Saturday, June 25, 2016

news: Happy 11 years to hungryintaipei

MY BLOG TURNS ELEVEN TODAY. Keeping my blog alive all these years has been like raising a child-- I've spent many sleepless nights trying to put it to bed, I've run out of memory on my phone with the countless photos, I've spent more money than I've expected, I'm proud of its growth and I've learned so much from the process, about myself and the world. 

So it's fitting that this year I got my first trophy award for the blog. I've gotten voted best blog in Taipei over the years, but this was the first time holding something tangible and golden and engraved with my name!! And a golden xiao long bao, no less!! 

Thanks Netflix, Netfli Asia and Netflix Taiwan for recognizing my love for food. I do love it! I'm OBSESSED! 

When I first got an email from @netflixasia, I wondered, what did they want to help promote their new season of Chef's Table? No commitment, just some goodies for you, they said. Sure, why not, I thought. I was a long time fan of @chefstablenetflix and an even longer fan of @Netflix. When they first launched, I would eagerly organize my DVD queue and await the thin, flat red DVD envelopes in the mail, rip them open like Christmas presents even though I already knew what was inside. I was always amazed that once I sent off the dvd, there another one would promptly arrive a few days later. Then they started to stream movies, then had must binge watch TV House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, both of which I binged.

And for years, I said, when is someone going to do a @Netflix for Asia? And they finally did it themselves- @Netflixtw, @Netflixasia, @netflixhg.. And through a creative marketing campaign, a group of people across Asia are getting recognized for their passion, vision & love of food with individualized golden trophies, but also connecting with each other through photos and #mychefstable. When my photos made the top 9 of #mychefstable, I browsed and admired and drooled over the passion of so many other people posting gorgeous photos of foods, foreign and familiar. 

I feel that same way watching @Gaggan talk about his failed restaurants and journey before executing his vision after an internship at El Bulli to share Indian food in such a striking way, or chef @grant_achatz talk about his obstacles before @alinearestaurant or watching an episode from Season 1 about @nnakarestaurant's chef Nakayama, which launched her modern kaiseki restaurant in LA into even more recognition. It's inspiring knowing that chefs of the world's best restaurants succeeded because they persisted, even when had doubts.

I doubt I'll be the lucky one to travel the world to dine and photograph all the restaurants in season 2, as AMAZING as that would be, but I'll have this xiao long bao trophy to remind me to keep working on #hungryintaipei to share the stories behind the food in #Taipei #🇹🇼 even when I have doubts. 

It's hard to keep writing sometimes when I used to get more feedback and comments and know who was "out there" reading, and now it's old fashioned to be blogging, much less commenting on blogs. Now it's quicker and more interactive to be on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and it's hard to not get caught up in the "likes" game- why do my photos not get as many likes as the next account or whatnot. I do get a lot of kind emails and comments from readers and I want you to know that's what keeps me posting and writing and sharing! I'm happy Taipei has been getting lots of love around the world, and I know I've played a small part in that by creating a resource for people visiting and living here. I still have lots of ideas and goals for hungryintaipei- just need more hours in the day! As always, thanks for being hungry in taipei with me! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

#exploretaipei/food court: i strongly recommend MAJI MAJI

No. 1, Yumen St. 

MRT: Yuanshan 圓山

Hours: Mon~Fri 11:00~21:00, Sat/Sun 11:00~22:00

website: MAJI MAJI FB page 

visit reviewed: 5/15/2016 & 2/2015

IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO SPEND THE AFTERNOON IN TAIPEI, look no further than Maji Square. Located near the Yuanshan  (圓山) MRT and Taipei Flower Expo Park, Maji Square is a hidden away open food court, marketplace, restaurant square, courtyard of shops, performance space and expo space that constantly has rotating events. Opened in 2013, it's made  I think one of the first time I went to Maji Maji was for the Lantern Festival, with towering constructed lanterns to pose with and admire. The most recent time was a Food expo which we browsed before walking into the main food court area.

When you first walk in, you'll see Good Cho bagels and soft serve, Maji Food and Deli which is a gourmet market with artisanal local and imported products, frozen goods and deli section. Then there is a long row of food court seating and shops on the left hand side, with a surprisingly array of choices under NT$200- from Taiwanese soy tofu, beef noodle, to fish and chips, burgers, Indian food, Korean food, Thai food, pasta and even French crepes, which seemed like the newest shop that I hadn't seen before.  Tucked in the back is a handful of sit down restaurants for those craving steak or fish and chips, as well as kid friendly space Brickworks (part Lego store, part cafe) and a Merry Go Round.



Need any "imformation?"


love these. might have to go back and pick some up.

(4) RESTAURANT SQUARE includes The Three Lions Inn (三隻獅子英國餐廳), Gaucho Grill, Butcher's Kitchen (肉舖廚房), Popeye's, with some outdoor seating, a small stage, a garden and a Merry Go Round. I've tried all of them through the years and if you're craving meat, try Gaucho Grill or Butcher's Kitchen, if you're craving fish and chips or salad, go to Three Lions. Will have to post more detailed posts of each soon. 

Just a peek at the photos from my last visit, as there's so much to explore and see and share. Who's been to Maji Square? Which food court shop is your favorite? Any tips to share?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

my kitchen: EASY RAMEN SALAD

OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, I been addicted to making a cabbage slaw with thinly sliced cabbage, apples, carrots and peanuts (I had a bag of salted fried peanuts from Indonesia that was soooo good). Today, I actually wanted to make a tofu quinoa salad, but I ran out of quinoa at home, so I thought about a ramen salad I hadn't had since I was a kid. Chrissy Teigen even includes a version in her new cookbook called Dump and Done Ramen salad because you can mix it and leave it overnight. I remember the first time I had this salad at my friend Ellen's house in LA, I was fascinated there were instant noodles in a salad. The sweet and sour vinaigrette is very easy to make with three ingredients (four if you add a touch of salt), and if you're in the states, you can make the recipe even easier by buying a bag of pre-cut coleslaw salad or broccoli salad. Did any of you have this salad when you were a kid too? 


-1/2 cabbage, sliced thinly 
-1 carrot, shredded
- 2 bags of ramen, crumbled 
-1-2 spring onions, chopped finely 
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds (I didn't have this, so I used chopped cashews instead)
- cilantro, chopped
- sesame seeds
(Optional add ins- edamame, mandarin oranges, shredded chicken, tofu, sunflower seeds) 

-1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
-1/3 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar or honey (about 5 tablespoons)
- pinch of salt

1- Crumble ramen and toast ramen noodles and almonds for a few minutes. You can skip this step if you're lazy or don't have the time, but you can add the ramen later too if you want it to stay crispier. 

2- In a large bowl, toss cabbage, shredded carrots, green onions, ramen noodles, cilantro and almonds.

3- In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, vinegar and oil until sugar is dissolved.

4- Pour dressing over slaw mixture and  toss. Chill 1 hour or overnight.  Toss and sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Monday, June 06, 2016

bbq/american: i strongly recommend BABA KEVIN's AMERICAN BBQ

No. 6, Lane 115, Minsheng E. Road, Sec. 2

MRT: Xintian Temple


kid friendliness: high chairs available, play area available downstairs 

hours: weekdays 11AM - 2PM; weeknights and weekends by advance reservation only

visit reviewed: 6/6/2016

WHEN I SPIED PHOTOS OF BABA KEVIN'S BBQ PLATTERS at his new shop, I made a mental note that I had to visit as soon as possible. Baba Kevin has been catering slow smoked bbq for over seven years in Taipei, sometimes to hundreds of people at one event, and his customers have been asking for years when he was going to open up a shop. A long time ago, I had even gotten a sample of Baba Kevin's frozen ribs and brisket to try at home (and I remembered the brownies and cornbread), but regrettably my photo skills were not as good as they are today and the pictures didn't do the food justice. So I never posted the photos despite liking his bbq and so I was happy to finally make a stop at his shop, opened three months ago, in an alley off of Minsheng East Road, to see if the food was still as good (and share it with all of you).

Baba Kevin's American Barbecue is currently open only for weekday lunches with lunch plates (NT$200) and BBQ sandwiches (NT$150) of beef brisket, pulled pork, lamb or chopped bbq chicken.  I believe is from the US. If you want ribs for lunch, you need to call at least one day in advance, so Kevin can prep them. The menu is slightly fuller for dinner and weekends, which are currently by advance reservation only, as sometimes they are booked for events or catering. Baba Kevin's seats about 30 people in the main dining area, which was pretty full at lunch today. Decor is simple, but clean and bright with lots of windows. 

When you step inside, the menus are on the overhead screens behind the counter, in English and in Chinese. Lunch plates come with four sides (sides change daily, sometimes there's mac and cheese, sometimes cream corn), while sandwiches come with candied jalapeños, both come with free soft drinks. That makes Baba Kevin's lunch plates one of the best deals in town, especially for 24 hours smoked bbq. A handful of restaurants specializing in BBQ have opened in Taipei over the years (Ed's Diner, Tony's BBQ Smokehouse (the only one I haven't tried), Lucky Ribs, Texas Roadhouse, most recently Mighty Quinns) - Baba Kevin is one of the few that smoke their meats with imported hickory, mesquite and oak wood chips.

The beef brisket platter (NT$200) came with generous piles of cole slaw, buttered rice pilaf, mac and cheese and mashed potatoes, so much that it almost dwarfed the beef brisket. The brisket was a bit fatty, but juicy and the housemade bbq sauce helped give it that layer of flavor. I really enjoyed the brisket and alternated bites between all the sides. For the price, I think that the amount of meat given is fine, but I shared it, so I asked if I could order some additional brisket on the side.  

I also got a freshly baked cornbread (NT$30) and brownie for dessert (NT$30)(not pictured, devoured too quickly). The sides, while delicious, are a bit carb heavy, especially since I added the cornbread, so it would be great to see some more veggie options in the future (Corn on the cob, steamed broccoli or tomato salad would be good. Or a sweet potato casserole? Ok, sweet potato is a carb too, but I love sweet potatoes).

Additional brisket is by weight, this was NT$200 worth of beef brisket. It would be great to have some combo platter options for people who would like to try different meats. It came with two kinds of housemade bbq sauces- Texas Yellow (a mustard based bbq sauce inspired by the famous bbq sauce at Salt Lick in Texas) and Kansas Red (a ketchup based bbq sauce). You can see the smoke rings on the meat and we got both the burnt ends and the fattier cuts. Yum. 

The pulled pork sandwich comes with coleslaw (NT$150) and I didn't know until Kevin mentioned the little pile on the side were candied jalapeños. My first time having candied jalapeños and they were so good!! Sweet, sour and a touch spicy, nicknamed "cowboy candy." Baba Kevin should jar this and sell it for people to take home! I liked the pulled pork, but the bun was a touch dry for me, but maybe I was carbed out from eating all the buttery pilaf and sides from the brisket plate. 

A peek downstairs, the space has already hosted a few family friendly parties and events with a permanent buffet table set up for family style servings, toys for the kids to play with a projector to play films on the wall. 

Kevin also gave me a sneak peek at his current project, trying to cure and make his own pastrami. His Facebook page says it takes 17 days for him to make it, so it's not on the menu yet, but if you're a huge pastrami fan, maybe you can ask Kevin about it. I also spied bbq prime rib on his Facebook page, I might have to see if I can make that happen in the future. Looooove prime rib. 

Baba Kevin's currently a mom and pop shop, run by him and his wife, so along with the catering, he must have his hands full. So if you're looking to go for dinner or weekends, be sure to call and check, you don't want to show up and find it closed if they are at a catering event or closed for a private party. Kevin is so friendly and passionate about bringing authentic American smoked bbq to Taipei, it shows in his food. If you can't make it Taipei, you can also order vacuum packed frozen bbq ribs or bbq that can be delivered anywhere in Taiwan.

Any Baba Kevin BBQ or BBQ fans out there? Where is your favorite BBQ joint at the moment in Taipei? 


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