Friday, January 30, 2015

dessert/snapshot: I strongly recommend the MOCHI WAFFLES from JIMMIBOBO

This is why I love #taipei so much. Was in search of spring onion pancakes at the street vendors on the corner of Xinyi/DaAn and ended up finding amazing #mochiwaffles instead.


Crispy and carmelized on the outside, chewy on the inside!!! My mochi waffle was caramel macchiato and I got it hot off the waffle maker. There's also matcha, chocolate, strawberry, cheese, caramel and plain. Perfect snack for this chilly day and best nt$35 I've spent in a long time!

There's more #streeteats to explore on this corner- steamed dumplings, knife cut beef noodle soup- check out my past review for pictures! But if your heart is set on trying the mochi waffles, then look for the street cart right near the corner with this blue sign- Jimmi Bobo. I think it's a new version of the Jimmy boba milk tea cart from my last visit.

I wonder if I throw a Mister Donut mochi donut on the waffle iron, will it waffle? That might have to be a blog post for another day.

corner of Xinyi and DaAn Road 信義大安路口 
in front of Felice Cafe
(02) 2754-5192

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

my kitchen: easy banana bread muffins

Even though I love banana bread, I had never made it myself. I just relied on the good fortune of friends who knew how to make it and would share their baking results. So when I found some overripe bananas in my kitchen recently, I finally picked one recipe to give a try (and there are SO many banana bread recipes out there!) and it turned out really great!  I like this recipe because it's a one bowl recipe and there's no fuss of mixing dry and wet ingredients separately. I used a muffin tin instead of making a loaf and it comes out just about a dozen muffins unless you fill the cups even more so you get the overflowing muffin tops.

The second time I used this recipe, I used 3/4 cup cake flour and 3/4 cup bread flour and lowered the butter and sugar to 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup sugar. My bananas were also not as overripe and I didn't add the ingredients in the order of the recipe. It turned out less cupcake like and more muffin/bready if that makes sense. It was more brown and beige, not as golden yellow and pretty as the first time, and not as sweet overall. It was still good, but definitely tasted more healthy. That's why baking is so interesting-- can you get the same results all the time or will each time always be different?

Anyone have killer banana bread recipes to share?

(adapted from Simply Recipes)

Ingredients (I starred the ingredients with a  * for the ones I added to or changed from the original recipe)

  • 3 very ripe bananas, peeled
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • *1/2 cup sugar (I used half brown and half white. The original recipe uses 1 cup, but says you can use less)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • *Pinch of salt (I only had salted butter on hand so I used that and omitted the extra pinch of salt)
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • *1 Tablespoon cinnamon (I love the extra layer that cinnamon gives plus it smells so good, but you can add less if you don't want it to be as strong)
  • *1/2 cup chocolate chips 
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
In a mixing bowl, mash the ripe bananas with a fork until smooth. 
Mix the melted butter into the mashed bananas.
Stir in the baking soda and salt. Mix in the sugar, beaten egg, cinnamon and vanilla extract. 
Fold in the flour. Do not over mix, best to mix by hand once the egg is in.
Top with chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into your prepared muffin tin. Bake for 30 minutes (check at 20 minutes) at 350°F (175°C), or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is a nice golden brown.
Remove from oven and cool. Or taste test one hot out of the oven is what I usually like to do!  

Monday, January 19, 2015

korean/bbq: i strongly recommend HONEY PIG

No. 415-3 XinYi Road, Sec. 4
(02) 2725-5757

MRT: Taipei 101

website: Honey Pig Taiwan's FB page

hours: 24 hours!

$$ (about NT$600/person)

Kid friendliness: high chairs available, as well as scissors to cut meat for kids

Visit reviewed: 1/9/2015

Taipei has apparently been starved for great Korean BBQ if these lines last week at the Honey Pig opening are any indication. FOUR TO SEVEN HOUR WAITS?! Is this craziness or what? You could fly to Korea for REAL KBBQ in that amount of time. A stream of people on Instagram's Honey Pig location tag declare how long they've waited like badges of honor. Would be diners bundled in coats and scarfs patiently wait outside in a single file line along the building, staring into the windows at diners already inside stuffing their face. At Honey Pig's entrance, a man dressed in a black suit and tie holds a clipboard like a bouncer at a club in K-town while K-pop videos and songs blast from the corner televisions. The servers drift from table to table with refills of kimchi, spicy bean sprouts, fried rice and raw meat to sizzle on the giant iron top grills. 

Honey Pig probably expected some great buzz- with the can't-miss it prime location the corner of Xinyi and Keelung, the attention drawing giant sign with English and Korean, and the cartoon smile of big haired co-owner Miki, who was there in person helping serve up customers and posed for selfies- but they probably didn't expect to lines to continue until 3AM onwards, around their open 24 hours clock.

glad we weren't seated along the windows where the lines were so people would be staring at us the whole time! 

I've never heard of Honey Pig before last week, when I spotted the Honey Pig sign on Xinyi and whats app messages from my friends started buzzing my phone. The original Honey Pig restaurants are in the states- gained a loyal following at its east coast restaurants in Virginia and Maryland with a sister restaurant in LA- and somehow the first overseas Honey Pig is in Taipei.  Luckily I had a friend who had a friend who had a reservation and thankfully asked if I wanted to join last Friday. 

When I arrived, food and soju were already on the table and mountains of beef bulgogi and pork belly took turns blanketing the grill. As raw meat came to the table, our server would clear space by moving cooked meats to one corner and spreading out the meats which cooked fairly quickly.  Anything that took extra time like the seafood pancake or the cold noodles were not available yet, only the steamed egg and I think tofu stew.

For the pork belly, I preferred the thinly sliced as opposed to the fatty thicker slice and recommend opting for the addition of the spicy sauce. My favorites that I will order again when I return are the spicy pork belly, the shrimp (surprisingly sweet and cooked perfectly so they weren't too dry-although this of course depends on who's doing the cooking for you) and the bulgogi. There are three kinds of beef short rib- #9 boneless rib, #10 kalbi beef rib and #11 LA beef rib.

#8 beef bulgogi (NT$519)

#9 boneless rib (NT$799) and #2 sliced pork belly (NT$299) You can also opt for pork or beef with octopus or squid, chicken, or beef stomach. 

#10 kalbi beef short ribs (NT$799)

#5 pork belly (NT$299)

When we saw the table next to us with rice on their grill we waved down our server and asked for the same. Pretty soon, Miki came by each table with a huge bowl of kimchi rice and scooped some for each table's grill, topped with some seaweed shreds and mixed together. It was probably faster than their usual way of doing it from scratch with a bowl of white rice, but it was faster and everyone just wanted to try it. Didn't quite get any crispy rice bits from the kimchi fried rice being grilled, but it was tasty. 

Hopefully as the craziness settles down, it would be great to see things like fresh lettuce and thin slices of radishes or rice noodles to wrap the meat in, or meats like beef tongue that they have on their US menus to try out here. And hopefully the service and portions remains the same after the training period is over and the US owners return to the states. Honey Pig is definitely worth trying out, but no restaurant is worth waiting in line for three plus hours when then there's so much to eat in Taipei, much less other Korean restaurants! Avoid the lines and make reservations- you might not be able to eat it until a few weeks later, but at least you won't have to have the stress and hunger pangs of waiting in line! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

events/exploreTaipei: i strongly recommend HUASHAN 1914 CREATIVE PARK

No. 1, BaDe Road, Sec. 1

MRT: Shandao Temple or ZhongXiao/Xinsheng station

hours: most shops/cafes don't open until 11AM but open until late

Free to explore/ $-$$ for eats and exhibits


kid friendliness: yes

visit reviewed: 12/28/2014

Over the past few years, I've found myself at Huashan 1914 Cultural Park more and more. Not only has it grown over the years, it is constantly changing so there's always something to explore. What is Huashan Cultural Park and what's inside?

In 1997, a Taiwanese theater company discovered an abandoned wine & sake factory and was drawn to staging plays there. It grew into a cultural art center as local artists and the creative community used it over the years as a work space, and it became official in 2005-2007 when they restored it and it became Huashan 1914 Creative Park. The collective of buildings provides space for rotating exhibits and events, restaurants/cafes, as well as concert/music venue Legacy and SPOT Theater which shows many independent films and hosts various local film festivals.

Sometimes you might chance upon some very cool exhibits.  On this weekend in December, there was a Le Petit Prince exhibit, Aranzi exhibit, Beatles exhibit, and Sony Playstation.. Usually there's an entry fee and sometimes some are open to the public for free, like this Sony Playstation 20th anniversary event. The exhibits usually feature a number of installations and photos and take about 10-30 minutes to walk around, depending on how thorough you want to read everything and how crowded it is. TEDxTaipei has also been held here for the past few years.

The Beatles exhibition and other ones are running from December to March 2015 so if you want to have a leisurely gander then I recommend going on a weekday morning, when it will be least crowded.

We came for the Sony 20th Anniversary exhibit and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was freeee. 

Who remembers playing all of these? Man, has gaming and consoles come a long way. 

A little walk down memory lane and the history of Sony Playstation products.

Ahead of its time? Could have been the iPod? Haha.

1994 was a good year!

The main place people were waiting in line for was this little mock living room area where they set up various TVs and games and consoles from different years.

Back outside, you might find some areas of booths for local artists and crafts, as well as shops.

If it's your first time, you can find a red kiosk and take a look at the restaurants guide for the thirteen or so cafes and restaurants, including Alleycats, Trio Cafe, Deja Vu, Casa Della Pasta, VVG Thinking, and Fab Cafe which I posted about recently. There are two sections to the Huashan, divided by a parking lot, so don't forget to explore both sides if you have enough time. 

The first time I went to Huashan, I was looking for VVG Thinking, which is on the other side of the parking lot which is mostly art galleries, cafes and restaurants in towering red brick buildings. The towering chimney is part of the boiler room for the old plum wine/rice wine/red wine factories and distillery.

Repurposed areas like Huashan and the Songshan Cultural Park in the Xinyi District remind me a bit of 798 Art Zone in Beijing, both taking previously industrial spaces and transforming them into cultural hubs and creative spaces for the community. Restaurant and cafe owners like VVG's Grace Wang play a role in that as well, as the Wall Street Journal noted in their article about how Taipei is "Asia's Answer to Portland, Oregon."

And if you're in the Huashan area and you are a gadgets person, just across the street from Huashan is Guanghua Digital Plaza, as well as the new electronics mall and surrounding streets of gadgets, electronics and accessories. When I left my camera battery charging cord in LA, my dad guided me through a few random shops where I picked a replacement AV cord for a few US dollars. Not the easiest areas to explore if you don't speak Chinese or know what you want, but good if you're looking for something like Fry's Electronics in Taipei.