Friday, August 25, 2006

my kitchen: chicken salad, wrap and chocolate cupcakes

Sometimes an extra ingredient or two makes all the difference in kickstarting a boring lunch into a more interesting version of itself.

I bought a big jar of sundried tomatoes in olive oil which I have been using all week- on crackers spread with cream cheese, in pasta, in salads, and today in this chicken wrap. Sometimes you go all out and do everything from scratch and sometimes you put together what you already have. I had a whole roast chicken from the supermarket, already roasted, and I shredded it for my salad and wrap.

Chicken spinach salad with miso dressing included diced almonds, mandarin orange slices, grape tomatoes, grilled mushrooms and diced avocado

Chicken wrap with sundried tomatoes, portobello mushroom, colby jack cheese, tomato slices and fresh arugula

Mmm.. something about fresh arugula really makes me hungry.

Then I made some chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting topped with m&ms for a friend's birthday dinner.

I've really noticed a difference in how much longer the foil cupcake cup keeps the cupcake fresher than the plain paper cup.

I love LA.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

my kitchen: breakfast sandwich

The simple pleasures in life, like making your own breakfast sandwich, sometimes makes me so happy! This day, I (1) toasted an English muffin (2) grilled up some sausage slices and sliced mushroom without oil (3) placed on sandwich with a slice of colby jack cheese and (4) topped with an egg cooked over medium.


A little healthier version of the Mcmuffin.

CLOSED! japanese/ bbq grill: i recommend BULLFIGHT YAKINIKU

98, Chung Hsiao E. Road, Sec. 4
Bistro 98 building, 8th FL
(02) 6638-9699

Weekdays 11 am-midnight
Weekends 11-2 am


visit reviewed: 5/26/2006

Yakiniku. BBQ grill. All you can eat. Lots of meat.

This is pretty much the deal at Bullfight where which was a packed house the night we went. You decide which level of all-you-can-eat you want (which varies by additional meats, seafood, extras) at NT$399- $499, and then order away. The servers bring you plates of slices of raw beef, pork, chicken and even lamb, as well as scallops, shrimp, fish and mushrooms, and then you grill until your stomach's content.

You can also order salad (which was actually quite tasty and topped with corn) and a korean stone bowl of bimbimbap.

I'm sure you could probably find a yakiniku/grill place in almost every street in Taipei, so why this one? It's quite clean and comfortable, with good ventilation so you won't come out completely smelling like smoke. It's easy to find, located on the busy street near Sogo in the tall Bistro 98 building. There's even a view if you sit near the window.

But the food is good- there's a lot to choose from (especially if you get the $499 option) and it's fresh and not tough.

I would recommend that you call ahead and get a reservation if you want to go. Oftentimes, when it's packed, people will stay a few hours, if not all night, occupying the tables. But if you're the one sitting down, then you don't have to worry about anyone rushing you away.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

dessert: i strongly recommend JOYCE EAST

128 Xin Yi Road
(02) 8789-6128


Instead of the afternoon tea set, we opted to each have a souffle and a drink. I had a chocolate souffle and an ice mocha. I think my first and only souffle experiences have been at Joyce East.

The souffles are available in your choice of chocolate, vanilla, Grand Marnier or green tea, with complementary sauces on the side. They also take about 30 minutes to bake, so we had time to chat and catch up in the typhoon weather. If you want to order it during dinner, you should let them know in advance, so they can time it to arrive after your meal.

Light and airy. Barely crispy top dusted with powdered sugar and a mushy inside to dip in the rich sauce. The first dip of the spoon breaking into fragile pillow of a

Decadent. Delicious. Totally worth the calories bite.

Joyce East is also a very modern place to have afternoon tea. With lots of light and windows, the clean white linens pop against the purple lights against the far wall where they have sofas and a lounge area where people can enjoy drinks. While I find their other desserts pretty average (especially the ones that come with the set course), it's worth going there just for the souffle alone. I alternate favoring the chocolate and vanilla, and haven't ventured to try the other flavors yet. Someday.

Oh yeah, they also serve food...

italian/french: JOYCE EAST

128 Xin Yi Road, Sec 5
(02) 8789-6128


visit reviewed: 6/3/2006

I've had mixed experiences with Joyce East. The most memorable dish there for me is the souffle. You have to order it before you finish dinner so that they have time to make it. I've even gone there for after dinner for the souffle alone.

The first time we ordered the souffle, my friend gasped in horror when the server cut into the puffed up top and poured the sauce in without asking us. I suppose he wanted to dig in himself to have the pleasure of deflating the souffle and dipping the bitesize pieces in the sauce. The next time we went, we asked the server to let us do it ourselves. The most recent time I had the souffle, we ordered hot tea and milk to go with it. Unfortunately, the tea was so screaming hot that my dinner date burned his tongue and could not enjoy the dessert or tea. And the bill for the milk and tea were each almost as expensive as the souffle!

Recently, I discovered that Joyce East has a huge private room in the back, when I attended a baby shower there. The meal I had that day was a set course, with steak. The soup, the starter, and the steak were all pretty succulent. The dessert in the set meal typically is very pretty to look at, but not that tasty.

However, I honestly can't recall now what I ate the other times I've had dinner there. But if they always make their steak the way they did that day, then I'm a fan.

Joyce East is one of those restaurants that might seem imposing to walk into without a reservation if you have never been, but we have and everything turned out perfectly fine. With big wooden doors and the hostess greeting you, the tables often seat nicely dressed people with wine glasses in their hands. Their service is sometimes friendly, sometimes strictly professional, but they are usually hovering nearby. With lots of light and windows, it's a nice place for lunch or afternoon tea, which they serve until 4:30pm, like their sister restaurant, the original Joyce. At night, Joyce East transforms into a romantic candlelit setting with a lounge in the back lit with purple and pink lights. The menu offers various meats, pastas and seafood, but as I mentioned the most memorable thing for me is the souffle.

Monday, August 07, 2006

chinese: i recommend THE GUEST HOUSE

Sheraton Taipei Hotel
17th FL
No. 12, Chung Hsiao East Road, Sec. 1
(02) 2321-5511


date visited: 8/06/2006

A family friend invited us out to dinner last night at THE GUEST HOUSE where one of their specialties is Steamed Pork Dumplings or Xiao Long Bao. As their website states, they feature Szechwan and Yang Zhou cuisine in its "chic modern" atmosphere that is modern and classical at the same time. Located on the 17th floor of the Sheraton Taipei hotel, THE GUEST HOUSE features an open kitchen with a glass window that you can watch them make your meal. While the 18th floor features a number of private rooms if you want to have your own space for larger groups, the atmosphere of the 17th floor is actually a lot more inspired and fun.

The xiao long bao were good. The skin held in the pork and broth until you stuffed the dumpling into your mouth. Since I had just eaten at Din Tai Fung for lunch, I could hold a slight comparison and I think I still like Din Tai Fung's dumplings better.

The vegetable dumplings were also really good, with minced vegetable, tofu and mushrooms inside. They are slightly drier than the pork dumplings, but still disappeared very quickly.

A few of their unique dishes include Braised Green Beans wrapped in Pancake and Braised Noodle with Yellow Fish Broth. I suppose sort of a vegetarian variation on Moo Shu Pork, the braised green beans were very soft and flavorful, while the pancake was delicious! I found the green beans to be a tad salty, but I could probably eat a stack of the soft, yet slightly crispy thin pancake. I found the braised noodle to be so-so, while the broth was mysteriously good with a seafood stock flavor without being fishy. We also had a beef braised in soup that was very very tender and flavorful without being mushy or dried out.

There were also other assorted small plates of eats on the lazy susan that I didn't get the names of. There was one dish of bamboo (I think!)(pictured above) and another of boiled pork with a spicy sauce that I quite liked.

After dinner, we walked around the hotel, I spotted quite a number of other restaurants that I want to try, including Pizza Pub and Sukhothai. The Sheraton Taipei is quite a nice hotel with all the rooms overlooking the center atrium, and glass elevators to see buffet located on the lobby floor. I heard that it went under major renovations the last few years, and is a lot nicer than Sheratons I've stayed at in the states!

Speaking of Xiao Long Bao, for lunch we dropped by DIN TAI FUNG and I have never seen it so packed! I suppose it's because I've also gone there off-peak hours on weeknights. It was Sunday lunchtime, and every single table was occupied as well as a line of at least 30 people outside waiting in intermitting downpouring rain. While I like their pork dumplings, I think I like their dessert red bean dumplings even more!

my lunch in a packed house at Ding Tai Fung

So if you don't want to wait in the rain for an hour for a table at Din Tai Fung, you can give The Guest House a try.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

CLOSED/bakeries: i recommend BREADTALK

CLOSED! a/o 2008

218-2, Lequn 3rd Rd
Carrefour, 1st FL
Dazhi district of Taipei

(02) 8502 0177


date visited: 8/5/2006

After running some errands at Carrefour (which by the way is pretty cool), I passed by Breadtalk on the 1st floor of the supermarket's building. The buttery smell of freshly baked bread caught my attention and I wandered in. There are a lot of bakeries all over Taipei, but BreadTalk stands out for a couple of reasons.

The signs detailing most of the breads had both English and Chinese, which made it easier to tell what it was. Also, there is a large glass window into the kitchen, where you can watch the chefs make lots and lots of bread.

Also their selection is a little more unique than the average Taiwanese bakery's. I think they change their selections everyday (since the counter had a stack of signs that were not in use) and today BreadTalk actually had three types of Naan- cheese, curry and yogurt flavors. There were huge loaves of bread, mini- loaves, the pigs in a blankets, puff pastries and sweets. By the counter, they even had a presentation of their new feature: a huge loaf of white bread, with 2 chicken legs in curry, wrapped in aluminum foil in the middle. When you unpacked the curry, you could dip your bread in it. It was unique and the first time I ever saw anything like that anywhere. At, the Singapore based chain calls themself a "revolutionary boutique bakery" and a Taipei Times article declares them "bread designers." After seeing that, I would have to agree.

I ended up getting 2 naans, 1 loaf of white bread with garlic butter, 1 small loaf of sesame bread with cheese inside, and 1 butter sugar bread (all NT$30-$35) Waiting in line, I was tempted to get a few slices of garlic bread and something with hot dog in it, but I didn't- the line was getting long. The butter sugar bread was soft, and the sugar inside was like a hard brown sugar. The curry naan was spicier than I expected, though it probably would have tasted better heated. The cheese naan was a tad bland- soft and chewy- rather than crispy on the outside like you would get at an Indian restaurant. I'm saving the other ones for tomorrow, but I think they will not disappoint. If they taste as good as BreadTalk smelled, I might have to go back for the garlic bread.

chinese: i recommend CHUN SHUI TANG

A9 MItsukoshi Mall, B2
No.9, Songshou Rd
Taipei 110 (XinYi district)

(02) 27239913
Weekdays 11:00 ~ PM 22:00
Weekends 10:30 ~ PM 22:30


date visited: 7/26/06

Boba milk tea, or pearl milk tea, is everywhere in Taipei, or at least it used to be. I remember when you could buy it for NT$10 a few years ago from street vendors. But not everyone makes it the same. Sometimes it's sickly sweet or too watery. Sometimes the boba is too mushy or too hard. But I think Chun Shui Tang makes it just right- it's sweet, but not too much so, and you can taste the tea flavor. The smaller than average boba are also the right amount of chewiness and softness. Plus if you don't want boba milk tea, there are a lot of hot and cold drinks and teas to choose from. The drinks are not cheap, but will cost you around the same as something from Starbucks. (Medium NT$70, Large NT$140)

The shop I first ate at was the one next to United Hotel- a cute, traditional looking tea house, serving a large assortment of teas and drinks, as well as dim sum and snacks. The branch at the A9 Mitsukoshi mall is very similar, even to its atmosphere of wooden colums, seats and decor.

You must pay and order first at the cashier, ticking off what you want on their cream and green paper menu. The Kwang-Fu location has an English menu, but the A9 location doesn't. Fortunately, you can either point and choose at the samples in the front or at the tables around you and ask. Then you tape your receipt to the edge of your table, so the waiters can deliver the items to you.

I think this is a good choice for afternoon tea, though towards the evening rush hour, their service became incredibly S-L-O-W. I can see it being popular lunch/brunch destination as well. Even with indoor and outdoor tables, it gets quite crowded. You can also get your drinks and snacks to go.

We ordered a plate of pan-fried radish cakes, stir fried mushrooms, shrimp sau mai and a pair of drinks. Later on, we ordered more, but ended up taking it to go since we had to go. I ordered a dim sum assortment, fried squid balls, spicy tofu skin with straw mushrooms and tofu-gan (or dried bean curd). The radish cakes are fried to have a crispy skin and cut into bite size pieces. The mushrooms were juicy and spicy. I liked the spicy tofu skin, but didn't really care for the tofu-gan.

On previous occassions, at the shop branch, I've had really good deep fried sweet rice cake (like egg rolls with sticky rice cake filling), but I think it's seasonal. The menu selections are bit pricier than local food, but you are paying for atmosphere as well as the brand quality. Everyone we've taken there admires the huge glasses of boba milk tea (or passionfruit lemon jelly tea (another favorite of mine)) after their order comes. And it's nice place to get together with friends or take an afternoon for yourself- I often see lots of moms with strollers. Most of the time, I will get a drink to go when I am craving some boba milk tea.

OTHER LOCATIONS a/o April 2008 (with the help of Google translator & googling, so please let me know if any of them need editing!)

No. 4, Lane 180, Kuangfu South Road
(near SYS Memorial Hall)
(02) 8773-4501

No. 29, Nanjing East Road, Sec. 1
(02) 2521-3359

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial
No. 21-1, Chungshan South Road
(02) 3393-9529

Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, B1
No. 12, Nanjing West Road
(02) 2100-1848

Global Mall location
No. 122, Zhongshan Rd
(02) 2223-7071

Geant (Ai Mai) in DaZhi
No.123, Jingye 3rd Rd.
(02) 8502-0880

Dmart, 8FL
No. 180, Chenggong Road, Sec. 4
(02) 2793-4349

Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, Tien Mu, B3
No. 200, Zhong Cheng Road, Sec 2
Shih Lin
(02) 2874-5484

Thursday, August 03, 2006

my kitchen: banana pancakes breakfast

A few weeks ago, I was craving french toast and tried a couple times to get it at NY Bagel. The first time, we went at noon, but it turned out they stopped serving breakfast on weekdays at 11;30am. Seeing all the people around me enjoying their brunches just made it worse, so I left and had cereal at home.

A few days later, I dropped by on Sunday. It was packed and I didn't want to wait 20-30 minutes, so I wanted to do take-out. Except I discovered that their take-out doesn't include breakfast. After debating with the cashier for awhile,

THEM: it's a lot of food. We don't have the right to-go containers. We have to maintain our brand-level freshness. Your eggs might break on way home. blah blah blah BLAH.

I even talked to the manager.

ME: I just want some french toast. I'll go home and make my own eggs. I promise it will be fresh when I eat it. You can put it in the container that I know you have for the steak sandwich.

MANAGER: If we make an exception for you, then other customers will complain.

ME: If it's in a box and then in a bag, who is going to know? I live right next door. It will be eaten right away!

She disappeared for awhile and then came back saying no. UGH! It was very very annoying. After being too lazy to make my own french toast, it turned out that it would have been less of a hassle to do so.

Annoyed enough that since then, I have held an unofficial ban on NY Bagel, making my own pancakes and waffles at home. Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day to make- mushroom omelettes, banana pancakes or crispy waffles with sausages on the side. It's probably a good skill to have since finding quick and good American style breakfast is tough in Taiwan.

On this day, I made a small stack of banana pancakes (from Betty Crocker Buttermilk mix and fresh bananas- not gourmet- I know, but quite quick, easy and tasty), with an egg over easy and some canadian bacon lightly grilled. Mmmm.