Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tea enjoyment in Alishan Mountain, Ali Mountain, Taiwan

Chinese Tea + Preserved Plums/Fruits...may not be a traditional tea culture in Taiwan but it is definitely a tea culture that has evolved for some time now.

喝茶配梅子, at Mount Alishan, Taiwan

You can find tea houses over Taiwan where it has become a lifestyle, an enjoyment to taste tea. Snacks are introduced in tea drinking just like how biscotti pairs off with a dose of java or wine and cheese tasting.

See that first photo? Tea in a plunger. Not new but definitely modern. I'm more used to seeing and using a coffee plunger. Anyway, I was expecting high mountain tea of Alishan served in a traditional porcelain spout teapot! -_-

But if served in a teapot, there is a likelihood of getting a tea bag and not tea leaves. I was trying to pacify myself. Oh well, life cannot be too perfect. I rather have good quality tea leaves and sip the tea.

Preserved plums and fruits are quite common in Taiwan. Nibble a few of these plums when drinking tea or after a meal. I was really expecting a few. Too bad the staff was not too helpful (I think he did not know) in telling me the quantity when I asked.

And so, the plums came, in ramekins quantity!

You know, guys are not at all fascinated by preserved plums no matter how excited I can be over the variety. Why no excitement? Maybe you guys can tell me...too metro-sexual? preggie snacks? Tell me, tell me! ^0^

I had to finish two ramekins of preserved plums all by myself, in a single sitting. It's a lot!

Preserved kumquats - 金桔

Another variety of preserved fruit - I forgot the name/variety!

The tea was perfect for afternoon drinking. We asked for three refills of water in the plunger, and had to "doggie-bag" the leftover preserved fruits and plums !

阿里山日出二店, 阿里山日出有大美火鍋店 (Rihchu Store)
Alishan Village, #32
Around Alishan Tourist/Visitor Information Area
Jiayi, Taiwan

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Egg Tarts in Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taiwan

I'm not bluffing you! Your eyes are not bluffing you!

A REAL family meal - chicken, and its "eggs" in the form of tarts

Portuguese Egg Tarts from KFC! You think I'm gung-ho enough so free to smuggle Portuguese Egg Tarts from Macau into KFC, place them side-by-side a bucket of fried chicken and take that picture? I must be having too much time to spare and too many heads to roll.

Do they look authentic ?

Well, there you have it. Portuguese egg tarts in Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Taiwan :D

This egg tart even comes with mochi beneath the egg custard. Can you see it?

KFC, Taiwan offers the classic Portuguese egg tart and other creative tarts such as the one with mochi in it(above). To verify my words, hop over to Taiwan KFC menu and take a look!

And there is a KFC opposite where I am staying :) ....I will go back for egg tarts more so than KFC fried chicken.

So what is there in your country's KFC or Mcdonalds that is really local and only available there? Curious! Curious! I wanna know!

It is not surprising, really. For example, new ideas for McDonalds come anywhere (source: Fortune article, May 2008 issue). You can now have McKroket in The Netherlands, Maharaja Burger in India, Croque McDo in France and a Bulgogi Burger in South Korea. They may make it back to the United States someday, if it makes business sense.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Value set-meals in Taiwan

Some restaurants/eateries offer lunch and dinner set-meal promotions during the weekend. Some do so during the weekdays (usually to boost the otherwise poor business); some do so everyday. It depends on the business strategy of the restaurant owners.

Do set-meals spell trouble - mass-produced poor quality food? Most of the times, maybe? It depends.

The spread is quite extensive. There are dim sum items, sushi sashimi and other Chinese food fare. Here goes...at NT328 (~USD10.70) per person:

Super-value or reasonable? You tell me

Quality of food: Not really consistent in all the dishes. Mostly forgettable, except for the prawns. It is delicious and won me over.

Steamed prawns with garlic - I like the addition of glass or cellophane noodles to soak the gravy and essence.

Which do you prefer - set meal or a la carte ? What makes your decision - price, selection, value...or mood? :D

文心路一段538-1號 (大業路口)
Hong Kong New A-Do Tea House
Wen Xin Road Section 1, 538-1
Taichung City, Taiwan

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hong Kong culture - dim sum and newspapers?

The locals in Hong Kong enjoy flipping and reading the newspapers especially during dim-sum breakfast and (I guess) as long as they are not rushed over giving up their seats. Maybe that is the only time they can slow down and enjoy their food and tea :)

What I look for in a Perfect Char Siew Bao ~ Cantonese barbecue pork buns:
- served steaming warm...you are at the risk of scalding your hunger-searching fingers when you attempt to touch it
- slightly cracked top in each bun
- soft fluffy "pau" dough, almost sponge cake-like texture
- generous char siew fillings w.r.t the dough (in other words, it cannot be too much dough and nothing inside the "pau" )
- warm moist juicy tasty char siew fillings with right proportions of meat vs "pork fats"
- "pau" fillings should not look too dangerously and artificially red

Luk Yu Tea House

24-26 Stanley Street, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Central Station

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Chinese take-out in Taiwan

Package that shows what's inside...

Most of them deliver FREE (minimum order: 2 boxes) and cost ~NT70 (~USD 2.30 based on 9,May 2008 conversion rate) per person per set. Cheap ?

In Taiwan, Chinese take-outs or more commonly known as 便當** (pronounced Bian Dang), literally meaning convenience-meal, are quite similar to the Chinese take-out rice-plate in the United States. It is hard to find Cantonese Chow Mien/Fried Noodles or Fried Rice here where I am staying. Even if there is...99% chance of finding something not authentic. DOH! So I rather choose what they do better - 便當饭盒 . The "contents" of the meal is somewhat similar to the economic rice/economy rice in Singapore...that is rice with meat+ vegetables.

A very typical Taiwanese rice-set. Mostly preserved/braised/stewed food in a wooden box

Taichung Kang Road, Section 1,, # 172
Taichung City, Taiwan

They do it differently here when you asked for delivery. Over the phone, you usually order one main dish (typically meat/fish) - can be braised pork ribs, grilled chicken chop, kung pao chicken etc., and they will pair it (for you) with 2-3 different sides of (really small portions of) vegetables (eg. green leafy, long beans, cabbage, corn kernels, bamboo shoots, onions, preserved vegetables etc). In other words, you get a choice of meat but not the vegetables.

~Less than USD3 per person (lunch and/or dinner)
~FREE delivery to your door step

Why not?

Really a savior on lazy days when I don't even feel like stepping into the kitchen except to open the fridge and get a drink or a ready-snack. Oh, the evil of convenience...I'm falling prey to. But Jeff Bezos, Founder, CEO of Amazon.com did say...most, if not all consumers, enjoy convenience, selection, and low prices. Then, what will stop me in this vicious cycle of Chinese take-out diet? Selection, I guess. I don't know how healthy or unhealthy it can get if I do this continuously.

Time to get back to cooking soon.

** I checked Google translation:
Bento (english) --> 盒饭
便當 --> Lunch
ekiben (english) --> 铁路便当

Why is it that I always get the impression that Bento is 便當 ??

Anyway, happy weekend!


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Bison or bear jam - traffic situation in national parks

Wildlife, such as bison, use the roads often.

Drivers who gaze around at the sights risk running into a "bear jam" where people have not pulled entirely off the road, or simply slowed to a crawl.

We came across a bison jam. Can you see it?

All cars have to stop for bison to cross the road.

Taken at Teton National Park