Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dazzling Cafe (Honey Toast Edition)

New definition of epic food:
Something that looks mediocre ... suddenly ... turns into an explosion of flavor in the mouth.

Dazzling Cafe (Honey Toast Edition)

You know how I mentioned how epic Chin Chin Cafe's honey toast was? It was so hugely epic that I even decided to walk 3 miles back to my apartment feeling all happy and stuff...

I have to redefine epic as stated above after eating toast from Dazzling Cafe.
On that Sunday afternoon, my friend and I got lucky that there was not a huge line as everyone claims at Dazzling Cafe. We were lucky enough to be one of the first people in the cafe without having to make reservations.

Time to start off reviewing the honey toast of new epicness.

At first, I saw that the toast was smaller than the one at Chin Chin Cafe and thought I was being ripped off for the price to amount of food I get. I guess size does not matter in terms of food. Taste is significantly greater than quantity.

Now, I heard mixed reviews about Dazzling Cafe, and how the toast is too sweet etc. Well... guess who has a sweet tooth ?? MEEE! like honey senpai from Ouran High School Host club.
For me, I have a specific and precise sweetness tolerance range like the precision of changing trajectory using an ion or hall thurster (that's a type of rocket propulsion system) for a satellite. I think Dazzling Cafe hit it spot on.

In addition to the toast, I got hot fruit tea. For those who do not know what fruit tea is, it is basically different tropical fruits (all from Taiwan), such as fresh passion fruit, mangos, apples, peaches (fyi it's peach season here), and kiwis, brewed with tea. There is no sugar added in the tea. It uses the natural sugars from the fruits to sweeten the tea and give it a sweet and citrus-y taste.

I don't think there was anything to complain about this toast.
In addition, the service was great! The waitress cleanly cut the toast and prepared it for us by taking a piece of inside toast, spreading cream on it, put ice cream and fruit on top. At Chin Chin cafe, the waitress just slices the toast and leaves it there for you to still question how to eat it without making a mess.

FYI ... I got the Party in Your Mouth Toast. It literally was a party in my mouth.

Friday, July 29, 2011

DON (rice bowls)

DON (rice bowls)

DON (Japanese Style Rice Bowls)
(English Friendly waiter)

After getting lost in the Fuxing, Dunhua, Sanmin Da Dao area. I accumulated a LOT of restaurant business cards from tiny hole in the wall places just because the menu that they post outside look delicious. Who needs a GPS. I think some mad scientist programmed a food GPS into my head, or I have some food magnetic field around me that will magically guide me to a good place to eat.

One of those tiny shops that I stumbled upon was DON. A group of friends and I decided to venture into this tiny restaurant. At first, it looked like it could only seat 5 people with bar seating. To our surprise, there was a basement level that could sit at most 20 people.

Why is it called Don?
In Japanese Don literally means "bowl", and guess what?? Don serves rice in bowls (no duh)

I ordered dark chicken meat with their teriyaki suace. My god! Usually when I get a teriyaki bowl. It is pretty salty. This one was pretty well balanced like yin and yang, salty and sweetness, creating zero forces and moment in my mouth etc. With it having well balanced forces in my mouth. I did not need to have turbulent flow of water to wash my mouth after my meal.

This place has one or two vegetarian dishes that my friends ordered. They also look delicious.

Vegetable and egg on top of rice.

Hot stone, curry udon soup.

Also ...
Why did I mention English friendly?
Long story short.
The waiter kept speaking to us in English. I guess he just wanted to practice his English with us. ^_^. Props to him! Though I was trying to learn the dishes in Chinese xD.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chin Chin Cafe (part 2) Honey Toast Edition

Has anyone ever heard of the dessert stomach?
Well ... the algorithm of fullness and digesting food can go like this.
While Dessert stomach != full
If stomach = full then
Stomach = Desert Stomach
Eat tons of sweets
Food Coma
Eat more of everything else
End If
End While

Chin Chin Cafe (part 2) Honey Toast Edition

Despite stuffing my friends and I stuffing ourselves with food, we still decided to get dessert at Chin Chin Cafe. I decided to go to Chin Chin Cafe again with a few friends.

This time to share a GIGANTIC honey toast. I mean this thing is so big that I think you would need a couple W44x335 beams to hold it up along. Good thing the waitresses have superior asian kung fu strength techniques to serve us the honey toast despite how skinny they look.

The epic toast was beckoning us to eat it as we stared in awe. How the heck do we eat this thing?
Luckily the waitress had kung fu assassin skills and quickly cut up the sides of the toast, in which the insides were already sliced and baked in delicious honey.

(The insides)

With the addition of the quickly melting ice cream, cream, and fruit. We feasted until our dessert stomachs were full.

Despite how epic I may have made it sound ..
I had a problem with the crust being not that flavorful and a bit not so fresh baked bread taste like how my dad and aunt makes a big loaf of bread. I guess it is because we went at night and usually fresh bread just only has freshness for a few hours.

I also got fruit tea, which was pretty good. Nice and fruity!
Aside from that...
A great ending to the night as I walked 3 miles back home from Chin Chin Cafe ^_^

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chin Chin Cafe (part 1)

What is there to do on a Sunday morning in Taipei?
a) Do tai chi in the park like a tai chi master.
b) Play tennis with the locals and swing the racquet like playing badminton.
c) Find food and get lost in Taipei.
d) Sleep in and dream about food.

I choose "c" because I just like finding places to eat in the gluttonous city (as Time magazine calls Taipei).

From my friend's (Judy) suggestion, I proceeded to find Chin Chin Cafe and got lost on the bus system. After walking around and asking around. I finally arrived at the glorious, bright, white, and shiny (it was really bright outside -_-) destination after 1 hour 37 minutes and 48 seconds of getting lost and getting business cards of various places that I might eat in the future.

Chin Chin Cafe (part 1)
106 Taiwan台北市大安區復興南路一段107巷5弄6號1樓
Tel: (02)8773-6601

The glorious entrance to deliciousness

What a nice interior. Really clean looking and simple.

You must be wondering about why it is part 1?

I went there believing that I would be eating giant toast.

So... if I didn't get toast....
What did I get???
Instead, I got a cheese tuna panini because the toast is also HUGE, and I would like to share the large, sweetness of awesome with people.

I guess this can be considered toast of some sorts.
By definition, the bread was crunchy like toast and has slight burn marks on it, but this was a panini.

It reminds me of the late nights studying and getting panini from Cafe 1919 at UCLA, but this panini was 10x better.
It had a nice honey mustard taste that went well with the caramelized onions, tuna, and strong cheese. Also, this portion can definitely be shared with two people. I think I paid 180 for it, and the panini was definitely worth it.

There was also a mini salad by it. I think they put a little too much dressing in it. I would ask for dressing on the side next time.

In addition, to the waitress' suggestion, I got their house special iced coffee. It was a bit too creamy for me, but nevertheless good enough that I have the aroma of coffee in my face.

Well, be ready for part 2 in the upcoming week. I'll be getting giant toast. What is giant toast? Well, you'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ding Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) or is it Ding 太瘋 (too crazy)

Seems like I have been eating dumplings of all sorts last week. My friend Kelly came to Taiwan, and I guess she hasn't gone to Ding Tai Fung yet.

We went to the Zhongxiao Branch (not the one in the Sogo) because it is always the least crowded and tucked away in a back alley. There was literally no wait, unlike the one in the Sogo which had a line wrapped around the corners of the food court.

Now I've gone to Ding Tai Fung many times and have not ever reviewed it. I guess this will be the time I will review it.

Ding Tai Fung (鼎泰豐)

Of course, the first thing we had to order was the pork soup dumplings. It is their signature dish, and being a logical person, I had to order their specialties.

Each spoonful (yes you use a spoon to eat these because the juices deliciously squirt out when you eat bite into it) was quite delicate. The skin was slightly chewy and the pork well just tasted like any ordinary pork dumpling. I have to say this was pretty good, and I owe it to the skill of the people standing behind the window. The other branch at the Sogo is not as good as this branch because I feel like they rush everything at the Sogo in order to serve a million mostly foreign customers who think this is the best thing in the world.

To eat a dumpling requires skill and precision like a robot and rocket science (haha jk). You just have to make sure you don't spill the juices. Also eat it with vinegar and ginger as pictured below.

The next item we ordered was quite unusual. It had rice on top of the dumpling, and it was filled with seafood filling.

This dumpling was just mediocre. I find the rice made the overall product really starchy and made the dumpling skin seem overwhelmingly thicker. The filling then became almost non existent with the rice overpowering it.

The last dish that came was their noodles with House Special Sauce.

The noodles were pretty QQ (as we would say in Chinese as chewy). I enjoyed the noodles, but I thought the special sauce was a bit too spicy. I choked on the spicy, and I eat spicy food too ><. I should have ordered the sesame sauce noodles.

In conclusion...

I think that Ding Tai Fung has a cult following, like Apple. Super pricey for just ok stuff. I find the quality has gone down every since I've gone here when I was young, and before they started opening a million branches around the world. It has become Ding 太瘋 (too crazy).

I would rather go to the street stand shop by my work and get pork soup dumplings for 50NT instead of 180 NT. They taste about the same, and if not better.

Dumpling Shop (ハ方雲集) in Zhongxiao Dunhua Underground Food Court

On the MRT approaching Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, squished by tons of people during rush hour, low on cash, and hungry...
Where the hell do I go eat in Taipei that i can spend less than 100 NT and get super full/satisfied?
Well... actually there are a lot of places, but based on the equation in my head:
MRT station+hunger+distance to food + cheap + deliciousness = dumpling shop in the MRT Station.

There's actually a lot of these places around Taipei. Around 5-7 NT per fried (鍋貼 grr-whoa t-yeahh) or boiled dumpling (水餃 she-way gee-ow). Yes, I don't know ping ying or w/e the hell they call it. I find if you take known words and make them into Chinese it's a lot easier to pronounce than guo tie (wtf tie?) or shui jiao (swee? i guess jiao is easy).

Here's a small video about learning tones.

(ハ方雲集) Dumpling Store at Zhongxiao Dunhua Underground Mall

Store front (it's across from the ramen shop near the beginning of the MRT underground food court also called Happiness Street)

Menu Front (Sorry >< bad menu picture but everyone was staring at me at that point because I took a lot of pictures)

So... The yellow dumplings are 7 NT and are curry dumplings. The redish hue ones are korean spicy dumplings for I think 5 NT. The rest are just regular pork dumplings. They also offer seafood dumplings for 7 NT.

They also sell three types of soups. Unfortunately ran out of creamed corn soup : (, so I got hot and sour soup, which is also really good with the dumplings. The other soup they have is fish ball soup.

Deliciousness all done ^_^ for 125 NT (went over a bit the 100 NT to try the Korean dumpling and get something to drink). They also have soy milk and black sesame soy milk, which is pictured on the bottom left corner.

So... If your ever in a hurry or need something cheap to eat, you can find these shops around Taipei.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Taiwan: Pho Hoa

So on Facebook, I asked my friends if I should eat pho or ramen? I guess thanks to Jess, I choose pho, since I've had ramen too many times already.

I set off on another glorious food adventure in the middle of Taipei. I remember wandering about a few years ago and encountered Pho Hoa on my way to Japanese style all you can eat bbq. This time, instead of taking the MRT, I got lost on the Taipei bus system. Bus Number 262... (I appreciate the bus system cause it's cheap and efficient, unlike LA, which is experiencing carmegedon or not really)

After the bus passed the familiar underground mall at Zhongxiao Fuxing and Dunhua. I decided it was time for me to get off the bus and wander about.

Pho Hoa

No. 43號, Lane 190, Section 1, DūnHuà South Road, Daan District.
You can get here by going out Exit 8 of Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, cross the street to the left and go through the ally or you can go through Exit 5 of Zhongxiao Fuxing Station.
You can also google map it ...
11:00-23:00 (damn they open late)
Tel: 2751-5578

After sweating and walking around in circles around the same block ... I finally reached my destination. I took a glance at the menu.

Oooo O M G. They have a chef's special called 火車飛機 (Train Airplane). This basically has everything all in one bowl (chicken, tripe, steak, tendon etc. that you typically find in pho). Just because it had such an awesome name in Chinese ... I ordered it : ).

Along with the Pho, I ordered spring rolls and Vietnamese iced coffee. The total came to be 270 NT. WTF ... All that for 270 NT. That's like 9 usd. That's how much I have to pay with tax and tip for just a tiny ass bowl of pho back in LA. Ah... I love Taiwan.

The first item that came was the spring rolls.

I gotta say. These spring rolls tasted like ordinary spring rolls. They were not superb and just alright. It felt kind of empty and loose. I think they put too little stuff in the rolls that made it feel thin. The sauce that went with it was just fish sauce and peanuts and squeezed lime. Just meh...

I was hoping the star of the show would be much better than the rolls.

When I saw the soup ... I was a bit puzzled. It was not clear and brown like typical pho soups. When I tasted it ... O M G...... This soup is delicious. It sort of tasted like ramen broth but with all the pho spices. The soup was creamy from the bone marrow from probably a million cow bones they used to stew the soup. I think this is perhaps one of the unusual but best pho I've ever had. I ended up drinking all the soup. It is also the first time I don't feel thirsty after drinking the soup (other soups I've had had me drinking a gallon of water).

The amount of noodles and meat also well balanced the soup. Some pho places put way too little meat or too much noodles >< . This place was just perfect.

To finish off ... I got the iced coffee and watched as it slowly went drip drip drip ... drip ... drip...

And finally stirred and poured into the ice for a nice refreshing finish to a meal.

It just started raining. Talk about good timing for getting back in time before it started pouring a lot. On a side note...

I rescued a dog from getting hit by a taxi ... then the dog bit me as thanks haha.

Now for something amusing ... Instead of using a lawnmower or grooming machine, they use a motor scooter to groom a baseball field.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yong Kang Beef Noodle Soup Shop 永康牛肉麵

Once again ... I am in Taiwan. Work has been pretty exciting though. I'm researching new techniques for designing green roads and eco friendly roads because my company's new project is near a really eco sensitive area and does not want to disturb the habitats.

Well. Of course, in Taiwan ... what is there to do??? Well, to eat and lets see to eat and more to eat. Let me start off with one of my favorite places to go and most favorite dishes to eat: Beef Noodle Soup.

This soup is delicious and can be spicy at times, but my god even if its 10000 degrees outside, I can still eat a bowl of beef noodle soup or 牛肉麵 niu rou mian as I would pronounce it with my horrible romanized Chinese.

Yong Kang Beef Noodle Soup Shop 永康牛肉麵

It rained on my lens : (
No. 17, Lane 31, Jinshan S. Rd., Sec.2

So... after a long dreaded hike in the rain and probably walking around in circles around Chaing Kai Shek Memorial Hall, I finally reached the big yellow sign that has my favorite beef noodles. For starters I get the steam hog spare ribs as they translate it in English. It is rice with some pork ribs and super delicious and flavorful.

Random Pork Rice Thing

And as I ate the rice with pork, the star of my meal arrived. BEEF NOODLE SOUP! Deliciousness. I'll tell you why it is delicious. First, the beef flavor was really delicious! Second, the noodles were very springy and QQ (as they would call it in Taiwan). Third, the spicy level was just right. Ah I can eat 100 bowls of this and not get sick of it.

Beef Noodle Soup

So... next time you visit Taiwan, this is one place to go to for beef noodle soup.

For beef noodle soup recipe:
Here's a link to my recipe.