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! 

Friday, June 24, 2016

revisited/modern: i strongly recommend RAW SUMMER 2016

No. 301, Lequn 3rd Road, Zhongshan District
(02) 8501-5800

MRT: Jianan Road


hours: Lunch: Wed- Sun / 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM
Dinner: Tues - Sat  / 6 PM - 10 PM
Closed Mondays, and Tues lunch
$$$$ (NT$1850/per person plus 10% service)

Kid friendliness: only set menus available so only probably only foodie kids will appreciate

Visit reviewed: 5/26/2016
previous visits: 4/2015 (spring 2015), 1/2016 (winter 2016)

WHEN I WATCHED THE GRANT ACHATZ EPISODE OF CHEF'S TABLE ON NETFLIX, I was reminded of (1) how much I love documentaries (2) how much work goes into a restaurant, each dish, by a team of people who strive to make inspired dining rather than something you could get anywhere else. I thought about my recent visit to RAW which has been featuring the summer menu for a few months now. There's a dish that Grant Achatz made when he was at French Laundry and Thomas Keller told him, "You know, this will be known as a Thomas Keller dish from now on. Are you okay with that?" And as much as we love or hate the dishes at RAW, we can give the credit to Andre Chiang, who is the face of the restaurant, but also acknowledge the partners and teamwork that make it happen. There are two other partners who conceptualize and execute the menu- Zor Tan, who is known as the "brains" coming up with the ideas for the menu and Alain Huang, "the hands," who makes the menu happen and runs RAW's kitchen on a day to day basis, are just as integral to the beef tongue cracker or the 27 vegetables that end up on your plate. The more that I eat at RAW and get to know the behind the scenes (and I'm sure this is true of many restaurants), the more that I appreciate the innovation that these new restaurants in Taipei strive for while making it taste good at the same time. We feed our eyes, our mouths, our stomaches, our minds, our cameras. It is still nearly impossible to get a table at RAW- I have only gone the last few times because of my friends' prowess in snagging a reservation. Thank you M!

Browsing Chef Andre's OCTAPHILOSOPHY while waiting. Was tempted to buy a copy as they had limited copies signed by Chef Andre and all the chefs at Restaurant Andre, but when was I ever going to make any of these dishes? (I'd rather eat there!)

I was drawn to this page "Unique. Pure. Texture. Memory. Salt. South. Artisan. Terroir. These are important words in Restaurant Andre. They are the backbone.. Octaphilosophy is our method of encouraging and managing... and a principle to live by."

The Anatomy of Bistronomy- love, affordable prices, freedom, spirit, sharing, multiple courses, phenomal produce, no bullshit and terroir.

Summer 2016 menu
(instagram @raw_taipei added to the bottom. hehe)


The star of this dish is the kohlrabi, which is tastes like a crisp daikon, even though it's not listed on the menu. Seaweed powder dusted atop of finely julienne kohlrabi, crab salad hidden underneath, all atop a large piece of kohlrabi. The porridge? Just the water from boiled rice, which is surprisingly sweet, served in a small cup to drink. The fermented tofu is the dot of the sauce.


Having just come back from Toba, Japan, this dish reminded me of the freshly caught and grilled scallops that the women divers prepared for us. This was RAW's version, with crunchy grains of cauliflower disguised as couscous, also hiding a sliced scallop, perfectly seared. I didn't care for the sauce, which I found out later was a cauliflower puree. It was thick and a bit gluey and I thought it was housemade mayo.

Third course: BEEF / TONGUE / CRACKER

On the lao jie or old street in Yilan, you can find many shops selling "ox tongue" crackers 牛舌餅, named after their elongated shape, and is crispy and slightly sweet and a favorite local snack. RAW plays with the name, the idea and pushes it a bit further by making their own version of the cracker, then topping it with actual beef tongue, cooked for 36 hours with soy sauce and Japanese vinegar, caramelized onion and pairing it with a gooey slow cooked egg. The pairing is amazing and reminds of when you dip Japanese sukiyaki into raw egg, but 10x better. So brilliant, taking something that is SO Taiwanese and making it into such a modern dish in such a delicious way. If this was a permanent dish, I would order two or three, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. (it's odd though on Instagram, some people got it with egg and some without. I wonder why)


A table side pour of the buttermilk into the green pool, the vegetable stack hides a plump shrimp underneath. So summery almost like a deconstructed coleslaw. 


Our server said along with the betelnut flower there were 22 kinds of Taiwan spring vegetables in one dish. How many can you identify?


Personally I thought this was a tad oily, and one of my least favorite dishes of the menu. 


RAW's untraditional version of surf and turf also seemed like an underwater scene to me, with the Taiwnaese red quinoa crusted chicken looking like coral, the smoked lettuce leaf looked like a translucent shell and the wasabi and spinach foam like the ocean. Next the chicken was diced Spanish mackerel mixed in with the cabbage.  


To me, the plates from the summer 2016 menu at RAW felt like they had ocean/acquatic theme with minimalistic strokes..julienned kohlrabi dusted with leek powder masquerading as seaweed underwater.  Translucent crispy cabbage could be paper thin shells on quinoa crusted chicken coral and cabbage mixed with diced mackerel, or the betelnut flower with 22 kinds of Taiwan spring vegetables mirrored coral reef.  I don't know if it was my subconscious or RAW's very intentional vibe, but put together in a collage, it became even more evident to me.
RAW isn't the only one doing out-of-box thinking when it comes to bistronomy in Taipei, so while I admire RAW and appreciate it, I don't put it on a pedestal and I don't think they would want us to either. But I always look forward to seeing their new menu and summer is almost coming to an end -- what will fall bring us?

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?