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Ling

A few days in Taiwan

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Recently, H and I took a short trip to Taiwan to celebrate Chinese New Year with his side of the family. We spent a few days in Taiwan before jetting off to HK alone to restaurant-hop.

For our HK pics, click here!

Welcome to Taiwan!

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As soon as Henry's aunt and mom picked us up from the airport, H's mom insisted that we swing by Seasons Restaurant (Ji Ren). This restaurant is renowned for their claypot-cooked chicken soup, which starts at about $80ish US per pot, and ranges well into the hundreds, depending on the add-ins. For example, a pot of chicken soup with shark fin would cost about $300 US, if my conversions are correct.

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The plan was to get a pot of chicken soup for the dumplings Henry's mom wanted to serve at lunch time, but the restaurant insisted all these pots were reserved well ahead of time.

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The claypots of soup lined up behind the Plexi, cooking away...

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More boxes of chicken soup wrapped up, sitting on the street

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There were hundreds of pots of soup in that tiny store, all stacked up and ready to be picked up for Chinese New Year dinners. Henry's mom went so far as to beg the restaurant owner to sell her one, but it was no use--the owner told us that even people who are dining in the restaurant are unable to order the chicken soup, since they are all reserved for pick-up.

We left a bit disappointed, and picked up snacks from one of the tiniest food shops I've ever seen--it was essentially nothing but a doorway you go up to, and the oven was pretty much right there. They roll the pastry dough in the back. This entire store was probably no more than 4" wide.

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We ordered 'xie ke huang', a little pastry that comes with a savory filling, or a sweet filling (like black sesame). We got a box of twelve.

(You can see where H's mom is standing--that's the doorway.)

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I have never seen such a food-obsessed city. Every other shop seemed to be a restaurant (at least in the part of town where we were staying), and the seats for these tiny restaurants were right next to the sidewalk.

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I even liked their 7-11s, which sold unusual items like "asparagus juice".

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I bought a ton of Chinese and Japanese fashion magazines. :raz:

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After lunch (dumplings, which I neglected to take a photo of), we met H's family friend who took us to Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world.

Here's a shot of one of the little café offerings. The portions were teeny! One of the cheesecakes (on the top shelf, to the right) looked about 3 bites worth of food.

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McDonald's sells this fish monstrosity, and other delights such as the "rice burger", which I'll post a photo of later.

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Oh yeah, I got a snack at the food court and it was sashimi and it was actually OK! It was actually really fresh, the fish was about the same quality as a random, pretty decent Japanese restaurant in Seattle. I would never get mall sashimi here in America but it looked fresh and I decided to give it a try.


Edited by Ling (log)

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We continued through the food court, where these apples caught my eye. They were larger than a large grapefruit! Expensive too! About $10 US each.

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Buns with all sorts of creative fillings were sold at one stand, which also sold mochi.

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My first thought when I saw this was "WEIRD!"...but actually, I don't see why it would be half bad!

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In the mall food courts, you can get steaming stainless pots filled with broth, meat and noodles!

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I guess I should show you a picture of the building too, since it's so famous.

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This made me laugh--Barista Coffee calls themselves a Seattle coffee company, with the tagline: "Friends don't let friends go to the OTHER PLACE!" Their logo looks remarkably similar to Starbuck's.

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Dinner was at Din Tai Fung that night--easily one of the most famous dumpling restaurants in Asia. They have a few branches in America as well, but apparently the one in Taipei is the best. (They have two--one is in the SOGO mall. It's the one that's not in the mall that's considered best.)

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Some vegetable dishes, one of them is a lightly pickled cabbage.

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dumplings with vegetable filling

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This is what they're known for--soup dumplings! These are pork.

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I loved this soup--it's fried tofu with vermecelli

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Crab roe soup dumplings--I actually liked these better than the pork ones. The soup was richer from the roe. The dumplings skin was indeed rolled exceedingly thin, and beautifully hand pleated.

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We must've asked five people what to order that night before we went to DTF, and everyone responded: "Get the pork fried rice!" Here it is--delicious fried pork chop with a perfect, egg and scallion fried rice underneath.

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Hot and sour soup...this was neither spicy enough, nor sour enough for me.

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That's it...we had to save room for night time street food!


Edited by Ling (log)

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WOW! I'm really surprised in the décor difference between the DTF in Taiwan and the ones I know in Beijing and Shanghai. The latter definitely look very upscale and posh compared to the Taiwan one. However, the food looks exactly the same!!! :biggrin:

Here, DTF is definitely what I would classify as a 'bit of a splash out' place -falling in the 100-200RMB a person category with nice surroundings etc.. is it the same in Taiwan?

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They have DTF in Japan, too, and I've been meaning to go. Are the soup dumplings called xiao long bao in Taiwan, too? They're called "shorompo" (not sure about the transliteration) in Japanese, and I'm just wondering where that came from.

Maybe I'll drag Peter there when he's here!

You and H. really have to come to Japan to eat. I think the two of you could do some serious damage here!

And about the ice cream--there's a place in Japan that serves soft ice cream in croissant cones. I think my mother had one--she liked it, but she likes anything buttery and fattening. :smile:

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Fengyi: There was definitely nothing fancy about this DTF! The one in SOGO looked a bit more upscale in terms of decor. The food was inexpensive by American standards, but is probably a moderately-priced restaurant when you think about how cheap a lot of the food is in Taiwan.

prasantrin: Yes, they are called xiao long bao! The ice-cream in croissant cones sound incredible. Crispy, buttery, creamy, fatty. What's not to love? Japan is probably #2 on my list of places to visit (after France, which we'll be going for our honeymoon.) I can not WAIT to have the food there. I want to eat supremely fresh fish at Tsujiki market, and have takoyaki and tonkotsu ramen until my stomach explodes.

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On our first night, we visited two night markets in Taipei. I forget which section the first night market was in, but the second was in Yong He (where we were staying, and where our guide told us was home to the best stinky tofu!)

First stop, Mr. BaoZi (translation: "Mr. Bun"!)

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Notice all the plastic 'buns' displayed under the counter.

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Our next stop was across the street, at a cookie shop called Kobayashi. The most deliciously buttery smell drew us here. It came from their cookie-baking, cookie-filling machine.

I got a quick picture of the molds before they told me "no pictures".

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These cookies were soft and hot, and filled with a barely sweetened custard filling.

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There were types of fruits in Taiwan I've never seen. One of them is in the top left hand corner of this picture--the green fruit with the spikes. It's called pronounced "See-ka" though I'm not sure of the correct spelling.

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stalls sold CNY decorations

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various snacks on sticks

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noodle stalls

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some pretty elaborate street sushi!

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These were cherry tomatoes on skewers. I think they must have some sort of oil brushed on them because they were really shiny.

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At many of the stalls, you could just point and choose which items you'd like and the stall owner would cook it for you fresh, right there.

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Edited by Ling (log)

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This man had various things cooking in the pot--common items I saw in these pots were fried tofu pieces, tripe and other innards, and various meats.

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huge pieces of crab, fresh snails

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huge prawns

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glutinous rice

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stinky tofu stand--I was going to buy some, but our guide made me wait until we got to Yong He

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I got the red fruit, which is called 'lian wu' because I have never seen or tasted it before. It has a very crisp, moderately sweet taste, similar to a cross between an Asian pear and an apple. The interior (white) is spongy and delicately webby.

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We also got some fried pork!

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another picture of the huge prawns (I did get to eat these on my last day in Taiwan)

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meatballs, fish balls, fried tofu (I ate A LOT of fried tofu in Taiwan! There was probably fried tofu at every single meal, except breakfast.)

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a delicious assortment of innards, yum yum

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I think this is squid, chicken hearts, pressed tofu, and some sort of bacon-wrapped product

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fresh pan-fried dumplings and san jien bao (pan-fried buns filled with meat!)

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they even have weiners on a stick

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these look like pig's trotters to me--I'm kind of disappointed I didn't try one

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marinaded duck wings, duck tongues, chicken feet, etc...all the best stuff!

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you can also buy a hamster at the night market, if that strikes your fancy

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a jeweled array of sweetened beans, yams, jellies, and candies

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fried corn

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these types of packed carts were just all over the place!

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And finally, finally...the stinky tofu we got in Yong He. The smell is not unlike blue cheese with a bit of acrid sting, but the taste is not nearly as strong. The exterior was perfectly crisp, and the dish was topped with pickled cabbage, a garlic-heavy chilli sauce, and sweetish soy sauce, and a vinegary sauce. The combination of grease, garlic, spice, salt, and sweet mixed with that funky umami-cheese smell/taste was incredible!

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We only have one fuzzy picture of the tofu, so apologies for the lack of close-up. I ate it too fast. I was in heaven!

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Edited by Ling (log)

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OH MY GAWWWDDD! Food heaven in Taiwan!!!!!!! I do have an unhealthy obsession with street food and this looks just like the kind I love. Did you get to try popiah?

Edit:

P.S. Xiao long bao is my most favourite sort of dumpling (or bun, whatever) ever! :biggrin:


Edited by Ce'nedra (log)

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Ling - the green fruit with the spiky exterior might be sweetsop or what we call "Atis" in the Philippines. And the red bell-shaped fruit is called makopa in Filipino or known as the Java Apple. I'm glad you got a taste of it, we I was elementary school we had a huge tree growing in our backyard and we just jiggled the tree and dozens of these juicy bell fruit would rain down upon us.

You would have to look closely before bit into one as black ants love to cluster all around the fruit base. I still remember the bitter acrid taste of a black ant. Ugh!

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The bell-shaped fruit you ate is commonly called a wax or java- apple. They taste unusual; not as sweet as an apple or pear, yet a little bit tart and citrus-y like an unripe orange. The flesh is light and springy not unlike a nectarine. I like them so much I regularly eat about 8 of them in a single day.

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Lovely pictures Ling. You definitely look like you were having a ton of fun.

Funny when I looked at the fruits I had different names for them. The green one I associated with cherimoya and the red bell i associated with rose apple. Doing a google search, it seems they're all the same things just different names.

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I have been to the Ding Tai Fung in Arcadia, California (San Gabriel Valley, East of Los Angeles). The food from that branch looked very much like what you showed in your pictures. Their menu didn't offer a whole lot of choices from what I remember. Steamed dumplings, noodle soups, etc.. I can't recall seeing pork chop over rice on their menu. Their signature xiaolongbao are excellent. Dan Dan Mein was very good too. What kind of struck me, I wonder if that's just me..., was that the xialongbao and other steamed dumplings look PURE WHITE compared to the ones I got from other restaurants. Why is that? Only DTF uses bleached flour?

For comparisons:

Xiaolongbao - qty 10 in 1 order: US$7 to $8 (if I remember it correctly)

Dan dan mein - US$5 - $6 per bowl

There was supposed to be a Ding Tai Fung branch in Hong Kong, at the Whampoa Food Mall. When I was there (Nov 2007), that DTF location was closed down. Why is that? Hong Kong eaters don't like xiaolongbao???


Edited by hzrt8w (log)

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Thanks, Ling and Henry for sharing your wonderful trip!

All the pictures made me drool, but I particularly liked the stinky tofu and xiaolongbaos. :wub:

Taipei 101 - I've heard so much about this place. One of my former students from Taiwan worked there as, I think, a banquet server. He's back working in Taiwan now, so I will have a guide if and when I visit!

The food stalls, I'm glad to hear that one can point and get! :laugh:

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I've heard of cherimoyas but I've never seen one, and I didn't know I was eating one! That fruit was SO sweet and delicious. :wub:

Breakfast the next morning was at a place Henry's mom and his aunt love to go for xiao bing you tiao (Chinese donut wrapped in a oil-based, laminated dough. Healthy!)

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There is a type of green onion bread in the foreground.

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a closer look at the kitchen

The boy's job was to fill those cups with hot, savory soya milk

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Here's the flat-top with egg and green onion cooked to order. This is wrapped in dough before being eaten.

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Space was a premium, so this guy is frying the Chinese donuts on the sidewalk. See the dough all neatly lined up on the table? They puff up a lot!

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fried egg in uhm...pan-fried dough

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This was my favourite! siao bing you tiao! The Chinese donut was much airier than the ones I ate growing up in Richmond.

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Henry got the siao bing with egg inside.

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I had some of Henry's mom's soya milk too.

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We also got an order of the green onion bread.

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extra order of the Chinese donut, because it was so good

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After breakfast, we took the 5 minute walk to the market. Henry said this market reminded him of Pike Place on acid. There were a million people pushing and shoving in there, and I got shoved around a lot which means some of my pictures turned out blurry. People just had no patience for the foreigner snapping away and gawking at the unrefrigerated meat. :wink:

Let me also say this was Chinese New Year Eve, quite possibly the most important food day of the year!

prepared foods, like noodles

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different types of steamed buns

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pig's head hanging on a hook, complete with hair!

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pig shanks and feet

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innards hanging on a hook (seems like out of a horror movie, doesn't it?) Also, some Chinese sausage (lap cheong)

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yes, the chicken is not refrigerated and is just sold in metal pans

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seafood

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fresh noodles

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Chinese bacon, next to a lobster in a plastic bag (the lobster was still alive)

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weird image--a skinned frog next to some clams

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tripe!

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candies sold on the street

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At the market, H's mom bought a bunch of things, including pussy willows for the New Year (we tied little red decorations on them at home), Eight Treasure rice, seafood, and some different kinds of fruit.

We walked by this bakery on the way home. It's a chain--I forget the name.

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I went to 7-11 again to get coffee (they actually make it for you fresh there, and the Americanos aren't bad at all! I also like how they give you coffee cream over there instead of half-and-half.)

I couldn't get over the asparagus juice so I had to take another picture. Can you spot it?

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I seem to have forgotten to photograph our lunch on the second day, and I don't remember where we ate. I think we ate at Henry's aunt's house. It was probably a 6 course lunch or something, because I remember I was really full and didn't eat an afternoon snack that day.

After lunch, H and I escaped to Shimending, a shopping district for the young and hip. I got a few pairs of $12 US shoes there, and a $12 US sweater!

Shimending

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This is awesome Engrish--"Athletics of Sexy"!

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Dinner that night was my H's family friend's house. The lady, Auntie King, is a fabulous cook. She taught us how to make black sesame siao bing before and they were delicious.

cold meats platter (sorry for the blurry pic, the flash on my camera is broken)

pressed tofu, tripe, smoked duck, Chinese sausage, jellyfish

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on the left is the 10 vegetable dish that's traditional for CNY

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bok choy, dried scallop

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fried pomfret

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homemade spring rolls

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her lion's head meatballs with the egg pockets filled with pork, and braised cabbage

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garlic chives, bacon, chilli

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she even made shark fin soup!

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8 treasure rice with red bean inside, and sweetened beans (I think they're broad beans?) on top

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Breakfast the next day were the tea eggs from 7-11 and some various pastries H's mom had around the house. Oh and we sometimes had H's sister's cookies, which were cream cheese, orange zest, chocolate chip ones. It was the only American food I ate on this trip.

tea eggs from 7-11

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Lunch at H's aunt's house

slivered pork with pressed tofu and chilli

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there are lion's head meatballs under these egg pockets

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my favourite dish of the meal was the liver sausage, Hunan bacon dish. SUPER SPICY!

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the ubiquitous 10 veg dish for CNY

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smoked pomfret and chicken

H's aunt: "I woke up at 4am in the morning to get this fish!" Apparently there's a huge line at the store for this smoked fish and people are out there by 5am!

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Chinese bacon, next to a lobster in a plastic bag (the lobster was still alive)

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To the left of the lobster is a pack of dried roe - did you try any of that? If I remember correctly (it's been years since I was last in Taiwan) it was sliced and sauteed with celery, and on another occasion we ate it with toast or bread or something.

Oh, and did you try any iron eggs? I think they're unique to Taiwan.

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We walked by this bakery on the way home. It's a chain--I forget the name.

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That's a coffee chain called 85C. They started out in Taiwan as a low-cost competitor to Starbucks (cup of Americano for 35NT as opposed to 85NT). They're hugely popular and have recently opened franchises in China.

H's aunt: "I woke up at 4am in the morning to get this fish!" Apparently there's a huge line at the store for this smoked fish and people are out there by 5am!

Taiwan's national pasttime: waiting in line for food.


Edited by stephenc (log)

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Taiwan's national pasttime:  waiting in line for food.

That is SO true! :laugh:

That's right, my Americano at 85C was really cheap. Can't say I really liked it though...it was quite acidic. My first purchase in Taiwan was actually a Venti Americano from Starbucks, as I was so jet-lagged and couldn't sleep on the plane. I did my conversion AFTER I had already paid for the coffee and almost had a heart attack over how much I paid! I think it was $112 Taiwan dollars or something.

aprilmei: You are making me feel like I totally missed out on the specialty items! No I didn't get to try the roe and I didn't get to have iron eggs! I saw the iron eggs in a snack shop and Henry said the idea of eggs packaged in a snack bag sounded gross. I didn't know these were called iron eggs at the time (I just googled it and recognized the image.)

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aprilmei: You are making me feel like I totally missed out on the specialty items! No I didn't get to try the roe and I didn't get to have iron eggs! I saw the iron eggs in a snack shop and Henry said the idea of eggs packaged in a snack bag sounded gross. I didn't know these were called iron eggs at the time (I just googled it and recognized the image.)

There's always next time - then you can also try pineapple cakes, those delicious little cakes (or maybe it's a cookie) made with mung beans or peanuts or black sesame seeds, the shaved ice with sweet beans and jelly, the joong-zi, spicy hotpot... oh, there's so much to eat, the food in Taiwan is great. Oh, and did you go to the mountains (in the hills of Taipei) to have tea?? It's beautiful there.

Packaged eggs do sound gross but iron eggs are delicious. Get the quail eggs, they're better than the chicken eggs.

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Oh, and did you go to the mountains (in the hills of Taipei) to have tea?? It's beautiful there.

I think H's aunt lives in the hills in Taipei but we didn't get to do much other than visit the night markets and go to Din Tai Fung. Almost every minute was planned out for us as this was more of a trip for me to meet some of H's family friends and relatives since we're getting married soon. And also, H's mom paid for our trip so I felt obligated to be around all the time. I will definitely come back soon and get to all the places I've missed, though!

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Lorna,

I don't hang out in the China forum much but I stumbled upon this thread by accident, how wonderful to read another of your trip reports!

It looks like you had a wonderful time and ate really, really well :smile:

Congratulations to you and Henry on your upcoming wedding, I wish you lots of great trips and great meals and happy (food) memories for your future life together!

p.s. I keep going back to that dish of sliverd pork, chili and pressed tofu, for some reason that looks soooo good to me right now!

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Did you make a trip to Din Tai Fung on the weekend? They make these beautiful one-bite xiao long bao but only on the weekends - I like them much better than the ones you have to eat in several bites because you don't have to worry about losing the soup. I think there were about 20 in a steamer basket.

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Tawain street food is the best! I like how Taiwan is this sort of mix between Japanese and Chinese influences.

Thanks for the great pic's

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