DINNER
Well, there was a lot of leftovers at grandma’s house, so auntie and the rest of the family decided to crash at grandma’s and eat the leftovers. But as it turns out, we can’t just eat leftovers, so in addition to some leftovers, we had a lot of new stuff. Like a lot of that grade A premium smoked salmon from Canada!!! Oh, and some 梅子 wine and ice wine! Yum!

EVENING “TEA”
Well, we then went to night market. Don’t worry. I didn’t really eat a lot. Just a super-secret-family-recipe-BBQ corn on the cob over coals that uncle Oscar’s family fine-tuned over the generations. And yeah, the wait was long, but it was totally worth it. I won’t even try to tell you where the night market is. So here’s the picture (Winnie just said it was Tonghua street, and no, it’s not that song…) of the street and the corn. Oh, and here’s a picture of another English faux pas. You know Winnie the Pooh, right? Because it’s not Winnie the Poo.

Sorry, it’s blurry as usual.
It says “Poo.” LOL!

Day 14 (Tuesday, January 24)

BREAKFAST
Yeah, about that…we didn’t really. Instead, I’ll make it up by including our “brunch”/morning tea/pre-lunch snacks. Okay, I had some snacks in the car, but no pictures of oranges and coffee cream puffs. Okay, so we started out with a passion fruit molasses lollipop. Then we had some delicious roasted chicken wing stuffed with turkey fried rice. It was delicious! It helped that we were hungry.

Di-VINE! (okay,…it wasn’t divine…
I reserve that for the best of the best,
but this was really good…)
Then we had some fried squid and fried squid balls. Yum. We had some salt and pepper and a little dried seaweed. The green looks so good!

LUNCH
We went up some mountain and took some train to some quaint little town/tourist destination. Oh, and we pulled a “Tangled” and lit a flying lantern. And some of aunt’s friends from church knew the people who had their little restaurant up on the mountain. I’ll shut up and post pictures! It was really good. They raised their own chicken. And then we had a little fire going in the back, and we cooked ourselves some mountain-pig sausages and yams (red sweet potatoes). And there were black peanuts that were really good.

DINNER
We had dumplings and garlic soy sauce with some kind of oil and rice vinegar. But I forgot to take pictures. It was still pretty good. And there was some good chicken soup. Sorry. I think I’ve hit the culinary peak of my travels by this point. 🙂

DAY 15 (Wednesday, January 25)

BREAKFAST
Okay, it’s so ugly I don’t even feel like uploading the pictures. ;P Anyway, I had some leftover “famous” taro cake in white sponge cake. Meh. Wasn’t that good, but it wasn’t inedible (not saying much). Then I got some breakfast that some of Aunt Pearl’s church friends got for us on the go (they were busy that morning, and I was to tag along until I got dropped off at the MRT station (it’s like the subway, but it can also be above bridges…it stands for Mass Rapid Transit). Anyway, it was a bagel with egg, and some soy milk. If you know anything about the Oxford Comma (see facebook or google), here it’s important: I had bagel, egg, and some soy milk.

LUNCH
The reason I had to go to the MRT/捷運 was because Serena’s mom invited me to lunch with them at a nice, fancy Japanese restaurant (recurring theme? Who knows? Btw, the name is 陶板屋). [SELF-CONGRATULATORY ASIDE: So I was able to go on the MRT by myself and get my way to my destination after switching through three different lines! I must say, though, that if I could do it, then that is a testament of how well designed Taiwan’s MRT is.) Back to the food…
I was going to give you the menu, but it is too blurry (surprise, surprise!), so I won’t include it. I wonder if I can even use it as a reference to naming these tasty dishes? Because we had a multi-course meal, so after one thing, the eaten course got cleared away and we get the next (hopefully uneaten) course served up. I think in Chinese, it is called 套餐 (did I get the character right?). Here goes:
Antipasto course (and mushroom course): Fresh, seasonal fruits salad with seafood (or is it seafood with fruit?). Does it matter? Cuz it was delicious! Though to be fair, it wouldn’t matter even if it weren’t delicious. But it was. The passion fruit sauce was sublime, and the seafood was cold, crisp, and subtly sweet and naturally refreshing. Great way to give you an appetizing teaser for bigger and better things to come and simultaneously awaken your taste buds.
Now this restaurant had to be reserved way ahead, and we had to come in before noon or else it would be too crowded. So we think they were subtly trying to hurry us by also giving us the mushroom dish along with it. The mushrooms were alright. They were a bit light (read: lacking?) in flavor, but their texture was en pointe, I guess. I need to say something positive, right? Can’t be all negative Nancy, now can I? (Sorry for the blurriness in the picture(s), but this should be an obvious “trademark” of my food diary by now. And speaking of trademark, you need to see Fantastic Mr. Fox. It is hilarious, off topic, and always come to mind when I think of the word “trademark.”) Then came the
Soup course: I got the garlic seafood soup (in the background). The jujube look-a-likes are actually mushrooms. It was, in a word, delicious. I cheated and included the garden tomato soup. I didn’t taste it, but I thought it looked very appetizing. Forgive me for cheating and posting a picture of somebody else’s soup (that I didn’t drink) in the foreground.
Drink interlude: We then had Mulberry Vinegar Juice (no lie…I didn’t make it up…the name came straight off the menu). It is basically an alcohol-free fruit drink. The fruit “vinegar” is not really vinegar, but it was a juice that is sweetened but retains its “roundish” acidity to both aid (first split infinitive for like the longest time…) in digestion and quench one’s minor thirst (this won’t cut it after a long run in summer, but then again, I’m not in summer, and I didn’t do a long run, so this was very good…and alcohol-free).
Then came the Rice Ball course: It was a delicious, deep-fried shrimp ball with delicious fried? rice in the middle. I’ve included the open and closed pictures.
Then came the Main course. It was four nice, meaty Japanese steak strips that were far from well-done (a good thing in my book). I’ll give it to the French. They got one thing right: rare steak. So true. Right on. En pointe, oiu oiu (yes, that’s how it’s spelled. It isn’t something like wee wee…)! And it had nice, airy, crispy, light garlic chips. Yum! I also got an interesting pepper sauce to go with it, but I forgot to take a picture of the sauce. It tasted better than it looked anyway.


Then came the dessert. I had an apple and vanilla mousse cake. There was some apple inside. It was a bit fragrant like Apple Sidra is fragrant. The chocolate water-drop sauce was pretty spot on (okay, so it wasn’t perfect, but I wanted to use the phrase “spot on,” okay? Toss me a bone, will ya? Go ahead, sue me. No, I don’t overreact! What are you talking about?)
Following the dessert was the drink (finale) conclusion. F.y.i. I asked for no ice, so I got a little bit more drink. Anyway, it was some delicious, refreshing grapefruit juice with 山粉圆 (some natural seed thing that tastes very crunchy and fun…yeah, fun is a taste). It’s almost like a mini version of passion fruit seeds. So, no my drink is not filled with mold spots or under-the-microscope-zoomed-up-looking macroscopic bacteria or fungus or worm eggs or anything.

At the end of the meal, I filled out a survey at the end, and because we saw a birthday singing (from the waiters and waitresses), when asked to fill in additional comments, I wrote, “寿星要送蛋糕” (birthday peeps need to be gifted free cake)” The waiter took it, and as we were leaving, he hurried to me with a small birthday package that the restaurant usually give to birthday people, and, in an apologetic tone, asked me if it was my birthday today. I quickly assured him I didn’t, and my comment was just a random one. But just from this gesture, I was very satisfied (for the check mark survey, this would have qualified as “非常满意” in terms of the service. They were very careful and detailed in their approach, and they took the suggestions and comments seriously (maybe too seriously). Good for them, though. I left a happy customer (especially since I didn’t foot the bill), but for 499NT a person, it was not that bad. Pretty reasonable, perhaps (though I would never bring my friends there and pay for them). ;P

[TRAVEL EXCERPT]
Afterwards, I went to Serena’s house to play with the dogs. After a long time, I got their biggest dog to lie down (with food). I didn’t much pay attention to the smaller, two dogs, as anyone who knows my canine affinities know that I discriminate against smaller dogs. Then I went to meet up with Vivian and Winnie (my two younger cousins), and we went to see Puss in Boots…in Chinese. Luckily, it wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. I must grudgingly admit that they did translate very well. Oh, and I think it was smart of them to use Cantonese in a small part when Puss presumably uses a different language to pretend he doesn’t know Chinese (or in the U.S. version, English…I’m guessing he switched to Spanish…). Then we took the taxi to grandma’s house to revisit a familiar restaurant:

DINNER

(Cf. Day 4’s lunch – same place). So this is where I went to eat…you know, the Northern Chinese “noodle” house (and by noodle, I mean noodle-based foods, and by noodle-based, I really mean flour-based, as opposed to rice-based). It was very good, and very fitting for my last “real” meal. Didn’t I say this was the restaurant to beat? Well, though I have had “bigger and better” things, it was very fitting for me to come back to this place to enjoy the culinary offerings of Taipei one last time. Here are the pictures…I’m getting tired of writing, anyway (but you’re not tired of looking, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so…). This isn’t easy, you know. Yes, that’s right…You’re welcome…Don’t mention it. No, it’s really okay. Don’t worry about it. ;P (I think my sideways wink is my new “delicious”/”yum” (i.e. overused)). ;P

Anyway, so this is my last day. I will probably scramble something together for breakfast tomorrow morning… or maybe buy my last breakfast here in Taiwan tomorrow, who knows? This will almost definitely for certain, possibly, probably, be my last post. For some, this will be the end of torture/food-voyeurism addiction. 🙂 So enjoy while you still can and stop drooling.

It’s been a pleasure writing to you beyond the Pacific or across some other ocean or not.

This is (a heavier) Dean signing out. Goodbye and goodnight (or morning or whatever, wherever and whenever you are). See you in America. See you soon, America. ;P
Fine.

16 thoughts on “Dean’s Taiwan Food Diary

  1. Jen Jen, you are too young to be mommy. I ate all that in a period of over an hour…the rice milk = only one or two sips…i can't help it. grandma make so much and wants me to eat a lot.

  2. Ah! Thanks, Julia. I forgot about lotus; and jujube I saw somewhere before. Thanks. You can be my English translation editor/researcher. :), and Mr. T, my job is complete: the more jealous more people are, the better I've done my job. 🙂 I am cruel and unusual.

  3. I LOVE 抓蛋餅 and 肉鬆蛋三明治(sandwich)!!!! Glad you are having and enjoying all the delicious food, I am really happy for you and not jealous of you, Dean. Thank you for sharing all these pictures because you are actually helping me making a list of "must eat" when I go back this summer! (^_−)−☆

  4. it's 鱿鱼"羹" not "根", a hard word for me, too. The pronunciation is very similar with a slight different n sound and 羹 means thick soup. Christian and Ethan are enjoying your food diary and are making a list as well. Okay, ready for your dinner, bring them all on!!

  5. Dean you need to tell grandma that I won't eat anything for dinner. And make sure sit with them in dinner time but don't eat anything. I called you guys but no answer.

  6. Dean,1. In spite of all the food, you still look normal sized in the photo so far. You have a really impressive metabolic system. 2. Taking photos of store menus is a very smart idea.

  7. FINALLY! after hours of scrolling and drooling…got to the comments section XDi'm chillin with ruth right now, and she told me about this brutus-facticus. hahaha~~~ NICE, you are sooooo making me want to be back in Taiwan ^^"see you at WTS next week!

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