Saturday, March 29, 2008

Street food in Tamsui Taipei - Part Two

"Must-eat" street food and snacks in Tamsui, are no more secret. There is even a travel snippet on that. It is therefore not my great discovery but instead a pursuit of what is evident. I try to accomplish most of them. Why not all ? Because there are some snacks I simply do not like (iron eggs, is one example)

Iron eggs (鐵蛋 pronounced TieDan) - these are eggs which have been repeatedly stewed in a mix of spices and air dried. The resulting eggs are dark brown, chewy to the point of almost as hard as iron, thus the name.

Signboard writes..."hot and spicy flavor, garlic flavor, black pepper flavor..."...gosh...

Now for the curious minds - why are they repeatedly stewed ? Act of purpose or matter of coincidence ? This should be a discovery or invention by act of business astute, in my opinion. The story starts from the tea eggs that are common street (convenience) food in Taiwan - do you think heaps of eggs can be sold out every day ? What do you think happen to those which are un-sold ? Those un-sold are continuously being cooked, re-cooked; stewed, re-stewed (together with fresh batch of eggs) till the point of being sooooo.....hard. Since those eggs could be repeatedly stewed till hard yet still edible(note: edible does not equal "nice-to-eat"), why not turn them into snacks that can be packaged (stored) after being air-dried. This way, the "older" eggs are not wasted, while you still can cook and stew fresh ones to entice different customers. Brrrrr...

Danshui or Tamsui fish balls (淡水魚丸) are very famous. They are made of fish paste and the fishballs are stuffed with meat and garlic, served in a soup.

Served in a light broth/soup flavored by pepper and sprinkles of celery bits

Meat filling in the fishball

Sounds and looks like Fuchow fishballs 福州鱼丸? Well, it's kinda different. These Tamsui fish balls are more chewy (sotong or cuttlefish ball texture, if you ask me) compared to Fuchow fishballs that are usually more springy. I read somewhere that the Tamsui fish paste has got shark's meat paste mixed into it !!! Is it why the texture is so much different from those fishballs I've had back in Singapore? Frankly, I prefer those in SE Asia. But since we are already here in Tamsui, we should just do ourselves justice of having more fishballs. This was taken at another store (picture of stall, below).

You can order some rice vermicelli or bee hoon and enjoy with those fishballs

Then, there is the word "A-Gei (阿給)" that keeps popping up along signboards on the street.

Ok, initially I thought it's a name of some famous food stall (oh, I so stupid!) but only when I returned from my trip, then I realized it actually meant deep fried tofu in Japanese!!!! OH IS IT??! Alright, we missed on that A-Gei (阿給) - they are deep fried tofu that are stuffed with flavored crystal noodles and sealed with fish paste (surimi). Hmmm...kinda like Yong Tau Foo, isn't it ? And only today, when I kept rolling that name in my tongue A-Gei...A-Gei, I thought of Japanese Agedashi Tofu...(OK, how do you pronounce "Agedashi"....does the first two syllabus sound like A-Gei?

Fish crisps (魚酥) - fish snacks that are light crispy with a texture comparible to shrimp crackers. Available in original and spicy flavours.

Again, reminded me of those round crispy fish snacks in SE Asia. They taste almost the same!

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Vegetables, flowering vegetables or flowers

I do not know if they are flowers or vegetables. Indeed, they were used as flower decorations but they look a lot like...lettuce to me??? HELP ?

Nonetheless, they are colorful and lovely as decorations.

Taken at Puli Winery, Nantou, Taiwan

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Food elevator

This (picture) should jolly well work in Luk Yu Teahouse, Hong Kong. You can argue about holding on to dim-sum traditions but the heavy loads of dim sum over the waiters'/waitresses' shoulders, need to be lightened, especially when they have to climb steep stairs to serve the customers. If you have not seen them, read about them here.

A FOOD the rescue.

I know that is no new invention but it just surprises me when an old store -老店 can embrace that.

Using a food elevator when your eatery establishment has two or more storeys will certainly make operations more efficient.

How it works?
1. You order your food after you are seated (assuming you are not seated on the ground floor)
2. They will take down your orders on a chit and you are given a number
3. They "drop" your orders (somehow, but I don't know how) to the kitchen which will then prepare your food
4. When ready, the dishes will be place on trays and up the elevator they go
5. Your order number is called
6. You collect your food at the food elevator/station

Photo was taken at A-Gei -阿給老店 in Tamsui, Taiwan.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Welcome to the world of pots!

What goes around, comes around...
What goes into a pot comes in a pot

A claypot of smooth Cantonese congee

A stainless steel tripod-hotpot in Tripod King. For once, you can "have your cake and eat it too"

Cast iron pot (import from Japan) that dwells into the art and science of hotpot/steamboat cooking and eating. Try Yuans to experience it.

Served right at your dining table, cooked in front of you...a warm pot of clams cooked with ginger, scallions, szechuan peppercorns. You get to see your clams from start(closed shells) to finish(opened shells, ready to eat!). And remember, never allow the clams to overcook. Once the shells open, you can dish the clams aside and slowly enjoy the soup during the meal

One tasty pot, multi-eats. A sizzling pot of Huadiao Wine Chicken 花雕鸡 where you start "interactive eating" from the last few minutes of finished cooking. You will hear the pot sizzle, meaning the chicken is ready to be savoured. Uniquely, the gravy essence of this Huadiao Wine Chicken is not wasted since the pot is kept warm under a table stove. Thereafter, you can order additional sides such as cabbage, rice noodles, beancurd skin to add into the pot of Huadiao Wine Chicken when there is only gravy remaining. Wipe the pot clean, till the last stain. Eat till you drop and till the last drop.

A pot of mushroom broth that cooks everything mushrooms. Healthy and nutritious.

A serving of Japanese curry stone-hotpot feeds one individual well. Very well. It's for you only, don't have to share.

Ending off with claypot rice, topped with juicy succulent chicken drizzled with premium dark soy sauce - 煲仔饭

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hotspring resort in Taichung, Taiwan - Freshfields Resort

A day trip out from Taichung city.

Freshfields Resort is a ~ 20min taxi ride from Taichung city. A great way to spend the weekend, away from the polluted city. What's the hoo-ha? This is a hotspring hotel, almost right smacked in the city. More "ahs"...'s our first time enjoying hotspring. We are "shy" people. So we opted for room with private hotspring rather than share the public hotspring bath with other guests. :P

Beauty bath in hotspring water

Hot and cold hotspring water options

For a price of 4800NT (weekdays), +1000NT (5800NT for weekends and holidays), it's a comfortable stay in a room with private tub piped with hotspring water.

Will go again if feel like it, since it's so near. :)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Brussel sprouts or teenage mutant weirdo cabbage - WS

Brussel Sprouts -

Well, are these brussel sprouts ? Have you seen brussel sprouts looking like this ?

I cannot believe they (in Taiwan) are selling these overly-grown brussel sprouts! Or should I say teenage mutant weirdo cabbage ? Well, it was labeled in Mandarin (I don't know what is brussel sprouts in Mandarin) but my eyes could not be deceived. Time to educate those farmers! They should know when to harvest their crops! Or is it me who is ignorant ?

Shouldn't brussel sprouts be looking like these -

There are two simple recipes for me, when it comes to brussel spouts - Chinese or Western style!
Check them out here or here.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Omelette rice, omuraisu, 蛋包饭

蛋包饭 ~ Dan Bao Fun, literally means "egg wrapping the rice". Officially (and technically), they call it omuraisu (in Japanese) where omu - is from the word "omelette" and raisu- from the word "rice". That's pure dissection of words. And coincidentally...I am going to dissect the omelette and show you what's inside --

Rice fried in tomato ketchup!

A dish that sounds relatively simple in terms of ingredients but I never ever thought of making it myself. Perhaps it's the trouble of assembling the omelette and rice that gives so much resistance (heck, I rather eat the omelette and rice, separate). Or perhaps it's food for the kids (that tomato catch-up impression I get...errrmmm...ketchup-flavored rice...errrmmm)

But really, when you take the trouble and go through the process - from frying the rice (without getting burnt ketchup or mishandled caramelization) and swirling the eggs around the pan as they cook (to make an even circle); up to the point of having to place the ketchup fried rice on one side (left or right) of the egg and flip over the other side to "wrap" the rice (just like how I made my seafood omelette); then flipping the omelette onto the serving plate, in perfection and no mistake (making sure it just appears as a regular omelette on the plate, nothing else); and finally touching up with that extra dollop of ketchup on the omelette - it can be just that accomplishment of putting little steps togther to create a single entity, the surprise that an omelette hides, PLUS the satisfaction of turning ketchup-flavored rice into "adult" food.

When we visited Tamagoya in Taiwan, 80% of the crowd were adults! Myth busted! Adults are catching up the ketchup, not just kids! :P

A fluffy yellow egg - just you wait when I cut you through...*evil*

For my personal liking, I would rather have simple fried rice under the omelette. Well, I know. This will not be authentic omiraisu anymore. But anyhow, omiraisu is not traditional Japanese cuisine with true Japanese roots and origin. Omiraisu is known to be an influence of European/Western cuisine on Japanese tastes - yohshoku, translated to "Western food". This is Western-style food that has undergone multi-faceted face-change in Japan, such that it has become so well entrenched in Japanese cuisine that you will never relate them to other foreign cuisine, other than Japan itself. Yohshoku items more familiar to you may include omuraisu (rice omelette), korokke (croquettes) and tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet). Many yohshoku items remain very authentic and can be found in mom and pop eateries, Japanese coffee houses and cafes.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Of food, "hanging" ingredients, window shopping


Pardon that reflection and my lack of photography skills...

Yung Kee - this is a famous restaurant in the Central District of Hong Kong. Not only does Yung Kee specialize in roasted goose, this restaurant also serves many Cantonese items/dishes from "Roast" items to "Rice and Congee". This is the "showcase" which is facing the walkway where passers-by stroll up and down the pavement. Will this tempt the "carnivore" in you?


Even desserts such as steamed milk puddings deserve a more than half-length of window space. One can guess the number of desserts intended to be sold for the day.


This is a push-cart-style stall set up in a aboriginal village in Taiwan. It sells Chinese millet wine- 小米酒 . See the smile of the lady below those hanging millets. She keeps promoting the wine and even encourages passers-by to taste the wine. The Chinese millet wine or 小米酒 is considered a representative to Taiwan as important as the Taiwanese aborigines to the culture of Taiwan. It is said that the indigenous people in the mountains of Taiwan are not so affluent, and this Chinese millet wine (millet is their harvest crops) has become their main drink with nutritional help to their body.

Do you window shop for food? or just limited to clothes, shoes and bags?