Hello my few readers! I just got back from my vacation in Taiwan with my wonderful boyfriend. OK, it’s been two weeks, but who’s counting? I wish I was STILL on vacation. I thought about whether I should write about my food adventures in Taiwan, and the logistics are a bit difficult since I don’t know all the names/addresses of these places I visited during my stay, but I’ll do my best. I will just go over a few of the places I dined at while in Taiwan. We’ll start with Taiwanese breakfast since there are limited options here in New York. My boyfriend, J and I stayed at a hotel in the Da-An District at a very cute and modern Fullerton South Hotel thanks to my Mom’s recommendation. The staff was extremely helpful and our room was clean and compact. We even got a welcoming plate of fruit. I devoured the mini pomelo and was surprised how sweet it was!
After my good friend W dropped us off at the hotel, she mentioned that there was a famous Taiwanese breakfast place just down the street from our hotel. I was very excited since I love carbs and Taiwanese breakfast is every carbaholic’s dream come true. On the first morning, J and I headed to the hotel’s free breakfast buffet. I had an omelette and some fruit. The rest of the buffet wasn’t too interesting to me. It was mostly western style, which meant I didn’t want to waste my time/calories with it. The following morning, I only had fruit at the buffet and then told J I was heading to Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wang – 永和豆漿大王 [King of Yong He (city/province of Taiwan famous for soymilk) Soy Milk] breakfast place to check it out. It was glorious! There was a long line, but it moved briskly. This was the first time I witnessed a man making fresh shao bing (sesame pancake/bun that can be used to contain anything your heart desires). I love shao bing because you can put whatever you want inside. A common dish in Taiwanese breakfast is shao bing you tiao － 燒餅油條 (sesame pancake bun with a fried crueller). It’s really good! However, I controlled myself and stuck to my “healthy” breakfast which is shao bing jia dan－ 燒餅加蛋 which is the shao bing with a scallion egg omelette inside. I also am a big fan of xian fan tuan － 咸飯團 which is a salty sticky rice roll with dried pork floss, salty pickled turnip and chopped up you tiao all inside. After my first breakfast at Yong He, I never went back to the hotel buffet again! I even convinced the boyfriend to try my egg sandwich and soon I converted him as well!
The next item I will discuss before my drool all over my keyboard is my love for noodles. It began when I was young. I remember vividly eating dinner with my sister and parents in Flushing on the weekends. My sister and I would get Pork Chop and Noodle Soup (Pai gu mian – 排骨麵）and it just became something I look forward to as a child. Then my parents took me to Taiwan and I became obsessed. I always told my mom that I should be a Northern Chinese because all they eat are noodles. I always begged my mom to make noodles instead of rice for dinner. How could anyone eat rice EVERYDAY? Noodles yes please. I like almost all noodles, but I especially like thick chewy (QQ) noodles. Fresh noodles are always a plus for me.
Well, everyone, Taiwan is full of noodle/dumpling shops. It is my dreamland! I could probably have noodles for two meals a day in Taiwan and be insanely happy (of course I’d have Taiwanese breakfast for breakfast). However, J is not a big noodles fan so I had to save my carb overloading to later in my vacation. My dad and I stopped by my favorite noodle place near my grandparents’ old apartment. We arrived at 11:15am (it was a bit early) and I almost cried when I saw the “Closed until 5pm” sign on the door. I asked my dad if there was a holiday? He said nope, but then I spotted an employee inside the dimly lit restaurant. Then I spotted one of the owners and I forced my dad to ask her if they were indeed closed until 5pm (I know they are open for lunch!!) She said of course they are open and let us into the restaurant. We were the first customers of the day! Then I saw the other owner (they are sisters) and she warmly greeted me with “You’re back?” Anyhow, we placed our orders. I ordered my usual, zha cai rou si mian- 榨菜肉絲麵, which the literal translation is pressed vegetables with shredded pork and noodle. I don’t even remember what my dad got because I was too busy waiting anxiously for my dishes. I believe he ordered some kind of soup and fried noodle. We also ordered some green veggies to get some fiber. My noodles came out quickly and they looked and tasted just like I remembered them to. The noodles were thick and chewy and there was a lot of the salty pressed veggies. I find that it’s hard to find a good version of this noodle soup in New York. Sometimes the pressed vegetables are not crunchy enough and usually there’s not a lot of it in the soup. My friend W suggested that I ask the owner if I could buy the pressed vegetables so I could bring it back to the states. Unfortunately, the last time I was in that alley, it was before they were open so I did not have the chance to ask. I’m sure she woud have laughed at me! Perhaps I will do this on my next trip to Taiwan!
Due to Taiwan’s extremely hot and humid weather for the most part of the year, there are bubble/shaved ice shops at every corner. This was great for J since he loves ice and cold drinks. We made sure to have a tea drink/icy/shaved ice at least once a day. I stuck to my regular Passion fruit with Green Tea (half sugar) and J would get a mango icy. However, I made sure that we visited the famous Ice Monster (now Yong Kang 15) right by the famous Din Tai Fung (more on this restaurant in a future post) for dessert. Even though mango was out of season in the rest of Taiwan, they had sweet and ripe mango available (could it be canned?).
I have a confession to make. I am not a fan of the traditional Taiwanese shaved ice. I am one of the few people who dislikes red bean and chewy sweet things on shaved ice. I do make an exception for Ice Monster/Yong Kang 15. The shaved ice is huge and I recommend sharing it with at least two other people. I heard that they closed the original store due to marital problems with the owners. When they reopened under a new name, they kept one of the owners as an adviser, so I had to find out if it was still good. The final verdict? It’s still good, but the prices are slightly higher (almost $5-6 for a shaved ice). It’s good for a splurge!
I will end my first wordy Taiwan blog with a picture with my favorite passion fruit green tea. I tried to have one everyday, but due to the typhoon and some logistic problems, I was unable to have it on the last two days of my vacation. I guess I’ll survive! I am going to try really hard to write another entry about other Taiwanese delights (shabu shabu, soup dumplings, superior Taiwanese fruit, scallion pancakes, etc). We’ll see if I write it within the next month.