Monday, February 09, 2009

hotpot/taiwanese: i recommend TRIPOD KING SPICY HOTPOT

No. 89, Guangfu N Rd
(02) 2742-2116


hours: 11 AM - 2:30AM


Kid friendliness: i think i saw high chairs. not for picky eaters. only spicy hotpot or pickled cabbage soup hotpot

Visit reviewed: 1/6/2009

If you haven't heard about "mala huo guo" or spicy hotpot, then you've been missing out on the perfect meal for a cold and rainy day in Taipei. "Mala" hotpot is a spin on the regular hotpot, but offers a ultra-spicy deep red blood colored broth to cook your meats and vegetables in.

Tripod King or Ding Wang is one of the more famous joints in town- my girlfriends were raving for weeks that we had to try it and said that every time they attempted to call to make a reservation the line was busy. Sometimes it is easier to just go there ahead of time and get a reservation in person.

I'm assuming that the name Tripod King comes from the shape of the hotpot- a huge metal bowl with three short feet.

There's a set up fee just for the all you can drink broth- NT$98 per person- and then you pay for whatever additional plates of sliced meats, fresh fishballs or vegetables you want (NT$90-290+). If you want to have a half spicy and half not spicy like we did, it's an additional flat fee of NT$150. It ended up being about NT$500 a person for our group of girlfriends- it would probably end up more for a bunch of guys.

The menu is in English and Chinese with a picture for almost everything. I did giggle at a few typos and the way they attempted to describe the more unusual parts of animals. Would you like some "rice nuddles," "selected rectum" or "selected honey cumb?"

But one thing that is pretty smart is that they have "assortment" plates for each type of thing they offer- for example, they offer 5 types of handmade dumplings, if you can't decide, you can get the sampler plate that has 2 of each. They also have sampler meatballs, sampler mushrooms, sampler

I also almost giggled after the waitresses bow after each time they come to your table. The first time was novel, but after each time (a glass of water, a refill of the soup, a new plate of vegetables) it kind of was a time waster when you were trying to flag down the waitress from another table.

After you first sit down and order, they bring the hotpot to the table and all the dishes. The "mala" side already has large chunks of tofu and duck's blood (it looks kind of like chocolate tofu, as my friend's sister used to call it when she was a kid). The non-mala side has pickled cabbage and pork that gives the broth a slightly sour flavor. You can then go to the back of the room and get your own sauces and rice.

Supposedly you're supposed to use the creamier sauce for the mala and the soy sauce for the pickled cabbage, but I used them both.

And then once you get cooking, you've got a bowl full of food. There's huge ladles for everyone to use- if you're a first time hotpotter, try to keep your personal chopsticks out of the hotpot as well as remember to use a different pair of chopsticks to cook the raw meat.

Other favorites you should make sure to order are the "youtiao" or fried breadstick that will soak up the broth with a crunch, kind of like dipping your garlic bread in soup at an Italian restaurant. Also they have freshly made fishballs that they will spoon in for you.

I wasn't so crazy about the Szechewan mini-meatballs, but mostly everything was good. The mala is too spicy for me to drink, but I enjoyed digging out some duck's blood and tofu and eating it with the rice. But I'd cook my meats and other things in the preserved cabbage side.

This trip to Tripod King was actually after going to another Ding Wang that I liked better. Tripod King's name in Chinese is Ding Wang2 (Wang meaning King, so 2nd tone), and the less famous but equally good Ding Wang4 is the 4th tone. The other Ding Wang4's non-mala broth was not a pickled cabbage broth but their own hotpot broth, and they also offered lunchtime NT$100 noodles that were so delicious (and to be reviewed!)

My friend said that once they had a reservation for 10 or 12 people and they were all squished at a table for 10... which is all fine, except that they all had to share just ONE hotpot. If you can't wait to eat, you might be better off at the all you can eat Momo Paradise which has a hotpot for every 2-4 people.

But if you can get a seat, you shouldn't turn it down. And if you can, go with a bunch of friends or family so you can enjoy chatting while you sharing good food, and can try more things when you order for more people so you don't have a huge bill for just yourself.

Friday, February 06, 2009

rant: i love comments, but please keep the mean ones to yourself

I love hearing from you guys and I love comments, but you'll have to let me know if this is mean-spirited or if I'm just taking it the wrong way... Anonymous comments from the latest post.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "tea/coffee: i recommend ORANGE TEA MANIA":
I am unfamiliar with these "San Ming", "Mingquan", "Chunghsiao" and "Jhuangjing" roads. Are they anywhere near Sanmin, Minquan, Zhongxiao, and Zhuangjing roads?

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "tea/coffee: i recommend ORANGE TEA MANIA":
To not be a dick for a moment, as much as I love your blog it makes my eyes bleed trying to figure out the names of basically everywhere you post about. Would it be too much to ask for you to, you know, use the right names for things? I mean, I can understand street names, it's not like they're not on every street sign or most maps - oh wait - and as for place names, it's not like there's no single, internationally recognized, easy-to-convert-to romanization system, which just happens to be the same one now being encouraged by the Ministry of Education and the Ma administration or anything.

I can take sarcasm, but when you're just lashing out, it takes all the fun out of it.

Now seriously, this blog started out as a fun thing just for myself- a personal black book if you will. And over the years, I know that it's grown as a resource for others, so I try my best to put accurate and thorough information out there, even if it takes me a lot of time from other things that I'd rather be doing.

But I can only do so much. I have no idea what "official" romanization rules are and I rely a lot on Google Translator and what I can find online. I don't know where every restaurant is in relation to MRT stops. And my computer doesn't type in Chinese. You want to know the Chinese info, please call the restaurant or check out their official websites. Sure the names are on the street signs, but all the information- business cards, websites, etc- are usually in Chinese, and I have to figure it out myself what it is offline and how to translate it. I'm not typing in the Chinese addresses into a magical "easy to convert" machine.

Not to be a dick back, but you can take your bleeding eyes to the food blogs written in Chinese and translate them yourself if you don't want to deal with my homegrown romanization.

Okay, end rant. Deep breath.

tea/coffee: i recommend ORANGE TEA MANIA

No. 94, Ming Shen E. Road, Sec 4
(02) 2715-1919



Kid friendliness: lots of fun drinks but be careful of the jellies and choking hazards

Visit reviewed: 12/18/2008

Shortly after I spotted the bright Orange Tea Mania sign near my grandma's house, I started seeing them everywhere. Is it a new chain that is expanding quickly around the city, or have I just been missing it until now? Offering a long list of teas and fruity drinks at ultra affordable prices (all around NT$35), Orange Mania takes its own spin it by offering a glut of jellies and even fresh passion fruit seeds. The Chinese name- "gong fang"- roughly translated could mean "factory," but google translated it as "mania" so that's what I'm going with- although both could work. Does anyone know for sure otherwise?

They make it easy for you by listing their top 10 drinks (well, in Chinese) as well as a huge picture of drink #1- the QQ fresh passion fruit tea, which has boba, coconut jelly and fresh edible passion fruit seeds in a passion fruit tea. It's a bit sweet and chewy and a great treat on a hot day if you're like me and love that you can get this sort of thing for US$1. The passionfruit seeds are sweet and tart and a bit crunchy and slimy (though you can't tell as much inside the drink), so that part may be a love it or hate it sort of thing. If you're more traditional, then you can stick to the "boba nai cha" or boba milk tea or other teas.

OTHER LOCATIONS (roughly translated from website)
No. 156, San Ming Road
(02) 2746-7979

No. 806, Bade Rd, Sec 4
at Sungshan Railway Station
(02) 2653-0033

No. 171, Mingquan E Road
(02) 2546-6768

Yanji shop
No. 169, Yanji St (Ren Ai Road, Sec 4)
(02) 2731-5500

No. 53-3, Da-an Road, Sec 1 (Chunghsiao East Road 4)
(02) 2777-1866

No. 152, Fuxing South Road, Sec 2
(02) 2703-6363

No. 3, Linjiang St. (Tonghua Night Market)
(02) 2700-6767

No. 387, Jhuangjing (near the World Trade Organization)
(02) 2345-1003

No. 55, Songlong Road
(02) 8787-0100

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

not taipei: Bali recommendations?

Hi all!!

Hope you are all enjoying your Chinese New Year holidays! I'm going to Bali for a short family trip and wondering if anyone can give me any must eats recommendations or things to do there!

Happy Year of the Ox!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

CLOSED/revisited/thai: i strongly recommend PATIO (formerly PATARA)

(formerly PATARA)
No. 12, Alley 247, Dun Hua S. Rd., Sec.1
(02)2731 5288
website: (in English, but incomplete menu online)

lunch: 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM
dinner: 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM


Visit reviewed: 11/24/2008
previously reviewed: 3/9/2007

mini Thai tacos with prawns and tofu

Visiting Patio again made me wonder why I don't eat there more often. The space is tranquil, the service is great and the Thai-fusion food is delicious. From the mini Thai tacos with prawns and tofu, made with deep fried crispy won ton skin wrappers to the yellow chicken curry worth finishing your bowl of rice for, the flavors and presentation of the dishes made all of us clear our plates.

I'm not sure the reason for the name change since my last review (from Patara to Patio) and I'm still not sure if the other Patios around Taipei have the same menu or not.

apple salad with bbq chicken

Get the apple salad or the deep fried soft shell crab salad. Get the satay. Get the curry.

I'm just not so sure what these puff things on the Pad Thai are...

Patio does fusion well without messing up the traditional elements and flavors of what I like about Thai food and introduces some new dishes that I've never seen before in other restaurants. A great spot for a business lunch or romantic date night, tucked in the alley behind Dun Hua Eslite Bookstore.

For more details, check out the last review.

Monday, January 19, 2009

taiwanese/night market: i strongly recommend LONGSHAN TEMPLE street eats

Guangzhou and Xichang Streets


Kid friendliness: Not as crowded as some of the other night markets. Lots to eat.

Visit reviewed: 12/27/2008

I rarely get out to this part of Taipei, so it was an adventure eating around Longshan Temple with my aunt and cousins. She led the way and we followed, so forgive me if the descriptions of where and what are a little bit meandering.

We ate a lot of classic Taiwanese street eats that you can find at most night markets- sausages, ba-wan, squid vermicelli, stinky tofu- but had to go to different streets and stores to get it- which might be more confusing if you aren't familiar with the area. It's not a localized one stop all under one roof like Shih Lin Night Market or one way long street like Rao He Night Market, but if you have time to explore, you can find some delicious and unique snacks like the peanut brittle ice cream wrap with cilantro.

If you are especially adventurous, you can go to Snake Alley, where you can drink snake's blood or see caged up snakes and other weird things. See what this Taipei Times writer had to say about the area.

First stop: Sausages or "hsiang chang"- strongly recommended

If you are standing with 85 Degrees C Cafe behind you outside the MRT Station stop, you'll spot a little vendor across the street to the left grilling sausages. Taiwanese sausages are slightly sweet, sometimes served in a sticky rice bun, often served on a stick.

If you can spot this vendor, pick up a stick for NT$25.

Second stop: Ba-wan - recommended

After we picked up our sausages to go, we headed down the alley adjacent to 85 Degrees C and ended up a small shop that sold ba-wan and got it to-go. "Ba-wan" (NT$35) is a hockey puck sized snack with a thick glutunous rice skin and diced meat and bamboo inside. It's often topped with a sweet red or brown sauce that completes the taste, although the whole thing is kind of mysterious.

It's fried in a vat of oil, but it isn't crispy. It's also steamed, but most times you'll it fried and then the oil squeezed out.


Originally I thought this was squid rice noodle soup, but after asking a friend to translate, it turns out it was swordfish rice noodle soup (NT$30)! Or pronounced "chi yu mi fun tang." I thought it was decent, but not something that I'd seek out. They wanted to order some other stuff, but they were sold out.

There's an assortment of other things available, but it's hard to tell what if you don't read Chinese. The restaurant was also not very happy to see that we brought ba-wan from another store (although they don't sell it themselves), but still let us eat it there and asked us not to bring over other stuff again. I liked the ba-wan better than the rice noodle, and the ba-wan just above average.

Fourth stop: Stinky tofu or "cho do fu"

After we ate, we ended up walking around the empty night market area where they sold clothes, dvds/cds, jewelry and other things. I picked up some stinky tofu (NT$40) to go and it was hot crispy and came with a side of pickled cabbage. I think there was a time when I was a kid that I didn't like stinky tofu, but I've come to be quite fond of it. I can only eat it fried though- I still can't eat the regular stinky tofu.

After we had walked through this section, we crossed the street and I took a picture of the signs so I would remember what intersection it was!

Fifth stop: SHAVED ICE or "chua bing"

The shaved ice shop was pretty busy- with the right side serving shaved ice and the left side serving hot desserts, such as red bean soup.

Somehow I wasn't crazy about the shaved ice. Part of the reason I love shaved ice to eat the condensed sweetened milk on top of the ice and I guess it landed on top of the toppings instead of the ice and quickly became mush.

Speaking of mush, I had never seen this before, but apparently Oatmeal Shaved Ice (or "Mai Jiao Chua Bing" is another variety of popular shaved ice. I tried a bite, but I just couldn't get into it.

The sign says they've been around since 1920 and this area is one of the older areas of Taipei. I didn't know this until doing some reading online, but you can sort of feel the difference, as the other night markets just have different energy. Even outside the MRT station, you can spot various older locals hanging around and random city signs prohibiting a laundry list of things.

Some are kind of amusing, like "No private desks or chairs," but others like "No urinating" are just kind of gross. The nearby Snake Alley is a famous tourist spot, but has reportedly been "cleaned up"- although from my memory of going over 9 years ago, it's a bit scuzzy and creepy. I think I remember seeing a roasted bat on a stick among things like the poor snakes in cages, as well as hearing that the nearby seedy area was considered the Red Light District.

Sixth stop: Peanut and ice cream wrap or "hua shen bing"- strongly recommend

And last but definitely not least, we ate the peanut brittle shavings and ice cream wrap. I almost didn't get it since I was so full, but I'm glad I did. It was a million times better than the shaved ice and more unique as well.

Read the full review here.

So that's Longshan Temple street eats. Exploring the area is an adventure in itself. Anyone have any other recs for the area?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

taiwanese/dessert: i strongly recommend PEANUT WRAP WITH ICE CREAM

near Longshan Temple
Guangzhou Street and Xichang Street

nearest MRT: Longshan Temple


Kid friendliness: might be messier than a cone, but there is a plastic bag to hold it all in

Visit reviewed: 11/27/2008

Peanut brittle shavings + ice cream + cilantro + spring roll wrapper = deliciousness

This is one of the weirdest things I've found as a Taiwanese street eat- maybe because I grew up familiar with smells, sights and tastes of oyster omelettes, stinky tofu, shaved ice or oyster vermicelli with pig intestines, pig's blood on a stick so that those things are all part of my encyclopedia of Taiwanese food and therefore no longer weird to me.

But who would have ever thought to come up with shaving a huge block of peanut brittle, sticking it inside a thin crepe-like wrap with pineapple, taro and peanut ice cream, and then sprinkling it with cilantro? But guess what, it actually works and after eating it I kept thinking about it for days.

I had heard about it before after someone asked me about it through the blog, but it was my first time seeing it in person. If you run across it in other places (I've heard Danshui), let us know where. In Chinese, it's called "Hua shen bing" as a sweet counterpart to the "run bing" which you might have seen.

First, I don't know if this is the permanent spot for the vendor, but I found it in front of this restaurant called "Xi Jiou Ah Jiou Lu Riou Fan" or roughly translated "Four Corner Mr. Nine Braised Meat Rice" on Guangzhou Street.

One wrap is only NT$35 or you could get it without the ice cream for NT$25, but I definitely recommend it with the ice cream.

They shave this huge block of peanut brittle with a wooden thing and then put the shavings on top of the wrap.

They offer pineapple, taro and peanut and you get three scoops and get to choose. We got one of each, but next time, I would just get pineapple with more cilantro. The tartness went well with the sweetness and flakiness of the carmelized peanuts and fragrant cilantro. The peanut and taro flavors were not as strong. You can get it without the cilantro too, but it wouldn't be the same- I guess the most similar flavors I could liken it to is when you have cilantro in mango or pineapple salsa. Same thing, right?

You get it all wrapped up and it looks like a run bing or spring roll. Eat it fast though the ice cream didn't really melt as fast as I thought it might.

Mmmm. You can spy the tiny bit of cilantro on the side as we asked for less cilantro in case we didn't like it all together. The peanut brittle shavings are definitely much better than just ground peanuts with sugar which is found in quite a few Taiwanese street eats like run bing and gua bao because it has a crystal like texture that is a great contrast to the softness of the ice cream. I guess you could call it a dessert crepe or burrito or spring roll.

Look for part 2 of this night in a separate blog- more of street eats near Longshan Temple!

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Friday, January 09, 2009

happy new year!

Happy New Year!

Even though the 2008 New Year's Eve fireworks were not as jaw dropping as previous years (I think if they had just made the finale more final, then it would have been more memorable), it's still a sight to see fireworks spiraling off Taipei 101. Even more of a sight is all the people who come out and crowd the streets into the wee hours of the new year.

It's been amazing to grow this blog with you guys and I look forward to 2009 being another year of good eats, new discoveries, more readers and comments, but with less weight gained. LOL.

In Taiwan, the new year festivities continue on to Chinese New Year which is at the end of January/beginning of February. This is the year of the Ox, which is "the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work," according to Wikipedia.

So I should get cracking. I finally uploaded all the pictures and tabulated the "Best Of" readers poll, so there will be some new posts in the coming weeks. Here are some of the places that are on my permanent to-do list.. maybe if I declare them here, it'll set a deadline for me to write them up quicker, rather than having post holiday writer's block when looking at the pictures.

-Peanut, cilantro and ice cream wrap and street eats near Longshan Temple
-Famous Larry's New Year Pizza
-Tenpura Sanuki Udon revisited (it moved from Xinyi Vieshow to Bistro 98!)
-Chao Ping Ji dim sum at San Want Hotel
-Ramen Kagetsu Arashi at Xinyi Vieshow
-Tripod King Spicy Hotpot (Ding Won)
-Ding Won (but not Tripod King) Spicy Hotpot
-Curry Champ
-El Gallo
-Crown & Fancy Bakery
-Chia Chia Steak
-Sukhothai at Sheraton Taipei
-Patara revisted (now called Patio)
-Big Tom Ice Cream
-Cheesecakes from Howard Plaza
-Stinky tofu and Street eats in Shihlin
-Beef Noodle Soup in Kaohsiung
-Hong Kong restaurants and dim sum
-Yong He Dou Jiang

I was sad to hear someone post that Mamm Goz has closed? I'm sad... wish I had a chance to eat there again before they closed. The last time I went there was in April 2008. Does anyone know why?