Friday, December 26, 2008

my kitchen: mini-Oreo cheesecakes



Merry Christmukkah to everyone- hope you are having a great holiday with your loved ones where ever you are reading from. In Taipei, there is definitely a lot of decorations and trees and lights, but I think it's still harder to "celebrate" Christmas since most people don't really get the day off and if everyone has to go to work like any other day, then it's not really a holiday.

But to go along with my little tree and lights, Costco Christmas cards and holiday plans, I decided to try and bake some Mini-Oreo Cheesecakes for the first time!



I found a few recipes on the web, picked the most basic one (cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, lemon, eggs, Oreos) and tried it out! I grew up eating my mom's mini cheesecakes w/ Nilla Wafers as the crust, but instead of trying to figure out where I could find those in Taipei, I just used Oreos.



First off, why doesn't JASON's Supermarket at 101 or the supermarket at Shin Kong Mitsukoshi not have Philly's Cream Cheese? Boo!



Second, don't forget to put a little "water bath" under your cheesecake so it will come out nice and smooth and not crack!

The first attempt, I swirled the oreos inside the cream cheese, didn't have the cream cheese soften completely, and forgot about the water bath and it doesn't look as pretty. The second attempt, I left it, added lemon, a bit more sugar, and put the water bath and it definitely does taste moister and look better!


lumpier, but still tasty!


Just twist off the Oreos and use as the base for your cheesecake cupcakes- it's not as wide as the base, but still works!


surprise at the bottom


If anyone wants the recipe, I can post in detail... now I gotta run to the gym to burn off some the calories from yesterday's party!

ADDED 12/2010: A little late, but here is the recipe! :)

MINI OREO CHEESECAKES

12 Oreo cookies
2 (8 ounce) packages Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup white sugar

DIRECTIONS
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2.Line muffin tins with 12 paper baking cups. Place a half of an Oreo in each one.
3.In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. If cream cheese is not softened, then microwave a little bit before mixing. Add eggs, lemon juice, and sugar. Beat until smooth and thoroughly combined.
4.Fill each baking cup 2/3 full with cream cheese mixture.
5.Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. If you can, put a water bath underneath so that the tops don't brown.
6. Cool cupcakes at room temperature and then in fridge overnight or a few hours. Break up Oreos in pieces to use to decorate on top.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

chinese/bakery: i recommend LANE 216 MANTOU and BAOZI



Bao Zi
No. 1, Alley 40, Lane 216, Zhong Xiao E Road, Sec 4
(02) 27523687

Lao Guh Tsui Jien Bao

hours: 8 AM - 9 PM

$

Visit reviewed: 10-22-2008


bao zi


You can always pick up a hot steaming bun at the 7-11's around Taipei, but for even more selections and freshness, you should definitely wander over to Lane 216. There you'll find a whole street corner with various vendors selling steamed buns of various sizes, shapes, fillings- huge hot sesame paste or red bean buns for only NT$18, or pan seared meat and vegetable buns for NT$12.

It's pretty impressive to see all the various trays of baozi and bags of mantou surrounding that little corner of the street. It might be a bit confusing for a novice because the signs are all in Chinese and there is actually a lot to choose from- basically a "bao" or "baozi" is a steamed bun filled with something inside, usually ground meat or chopped vegetables, or something sweet; a "mantou" is a steamed bun without a filling- a dense yet fluffy bread; a "tsui jien bao" is the bao with a pan-fried coating on the bottom, usually savory, not sweet.


man tou


There's often a line of shoppers, but the wait is not long. Sometimes the shop is sold out of various items by the end of the day, or you have to wait 5-10 minutes while the new ones are steamed. I bought a few of the huge bao zi, filled with red bean and a bag of mini-mantou that were different colors.



Just a few steps away is Lao Guh Tsui Jien Bao- which are slightly smaller and cheaper at NT$12, with only 4 different types to choose from.



This is a favorite of mine from my memories of first having them at the Shih Lin Night market. These might not be as crispy if they've been sitting out (and they are MUCH better crispy), but I like the cabbage ("gao li tsai") and meat ("zhou bao") fillings. There's also chopped Chinese leek ("jiou tsai") which is like a cousin to a spring onion.



The best way to figure out what you like it to order a few different kinds and then you'll know generally which kind you like and which kind you don't, even though each place will make it slightly differently.

I definitely want to explore this corner again and take some pics of the actual baozi and mantou before I eat them on the way home.

Monday, December 22, 2008

news/taiwan: HELLO KITTY HOSPITAL

awwww


Not food related, but for those pregnant hungry girls in Taiwan, you can consider trekking to Yuanlin, Taiwan to have your baby blanketed in Hello Kitty from the moment he or she is born. I had heard of Hello Kitty themed "one month rest" places, Hello Kitty-fied airline flights, but this is the first of an actual hospital that is authorized by Sanrio. Even the birth certificate will have a HK cover.

Director Tsai Tsung-chi said he hopes the white, mouthless cat that is one of the world's most recognizable characters will ease the pain and fear associated with childbirth and being admitted into hospital.

"I wish that everyone who comes here, mothers who suffer while giving birth and children who suffer from an illness, can get medical care while seeing these kitties and bring a smile to their faces, helping forget about discomfort and recover faster," he told Reuters.

Check out the whole Reuters story here

It would be awesome if the hospital food was cute HK bentos and cakes! LOL

Of course, if you are in need of a Hello Kitty fix in Taipei, you can check out the Hello Kitty Sweets cafe (though while the decor and cakes are cute, I've heard that the food and service aren't that great) or the 7-11's or McD's often has cute Hello Kitty merchandise.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

taiwanese/snack: JI KWONG HSIANG HSIANG JI



JI KWONG HSIANG HSIANG JI
(or Ji Kwong Fragrant Chicken)
No. 2, Lane 49, Chung Hsiao E Road, Sec 4
(near SOGO)
To order delivery:0966395551

website: nolssg.com.tw

hours: 11 AM- 10:30PM (not sure about this)

$

Kid friendliness: some of the pieces have cartilage and bone so be careful with smaller kids.

Visit reviewed: 10/15/2008



One of the best things about Taipei is that you can find street vendors around everywhere- some have regular spots that you can find them, others are tucked into alleys near busy shopping areas for hungry shoppers or students on the go. Ji Kwong Hsiang Hsiang Ji is near Sogo, right near TGIF and you can often smell the fried chicken calling you from afar- thus the name "Hsiang Hsiang" or Fragrant.

My friend wanted to pick some up after an afternoon of running errands at Sogo and I'd never had it before so I was definitely interested. A line quickly formed after we ordered, as they pour the battered chopped up chicken into the fryer to order. After they fry it up, they have a giant scooper to scoop it into the cooling area and then sprinkle mysterious salt powder (probably top secret spices) onto the chicken- and ask if you want it spicy.



A small bag is NT$55 and the large bag is NT$100. Inside are crispy nugget-like pieces that you can stick with the giant toothpicks that they give out.



Be warned though, the spicy is pretty spicy.. just because they sprinkle the spices on the chicken before they scoop it in the bag and it's unevenly spread out. Powdered spices concentrated on more pieces than others. I couldn't really eat any more after a couple pieces. Also the chicken pieces have cartiledge or bone chunks so I found that annoying when I was eating the chicken. I'd rather eat the large flat fried chicken instead.

There's other locations across Taipei listed on their website.. I'll translate the locations when I have time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

not taipei: Hong Kong recs?

hi everyone! I'm headed to Hong Kong tomorrow so I need some recommendations for Must Eats! Can be any kind of food or any good food blogs.

Also, thanks for the rush of new votes for the Reader's Choice.. it's great for those people campaigning for their very favorite restaurant, but share some of your other favorites, will ya? Otherwise I won't know if it's the same anonymous person just voting 10 times over.

Man, I have a sudden craving for pizza. I don't know why...

Monday, December 08, 2008

chinese/fusion: i strongly recommend YOGUDO



YOGUDO
No. 20, Lane 50, Yixian Road
(02) 8789-2338

website: www.yogudo.com.tw Chinese only

hours: 7:30 AM-9:30 PM

$-$$

Kid friendliness: Booths, no high chairs. Room for strollers. Kids will especially like the yogurt drinks and desserts

Visit reviewed: 11/6/2008



To be honest, I thought I was in trouble when I entered Yogudo with my dad and aunt. Even though it was bustling with locals, I took one look at the busy looking Chinese-only menu with weird sauces zigzagged on food and thought, another local place that only locals could love.



There are salads, combo plates, baked gratins and pastas and mini-hotpots, most meals ranging around NT$199. You could also make your plate a set by adding NT$40 which gives you a small drink and dessert. I reluctantly chose the grilled pork dish.



But guess what? It was actually good! And good for you. Yogudo's whole concept is about healthy eating, using yogurt almost every dish- in marinating the meats, as sauces, in the hotpot, in the drinks, as well as more fiber and city garden grown vegetables. It's actually a concept that I could see working in the states with the whole organic foods/health trends. Every dish has a sweet and savory combo to it.



In my pork combo plate, there's the good sized baked pork, purple/red rice, salad with corn, black beans, tomatoes, and cucumber (I pick out the sprouts), vegetable soup and if you get the combo, drink and yogurt jelly or pudding. The pork is tender and bit savory and salty. I think I heard that the meat was marinated with yogurt to help tenderize it, but someone might have to back that up for me. The vegetable soup tastes freshly made and is full of chunky carrots, potatoes, and a sprinkling of sprouts.

Having gone back now a number of times, I like the green drink the best- over the cantoloupe-ish orange drink, while the Yogurt drink is a close second. Dessert wise, the milk pudding is great, as well as the jellies topped with yogurt.

My aunt got what I thought was a salad, but it turned out that there was a bowl of spaghetti hiding underneath. There's also baked gratins and pastas for those that like their pasta with a lot of cheese on top.




My dad got a combo that had a hotpot with vegetables and a seafood gratin inside a papaya. I do NOT like papaya, so I didn't try it, but I thought it was so unique that instead of water, they give you this yogurt milk to cook inside the hotpot. I should have given it a try, but I was too wrapped up in my pork and rice.



For those of you giving up on white rice, you should try this rice! This reddish-purple rice has a texture and taste that makes me want to buy a bag and replace all the white rice in my diet. Nutty, soft, but with a bite. It's like I'm more conscious of chewing the rice since it's got texture. I'm not sure the name, but it's not the purple rice I've often had in Korean soondubu tofu restuarants, nor the brown rice that is in some Southern California cafes. I've been researching Wikipedia and trying to match up pictures, but it's a mystery. Is it Bhutanese red rice? Is it akai rice? Anyone know?



In any case, it's quite addictive. Since eating here the first time, I've ordered the same pork dish to go two or three times and gotten a few other friends wanting to try it as well. Recently, I went back and tried the grilled beef wrapped asparagus- a bit greasier than the pork, but maybe the asparagus balances that out.

Look for this storefront across from the Ikari Coffee, in the lanes behind the Zhong Xiao and Keelung intersection. Take your health nut friends and see what they think.




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Saturday, December 06, 2008

CLOSED! mexican: i strongly recommend EDDY's CANTINA



i'm not teasing you.. these pictures are from Taiwan!


(edited 3/2012 This location was closed in 2012, but they have a second location in TianMu)

EDDY'S CANTINA
151-1 Zhongshan Rd
Danshui or Tamsui
(02) 2628-2638

Nearest MRT stop: Danshui

website: eddyscantina.com

hours: Weekdays 11:30 AM-2:30 PM; 4:30PM-10PM (closed Tuesdays)
Weekends 11:30 AM- 10 PM

$ - $$ Cash only

Kid friendliness: High chair available. Restaurant above a stairway, so would need to fold up or lift strollers.

Visit reviewed: 12/5/2008



chicken enchiladas


If you're visiting Taiwan, you're probably headed over to Din Tai Fung for some xiao long bao, to Yong Kang Jie for some beef noodle soup or niu rou mien and mango shaved ice, to the night market of your choice for some oyster omelette or stinky tofu or giant fried chicken ji pai, or to Ximen Ding for some Ah Chung mien shien or vermicelli that you can eat only standing up. That's what I always ate when I visited. These are the places I usually take my friends when they visit.

But what about when we're no longer visitors?

When Din Tai Fung is as exciting as McDonald's and we're drooling over non-Chinese food on food blogs in LA, theOC, San Diego or more from OC? When all we want is a half decent burrito?

In the past, I tried all the Mexican places in town and then eventually end up at Chili's for the fajitas and guacamole, or make my own guacamole from the Haas avocados from Costco.

For months, I drooled over the possibility that good authentic Mexican food could fill my tummy when I read about Eddy's Burrito in Danshui and the new El Gallo in Tienmu. Perhaps I didn't want to get my hopes up, even as I read good reviews, that nothing could compare to the carnitas or enchiladas in LA. Everytime I made plans to trek to Danshui, the weather would rain me out. But I finally made it after a friend also wanted to try it and volunteered to drive.

And the drive (or MRT ride) is worth it.



Eddy's Cantina is not only THE BEST Mexican food in Taipei (and believe me, I've tried them all), but also makes me feel like I could be sitting in some mom and pop Mexican hole-in-the-wall in LA (and that is a good thing). Eddy's Cantina is run by Eddy and his wife Jo, and the food is prepared with fresh ingredients from Eddy's family recipes. The menu has been expanded from their days as Eddy's Burrito, a stand at Lao Jie.



From the English and Chinese menu to the service with a smile to the great prices, Eddy's Cantina offers almost everything a Mexican food lover could want. Burritos, soft shell tacos, chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas, nachos, horchata, margaritas, beers and even dessert. Their lunch menus offer up a variety of six different bowls- carnitas, taco salad, fajitas, mexi-breakfast, rice and beans (NT$99- NT$129).

The decor is bright and colorful and the space is not huge, but doesn't feel crowded. Mariachi music playing overhead adds to the festive setting.



With each dish, you can make it a set for additional NT$80 and choose a drink and three sides (from beans, rice, potatoes, salad or chips). It was a kick getting my Orange Fanta in a glass bottle, and my friend loved her horchata. You can also order the horchata with a shot of Kahlua.




The carnitas (pork) burrito (NT$160 ala carte/NT$240 set) came first and I had to hold in my excitement. The pork was roasted and had the slightly chunky and stringy browned carnitas look that I was familiar with, and the burrito was soft and warm, filled with pork, Mexican rice and refried beans- so if you get the additional sides, don't get the rice/beans unless you want extra!




The three complimentary sauces are served separately for you to add if you find your burrito not spicy or wet enough- white sour cream, spicy red chili rojo sauce and green guacasalsa sauce. I think next time I might ask for some diced tomatoes and onions or cheese too (which are available in their lunchtime only Carnitas bowl). Or even better, if there was chunky guacamole on the menu. You can also ask for jalepenos.



The carne asada (steak) tacos (NT$185 for 2) were topped with diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro and cheese. There's even a slice of lime to squeeze onto the taco. However, as reader Dan C. reminded me with his inquiry, the tortillas are flour, not corn. It would definitely be better with corn tortillas, but I guess I've been in Taiwan too long and acclimated to making my own soft tacos when eating fajitas at Chili's or Yuma with flour tortillas. I honestly can't believe I didn't react to it right away.



Last, but not least, were the chicken enchiladas (NT$200 for 2). My go-to dish at a Mexican restaurant is chicken enchiladas- the seasoned chicken wrapped in a corn tortilla and baked with melted cheese on top is just comfort food for me. But they have been impossible to find in Taipei- only at La Casita were they decent. The enchiladas weren't drowning in sauce, but they were still moist and flavorful. The tortilla was soft and each bite made me increasingly happy. My friend who hadn't eaten Mexican food since she had come back to Taiwan over three years ago liked this dish the best.



Even though we were both stuffed, we decided to try the dessert. Two tortillas with butter and sugar in between, the Tortilla Dulce (NT$100) is served warm with chocolate drizzled on top and ice cream- it reminded me of a dessert crepe. The chocolate chip ice cream was so good and it was a sweet ending to a delicious meal.



If you can't make the trek, Eddy's Cantina can also deliver burritos and more through a 7-11 freeze/deliver service for you to reheat the next day. I haven't tried it yet, but I'll probably make the call the next time the craving hits me. It's definitely going to be better than the frozen rice and bean burritos at Costco (UGH!) or the frozen enchiladas at Jason's.

It was kind of surreal, finding authentic Mexican food in Taiwan and at totally affordable prices. Sure it's almost an hour away from where I live in Taipei, but that's a lot closer than LA!


PS. BY THE WAY- don't forget to vote for your favorites
in the Reader's Choice poll!!!
I'm really hoping you all will help me give it a try-
it's your chance to share your faves,
especially if you've disagreed or agreed with me before
even if it's for a few of the categories!!! Thank you!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

CLOSED! afternoon tea: i don't recommend DEAN AND DELUCA afternoon tea set



CLOSED! there is still a deli/coffeeshop in the same space, but very local. not Dean and Deluca

DEAN AND DELUCA
at Breeze Center, B2F
No.39, Fuxing S. Road, Sec 1
(02) 6600-8888 ext 7301

$$

Sun - Wed 9 AM - 9 PM
Thur-Sat: 9 AM - 10 PM

website: deandeluca.com

Kid friendliness: finger foods. area to sit down

Visit reviewed: 10/21/2008
Review of their lunch sets here



After walking around with a friend around Breeze, we decided to find a place to sit down and catch up. We didn't want to squeeze into the crowded Starbucks area and spotted a sign for the afternoon tea set at Dean and Deluca with two coffees or teas (no special lattes).

We lined up at the coffee bar, but when we asked for the afternoon tea set (NT$450), they said we had to order from the middle counter instead. So we placed our order there and grabbed a seat.



All in all, everything on it was just okay. The only thing I really liked was the pudding. Everything else was disappointing- the fruit was not sweet, the pastries were dry, the finger sandwiches forgettable. I guess I expected more from Dean and Deluca.





The next time, I'd just get some of their sandwiches or sides from the counter or sweets from Maison Kayser and make my own little afternoon tea set.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

hotpot/japanese: i recommend ORANGE SHABU SHABU



ORANGE SHABU SHABU
No. 135, Da An Road, Sec 1, B1
(02) 2776-1658

website: orangeshabu.com.tw

hours: 11:30AM - 11PM (other location open til 2 AM!)

$$-$$$

Kid friendliness: high chairs available

Visit reviewed: 11/8/08



A lot of the shabu shabus in Taipei are probably interchangable- after all, how hard could it be- give your customer a pot of boiling water, a plate of meat and vegetables and let them cook it themselves. But some places, like Orange Shabu Shabu, offer some unique things to set themselves apart from the rest.

I had been to Orange Shabu Shabu (in Chinese, it would sound like the color Orange and not the fruit Orange) a long time ago- maybe around the time I had started my blog. I remember the space being on the dark side and with semi-private sectioned seating, as if you could make a shabu-shabu space look like the cousin of a lounge bar. Its menu also offers a lot of fresh seafood- Emperor crab, oysters, scallops, shrimp- as well as sashimi. Dinner will probably be about NT$1000-NT$2000 per person, depending on which set you order.



They also have imported copper pots that you share to cook your meats and veggies.



Make sure you get an order of the super sweet corn. It's already cooked, so you just need to let it boil in the water for a little bit before you eat it. It's crisp and addictive.



Someone at the table ordered seared oysters and I'm glad they did! I love oysters and usually prefer eating them deep fried over raw or steamed, but the grilling gave the skin a nice semi-crispy finish that was a nice contrast to the mushy insides.



For dessert, you can choose between pudding or almond jello. But their almond jello is like the kind at Shin Yeh and a few other places, where it's more like mochi-gelatin than firm gelatin. A lot of people like it, but I don't like the texture in this dessert.




The atmosphere is perfect for date night or romantic night out, but still good for eating out with friends or family. Orange is a popular place, so definitely make reservations in advance. Their new location is open until 2am at night!

Other location:
29, RenAi Rd, Sec 4, 2 FL
(02) 2771-0181
Hours:6 PM - 2 AM


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