Tuesday, August 30, 2016

hungryintaipei recommends: 7 PLACES TO SATISFY SO CAL CRAVINGS IN TAIPEI

Whether you've lived in Taipei for one year or for eleven (like me), you will inevitably end up craving a few things from home. When I first moved back to Taipei in 2005, the things I missed most was Mexican food as it was difficult to find and when you did find it, it didn't mean it would be very good. Then it was trying to find LA style pho or kbbq. Then salads. Anyone who has lived here longer than five years can appreciate the new waves of cafes, restaurants, bistros, brunch and bakeries that make Taipei more diverse in its food choices every year, when you don't feel like Chinese food.

Every summer, I get a chance to go home to LA and eat at all my favorite places, and this year I found some new favorites. The biggest trend in LA this year?  Build your own poke bowls, with at least a dozen different shops opened across LA just in the last year or two. This one is from SEA SALT POKE on Sawtelle.  Let's see who brings pokemania first to Taipei. Maybe NCIS?

Inspired by my travels this year, I'm going to try to put together a series of posts of how to find different cities in Taipei-- Paris, Tokyo, Boston and LA, for starters. Here is my take on where to take yourself when you just can't eat another bian dang and you're craving pie or tacos. 


LA: Craving DTLA's LOBSTASHACK or LOBSTATRUCK's lobster rolls?
TAIPEI:  Try LOBSTER BAR in Taipei.  No. 17, Lane 116, DaAn Road, Sec. 1, (02)  2771-0333

Lobster Bar was the first to cause a flurry of lobster roll photos to spread on my social media in Taipei when it opened a few years ago. Lobster Bar's lunch menu is a limited business menu, while they have more options like oysters and uni pasta at dinnertime full menu. Note they also do not serve the lobster roll on weekends, instead they have a brunch menu with a lobster sandwich and eggs benedict. The lobster roll and fries are not cheap at NT$680, but you know, they are pretty expensive in LA and Boston too! I will also have to try the newer Lobster Foods and Le Kief.

Lobstashack is super hidden shop near DTLA's Chinatown

LA:        Craving Sawtelle's TENTENYU tori paitan ramen?
TAIPEI: Try NYC's TOTTO RAMEN. No 9, Lane 16, DaAn Road, Sec. 1 (02) 2778-9866

Both Totto Ramen and Tentenyu offer tori paitan ramen, which simmers chicken and chicken bones for hours rather than pork, for an equally rich and satisfying bowl of ramen. Both are relatively new shops in their neighborhoods. Totto Ramen opened in Taipei in late spring of 2016 this year, while Tentenyu also just opened a few months ago.

Tentenyu trying to get in on Tsujita's tsukemen business

LA/OC: Craving BOILING CRAB's cajun spiced whole shabang seafood boil?

My dad absolutely loves the dungeness crab in whole shabang sauce (mild spiciness) so much that we have taken him to Boiling Crab for the last four years since we first took him. So I was fairly excited to try Brookhurst (and other restaurants that were inspired by Boiling Crab but have since closed) to see if they could be a good spot to take my dad. Brookhurst has done their own thing by adding options like scallops, lobster or noodles, and even serving the combos in large skillets instead of plastic bags. 

Boiling Crab. Salt and pepper and limes for dipping!

LA/OC: Craving OC's SAIGON 9?
TAIPEI: Try the pho at CYCLO. No. 9, Lane 75, DaAn Road, Sec. 1 (02) 2778-2569 or No. 137, Section 3, Chenggong Rd (02) 2796-1313 

I haven't been to Cyclo since it moved to its new shop near ZhongXiao/Daan, and their offerings aren't going to be as varied as the shops you'll find in Garden Grove, but they have a solid bowl of pho, bottles of Sriracha and crispy egg rolls. Yes, there are ton of mom and pop Vietnamese shops in Taipei, but this is going to be the one most like what you'd find in LA. They've also opened a branch  in Neihu last year. 

Saigon 9, quick lunch right next door to Great Wolf Lodge

LA: Craving tacos from GUISADOS?

Let's not even pretend that what you are going to find in Asia is going to be the same level as what you would find in LA/Cali, but unless you are going to make your own Mexican food or fly to LA, you have slim pickings. And you know what, Machos delivers a solid baja style fish taco and chimichanga (though their nachos could use more cheese) and Twinkies is off to a good start with their tacos, but I don't want to hear complaining it's not as good as Cali. That's a fact, IT WON'T BE THE SAME, just like how beef noodles and dumplings aren't going to be as good and cheap in the states. 

drooling so badly at this mini tacos sampler from Guisados. only $7!

LA: Craving Korean cold noodles from Ktown??
TAIPEI: Try SAM WON GARDEN No. 45, Ln. 188, Ruiguang Rd.  (02) 8752-3222

Sam Won Garden is my go-to place for when I'm craving galbi and mul naengmyeon, or short rib and cold noodles. Just like the Vietnamese food scene in Taipei, there are a ton of little localized places here, even in every food court, for when you want bibimbap or Taipei style kbbq, but Sam Won is the most LA-ish of them all. It's a big enough restaurant to host your group of 20, they give you a bowl of the Korean lettuce salad that has the slightly sweet and spicy dressing, and they have chewy, soupy cold noodles on the menu. 

LA: Craving GULFSTREAM's lemon meringue pie? 
TAIPEI: Try DRIP CAFE No. 26, Lane 553, Section 4, Zhongxiao E Rd (02) 2764-8181

I can't be the only one craving American style pies in Taipei. There is no shortage of lemon tarts in bakeries here, but it's not the same as a towering slice of pie with a crown of torched airy meringue. I semi-regretted getting the slice at Gulfstream since it's $12 a slice now (you can practically get a whole pie at Marie Callender's for that price), but it was still amazing. While Drip Cafe is known for their cronuts, I fell in love with their lemon meringue pie (and banana cream pie). 

Gulfstream's lemon meringue pie

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

night market/taiwanese: i still strongly recommend SHILIN NIGHT MARKET 士林夜市

MRT: Jiantan 

Glimpses from last weekend at Shilin night market. It was the first time I visited the relocated vendors since they had moved five years ago from the corner near the MRT Jiantan exit to a basement food court on Jihe Road. Anyone who has been to Shilin knows it's a sprawling, huge night market composed of many winding alleys, shops, street vendors and stands. So I guess it took me so long to check it out since there was plenty to eat from the street vendors outside.

But if you're looking for an air-conditioned place to sit down, you can check it out and don't wait as long as I did. Look for a brightly lit sign and some vendors on the first floor.

Once you go down the stairs, you emerge into a brightly lit, noisy, sensory overload aisle of oyster omelettes, stinky tofu and lots of people. Most of the vendors had signs filled with photos as well as an array of foods on display to point at. Each of the vendors have their own area to sit at, and I ended up just picking one that had an open table since they were all pretty crowded.

Multiple vendors making oyster omelettes by the dozen.

Sunrise Teppanyaki had a bevy of awards and customers.

Coffin bread stand served fat slices of bread stuffed with savory or sweet concoctions. I've actually never tried it before.  

Sweet and salty "da bing bao Xiao bing"

Stall number 20 is the one I ended up grabbing a table at. Bright clear sign, yellow tables and lots of choices. Staring down the menu, the owner handed me an English menu after hearing me speak English. 

English Menu and photos avail to point at and order from. Definitely order the pork braised rice, or the lu rou fan, and the ten bu la or fried fish cake. 

Front row seat to the chef's table 

The food comes out fairly quickly and the table full of food was NT$500. I would recommend everything except the fried tempura shrimp, it was the most expensive and our least favorite. 

Stinky tofu 

Braised pork rice or Lu rou fan-- I quite liked this. I always feel a tad indulgent eating Lu rou fan because it has a lot of pork fat and oil, but this was the right amount of sweetness and saltiness and cooked to an almost melt in your mouth consistency. I liked how it wasn't all fat, but had some ground pork mixed in too.

Our next favorite was the fried ten-bu-la fish cake. Slightly crispy on the outside and had a qq chewy consistency and slightly sweet. 

Be prepared to swim in the crowds on the weekends.

Taiwanese sausage in a sausage 

Famous Hot Star fried chicken g-pai. There was a stand here in the basement as well as outside and near the theater. Lines at all three vendors. 

This translation! 

Along Jihe Road are also a row of games for kids and kids at heart to play. There was one woman who was next to me who was shooting 10 balloons in a row, on the top spinning wheel. Bang, bang, bang, bang.. sharp shooter. 

This number toss game had the best prize-- Pikachu!

You can even find popular items from other countries, like Korean fried chicken, or the latest craze, the rolled up ice cream from Thailand. 

I always make my way to the street vendors on the other side of the night market, near the theater. I love the pan fried buns and the variety of food there. 

The Pokemon Go craze is real in Taiwan. Have you seen the video of the mob of people running in Beitou, reportedly to catch a Snorlax? 

Pepper bun

Shaved ice

I couldn't believe this shaved ice shop was closed!! It looked like it has been closed for awhile. Does anyone know if they relocated or just went on vacation? They are missing prime summertime customer dollar bills!