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Taipei travel diary 2006


Nishla
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Day 8

We've gotten to the last day! Our plan for the day was to try to hit up places we had noticed during the week but hadn't yet tried. First on the list, DinTaiFung...I was determined to try these dumplings!

We arrived around 10am (they opened early at 9am since it was New Year's Day). There was no wait :biggrin:

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That's me outside, in front of all the steamer baskets.

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Menu

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Xiaolongbao. The skins on these are impossibly thin. I can't imagine how they make them without breaking. It's like magic!

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Vegetable jiaozi. These were very good, with lots of vegetables.

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Pork soup dumplings with crab. These were bigger than the regular xiaolongbao. They were good, but harder to pick up without breaking.

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Mashed taro dumplings. These were very tasty, but a bit sticky. I wish we could have gotten a half-order of these.

We were stuffed after breakfast, since there were only two of us and we wanted to try so many things. It was worth it!

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Day 8 (cont.)

We decided to walk off breakfast by heading down to Taipei 101 (about a 2 mile walk). It was a beautiful day out, sunny and close to 70F.

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We passed by a few 7-11's. These are absolutely everywhere. The funny part is they all have the traditional hot dog machine, but next to that is a huge bucket of tea eggs, as well as a tub of fish cakes on sticks :biggrin: No slurpees though.

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Also, just to show you what I mean about food being sold everywhere, this guy's cart is literally parked in the middle of the street!

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A random park we passed by. Even in the center of the city there are some nice green areas to walk around.

We also got distracted by a weekend/holiday market. They were selling a lot of jade and other items.

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Knick-knacks

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"Health" food. Some different types of grains, I think. In the markets there are vendors selling herbal remedies and Chinese medicine everywhere. Everything is touted as being good for you.

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Taipei 101 from a few blocks away.

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Day 8 (cont.)

Inside the Taipei 101 mall, the bottom floor has a food court.

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Anyone recognize this place?

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A bakery selling giant mochi. I also like the strawberries turned into faces.

There's a fairly upscale supermarket down with the food court:

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Wagyu beef. The prices are per 100g in NT currency (the steaks are probably ~US$50/lb).

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There's a lobster filling that entire top center tank. I think it's over US$200 :shock:

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This one's for the liquor fans. The largest selection of Marie Brizard products I've seen in one place. It's all blurry because I got yelled at for taking photos just as I was taking this shot. I was tempted to get some of the more interesting ones (mango, black currant) but I didn't want to carry them around all day. Now I feel dumb. :wink:

After checking out the supermarket and food court, we got a couple of pastries for a snack.

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In the back is a slightly sweet bread filled with chestnut cream (good, but a bit heavy). In front is what was labeled "cheesecake". Hmmm. I think it was a steamed sponge/egg type cake with cream cheese. Very delicious and moist.

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Day 8 (cont.)

We wandered around the mall for a while, but it's mostly fancy designer stores. All the walking was making us hungry again, so we got a taxi back to YongKangJie (the snack street). A couple days earlier, we had seen this woman making zhuabing (sort of like a cross between scallion pancake and roti, maybe?), and she had a huge line. We vowed to try her food before we left :wink:

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All the balls of dough for the pancakes. The metal box sitting on the edge of the cart is a press used to flatten the dough.

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The raw dough starts out on the left hand griddle. Once they're nice and brown, they get transferred to the right hand side, where the woman sort of crumples them with tongs and a spatula. This gives the bread a more layered texture. You can order the zhuabing with or without egg and spicy sauce. We got one with both egg and spicy sauce.

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You get it in a little paper bag

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Yummy goodness inside. After we finished this, we went back and got another :biggrin:

I think each one was about US$0.75

Since we had been snacking all day, we didn't have much room for dinner. After some leftovers at home, we had one more stop. Across the street from the hotpot restaurant, we had spied a cart with a line of people down the block. We had to give it a try.

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These are like pancake dough filled with either red bean or custard, formed into these hat-shaped cakes. They have to be eaten immediately on the street, though. We brought some extra home, and they were rubbery by the time we got back :sad:

Anyway, it was a great last day in Taipei, and we got to try just about everything on our list of things to eat, plus a whole lot more! We discovered so many new things, and I can't wait to go back to see more of Asia. Thanks for reading along :biggrin:

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I love how your idea of fun activities on a trip involves going around to various supermarkets to see what kind of food they have on offer, because this exactly the sort of thing I enjoy. I think it shows a lot about a culture. For example, I've never even considered turning a strawberry into a goggle-eyed face, but people in Taiwan do, apparently. My friends usually think I'm nuts because I want to see how many cheeses are available at, say City Super, in Hong Kong, instead of shopping on Hollywood road, or whatever, but to me, it's the most fascinating thing.

There are a lot of Marie Brizard products available in Hanoi, as well. They must have a good distributor.

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... I was just very surprised by how few we saw. In other cities I've visited in North America and Europe, if you walk around for 20 minutes you'll run across a bar/pub/restaurant with a bar/cafe where you can pop in, grab a drink and hang out for a while. It just doesn't seem like part of the Taipei culture.

It is, by and large, not part of the Chinese culture. Until the foreign powers took over Hong Kong and Macau and Shanghai.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Thanks for a magnificent tour. Question about bean leaves: from what type of beans do they come from? Soybean plants?

At what stage of growth are they harvested, would you know? Are they cropped like pea shoots, where only a small, tender, axillary portion is broken off the plant which continues to grow? Or are they harvested destructively, e.g. amaranth greens, or spinach, where the entire plant is uprooted?

Are bean greens sold in the US?

Thanks much.

gautam

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In some areas the bean greens are called pea shoots or in Mandarin Chinese "dow miao."

They are sold in the US but you usually have to find a big Chinese market to get them. When you're picking them, make sure they're tender by snapping one of them in half. If it breaks off easily and without much effort then they're fresh and young otherwise, if they don't break off easily, you will end up with really chewy and stringy dow miao.

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Thanks Xiao Ling, but the bean greens photographed by Nishla seem NOT to be pea shoots. Appear to have different stem and internodes characters, very likely from beans? Hence my query.

And yes, pea shoots are plentiful in US Chinese markets, even here in a small town! But many thanks for your helpfulness.

When you get a chance (and this is only slowly becoming available in the US starting from the Left coast) do try the green shoots of the chickpea or garbanzo 'bean'. They are tangy-sour. Also, do not neglect the green, immature chickpeas; delicious. Ah Leung may be able to find them occasionally in California, especially where Indians shop.

Finally, an aromatic, slightly bitter leguminous green that would be interesting to experiment with in Chinese dishes: in plain soups, with winter melon, ridged gourd, luffa, eggplant, kabocha, asian-type sweet potato, taro, etc.: fenugreek greens, also common where Indians shop.

gautam

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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I just wanted to add one final photo:

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Some very nice oolong tea we brought back. It's supposed to be quite rare, and is much more subtle in flavor than other oolong tea I've tasted. The tea pot is one my grandmother brought over from Taiwan almost 30 years ago!

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This has been a terrific diary. Thank you for sharing with us. If you have any leftover pictures, please keep posting them!

I have a love-hate relationship with this thread: I love all the pictures and the descriptions, but I hate the fact that I can't taste as well as see all the food! :laugh:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Yummy goodness inside. After we finished this, we went back and got another  :biggrin:

I think each one was about US$0.75

omg! In Southern California I needed to pay US$3.00 for this.

See my post here:

A & J Restaurant (Taiwanese style), Irvine, Taiwanese/Szechuanese style small eats

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Thanks for the explanations XiaoLing. I'm pretty sure my "bean leaf" is the same thing as pea shoots that are available in the States. I never realized they were from snow peas, though!

There are 2 kinds of pea shoots available in the USA:

Big pea shoots (Da Dou Miao) - the one showed by Xiao Ling, sprouts from snow peas.

Small pea shoots (Xiao Dou Maio) - these are sprouts from... gosh, sorry... I forgot.

Both varieties are available in Sacramento. I cook the regularly. I like the big variety more - if it is tender. Sometimes we get the old one and they are too fiberous.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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COSTCO in Chinese is 好市多.

Thanks liuzhou. It doesn't sound close phoenetically to Costco but the Chinese translation has nice symbolic meaning - prosperity.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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...  Theirs is probably the best, because they have really small tapioca balls.

Which one is better? Big tapioca balls or small ones? I had the impression the bigger the better but it seems that the smaller the balls, the more tea you would have. The big ones really fill me up quickly.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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... Anyway, it was a great last day in Taipei, and we got to try just about everything on our list of things to eat, plus a whole lot more!  We discovered so many new things, and I can't wait to go back to see more of Asia. Thanks for reading along  :biggrin:

Thank you very much for taking us along in this photographic journey, Nishla! I enjoyed it very much.

In the future if you have a chance to visit California (both Northern and Southern), or Seattle, or Vancouver, you will find many Chinese establishments (restaurants, bakery shops, snack shops, knick-knack shops) similar to those you saw in Taipei but yet very different. It's a result of Chinese' adaption to what's available in this country. Been like that for generations. But the recent immigration changes and the influx of new immigrants (yours truly included :laugh: ) have equalized the Chinese establishments in the left coast to be more or less in par with their origins. The restaurants in the Bay Area such as Fook Yuen, Hong Kong Flower Lounge, Hong Kong East Ocean, Kee Wah Bakery, Mayflower, etc. are all brand names in Hong Kong which extended their businesses in North America. People say the Chinese food in Vancouver is even better than those available in Hong Kong - because of the skilled labor, available ingredients and patronage. My bet is that there would be more and more of these shops/restaurants opened up along the left coast and they become more and more competitive. A good thing for us consumers.

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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...   Theirs is probably the best, because they have really small tapioca balls.

Which one is better? Big tapioca balls or small ones? I had the impression the bigger the better but it seems that the smaller the balls, the more tea you would have. The big ones really fill me up quickly.

I like the big ones myself - love chewing on them. I just bought a bag of multi-coloured ones for the grandson. The black tapioca was great for Halloween!

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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There are 2 kinds of pea shoots available in the USA:

Big pea shoots (Da Dou Miao) - the one showed by Xiao Ling, sprouts from snow peas.

Small pea shoots (Xiao Dou Maio) - these are sprouts from... gosh, sorry... I forgot.

Both varieties are available in Sacramento.  I cook the regularly.  I like the big variety more - if it is tender.  Sometimes we get the old one and they are too fiberous.

The small pea shoots are also sprouts from snow peas but they are harvested in the early early stages of growth.

Edited by XiaoLing (log)
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  People say the Chinese food in Vancouver is even better than those available in Hong Kong -

I agree with the spirit of the statement but that's not entirely true. The best of Hong Kong is still the best albeit more expensive, however if you pit the best 50 restos of HK vs. the top 50 in Vancouver, my money is on Vancouver.

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...   Theirs is probably the best, because they have really small tapioca balls.

Which one is better? Big tapioca balls or small ones? I had the impression the bigger the better but it seems that the smaller the balls, the more tea you would have. The big ones really fill me up quickly.

I generally don't like the bubble tea because the tapioca are too big. Sometimes they're kind of hard in the center, and so filling. Keith got pearl tea almost every day, and I'm pretty sure we got at least one with the smaller tapioca, which I really liked. I also liked the green tea version of pearl milk tea.

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