I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Monday, December 19, 2011

Donut Quest: Taiwan Dispatch

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Why does food taste better when shaped as animals?

The Donut Quest has been going and this time, it went abroad. Donuts are not all made equally and thankfully, Dunkin Donuts does not reign all over…yet. One of the chain donut shops in Taiwan that is popular is Mr. Donut. Originally from Japan, I remember back in the late 90s when the first Mr. Donut opened up in Taiwan and remembered the line that snaked out the door. Now there are a number of Mr. Donuts in Taiwan and will mostly likely find on the any mall in Taipei.
Since there is no Thanksgiving in Taiwan, they got started early on the Christmas spirit and they had some Christmas themed donuts, such as their donut holes. 

You have to give it to them for presentation; these things looked like a box of chocolates. The little donut holes are all colorfully decorated and various coatings. One thing to mention is that though they do yeasted and cake donuts, they also do mocha donuts which give them a chewiness and difference in flavor or I at least think it is different. Each of these donut holes were colorfully decorated and had that odd pastel coloring too them and like all things from Asia, they looked cute and I am surprised it had no Sanrio characters donning it. Donuts after the jump!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dazzling Cafe

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Waitresses dressed in French maid outfits is not attractive, it’s kind of creepy

Cafes are all wildly popular in Taiwan and can be found in malls, streets and random alleys. These cafes are perfect places for one to come, order a coffee and waste the afternoon away either working on that “book” or to catch up with friends. However, there is one café that is so popular that you cannot really sit around and talk for the whole afternoon, because of the people that are lining up to get in and that is Dazzling Cafe that has multiple locations in Taipei, all of them to my knowledge, constantly busy. Luckily, while wandering the Shin Kong A11, we walked by it and noticed that no one was waiting and decided to go for it and go in, with a preface that everyone had to order a drink and that we could only stay for an hour and a half, sure we can play this game.
Dazzling Café is the most effeminate café and is trying to give off a classy Audrey Hepburn feel, like a breakfast at Tiffany’s but in reality it is like a between Barbie playhouse with a side of Asian knockoff that a good copyright lawyer maybe able to make a buck or two off of possible copyright infringement. The door knob is an oversized diamond ring and the staff is dressed in maid and butler outfits that are similar to the outfits that is typical of any Anime series. The café has 4 colors: black, white, raincoat yellow and an absurd pink splashes just to emphasize the feminine nature of the café, to a point I thought I was going to get cooties.

However, the color scheme and theme of the place is not what has made this place so popular, has been the honey toast box that has made it so popular. The Honey toast box is a square Pullman loaf that is hollowed out, and stuffed with sweet stuff, ranging from custards, fruits and ice creams. The innards of the loaf are toasted with butter and sugar making a faux French toast but not heavy. Think of it as a sweet bread bowl or in this case, a box. 

Though I could probably destroy a whole one on my own, you generally order one for the table so we went with the “Party in your Mouth” honey toast. It had strawberries, custard, ice cream and topped with a raspberry macaron and if not sugary enough, a side of honey. Everyone is required to order a drink so I went with an affogato, but it was not called an affagato. It was most certainly not served like any affagato I had in the past, as the scoop of ice cream was served in a martini glass with chocolate syrup and nuts. It’s okay; I can hear the wincing and hissing from all the Italians reading this. Despite the over the top presentation, it was a perfection respectable affagato because it is kind of hard to mess up a scoop of gelato/ice cream with espresso. 


The ‘Party in Your Mouth” toast looks impressive when it comes to the table and like most foods in Taiwan, the picture of it in the menu looks like what you get. You kind of have to look at it for a second and figure out how you are going to take this down, or if you stare at it blankly enough, a kind waitress will do it for you and the way she does it, is most likely the best way to eat it. Break down one of the walls, take a piece of the toast, shmear some custard or whatever on it and proceed. Overall, it was not bad. The outer walls of the toast were pretty dry and dull. The addition of custard, ice cream, fruit and other add on made it edible, the macaron was one note and nothing impressive. It kind of baffles me the long waits to this place because the food or the honey toast box is just okay. Honey Toast After the Jump!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Best Dan Dan Noodles in Taipei, Period.

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Walking into random underground malls can be good

Sometimes it takes a little bit of effort and patience to get a near perfect bowl of noodles. My favorite place to eat in Taipei, is a small little place that is in my opinion, the best dan dan noodles and red oil wontons. I almost regret talking about this place because I want to be greedy and have this place all to myself…and the lines of people that are also waiting for these amazing noodles. Getting there is a bit of a find; it is located in an underground mall by the Zhongxiao Dunhua station. You will walk by this place at least once and in fact, those living in Taipei may have already walked by it multiple times without even knowing it. Even if you do find the stairs that lead to these awesome noodles, awkward hesitation may get the best of you and most likely you will walk away. There is no sign at first that awe inspired noodles are here, there are random clothing shop, some weird looking coffee bar, a random dull stall, all giving off signs of unwelcomed uneasiness and your conscience is screaming for you to retreat and find food elsewhere but you must hold your ground and if you show up there after 11:30 from Tuesday to Sunday, get in line. 

In the end of this uninviting underground mall is a noodle counter and has about 15 seats where people are waiting patiently for food. A man, his wife and daughter are all painstakingly and methodically preparing food. The space is the size of a newly grad kitchen and in fact, maybe even smaller. The noodle counter has exactly 3 burners and a crock pot of pork chops and eggs in soy that has been stewing for who knows how long. Jump for the food!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ba Bao Bing: Shaved Ice Goodness

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Since Ba Bao Bing is mainly water, it’s like low fat right?

It is no secret that I like all frozen desserts, especially ice cream. Actually, that is not true; I am not really a fan of sno-cones. The syrup distribution is never right so you end up eating half a chunk of ice like a special person and then finally when you reach the bottom, you get the syrup, but by then, you have brain freeze and a frozen jaw. However, in Taiwan, I am all about shaved ice here. Shaved ice is way different than a dumb sno-cone because not only it is finely shaved; there is also the addition of toppings and syrups, so you get a better distribution of awesome icy sweetness.
Ba bao Bing as it is called is popular like this place that is located on Yong Kang St. of the former home of Ice Monster. Here we got the mixed fruit shaved ice with mango ice cream. We also got a extra scoop of raspberry ice cream because so dumbass lady snagged our order like a greedy little—well, you get the picture, I profited from her greediness. The shaved ice is like a sundae but since you are eating shaved ice, which is well, water it does not weigh you down as much as an ice cream sundae. This shaved ice was topped with strawberries, kiwi and mango, and of course, condensed milk is a must. Shaved Ice after the Jump!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

1010 Hunan Pop Cuisine

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Pain never felt so good when eating chilies

Thousand yr old eggs and roasted chilies

Taiwan has a mix of Asian cuisines and one of my favorite places to go is 1010 Hunan Pop at the top of Eliste bookstore that as the name suggest, does Hunan food. Hunan food is similar to Szechuan food in their heavy use of peppers but they go easier on the chili oil and have a lot more dishes that are not chili focused. The resulting combination has the positive effect of not completely “paying for it”, the next morning or later in the evening. If you do not understand the previous sentence, then you clearly have not eaten overly spicy foods, actual spiced Thai food or got Indian food spiced the non-Gringo friendly way.  

Lychee drink, much needed

To start off, I got a lychee drink which had indeed fresh lychee, lime zest and crushed ice. It was sweet and tart and something that would be a nice cool down from peppery dishes. The menu here as well as at a lot of popular places do a Top Ten list or specifically mark the most popular dishes that people order, which I find is a plus because it narrows down the choices and allows me to bypass asking the server what is good here. To start off, we got the thousand year old duck egg with roasted chili peppers. It is a simple looking dish but the combination of that funk thousand years out egg and mellow heat from the roasted chilies wakes up the taste buds. 

Dong-An Chicken

The Dong-An Chicken, which is fun to say had chicken, chilies, sweet peppers and a good amount of ginger. This was a well balanced dish of hitting both sweet and sour. The chilies in this dish were quite tame but the ginger added a nice bite. One of the non-spicy dishes was the egg custard with clam. Think of it as a savory flan that was light and eggy with clams and a nice relief to onslaught of chilies. 

egg custard and clams

Pretending to be healthy, we ordered water spinach that was cooked with garlic. Sautéed vegetables here are extreme good here and are light, tasty and fully embrace the “breathe of the wok” flavor and something that cannot be recreated, even if you have a well seasoned wok and an insane burner. 

Water Spinach and garlic

The hottest dish and by far my favorite was the stinky tofu, intestines and chilies casserole. This was a hell broth that brought you to a sweat and thankful for those disposable wet towels that accompany many meals. There was a lot of funk going on in this dish from the intestines to the stewed stinky tofu. Stinky tofu has a distinct odor and the stinky factor and taste is usually tamed when it is fried but stewed like this, celebrates fermentation and unleashes an unapologetic, funky, tantalizing odor. The chilies in this dish were varied, from the dried to the fresh. The chilies had varied effects from heat, mouth numbing and sinus clearing. I have never used any controlled substances in my life, but the effect from eating extreme heat and chilies is something that is indescribable, a limbo state like Inception in which it totters on the euphoric and masochism. The best part is after we finished all the tofu and intestines, which was good; I continued to eat the chilies and leftover sauce. 
Stinky tofu, intestines and chilies

The final dish was the fish heads with green chilies or when you look at the dish, green chilies with fish heads because the amount of chilies in this dish was not like the way you garnish with a sprig of parsley. The fish heads were smothered with chilies, like they took a page out of the Curtis LeMay Dresden doctrine and carpet bombed the chilies onto this dish. The heats from the chilies were cut from a good amount of vinegar. Unfortunately, fish heads are not popular here in the United States but besides the usual Japanese method of grill it with some mirin, fish head with chilies is one of my favorite ways to eat it. Oh and future warning to all those dining with me, I automatically call a cheek, you if I do not get a cheek piece, there will be problems. 
Fish head with green chilies

Ending the meal was a simple dessert of almond jello and pineapple, which were fresh pineapples. Taiwan is a great place to travel in which you can try varieties of Chinese food styles all in one place and done very well. Also although I did not have it this time, you cannot miss out on the ribs which get a heavy dose of cumin seeds and plus, you get a glove to keep your hands sticky free!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Uncle Chang Burger

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: I still have no clue who Uncle Chang is, but the dude rocks New Balance Cross Trainers

In Tainan, the streets are filled with these breakfast lunch places that have a variety of sandwiches and such in the morning. As much as people eat congee and other things, sometimes they do not want that early morning starch bomb and just want a sandwich. One of these places, Uncle Chang Burger according to one of my cousins, has opened one or two locations in Tainan and from the times i passed it in the morning, looks busy and usually it seems like a fast food operation and I generally steer clear away from that but look at the man, he looks so happy and why would you not want a burger from Uncle Chang? Also as the signage advertises, there is indeed corn soup which is a great way to wash down a burger.

Thankfully, Uncle Chang does not have food time discrimination and serves a burger all day which is how it should be. They had the usual suspects of Taiwan breakfast foods of egg crepes, soy milk and various teas but I went with the chicken sandwich with eggs and the hamburger.

the chicken I later observed, was not really "chicken" but really smoked deli-like chicken. The egg I thought was going to be a runny egg like egg but it was scrambled eggs, but at least they were fluffy. Dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup and mayonnaise it was a okay sandwich. The deli-like chicken was a bit salty and the roll was soft but sweet, but compound that with the ketchup (ketchup produced in Asian countries, is generally distinctly sweeter) it was actually a bit too sweet for me.

The burger was the size of a dollar menu cheeseburger which I guess to the rest of the world is "normal" sized. It was topped with shredded cabbage, mayonnaise and ketchup. The bun was soft and sweet but it was not warmed or toasted. The burger patty can be best described as with a "huh". It is not cooled to order but upon inspection, you noticed flecks of brown stuff and it has an eerie sheen to it. Upon eating it, I realize that the flecks is actually bits of fried shallots and that the burger patty had a starchy consistency to it. The patty I suspect has probably little beef or no beef at all and it was more like a sausage patty. The patty had meat in it, I just was not sure what kind of meat it was, Upton Sinclair would most likely be all over this thing. The burger again, like most things in Tainan, a too sweet for my taste but the addition of the fried shallots in the patty almost balanced it out.

Though I most likely will not be getting a burger from Uncle Chang again, it is fun to see and try foods that seems atypical to what I used to seeing here, seen in a different light. However, next time I need breakfast, I think I'll stick to an egg crepe...maybe try the corn soup.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Street Market by the SYS Memorial Hall

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: You know when you are in a true street market when you have to watch out for incoming traffic, makes shopping for fruit interesting

Most people when they go to a country, want to look at museums, buildings and go shopping, me personally the first thing I look up is the markets in the area. One of my favorite markets in Taipei is by the Sun Yat San Memorial Hall. Markets in Taiwan are called “Tai Chi Ya” which is a street market, where people sell produce, food and other odd bits and ends. These markets differ from the more popularly known Night Markets in which Night Markets such as Shilin are just all about food and Xiao Chi, but it does not mean that you cannot get some food at the Tai Chi Ya. 

Walking by The SYS Memorial in the early morning is that you will notice it is basically old people time. They will be out and about in the streets and doing tai chi, weird calisthenics or just chilling rocking nothing but a low cut undershirt. If they were any younger, they could be mistaken for hipsters. On a side street and if you listen closely enough, you can hear the shouts and smells of a market. This Tai Chi Ya in particular is also an active street which if you are not already disoriented by the vast array of food, pushy grandmas and vendors egging you to buy their stuff, you also have to watch out for small cars and mopeds honking and buzzing through the market. The street markets are filled with people selling from either a cart they set up, an established looking awning or just a piece of newspaper laid out on the street. More after the Jump!