Sunday, June 25, 2006

Hou Ling Street Nightmarket

These pictures are from a long time ago. We went to Hou Ling Jie (Literally, Tiger Forest Street) to visit my parents' old apartment where my aunt also lived while we were in the US. There is a small nightmarket there, where you can mass-purchase the cheapest underwear in Taipei. Besides underwear, there is also the regular lineup of nightmarketly foods.

A view of the nightmarket

A typical night market is full of stands peddling all sorts of juices. This one offers ku gua (bitter melon) juice. My reaction = gross! My mom's reaction = joy!

The intestines that were in my mi swa (thin rice noodles) that I promptly removed and placed in my aunt's bowl.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ice Monster

Shaved ice has gotten a lot of press lately, even making it to the New York Times last summer. I remember growing up and making it at home in Taoyuan. Nowadays, shaved ice is a complicated monster. The most famous sector of town that has shaved ice stores is around Yong Kang street, and the most famous ice place is Ice Monster.
If you haven't had ice from Ice Monster, you have not lived. Ingredients are simple: mango sorbet, condensed milk, kiwi, mango, and strawberry. So TASTY.

Sesame Snacks

Some of the best food in Taipei is sold on street carts, which usually appear at night markets but can sometimes be exceptions. This particular old man makes pure sesame snacks. He takes black sesame seeds, grinds them, and adds just a touch of sugar and compacts the mixture into a thick cake that resembles black shoe sole leather. Dispite the unappetizing description, his sesame snacks are REALLY good. It's chewy and not saccrin-sweet, and completely natural with no additives. He also makes crispy sesame brittle and peanut brittle (Taiwanese style, without that sweet sugary stuff in the middle to hold the seeds/nuts together.) Simplicity = Tasty.

Yun Nan Cuisine

Yun Nan cuisine is typically lighter and less heavily flavored than normal Chinese food. Rarely do you find tons of salt and soy sauce piled in a dish. We went with Paul to a restaurant where we saw Li Ao. Me, aunt, Paul, and the Lao Ban Niang (wife of the proprietor of the restaurant) all took pictures with him. I think he is a famous writer and political theorist.I equate him with the Taiwanese Zizek. He actually ran for president once, something Zizek also did in Slovenia.
The bright green stuff in the bowl is baby pea soup. They really were that young and that green, one of the more interesting and tasty things I've had this trip.
We call the plate of stuff on the right crack mushrooms because they're soo good, the restaurant must have put crack in them. In reality, they're very very finely julienne-ed mushrooms stirfried until dry and infused with a combination of salty and spicy tastes. They are SO good, even for a mushroom hater like me.
The story behind this "over the bridge" soup is that a wife was innovative while bringing her husband meals back in ancient days. In order to keep the meat and everything hot, she put the soup in a separate pot, with a layer of fat on top as insulation, and then poured the hot soup over the meat and other ingredients upon arrival. It is very tasty and also fun to watch while preparing.

Hao Yang = V V G

This is the patio part of VVG Table, one of the restaurants under the V V G umbrella of a company where I work sometimes. They are pretty expensive but very gourmet.
A change from the normal sitting-around-and-drinking-exotic-hot-teas, I had a frozen lemonade. Final word: tart and sweet at the same time, full of lemony flavor. Tastes as good as it looks.
The green version of the frozen lemonade. This has more mint and cinnamin in it, so it's sweeter but not as lemony.
I didn't actually escape from not having to drink hot tea. At least it was in funky porcelain cups that look like dented mini-beer cups.
They had leftover desserts from brunch from the other VVG restaurant (the one where you can usually find me making hors d'oeuvres), so we got to have them with our afternoon tea. The crunchy stuff up top is caramelized sugar and almond paste..or some other type of nut. The white stuff is mascarapone, a commonly used cheese in desserts, and there were sliced bananas buried in the mascarapone. In short, it was like a modified banana pudding without the vanilla pudding. I think there were some peanuts involved too. It was not mindblowing, but a tasty histamine-triggering bomb for people with food allergies (dairy, peanuts, bananas)

Porridge restaurant.

Paul, former exec for LVMH, behind some steamy dumplings. Tasty.
We got to choose little plates of food to go with our shi-fan (porridge). Guess which one I chose? (only my mom would get this one)

Airplane food

Get crunky with it. The dessert from our return flight from Tokyo to Taipei. Chocolate crackers with Crunch-like chocolate substance sandwiched between.

Bubbly fish

This fish from the little restaurant where we always eat has a bubble. Note the green limey looking things on the side.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My last documented meal in Tokyo

Darling Albert is in Tokyo, working at the US embassy. I had the good fortune of meeting up with him in Roppongi and then going to Shibuya for dinner. We saw some pretty crazy things in Shibuya, among them a concert event at the Shibuya Apple store, a full on amp-and-all street band that was shut down by the authorities, and a very drunk Japanese businessman trying to strangle the metal statue of the faithful dog outside of the Shibuya metro station. Above all, we had a lovely chat on the second floor of what appeared to be an all male bar-cum-eatery. Despite Albert's Japanese-speaking fortitude, we could not figure out what "chicken rice" was. I got it just so I could know what "chicken rice" would refer to. It's like fried rice without the vegetables, add chicken and ketchup. All in all, it wasn't bad, but it certainly was not one of the better meals I've had in Tokyo.
Anybody up for "chicken rice"?
Traditional Japanese rice balls, with salmon hidden on the inside. Very tasty.

Thus ends my massive post. I've been doing this since 10am in the morning and it is now 2pm. Pictures of Taiwanese food soon, when I will have reliable internet with a power source again. Many thanks to VVG, my temporary employers and excellent catering/restaurant/interior designing group, for the massive internet bandwith usage today.

Master Eater no more

I usually consider myself a master eater, equipped with the know-how to face any food that comes my way. However, this meal really had me stumped. Mortar, pestle, sesame seeds and bamboo boat? What? Later, after the fact, we discover this is what you're supposed to do: beat the sesame seeds to a pulp with the mortar and pestle, mix the sesame with two sauces and the mustard that is on the table already, dip your fried pork in the resulting sauce, and eat that all with rice. No word on what to do with the snot looking tofu (that was actually very tasty).
One of the sweeter sauces was for pouring on your cabbage, like a salad dressing.
How to eat this sashimi: take some shredded daikon, couple it with the purple looking seaweed, and then put all that on top of one slice of meat and eat.
This bean and various vegetable salad was sort of gritty. Not that tasty at all.

As Promised

SUSHI FOR BREAKFAST!!! 8am in the morning, Tsukiji Market. Tsukiji market is the biggest fish market ever. Translation: whatever is raw in front of us basically went straight from the ocean to my stomach. What you see here is whatever was left from my constant eating and the constant refilling of the old sushi chef.
Breakfast dessert = shrimp head. So novel, a little cute. I'm sure a bunch of you are gaggy by now, but I took it like a champ and ate everything. I eat RAW FISH for breakfast.

Cheese Bomb Cheese Bomb, You're my Cheese Bomb can give it to me when I need to get it on?

Huge figs

Check out the size of them figs!

A familiar sight

I didn't actually eat any Coldstone, as it is quite a normal sight in the States. I must note that, at 5pm on a week day afternoon, the line for Coldstone is OUTRAGEOUS. Japanese business people love their ice cream. I'm sure that the portions are not gigantic like in the States. At Japanese Starbuckses, there is no such thing as venti. There's an added size that's even smaller than a tall.

Atop Sunshine 60

This iced coffee and little pots of cream and sugar water consumed atop Sunshine 60, one of many tall buildings that have taken advantage of their height and added an observatory at the top (part of the "Sunshine City complex"). For 700 Japanese yen (~$7), you get an elevator ride to the top (topping off at 600 meters per minute, complete with really gag-inducing new age type elevator music) and a free drink from their "Air ship" cafe at the top of the monstrosity. I had a lovely afternoon of writing up there, taking breaks to take in the grey buildings that make up the vast expanse that is Tokyo. Really, buildings extend as far as the eyes can see, with nothing natural in sight. Atop the Taipei 101, you can see mountains in the near distance.
Not food, but the view from where I was sitting in Sunshine 60. The tall building to the right is a waste-processing plant, one of many that spot the cityscape of Tokyo.

Crisps for Angel

Found, at an all night convenience store in Shinjuku: British flavored chips. Call them chips, crisps, pommes-frites...whatever. They're international. I've encountered flavors like spicy guacamole (Pringles, limited edition, in America), curry (Holland), beef (France), chocolate, the traditional bbq, sour cream and onion, salt and vineagre (gross), paprika (Germany), pizza, and some others probably, that I don't remember. Here are the ones from Japan.

Octopus Balls

No, octopi don't have balls. You make balls out of them with spicy mayo...or something. I'll vimeo the sideways video i shot of it later. This stand is on Cat Street, around Omotesando.

After-afternoon-tea tea

Omotesando Hills is this huge luxury mall thing in Omotesando, near Harajuku and Shibuya. Inside are an assortment of stores that I cannot afford and posh little desserteries like R-style. After our little afternoon tea at the non-descript little cafe, we came here. It is well known for it's shaved ice and rice desserts.
Japanese people really know how to play with colors and shapes when it comes to food. These are rice ball things, made with ground up rice so that it's sticky and chewy like mochi. Green is probably macha powder (green tea). Red is probably red bean. Those 2 are the principal ingredients used for desserts, as opposed to strawberry or chocolate in western countries.
Shaved Ice is a huge phenomenon not only in Asia but also in the States. I have our ice from the most famous ice place here in Taipei, but this is the gourmet looking version they have at R-style. The white stuff at the top is dried milk powder, the green is macha, the red is red bean, and underneath it all is the ice.
The little transluscent cup is chilled plum juice, the others are impliments for green tea. Il me semble que green tea is obligatory at any meal in Japan.

Afternoon tea

Around Omotesando, in the little back alleyways, live super posh little boutiques and cute little cafes. We stumbled upon one that had a huge inventory of pies and cakes, and decided to indulge in some, despite already having had a huge sushi platter for lunch.
Ladies who tea.
Another little hiden enclave across the street from where we were sitting.
My iced coffee, with the little pots of cream and sugar water that come with it. SO cute.
I had the macha (green tea) tarte. The black things are actually red beans, not chocolate chips. VERY tasty and decadent.
The other pie, a lemon tarte with pieces of some sort of jelly on top.

Sushi for Lunch

Stay tuned,...because Sushi for breakfast is coming up.

Eggy Cakes

In Shinjuku, next to a slew of restaurants and sex shops for men and women, are these stands that sell eggy cakey things. They have pudding in the middle and are round and cakey on the outside. I don't know what they're called, but they smell really good and are delish.

Today's How to: How to get Ramen

How to get ramen in Shinjuku. First, select the type of noodle you want, including what kind of meat, vegetable, broth...etc. Toss in your money and press the desired button, like a vending machine. Get a ticket from the machine, and go in the side door of the restaurant. The people behind the noodle counter will tell you where to sit. You show the guy your ticket and 2 seconds later, presto! your ramen.
My ramen. In a huge bowl.
And ice water in matching snoopy pitchers to go with it. One of the cheapest and awesomest meals I've ever had in Japan.

Fay Yue Gan

Fay = flying
Yue = fish
Gan = jerky

translation: flying fish jerky. An entire fish. Jerkified. It's amazing.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

After-tea meal

After-tea meal, at some micro-restaurant near a gigantic mormon church.
heavily garlicked fishy fish. do you see those slices?
I hate this ish. I've hated it since I was little. In Chinese, it's called sze gua, or stringy melon. more like GROSS melon. I ate it anyway.
Little brine shrimp with baby bamboo and egg. super tasty.