Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Home cookin': 炒客家鹹豬肉

Tonight's dinner, something simple and quick. My local grocery store, Welcome, has these prepackaged meals. They're cheap and includes all the vegetables and ingredients you need for a 1 person portion. All you have to do is add rice and it's a home cooked meal! Tonight was 炒客家鹹豬肉 or pan-fried Hakka pork. It turned out to be good, but fattier than I would have liked. But I guess since it was cheap and from my local chain grocery store, they probably used cheaper meat cuts. If I sourced the ingredients myself or went to a real Hakka restaurant the quality would be better. Also, I think I should have added more rice. There's a spot of rice somewhere in there? haha!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fragrant Harbour (HK)

Due to visa issues, I have to leave Taiwan. So I chose Hong Kong as it's one of the cheapest plane ticket available out of Taiwan. Also, instead of wasting a plane ticket to Hong Kong, I decided to stay for the weekend. After my trip, I now have a complete different impression of Hong Kong. Before living in asia, I often compared Hong Kong and Taipei to be about the same. They were both vey large cities with an active night life compared to the boring suburbs of California. Hong Kong is really completely different than Taipei in three main areas. HK has more money, larger density of high rises and is a real harbor city. It's more bustling, with a more active night life, better malls and is much more of an asian manhattan than Taipei is. The harbor is beautiful and life in Hong Kong really revolves around water. Humans naturally feel more comforted when near water, and I cannot deny I have the same feelings. It's human nature. Not to say Taipei doesn't have it's traits either. In contrast, Hong Kong reminds me more of western culture though. Less polite, more materialistic, and more complicated. And that's what makes Taipei so special, it's a growing city this still has roots in traditions, politeness, service and maintaining a simplistic life. But don't get me wrong, if given the chance, I'd still love to experience what it would be like to life in Hong Kong too. It should be easier to adapt too. Although they do not know Mandarin, people that understand and can speak fluent English is abundant and valued. Food wise, I love Yum Cha (飲茶)! To this day, I still have not found a good Yum Cha restaurant in Taipei. Outside of that though, HK still has a wider range of good foreign food. Because of the amount of international business HK does, the number of ex-pats are ever increasing and thus it's effect on the need for western markets and restaurants. Hong Kong also has such a unique history of a blend of western and eastern cultures. While Taiwan has a history with Japan (and a dash of dutch), Hong Kong has a rich history with the Portuguese and British. So visiting Macau's historic district, I got to see the colorful pastels and dramatic mix of Portuguese architecture in a sea of older chinese cement buildings. I also got to savor some of the famous pastéis de nata (egg tarts). You can have versions of these egg tarts in just about every china town around the world. I thought the crust was supposed to be light, crispy and flaky, but the ones in Macau, the one's i would consider the original, have a more chewy layer of crust. They are also slightly burnt, in comparison to the perfect yellow tart I would eat in the US. Although I have to say, 90% is still true to taste, I'm happy I got to enjoy it in the original form from Macau. Back to the island of Hong Kong, Yuki wanted to visit the many malls that litter the city blocks. I have to say that the malls in Hong Kong blow the one's in Taipei out of the water. I may be biased, because I've gotten used to the malls in Taipei, but no where in Taipei is there a mall with 29 stories of shopping. I'm speaking of The ONE in Tsim Sha Tsui district. It's 29 stories of all shopping! There's also Knutsford Terrace. Although not a mall, it's a shopping area with an adjacent small alley of restaurant bars. It's dark, loud, posh and bussling with rich hipsters drinking with friends after work. Other notable magnificent shopping malls are K11, 1881 Heritage and Elements. A note about Elements while we're on the topic. Through Elements, you can do early airport baggage check-in and discounted 2-person airport express tickets. $140 for two one-way tickets to the airport. The ride is about 25 minutes compared to the hour it took on the bus. The early check-in on my way back to Taipei also let me skip the airport lines and head straight to airport security, while letting me walk around Elements mall instead of duty free shops at the airport. Taipei needs to hurry up with it's direct train to the airport and attach a magnificent mall to it like Hong Kong has. It's such a genius idea! My good friend in Hong Kong, Howard, turned me on to this and I appreciate it! Meeting him was also the last thing on my to do list in Hong Kong. I guess I left the best for last. So I'll leave this segment with that. Thank you Howard and Farah! See you in Taipei!

P.S. If you take a trip to Macau from HK, bring your passport, expect a 1 hour boat ride and long lines at the customs entrance to Macau. We went on a busy day, so it took me about 3 hours to go from buying a ticket to actually entering Macau.

Portuguese Chicken from Restaurante Platao. Nice upscale restaurant in Macau's Historic District with prices ranging from $140-$300 HKD.
Restaurante Platao‎ (九如坊葡國餐廳)
3 Travessa de S. Domingos
Se, Macau

Very common and famous Hong Kong waffle street food. There's also a belgian waffle folded with sweet peanut paste in the middle. Very Very tasty! A must during a HK visit!

Cafe e Nata Margaret's (egg tart)
G/F, 17A Rua Alm Costa Cabral R/C, Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro

Monday, August 22, 2011

YingGe porcelain district (鶯歌區)

Today, I went with my class and 2 other classes on a school field trip to YingGe district. YingGe is a famous porcelain district that offers an opportunity to make your own pottery (cups, bowls, plates...). The two teachers that brought us there was my first and last semester teachers since they were good friends from their college days. Today is our last day of class! So it was a proper send off leaving a lasting impression of the great time I had at Shida University. We got in around 10AM and signed up for classes which cost us $320 per person. You get as many tries at making something on the "wheel" as you want. You can choose one successful creation and they'll fire it in a kiln and mail it to you when it's done. It takes about a week. Let me tell you, it was harder than the instructor made it seem. But the learning curve isn't that hard, it only took one try to get the hang of it. The hardest part I think is get the clay centered on the wheel. If it's not centered, you can't make a perfect circle. After that, it's just a matter of being gentle and not adding too much pressure. I first created a cup, turned out kind of lopsided after it dried though. The second was a salsa dish, but I made it too big and thin for the instructor to take off the wheel. So I had to ditch that one :(. Too bad I really liked it. But the staff was helpful and the instructor helped me make a second one. Albeit smaller, so it'll hold less chips, but at least I can bring it home and use it! I can't wait for it to arrive in the mail. After your done, there is also plenty of stores and restaurants along YingGe Pottery Street (鶯歌老街). But my group decided to split up and one group ate at YingGe and the other headed off back to Taipei for lunch. You can get to and from YingGe via the train (火車) from the Taipei Main station. Unfortunately I had to attend my second interview, so I had to bail out before lunch. Too bad, I really missed that last opportunity to spend more time with my classmates. It was a fun time while it lasted, Thank you for the experiences. I'll always remember Shida and I hope I can find a chance to return for another semester or two. I'll also definitely want to return back to YingGe with my friends or girlfriend to make more pottery. It's an affordable day trip and a unique enough experience to leave a lasting impression! I highly recommend!

P.S. Your clothes will get dirty, but it's washable.
The Shu's Pottery
No. 81, Jianshanpu Road
Yingge Township, Taipei County, Taiwan

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Home cookin': Paella

Today's home cooking meal is Paella! Yuki inspired by all the home cooking we've been doing, decided to try her hand at Paella. Granted this is a simpler version of the Paella, because it's damn expensive or impossible to find some of the vital ingredients like spanish rice, chorizo and saffron. However despite the speed bumps, she turned out a really tasty home paella. Opening that pan lid for the first time really took me for a surprise. So perfectly laid out looking like it came out of a catalog. Everything was evenly spaced. That must come from her japanese sense of details. I really enjoyed dinner that night. She even mentioned, next time, we should make a batch of sangria. That would be the perfect match for spanish night! Thank you Yuki!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

346 Taiwan Beer Factory

346 is the Taiwan beer factory's beer garden. Yuki, I and a few of our friends headed over to 346 for dinner, singing and beer kegs. This is my first experience in a beer garden. As far as I know, the USA doesn't have beer gardens and the only reason I know of them is through Travel channel. It turned out to be an awesome experience. You really have to go with good friends that know how to have fun and drink lots of beer, because it'll just make it that much more fun. The food was kind of expensive, but it's all family style. So if you get enough people, it should divide down to be more affordable. The beer kegs are $500 NT per keg. There were a few birthday groups there that night, and I'm sure that's a common occurrence. The band would ask for participation from the audience and strangers from different tables would be very friendly towards too! The atmosphere is really loud, and the place gets packed very fast. So arrive early with your friends and grab a table before the activities start! Make sure to drink a few pints and let yourself go. I don't quite remember how many glasses I had...maybe 4. Still not enough to get me dancing, (I don't dance) but it makes me very happy drunk! I didn't meet or see anyone too belligerent, so overall it was a very drunk, happy and loud singing and eating experience that i'd more than happy to experience again! Maybe on someone's birthday so we can get them on stage, haha! So is this a dinner or a party? To my friends, when's the next time!? Enjoy the photo of Mike drinking directly from the keg. No party is complete without someone doing that!

No. 85號, 八德路二段, Jhongshan District
Taipei City, Taiwan 104
(Entrance on Weishui Road just around corner)
Tel: (02) 2771-9131
Hours: everyday 11 am-12 midnight

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Borneo Indonesian (Shida)

This is actually my second visit, but it's a good restaurant that's near my school, cheap and different than the other food options at Shida night market. It's a quaint and usually empty indonesian restaurant tucked away at the edges of the night market. It's right next to the Minimal Cat Cafe. The food is between $100-130 and includes refillable soup and tea. The dishes are that creative. It mostly consists of rice with some vegetables on the side and different types of meat cooked in different sauces. Despite the boring description it's pretty tasty for the price and unlimited soup and tea. The portions are a good size and they have a "lemon" juice to give the taste a little more zest! I really like it for it's simplicity and quietness. For future students of Shida, you should come here and give it a try if that's what your looking for. Since it's right next to the Minimal Cat Cafe and I don't know the actual address, I'll just list the Cafe address again.

No. 42號, Lane 2, TàiShùn Street, Daan District
Taipei City, Taiwan 106

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shida MTC semester test

Today's the big day, It's my semester test. Although it has no impact on me, I still have to do well on it for my own self-satisfaction. This test is for the school to determine if you learned well enough to continue with the next level next semester. As I won't be continuing at Shida, it doesn't matter. However, if I ever do want to return, the school may refer to this test to see where I should pick up from. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Interview attire

So since my time at Shida MTC is coming to a close, I have to start looking for a job. However, I've been on the hunt for it prior to today. If i'm to fulfill my goals of living in Taiwan, then I'll eventually need a job to pay for living costs. I'm just about at my spending limit, so if I don't find a paycheck, it's back to my mother country. Fortunately, through some networking, I was able to find a job at a local Taiwanese company. They've decided to interview me, so today my only goal was to find a suit. Actually this is my second day looking for a suit. But as the interview day is in a few days, I had to purchase something today or tomorrow. I went to Carnival and finally settled on a suit. Although it was more expensive than what I found at G2000, the extra price tag was worth the 3X increase in quality and fit. I'm happy and I hope I can leave a good visual impression. Now I just have to work on the professional impression so they choose me over the other applicants. For a quick lunch, Yuki and I headed over to a local japanese fast food joint. It also started to rain pretty hard, I mean HARD. Typhoon season rain with large water droplets! Lunch ended up being $300 because it was a fixed price set menu restaurant. You'd think ordering Sushi from a place like that would be crappy, but no. I've learned that sushi quality is pretty good here in Taipei for a really cheap price. Just take a look at the picture. That's a set price fast food Chirashi bowl! Later on in the evening, Yuki and I headed back home. On the way back home, we made a detour to Tea Guan, my favorite neighborhood drink store. We noticed they had mint chocolate pearl milk tea. mint chocolate!? We had to try it. certainly tastes like mint chocolate. But it's just such an odd combination. It doesn't taste bad, it's just way off the typical path of flavors you'd expect from milk tea.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Milano Indonesian (closed)

After class, my friend and I decided to stop by a new Vietnamese restaurant that she tried a few days before. She said it was good and it replaced a indonesian restaurant that was there before. Well it turns out that the old Milano Indonesian restaurant in Shida, has now changed to a Vietnamese restaurant. Although they have Pho, it covers more than just the normal vietnamese noodle soups. However that is exactly what I ordered haha! The food was pretty good, affordable and much more filling than the Indonesian restaurant before. The decor hasn't changed much. I guess Indonesian and Vietnamese share similar cultural decor. Prices range from $100+. The staff is courteous and during dinner time it can get pretty full. However being summer an all, the outside patio didn't fill as quickly. Afterwards my friend and I went to Jireh Garden cafe. It's this quaint cottage looking restaurant across the street from 1885 Burger. Yuki and I saw this place when we went to 1885 and vowed to come back and try it out. Although not with Yuki as planned, my friend and I got two seats immediately. There were several groups there, but no problems with getting a table. The design inside was like that of a cozy cottage and was definitely a very comfortable and casual place to be. My friend recommended the Macha tea latte. Wow! The taste was so smooth and soothing. The fancy froth art was an added bonus too. I'd definitely recommend try the Macha tea latte too. As typical cafe's around Taipei, it's always a warm and comforting place to relax and chat. However this place offers an extra air of comfort with a higher ceiling, more space between tables and a home-y wood cottage feeling.

No. 11之1號, PǔChéng Street, Daan District
Taipei City, Taiwan
No. 16 Shida Road, Lane 86
Daan District
Taipei City, Taiwan

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In search for dried scallops (干貝)

Today, Yuki and I had to go back to Di Hua Jie (迪化街) to restock on dried scallops that we found in my grandmother's freezer. I've been using it in my kongxin cai (空心菜) vegetables. We had to go especially to this area because it's not only known for it's dried food products but it's the only place to buy dried scallops. Little did we know, that we've been using some really expensive ingredients, because it turned out to be approximately $150 NT per 100g. The one's in my grandmother's freezer was Hokkaido dried scallops which are the more expensive type. Ooops. Furthermore, her's was pre-shredded which I couldn't find in Di Hua Jie. So that means my grandmother possible brought it back from Japan. In the end, I still ended up buying a small bag of them though, because they're just that good. My kongxin cai (空心菜) vegetables just wouldn't have the same taste without it. Yuki said it may be cheaper in Japan, so I'll have to remember to buy a big bag of it on my next vacation to Japan. For lunch, we decided to head back to the shrimp roll rice bowl place next to the Di Hua Jie (迪化街) market. For Dinner, we came home and I cooked another batch of chili, but with pork this time around. I just can't get enough of beefy/porky, cheesy, spicy concoction. I'm happy!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Macho fish tacos

I haven't been getting proper sleep lately, so we slept in pretty late. But after getting up, Yuki and I went to Macho Tacos near the SYS memorial station again for a very late lunch. Near closing time around 3 pm. But we got in right before and enjoyed a quiet lunch experience in the normally crowded and busy establishment. I got the burrito...again. If you even make it here, you really only want to order the tacos and burritos. The other items on their menu aren't very good in my opinion as I think I've mentioned before. Her fish tacos this time turned out perfect! Crunchy! And I loved the special sauce they add on top. I wonder if they'll make me a fish burrito next time. Afterwards we made a short trip to Laetitia near Zhongxiao Dunhua. If you remember from my older posts, it's a small pastry puff shop, similar to Beard Papa. Excellent little pastry puffs. A little expensive, but very very delicate and silky in taste. I recommend to drop by and try one or two. After that, we went shopping around for more shoes for Yuki. I have no idea how many pairs she owns now. But it seems every time we go shopping it's for shoes. haha maybe it's not that many. We don't always walk away with a pair every time. For dinner, Yuki didn't recollect that she ever ate at the Dunhua Fuxing SOGO food court. So we grabbed a cheap dinner at the food court of the new SOGO. I have some sizzling pork over pasta and an egg. Taiwanese food court staple. I think just about every food court here has a sizzling "steak" stand. And every food court at a mall is always so packed. Good food, cheap eats attracts everyone! But we were fortunate to scout...wait for a couple to finish and steal their seats. Then we got a big bowl of shaved ice dessert afterwards which ended up being pretty expensive. So not so cheap after all. But I always enjoy the food courts, so many choices.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

LE or match making?

Language Exchange or Match Making? I think it's obvious with this one. My school has a tack board for student ads. Mainly for renting apartments, language exchanges, local events and restaurants. I mostly find language exchange ads though. Now I've been told that Taiwanese women are very interested in foreign men because in the Taiwanese social ladder, it's a big step up. Financially and as future potential for dual citizenship. So it's obvious that locals would take advantage of language exchange as the perfect opportunity to meet foreigners. Originally I didn't believe it. Then it started to become logical and I figured, sure, i'm sure that happens once in a while. Then I see more and more LE ads from Taiwanese women seeking language exchange "partners". There are a few male requesters too. But I've seen the same 3 men's ads on the board on a weekly bases for the past 4 semesters. I guess there just aren't very many foreign females looking for a male LE (a reversal of interest). Anyhow, i'm starting to notice more and more obvious ads on the board. So maybe only a few are actually looking for a LE, most are looking for a foreign boyfriend. And not only more and more ridiculously obvious, but more and more funny. See this ad as an example. What do you think? Am I misinterpreting it?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Home cookin': Chili Con Carne

Sunday, Yuki and I saw a commercial or a TV show, I forgot already. But it showed a delicious bowl of chili. So it instantly brought back memories of good american cooking. Oh how I missed a simple hot bowl of chili. I think there's places around Taipei that you can find a bowl of chili, but it's most likely in a restaurant catering to westerners with money. So thus, it'll be over my daily budget. So I vowed to show Yuki some fine home cooked chili. Tonight was the night. Overall the ingredients didn't cost as much as I'd had thought. $531 NT. But many of the ingredients can be used for the second batch as well as this batch will last me a few more meals. So it will work out to be under budget. I let Yuki help me with the preparation. She chopped the garlic and dried chili and seasoning. I prepared everything else. Check out that awesome picture of the kaleidoscope of spice colors! After browning the onions, we added the spices and garlic. Damn does that smoke up something fierce! It's still pretty dry at this time, so the ingredients really got into our lungs and made us cough. It doesn't help that my kitchen doesn't have a vent fan. Another Taiwanese culture i guess. No vent fans equals really smokey oily stinky houses and clothes. But I think I made the pot a little too hot, so next time i'll make sure to lower the heat as well as close all the bedroom doors. I only remembered that midway through cooking. We'll see tonight if my bed smells like dinner. After that, in goes the beef, stock, kidney beans, tomatoes and a few pieces of dark chocolate. After all is cooked and done, it smelled really spicy and carne! I can't wait...and almost forgot to take pictorial evidence for my blog and for posterity. Some shredded sharp cheddar and a cold can of Asahi super dry and voila! Chili con carne in Taiwan! Yes, I forgot the corn bread. It's a specialty in Taiwan so it'd be expensive. I'll wait when I buy my own oven and bake up my own batch. 'till my next kitchen adventure.

Aftermath: After washing my hands several times and taking a shower. I accidentally rubbed my left eye and it burns. Oh it burns! arrggggg!!!!!