Thursday, January 31, 2008

Steamboat, hotpot themes that make you go wild and WOW!

Other than "Numb"(Hot) and Spicy (麻辣, pronounced Ma La) hotpot, hotpot varieties are aplenty in Taiwan; and especially during winter (also winter period in the United States), people here enjoy to gather round a table of hotpot/steamboat dinner.

The "steam" that brings warmth to the body, and stomach. Hotpot/steamboat also tends to remind me of Chinese New Year dinner back home in Singapore, where we enjoy hotpot/steamboat in air-conditioned environment :P ....well, it's just too warm and humid to eat something that is constantly "steaming" right in front of you.

What kind of reunion meal will you be having during Chinese New Year this year?

Maybe this can give you some inspiration...why not have a theme-specific hotpot/steamboat meal?

This eatery 元和屋 - Yuans is famed for its seafood hotpot - Japanese style. It's all-you-can eat, 吃到饱 Chi Da0 Bao, for NT350+10% (~USD 12-13) per person during weekends.

The pot and heater plate are imported from Japan, and claimed to have right gradual temperatures imparted from the heater plate to the cooking pot. The cooking broth in the pot does not come to a direct boil and instead gradually simmers. According to their source, this mild gradual control of heat will ensure that seafood that has a delicate texture (fish, for example) does not flake easily while being cooked. Without being subjected to harsh boiling environments, the seafood quality and freshness is maintained.

To prevent wastage of food, this is how the all-you-can-eat operates. From the menu provided, you just have to indicate the item you want(write the representing number down), on little pieces of paper, and pass them to the waiters. Small plates of raw seafood items will then be brought to you. Order and repeat dishes if you wish. The portions are small but you can order them many times. Rather than giving you one big plate/portion that may end up unfinished and lead to wastage of food - this is one simple way of allowing you to enjoy more varieties, and minimize wastage. For example, when you write "2, 12, 19, 34, 28, 11, 14..." under "Seafood", it means grass prawns, black prawns, mussels, clams, scallops, fish tails, fish chins etc etc. Do you notice...we ordered seafood so many times? But that's what we are here for. So...seafood pampered!

Prawns, scallops, fish

More crustaceans-type, clam-type, and fish varieties.

Not all crabs were in-season during that period, so we had 三點蟹 - which directly translates to Three-Dot Crab, and yes...literally, the crab has Three Dots on them!! Is that a little scary to you?

Here's another go...another theme-specific hotpot we had recently. Mushroom Hotpot. You might be thinking - how boring is that ? Just mushrooms ? But they have more than 10 varieties of mushrooms!! It's another all-you-can eat, 吃到饱 Chi Da0 Bao, for NT369 (~USD 12-13) per person during weekends. 菇鲜 (I just call it Mushroom Hotpot since I don't know the English name of the eatery) is definitely a healthy hangout (if you do not have gout :P ) and vegetarian-friendly as well. Of course, you can order poultry and other hotpot ingredients, but mushrooms is their specialty. THE STAR!

They go individual in this eatery. Each of you will get a hotpot right in front of you where you can cook your mushrooms, and other food stuff.

They serve you the 1st plate of many mushrooms! Then you can order what you want/like thereafter.

Black fungi (woodear), shitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, trumpet mushrooms, abalone mushrooms etc. Some are just too exotic that I don't even know the species and name.

Even the broth is made from mushrooms.

A healthy version to indulge an all-you-can eat? Let's all leverage during Chinese New Year. Feast as you will, and don't just go bonkers :P

Hmmmm...2 days to go before I touch down the land of extreme warmth and humidity....*sweating sweating* :O

Friends (either you celebrate Chinese New Year or not), here's wishing you a Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Costco 好市多 in Asia, Taiwan

People, people, people!!! Shopping here can be a nightmare when you barely have the space to walk at a leisurely pace with your trolley cart. CLAUSTROPHOBIA!!! Crowds and queues everywhere :O , very noisy too! I don't know the price of the rotisserie chicken here but it must be cheap enough to cause this snake-line queue. No thanks. No queueing for me.

This is definitely a different experience from the Costco shopping experience in the United States (or at least the one at Lawrence Expressway, Sunnyvale) on a typical Saturday and Sunday. Well, queues at the cashiers are similarly long but at least you have much more space to move around with your huge cart while shopping along each aisle.

How do you know if you are in Costco Asia or Costco Taiwan ? Well...first, there are Mandarin characters that translates to rotisserie, seafood, etc. :O FYI, they call Costco - 好市多 (pronounced Hao Shi Duo) here in Taiwan.

Second, you get huge packs of kimchi - warehouse size, warehouse prices (hopefully). That's my shopping cart. :)

And, can even find Prima Taste Singapore Curry available. This is definitely not availabe in Costco in the United States.

Lastly, we could not believe it when the cashier told us we could only pay CASH!!! (alternatively use a Costco credit card). For those holding on to any other credit card - sorry...but it just won't work. Pissed off! Who on earth would bring so much cash around especially when you shop at a warehouse that carries huge items such as refrigerator, large screen plasma/LCD TV etc. Well, in this country, CASH is king. Here, you either bring enough cash (in a portable safe?) or don't buy so much. It is certainly one good way to help you curb your spending but is this what the merchant really wants?


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Okonomiyaki, Monjayaki - as you like it!

Seafood okonomiyaki - topped with shrimps, scallops, cuttlefish, octopus

Some of you well-travelled or "well-fed" may have tried this but it was a first for me. :O Okonomiyaki - Japanese savory pancakes, 好吃 烧. Count ourselves lucky that an authentic grill-it-yourself okonomiyaki establishment can be found in central Taiwan. Okonomi means "as you like" - referring to the ingredients, typically. Various ingredients such as seafood, vegetables and meat can be mixed with the dough and placed on the okonomiyaki as topping.

Basics - flour, water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage - the base batter; are mixed in a deep bowl and then the batter smoothed out evenly on a hot plate to be fried on both sides. Toppings such as meat and seafood can be placed on top(picture above), then continued to be pan-fried.

The other side, already fried to brown and crisp when flipped over (with the help of two metal spatulas) . The seafood-side down this time.

Ready and served!

After being cooked through, the same metal spatulas are used to slice the round okonomiyaki into quarter-size and served.

The texture and taste sensation was fabulous. You have the crisp on the outside alike potato rosti, while the inside of mainly cabbage and egg is warm and a little moist. The hint of sweetness of cabbage with the unami of seafood was a perfect match. I would sum the texture as... "almost like eating a chicken pie with the pie crust made from rosti and fillings that is moist and creamy"...

How about Monjayaki?

Monjayaki - 文字烧 - is a Kanto region specialty that is similar to Okonomiyaki, however, the batter used is much more liquid, runnier than the okonomiyaki batter.

Pool of shredded cabbage mixed with ground beef . It's wet!

The ingredients are finely chopped and mixed into the batter before frying. Let the flour batter simmer for a few minutes, and mix them with all the ingredients together. Some say it has a consistency comparable to a pool of melted cheese when cooked.

It is then eaten directly off the grill using a small metal spatula. Can you spot that metal spatula?:P

I prefer okonomiyaki to monjayaki as I felt the latter is a wetter version. The much preferred okonomiyaki had much more depth of textures to the taste buds. YUMMY!

We had our okonomiyaki and monjayaki at TEN屋- with several locations round Taiwan. More taiwan eating here and here.

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