Happy Monday world. So an update on the apartment — still don’t have working internet (Starbucks on West 4th has been my temporary home for the past week) but all the furniture is done and assembled. Whoot. And I’m slowly easing myself back into cooking dinner because food in New York is either really cheap but bad for you (trust me, if I could, I’d eat at Pommes Frites and $1 pizza parlors all the time) or super expensive.
Coming from the SGV where food is both delicious and affordable, the adjustment sucks. I did lead a food tour of the East Village for a couple of NYC newcomers though, followed by some serious bar hopping. EV cheap eats + drinks = perfect night out.
But as usual, here are my updates on the Chinese food world.
1) 25 Things You Must Eat In Tainan, The Culinary Center of Taiwan. I get asked a lot what are some good Taiwanese dishes. It took forever to round-up, but I compiled 25 dishes of delicious food from Tainan. These were taken from my summer, 6-week long trip to Asia. Good times, good people, and some of the best food Asia has to offer (but is often overlooked). It’s probably because Tainan is not tourist-friendly at all.
2) A follow-up with the man who ate at 6,000+ Chinese restaurants. David R. Chan has been getting a lot of media requests and invites ever since my story on him broke in June. I was asked to do a follow-up and his answers to my questions were so great by themselves I structured it as a Q&A. The best quote? “Well there were a couple of unusual tweets. One referred to me as the ‘Batman of Chinese Dining.’ And a lady in Canada described me as her ideal mate if I were 30 years younger. Also one of my accountant friends asked for a copy of the Excel schedule of 6,000 restaurants, then came back the next day to point out a couple of inputting errors.”
I’m going to make a huge confession. I hate beer.
This, however, was a very, very odd exception.
Meet fruit beer.
Introduced in early April, pineapple and mango beers are relatively new products in the Taiwanese market. They were so popular that the company had a difficult time keeping up with the demand. Word on the street was that the pineapple version tastes like Taiwanese pineapple cake.
I can confirm that this rumor is true. It did sort of taste like a liquid version of the famous 鳳梨酥.
J & I picked these up at our local 7-Eleven in Taipei. Popped them open during a movie marathon and sipped it with some dried almonds and anchovies (ah, I miss you Taiwanese snacks). Good thing we only bought two, or else we would’ve just kept on drinking. So dangerously yummy.
What will they think of next?
According to sources, orange and grape will be the next Taiwanese fruit beer flavors and will hit the market in 2013.
I adore night markets. I frequent Taiwan on a annual basis and the night market experience was the thing I looked forward to. Back then it was for the hoards of cheap, and adorable jewelry. These days, it’s the food.
My night market count has been skyrocketing these last two months (it’s currently at 7). Check out my two latest pieces for Serious Eats.
A trip to Taiwan isn’t complete without a visit to one of its famous night markets. They’re open everyday in the evening and have become a gathering ground for tourists and locals alike. In addition to cheap bargain deals, Taiwan’s night markets are vital destinations to experience some of the country’s best small eats.
Here’s a food tour of five Taiwan night markets near the Taipei area. Each night market has its own history and personality even if the shaved ice and bun offerings start to look repetitive.
The Lucky Rice Night Market made its Los Angeles debut on Saturday at the H.D. Buttercup building in Culver City. The event made a splash in New York the past three years and the Los Angeles debut was not an exception to Lucky Rice’s success.
From pork belly buns to chocolate wasabi ice cream, the bites were eclectic. The event was completely sold-out and chefs made their way from across the country for a night of Asian-inspired tastings, music, an free-flowing booze courtesy of Bombay Sapphire.
It’s rare when J volunteers to choose a restaurant. But considering that his traditional Chinese abilities are far more advanced than mine, he’s been taking the reins on a lot of food choices these past two weeks. We’ve been having a real hankering for Japanese food recently. And given the heavy, heavy Japanese influence in Taiwan – finding Japanese food hasn’t been a problem.
He choose Fei Qian Wu, 肥前屋, a joint famous for their unagi-don (eel bento). Word on the street is that they have the most “authentic” roasted eel bento in all of Taipei. Order in Japanese or in Mandarin—the restaurant was founded 35 years ago by a Japanese-Taiwanese family.
As we were walking to the restaurant, we noticed a significant number of Japanese restaurants in the area. According to Taipei Times, the area used to be the home of a Japanese colonial administration. Located in a narrow alleyway, this place was absolutely packed. J & I were forced to share a table with another couple and a lone diner. The seating is cafeteria-style and service is rather rushed.
But the food was great, and sometimes, that’s all that really matters. Fei Qian Wu is famous for their eel. A single portion of eel on rice with miso soup costs NT 140 ($4.67), while a larger portion comes in at NT 240 ($8.01). Truth be told, I’m not a fan of eel myself. The only other time I’ve had it was at Sushi-Dai (one of the most famous sushi restaurants) near the Tsukuji Fish Market in Japan. But according to J, this was hands-down the best version of roasted eel he’s tasted (and he’s had eel three days in a row already).
I myself opted for the beef bowl because I absolutely craved beef. It was a decision caused by having to sadly settle for pork at the nearby Yoshinoya near my apartment earlier in the day. Yoshinoya in Taiwan doesn’t have beef. The horrors.
The verdict? 100x better than Yoshinoya. Juicy slices of beef with onions and a daikon radish on the side. I found myself picking at the leftover grains of rice and wishing I had more.
For the sides, we opted for the grilled squid – oh-so-juicy and seasoned in S&P, and the tempura – lightly battered and oozing with flavor.
This restaurant was a definite win. Cheap, casual, and mouth-watering delicious.
No.13-2 Alley 121, Section 1, Zhongshan North Road, Taipei, Taiwan
11am to 2pm, 5:30pm to 8pm. Closed Monday
Oh the joy of catching, roasting, then eating your own food. After a good couple of hours of ah-gei eating and Danshui exploring, we settled at this shrimp fishery (can I call it that?) also in Danshui.
Now, the next three hours were probably one of the most epic ones of my Taiwan trip. Here’s the set-up: You get to choose between fishing the female variety or the male. It was 600 NT (around $20) for two hours of fishing. Poles and bait (liver and baby shrimp) included.
Of course we opted for the male fish. They’re larger — which means more meat. I’ll admit, I screamed when the first one came out. These are not regular shrimp. They’re giant river prawns…with blue claws that snap and twitch around violently when they are fished out of the water.
Unhooking them is another challenge in itself. By now, the shrimp has swallowed the bait. The key is to hold their claw while you try to pry the hook out of its throat.
By two hours we had only caught 12 between four people. The count was disappointing, but the meat sure wasn’t. You skewer and roast the shrimp yourself and there’s a complimentary salt plate that you season the shrimp with. Pop them in the oven for a couple of minutes before consumption, of course.
These were amazing. They taste like a lobster-shrimp love child. The exoskeleton is as hard as a lobster and the insides are unbelievably meaty. Dip them in soy sauce and vinegar and you’ve got yourself a delicious, steaming hard-earned meal.
How to get there: Take the bus number 37 to 黄昏市场 from the MRT station at Danshui. Keep walking toward the same direction where the bus is going and destination will be on the right.