Thursday, September 29, 2011

Home cookin': Quiche

keesh...correction Quiche. Kind of a weird word I can never remember to spell. Tonight, I cooked again for my dear friends at the YongHe flat for my appreciation for letting me hang out there so often. At the orders of my short and hyper, but extremely joyful good friend, I bakes some delicious quiche for everyone. She also helped out tremendously with her own recipe for the filling. I just brought the pie crust. The wonderfully flaky hand mixed pie crust. Baking is tough on the arms. It requires hours of mixing, stirring, pressing and kneading. I guess it's a great exercise too. My arms will be huge after a few more recipes, or at least my right arm! In the end, the Quiche came out perfect flaky golden brown with a healthy pepper, onion, potato and bacon filling. OK, I added the unhealthy bacon. But I love bacon! I enjoyed baking with my friends and we all enjoyed the great meal scarfing it all down. I wish i could send a piece over the internet, but alas until 4D is invented, enjoy the photo.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Waffles are better at Melange Cafe

My friend wanted to head out to a coffee shop after dinner tonight. So I brought her to Melange Cafe. She was talking about Coffee Alley, but from my experiences there, it was less than satisfying. Arriving at Melange Cafe, it immediately looked better than Coffee Alley. Less cramped, no narrow steep stairways to walk up and no one and a half hour wait. Melange even has a cool large drip coffee maker. I don't know how to describe it. It's a bunch of giant glass balls stacked and connected to each other like a chemist lab. Also, the bathrooms are through the curtains in the back of the restaurant. You'll have to guess approximately where the door is because there's no indicator. Anyways, on to the food. The waffles were more thinner, which is a good thing. Coffee Alley's waffle was too thick and doughy. And the coffee at Melange is far more superior. Maybe the person at Coffee Alley that made my coffee was having an off day. I tried the drip coffee as recommended by one of my Taiwanese friends. She said it's their specialty and shouldn't be overlooked. The one cool thing about it, is that they include an extra ice cube of espresso. So when the ice melts, it doesn't dilute your coffee. Genius! We all ordered some different dishes and tasted each others desserts. I have to say the desserts are all well crafted. Not too sweet and not too unbalanced with the flavor. They usually include the caramel, sugar or chocolate in a separate miniature pitcher, so you can add more if you want. One bad thing I have to say is, the waffles come a little naked (void of sauce). The presentation could use some work. Pricing is around $150-300. So with a coffee and a snack, you're looking around $350. I'd definitely come back here again when I'm in the area.

Melange Cafe
No. 23號, Lane 16, Section 2, Zhōngshān North Road
Jhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 104

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Waffles & Ice Cream at Aunt Stella's

There was always this little quaint store called Aunt Stella's at almost every SOGO department store. I've never been in nor have I tried any of their delicious looking cookies in their front display. But today, my friend and I decided to drop in. Aunt Stella's is a western bakery that mainly serves cookies, waffles and cakes. So she just couldn't pass up the cookies. But once we sat down and looked through the menu. She switched to some strawberry ice cream waffles. It's a small shop, but the interior reminds me of a country home for a grandmother somewhere in the American northeast. The staff also has to wear these blue checker patterned grandma aprons. It's funny, but different. Great place to sit down, rest and eat a cookie after roaming around the SOGO center with your significant other.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

SYS memorial spicy noodle shop

I don't know why i'm doing this in three parts. I just felt like it. So...
Part 1> Today's plan was to eat lunch with my friend. But she showed up with the whole female portion of the flat. So it was lunch for 6. We went to this small chinese noodle restaurant near SYS memorial MRT station exit 2 (國父紀念館). I forget the name, so I'll have to remember it for next visit and edit it in. But it's a small shop that specializes in spicy (麻辣) noodles and dumplings. There's usually a long wait during the weekends. And I'm sure it'll only get longer and longer as the popularity grows. This small street just outside of the number 2 exit is relatively new. Google maps doesn't even show it's current renovated form. Back to the noodles shop. It's a medium sized place and the interior is clean and organized. However it has a very plain no non-sense design. Which is perfectly fine. Service was great and prompt, especially when they mixed up our drink orders. Drop by some time. It's not too expensive, as depends if you have a big stomach. As for the spice. I'm not one to take opinions from, I can handle my spices. Afterwards, there's a great bakery, sandwich place, and a desert place nearby if you want more.

Part 2> We dropped by Emperor Love Tea Boutique. Yuki and I discovered it one day when we were strolling around the ZhongXiao DunHua MRT station area. It's an elegant two level (ground and basement) Tea House that serves very tasty tropical fruit infused teas. They have traditional green, oolong and herbals teas too. But what I think sets it apart from other places are the tropical fruit infused teas. Some, like the Hawaiian fruit tea, actually taste more like juice though. But it's good to have that option when your tired of the typical oolong and green tea. The atmosphere is very comfortable, delicate and elegant like a banquet room for a wedding. The waitresses are very kind and happy to help you choose a tea flavor that suites your taste buds. There's fee wifi and prices range around $200 a pot. Great place!

Part 3> Dinner with my family at a famous Japanese restaurant in TianMu. Nothing much to say here. Private family stuff. But the food was delicious and rich, so do enjoy the few photos I did take of my meal. That black/brown stuff is whole abalone.


Emperor Love Tea

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tajine pot: Thai Panang Curry

Let me introduce you to the world of Tajine cooking. My girlfriend introduced it to me, and planned to buy one in Taiwan for the longest time. So today, she finally saw one she liked at a store near the Breeze center. So she bought it. She instantly went to the japanese book store in old Sogo (Fuxing) and bought a Tajine recipe book. For those unfamiliar with Tajine, it is "is a dish from North Africa, that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that rests inside the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving." For our first trail run, we decided to make Thai Panang Curry over Thai long grain rice. Ingredients include potatoes, bamboo shoots, green peppers and chicken. The food turned out great! She found that the Tajine really cooks the food a bit faster. Much like a pressure cooker as she said. The only faults that we came into were: the pot is too shallow to cook for more three portions and the lid doesn't have a ventilation hole. Too much steam would build up and start spitting curry all over the place instead of letting some steam off through a ventilation hole. If only I had a drill. But then again, I wouldn't want to possible ruin the beautiful orange polka dotted design the lid had. Thats ok. We'll make do. What dish do I want to add to the kitchen arsenal? Hmmm...escargot dish?

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Food Tour" in Taiwan

This entry is for the entire week. My friend's cousin is coming in for the week and she wants to see Taipei. But unfortunately my friend has classes. So being unemployed, as well as out of school, I had the advantage of plenty of time. Of course I can show her around! I wouldn't pass up exploring Taipei! Although I have visited most of the places already, I didn't mind seeing it again. Who knows, perhaps there was something I missed the first time around. But I will skip through the details to avoid repeating what I may have already said in previous blog entries. Enjoy!

Pictures of our feet on the crystal floored gondola at Maokong. Since we went on a weekday afternoon, it was pretty empty there. We still had to wait in line, but only 5 minutes.

As usual, I always order the bamboo in tea oil dish. We also ordered this dish. I'm not sure what it is, I think KungPao chicken (宮保雞丁) or ginger chicken. It came in a clay pot and was absolutely delicious. Super strong in flavor and sizzling hot!

The following day we went to Afternoon Tea at old Sogo. The cakes and drinks were great there! I avoided this place before, because it's a little bit pricey. So since we'll be eating here, I ordered the fruity drink because it was the prettiest...i mean photogenic drink to take a picture of. The cakes were killer too.

The best for last. My friend's cousin made some home made lolly cakes and brought it with her on the plane ride over here. I'll refer to the Wiki definition if you don't know what it is. "A lolly cake or lolly log is a New Zealand cake which features "lollies" in the ingredients; in New Zealand English, "lolly" is a piece of candy.
The traditional lollies used are Fruit Puffs which are like firm, slightly chewy marshmallows and are obviously fruity. Malt biscuits and coconut are also used and other ingredients can be added or substituted. This is very similar to fifteens."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Home Cookin': Potatoes Au Gratin

For lunch, I ended up heading to the school to use their computer lab. While I was there, I happened to meet one of my old school mates. I'm always so happy to go back at MTC. For now, most of my friends from MTC are still there. It's a happy environment for me. Everyone's out and about, happy to learn Chinese, discussing in their own language about where to eat for lunch/dinner, plans for the weekend or trying to solve a Chinese problem they had in class. I even still see my old teachers walking the halls too. And it puts a smile on my face that they instantly still remember me. After my business with in the computer lab, we headed to MaryJane Pizza. If I recall, I reviewed this place before. I have definitely ate there before though.'s still the same. Same thin artisan crust with the same unique toppings. I still miss my old fashioned Chicago deep dish style, but I'm definitely starting to see why the Taiwanese make it their way. It's a lighter fair and allows you to leave room for dessert or more street food. We had a group of 4 in total. Therefore we ordered two pizzas and that made for more sharing and more fun. As an added bonus, my friend found a coupon for a free cake dessert. Bonus points! Afterwards, I headed back with my friend to her home because I wanted to use her oven. It's a small portable one, but it works just fine. So I decided to cook a simple dinner to all the housemates to enjoy. Potatoes Au Gratin! Such a simple recipe. Slices potatoes, onions and a heavy cream/cheese sauce. Of course there's more ingredients than that, but you can google it and find hundreds of recipes online. But if you want my recipe, feel free to ask me. I also take special joy in introducing western cuisine to two of the Taiwanese housemates. Asian cuisine doesn't use as much potatoes and cheese and cream as French cuisine does. So it's a special treat for them, they were happy and returned their plates empty. I hope I have more opportunities to use their oven in the future to cook more oven-required cuisine.

MaryJane Pizza
No. 25, Lane 44, Tàishùn Street, Daan District
Taipei City, Taiwan 106

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mid-Autumn festival 2011

Happy Mid-Autumn festival everyone. This year I spent it with my friends at their flat. We all got together during this hot evening and gathered upstairs on their rooftop for some grilling fun. But before that, we all headed out to the Costco on a big food shopping spree. The lines were long and it was PACKED at the Costco. The Taiwanese friends made some beef wrapped enoki and other brought beer, chips and other western styled grilled treats. I made some Korean bulgogi, Thai pineapple fried rice and potato skins (last minute request from my friend). I met several new friends and it's really a great festival because it's when the community gets together to grill and eat moon-cake. The grilling portion is only a recent tradition, but I love it. It's why I enjoy July 4th in the States so much. Since Taiwan obviously wouldn't celebrate July 4th, I treat it as my similar holiday here in Taiwan. Minus the grand fireworks show, but there are still a few firecrackers and small fireworks that do get set off every once in a while. It's really a happy time! You know everyone's on the streets, patio or rooftop grilling up something good. It's hard to walk the streets and alley ways this time of the year without smelling something grilling. It makes you hungry the whole day. Some people even start on Friday. So It's a whole weekend plus a Monday off. I realize it's also 9/11 day too. So I'll have another beer for the lives lost on that sad day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Yingge pot arrived!

My YingGe salsa dish has arrived. I got an email from my teacher because I had it sent to the school. It turned out pretty good. Although I'm not digging the color. The color graduation was better on the sample cup at the shop. But I guess since mine wasn't the ideal shape they were expecting either. That just means I'll have to get together a group of friends and go there to make another one with a different color scheme. Maybe white with a blue gradient. For now, it's time for some chips and salsa to put my pottery to good use.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Macha shaved snow ice red bean

Went out with a new friend that arrived to Taiwan a few weeks ago. We had a simple and quick dinner with a shaved snow ice dessert at the Lehua night market (樂華夜市). This one is one of the cheaper shaved ice places, so it tasted more like green tea than macha. Despite the neon coloring, it was just fine. I don't feel irradiated :). My friend was fine too. I don't have much else to say...haha. I just wanted to share the picture as it came out really nice with it's glossy condensed milk and melting snow ice. Enjoy with your eyes!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fulong Beach

After watching a TV program, I decided I needed to explore Taiwan's beaches. The closest one that I found with good recommendations, was Fulong beach. Also since I still don't have a job, I have to keep this under a budget. So day trips only, nothing too fancy like "green island" or Kenting. Fulong beach as just popular enough and local enough to fit. It costs about $198 NT round trip from Taipei main station on the express train (reserved seating). You take the Eastern Yilan line to Fulong station. To make it cheaper, you can change it to first-come-first-serve seating, which means there's a chance you'll have to stand for the 1 hour 15 minute train ride. Or you can take the local train instead of the express and that'll take even longer (+30 minutes i think). Either way it's a difference of $30 NT, not much. Upon arrival, they have bike rentals at the Giant bike shop right next to the station exit. $100 per day. But I was here for the beach, not bike riding. However I did see many people riding bikes, but I'm not sure what there is to see except the scenery. I arrived right before lunch, so under the recommendation of wikitravel, we bought a box lunch (bian dang, 便當). They range from $50-80 NT depending on which restaurant and what you want. I opted for the Kong Rou (空肉) which cost $70 NT. There are numerous box lunch places around, hard to miss. Heading to the beach, there seems to be two areas. The one on the left costs $100 NT entrance. You'll have to cross a bridge to get to the beach, but you won't cross the bridge until after you paid. Then there's the one further to the right. I didn't know where I was going, so I ended up at the beach to the right. This turned out to be fine. It wasn't crowded and it is free. There's surfboard rentals, although I didn't rent a surf board, so I don't know the cost or even where to rent it. Wikitravel said you should be able to rent one there. I'll have to find out next visit. I also saw kayak and jet-ski rentals too. Also, if you don't have a large beach umbrella to bring along, you can rent those too. It costs $200 per day for a small one that fits three people. The beach is a soft white sand and the shore isn't rocky. It has sand bars every 40 feet or so, so it's shallow. My only gripe was the debris. The beach has a lot of small garbage debris washed up. It's not that annoying to just avoid stepping into it. The wave that day were pretty good. Good for beginner surfing. About 4-5 foot swells and a it continued until about 3pm. By 4 pm the waves were breaking late and the swell period longer and longer. I had a great time! This is my first experience exploring the eastern side of Taiwan as well as Taiwan's many beaches. It was very relaxing to just eat lunch on the beach, play in the water, drink beer and listen to the waves wash ashore with the sounds of children giggling in the background. I'll definitely have to revisit with some friends and continue exploring the eastern side. Taiwan, I'm loving it!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Home cookin': Thai Pineapple Fried Rice

Yuki and I have been wanting to cook this for about a week. It's a simple fried rice dish, nothing fancy. But with a Thai pineapple twist. The only special ingredient that you really need is the Thai fish sauce. It really adds to the flavor. Online, it says you can use soy sauce as a substitute. But the flavor is really different between the two. A lot of western reviewers couldn't stand the fish sauce flavor. Pansies! Haha! Also, you'd think slicing the pineapple would be hard, but with a good sturdy spoon, it wasn't that hard to scoop out the pineapple meat. I have some extra leftover ingredients in the refrigerator, so i'll most likely try it out again later in the week. Enjoy the photos.