Friday, September 15, 2017

dessert/taiwanese: i strongly recommend DAZHI FENG YUAN



DAZHI FENG YUAN 大直粉圓
No. 35 DaZhi Street
 臺北市中山區大直街35號

MRT: Wenhu (brown line) 5 minute walk

price: $ (about NT$60/person) Delivery available 

hours: 11AM- 9PM

Kid friendliness: very. at this price, they can each get their own bowl

visits reviewed: 8/18/2017 and 9/10/2017


DAZHI FENG YUAN IS A SMALL SHOP IN DAZHI, but with more than all the essentials for Taiwanese shaved ice. With over 20 different chewy, colorful toppings from taro balls to grass jelly to boba and red adzuki beans, you could make a number of combinations. Feng Yuan translates to the name for tapioca in Chinese, so that's why you see a big bowl of it on their sign, advertised for NT$30. 





A bowl of shaved ice is NT$60 with a choice of four toppings. I especially like their pearl barley, so much that I got double of it. I know Taiwanese shaved ice toppings can sound strange to people who are used to having their barley with beef soup or beans in chili, but think of how oatmeal which is usually eaten sweet for breakfast is now being used as a savory option. In Taiwan, mung beans, red beans, pearl barley, oatmeal are all sweetened and used for desserts. I've even seen creamed corn as a topping on shaved ice (which still repulses me, but hey, corn ice cream is a thing in the US now, so we can't judge).



They also have douhua, or soy pudding, but I found the flavor to taste a little on the burnt side, which I know some soy milk places are known for, but I personally prefer it without. You can add three toppings to the douhua, which are hidden underneath. 




Dazhi Feng Yuan's ice isn't super fine, but with the creamy and chewy toppings and brown sugar syrup, it all works together. 

And those who don't like the traditional toppings, they have mango shaved ice, but it's seasonal. I haven't tried it yet because I'm still trying different combos of the traditional. My go to combo is usually pearl barley, aiyu, boba and mochi balls, but on this day my friend wanted to try the big red beans and the taro balls. 




They have about 10 seats and it's fairly clean and they let you use their bathroom. Haha. I had to note that because A LOT of little shops won't let you use their bathroom, even though you know they have one. Anyways, this no frills shop has become a go to when I'm in the Dazhi area for a quick snack. Cuz global warming. The shop is near Shih Chien University and Dominican International School. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

mexican/colombian: i strongly recommend QUANTUM TACOS and MECATOCOLOMBIA at MAJI SQUARE

QUANTUM TACOS 
MECATO COLOMBIA 哥倫比亞小吃在台
No.1 Yumen Street 玉門街1號

MRT: Yuanshan 

websites: Quantum Tacos Facebook
website: Mecato Colombia

Pricing: $ (NT$150/ person) 

Visit reviewed: 9/10/2017

 

I HAVE POSSIBLY FOUND THE BEST TACOS IN TAIPEI RIGHT NOW and you'll never guess where. Forget all you thought you knew about Mexican food in Taiwan and get yourself to the outdoor food court at Maji Square. 



Hidden in plain sight among the jumble of stalls of oyster vermicelli, burgers, poutine and Indian food are TWO food stalls you must try if you've been craving something better than the landscape of "It's good for Taiwan" Mexican food. 

If you are on my blog today for night market finds, beef noodles soups and dumplings, then scroll through my previous posts for a moment while we talk about this. 

But if you've lived in Taipei longer than a year and/or eaten your fair share of Mexican food fails,  I'm talking to you right now. 


I didn't even realize what the name of the shop was, my eyes just went from TACOS on the sign straight to "al pastor," "carnitas," and "chorizo." The photos of the tacos looked promising, the person manning the shop didn't look like a bored Taiwanese worker, and the price of NT$150 for 2 tacos or NT$200 for 3 tacos was reasonable. 

After peppering the guy at the stand with a flurry of questions, I decided to get a plate of 3. Regrettably the carnitas wasn't ready yet, but I could get al pastor chicken and al pastor pork. He said it would take 5-10 minutes, so I would wait in anticipation by making another circle around the food court. A small price to pay for the promise of legit street tacos. 




I made my way back to Mecato Colombia which had drawn my attention with their bright and festive sign, flanked by the yellow, blue and red stripes from the Colombian flag, and more importantly photos of their empanadas. Because I figured I would kill two birds with one stone and try them both out and empanadas with tacos sounded pretty good. 

 I asked which ones were best and settled on the Traditional Chicken and the chicken and mushroom, which the owner said also had cheese. Sounded good to me. There's also pork, salami and Hawaiian empanada on the menu at Mecato (Is Hawaiian a real thing for empanadas? Or is that just for Taiwan????), as well as arepas, drinks and obless, which looked like Colombian tortas and cookies.

I think I made the owners a little bit nervous with all my questions and by concentratedly eyeing them getting the fryer ready for the handmade empanadas, so went back to look for my tacos. 




I have seen (and eaten) A LOT of tacos in Taipei (and around the world!) and the way the tacos look  dictate a lot about how they are going to taste. And these tacos al pastor from four month old Quantum Tacos were definitely in the right direction. 

First, they had corn tortillas. Second, they were sprinkled with diced onions and cilantro, and ONLY onions and cilantro. Third, there was a proper meat to tortilla ratio, enough meat that when you rolled up the taco that you could see the meat coming out of the edges. (And the fact that the corn tortilla was thin and pliable enough to roll up, you couldn't imagine what a rarity that even is in Taiwan!) 




And the taste? HEAVENLY.

I did not realize how much I wanted to eat a taco until my mouth was chewing the tender bits of spit -roasted pork and fat mixed with the punch of the bits of onion and cilantro,  and I forgot that I was even in Taipei. That I didn't even have to think, this is good for Taipei. I thought this is good PERIOD.



The al pastor had enough flavor from the tomato (which gives it its reddish color) * and spices to not need any extra hot sauce. But if you like it with a bigger kick, they did have a bottle of Cholula and housemade hot sauce on hand. All these details because the food was being made by someone who knows what it's supposed to taste like.

Sam, who was from Mexico, said that when he started, he didn't know how to cook these recipes, which are from the owner who is Taiwanese but had lived in Mexico for over 20 years. But after learning, he could adjust to taste when he was cooking it day to day because (let's say it again) he knows what it's supposed to taste like. And that makes a difference.

Also, I noticed when I picked up my food that there were two business cards on the counter and realized the owner of Quantum Tacos was ALSO the owner of Teotihuacan Restaurant, which I had just found on the internets a few days before when I was researching to revamp my list of Mexican restaurants. I had never heard of it before then and now it all clicked IRL.




When I realized my empanadas were ready so I had to put down my taco (you can see the bite I took above) to pick them up. They were golden, fist sized puffs with braided edges and I knew that I was probably the only person in the food court filled with Taiwanese families, eating both tacos and empanadas right then. And they were MISSING OUT.


The chicken and mushroom empanada (NT$55) was deliriously cheesy, so much that they should put the word "cheese" in the description so people can know they are basically getting a fried cheese and chicken savory doughnut. The crust was flaky and the center cheesy, I didn't even mind that I didn't taste any mushroom. I seriously could not believe my luck, that the taco and empanada universe finally expanded to include Taipei. 


The chicken and potato empanada (NT$50) was also delicious, and reminded me of a croquette since it had the diced potato, but with the bonus of the fried crust around it. I am typing this up right now and thinking about if I should go back tomorrow for more. 


If you're looking for somewhere air conditioned to dine, you can also try the Argentinian Gaucho at the end of Maji Square, but while their grilled meats are good, their empanadas are no where near as good as the ones from Mecato Colombia. And their menu overall is definitely more expensive.

But seriously, who would have ever thought a food hall in Taipei would have Mexican, Colombian AND Argentinian food in one place? Is this the first you've heard about these spots? Do these photos make you excited? Where else have I been missing out on?? Leave a comment and some love, so I know you're reading! :)

PS sorry, let me also know the photos are turning up blurry? Blogger is having some issues for me, but I didn't want to wait to share.. so I will try to replace the photos later, but my eyes sometimes are also seeing blurry because i'm on my phone wayyy too much.

*per feedback in the comments, please note that traditional al pastor DOES NOT have tomatoes but chilis and spices, but the chef behind quantum tacos made that personal adjustment.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

news: TAIPEI RESTAURANT WEEK 2017 now


It was not until I had lunch at Monsieur L a few days ago that I discovered it was Taipei Restaurant Week. Well, Taipei Restaurant Week and a few days, technically, since it goes from August 29- September 11. Taipei Restaurant Week sometimes can be a good deal (at least when I tried it the dineLA version in LA) when restaurants offer up a set menu usually more affordable than the sum of its parts. The set at Monsieur L definitely is worth trying with the three course menu at NT$999 that has a HUGE pork tomahawk as an option. 


Taipei Restaurant Week is organized by EZTable, so the reservations can be booked through them and you can also check out the menus for each restaurant. While some of the restaurant names aren't in English, the menus all have both Chinese and English on them. I haven't tried booking through EZ table yet, but there's quite a few restaurants I haven't been to yet that are now on my radar. And so many restaurants that I _have_ been to to blog about. 

Here are participating restaurants in Taipei Restaurant Week 2017: 

Sets NT$599/899 
  • Restaurant Page
  • Osteria by Angie 
Sets NT$599/1099
  • Just Grill (semi buffet) 
  • Antico Forno 
  • Goodies Cuisine
  • O'Steak 
Sets NT$799/ NT$899
  • Timber
  • Jian Yan Tang Teppanyaki
  • Jamie's Italian Taiwan
  • Yellow Lemon (NT$799)
Sets NT$799/NT$1099 
  • L'Idiot 
  • La Farfalla (Humble House) semi buffet
  • Grace Restaurant (only dinner NT$1099)
  • BeApe
  • Da Antonio at 101
  • Senn (only dinner NT$1099)
Sets NT$799/1299
  • La Lupa Classic 
  • Sonoma Grill Steak and Teppanyaki 
  • Wine-derful 
  • Trastevere 
  • Que (amba Songshan) (only dinner NT$1299) 
  • Jing Zi Teppanyaki 
  • Moonlight Cantonese (Taipei Marriott) 
  • Danieli (Westin Taipei) 
  • Momoyama (Sheraton Hotel) (only dinner NT$1299) 
Sets NT$999/NT$1299
  • Toscana (Sherwood Hotel)
  • Mediterranean Steak House (Riviera Taipei Hotel)
  • Monsieur L Restaurant
  • Tian Hsiang Lo (Landis Hotel)
  • GMT Gourmet Kitchen (Grand Mayfull Hotel) 
  • Yen (W Hotel)
  • TK Seafood and Steak  (Hotel Proverbs)
  • Garden Kitchen (Taipei Marriott) Semi-buffet
  • Prime One 
  • Red Flower Teppanyaki 101
  • nku
  • Shintori Taipei 
  • Danny and Company Bistro (Dazhi) 
  • In Between
  • L'origins by La Credenza 
  • Danny's Whats Grill 
  • Joseph Bistro (Indian)
  • San Hua Japanese
  • Xiang Se
  • Ziga Zaga (Grand Hyatt)
  • Bianco Taipei 
  • The Chapter
  • Brasserie Bon Recotte
Sets NT$999/NT$1599
  • Fresh and Aged Italian Steak House (Semi Buffet)
  • Lawrys
  • Ben Teppanyaki (NT$899/1599)
  • Shin Yeh 101
  • Origines (NT$1599 dinner only) 

Lunch NT$1350 / Dinner NT$2399
  • Orchid Restaurant
  • Danny and Company
  • Tairroir
  • Top Cap by Danny
  • Danny's Steakhouse
Dinner only NT$2399
  • Paris 1930 (open for dinner only)
  • Kinsui 



Monday, July 17, 2017

korean/delivery: i strongly recommend CHEOGAJIP


CHEOGAJIP 起家雞
No. 26, Lane 290, GuangFu S. Road
台北市大安區光復南路290巷26號


MRT: SYS memorial Hall

hours: 11:30AM-10:30PM, Friday and Sat until 11PM

$$ (about NT$300 a person)

website: Cheogajip facebook page 

visit reviewed: 



WHAT TO DO IF YOU'VE JUST come back from a trip to Seoul and had a lot of glorious eating of everything BUT Korean fried chicken (韓國炸雞 )? If you're me, you call Cheogajip for a couple of boxes to go and then dig up photos from your visit last year to finally throw up this post. A few years ago, when Korean soaps started to invade Taipei, I started to see cups of korean fried popcorn chicken pop up on my instagram feed from Chicken in Bok and Beer, Chimac 175, and in real life, at the now closed Mom's Chicken, at ATT4Fun and even oven baked versions from Oven Maru. 

Cheogajip is a two story shop near the SYS Memorial Hall MRT, near the alleys that house Wendel's, Mazendo, Brookhurst Seafood Bar. Most of the seating is upstairs, and suitable for big groups. 




Cheogajip's menu offers over a dozen different types of Korean fried chicken. Sweet, spicy, boneless or whole chicken with bone, it can be difficult to narrow down the options if you have never tried it and only want to order one. If you can only choose one, I would go with the Boneless Spicy Yung Nyeom ($410) which is both sweet and spicy, with some honey to balance out the spiciness. Even if you get the regular Yung Nyeom it still has a tiny tinge of spiciness, so it just depends on your tolerance. If you have zero tolerance for heat, then you can opt for a Half Half box which has plain original fried chicken and your choice for the other half. Be warned though, there isn't much else on the menu besides fried chicken besides side dishes like salad, fries, spicy rice cake and rice with seaweed, so don't come expecting a fuller Korean menu.







For my first visit, I rounded up a group of friends who were excited to have some chicken and beer with me, so we were able to try a variety of flavors. Sticky, spicy, sweet, crispy, crunchy 🍗🍗. If you've never had Korean fried chicken before, Cheogajip is a great place to start. Just make sure to bring enough friends to share. Thank you to Cheogajip for hosting us that first time. 


Cheogajip has four main flavors that you can choose to be spicy or non spicy. Plain fried chicken original, their signature honey "yung nyeom", crispier soy sauce "warak", scallion fried chicken w a sweet sauce, and supreme with a drizzle of mayo. You can order a whole chicken (with bones), boneless or wings, and for the whole chicken you can choose 2 flavors. Sides include seaweed rice, salad, fries or beer. That's pretty much the menu. 
My favorites were the spicy signature honey boneless (this pic) and the non spicy soy, which is the crispiest. I think I might switch it next time and try non spicy honey and the spicy soy.. Lol! Portions are huge and the chicken meat was meaty and tender.


The servers were quite helpful in explaining to us what the differences were. Only the Yung Nyeom comes boneless, all the other are a whole chicken fried, but if you're a wings lover, it's no big deal. The only difference is that you can eat the boneless version with a fork and not get your hands dirty, where the regular kind you ware going to get sticky.


Yung Nyeom - Sweet and mild
Spicy Yung Nyeom- Spicy and sweet
Warak- Soy garlic
Supreme Yung Nyeom- with a drizzle of mayo
Scallion- Scallion

Whole chicken
Boneless chicken
Wings

(top left spicy young nyeom, top right scallion, bottom left warak)

Warak is slightly less sweet than Yung Nyeom since they use soy sauce instead of honey for the marinade. It's slightly crispier as well. If you can't finish a whole chicken, you can order just Warak wings.  Each piece was very juicy and tender and such a guilty pleasure to eat. Everyone gluttoned out on korean fried chicken and left very happy. 

Spicy rice cake (NT$90) 


Korean rice balls (NT$80) - DIY complete with glove to mix up the rice and seaweed and make your own rice balls




Yung Nyeom boneless (NT$360) mildly spicy honey glaze. Sooo hits the spot!


Boneless Scallion (NT$380) 


Warak (NT$430) soy garlic glaze


If you need anything you just press the call button on the table. 


Since my first visit, I've ordered to go from them a number times. It takes about 20-40 minutes for them to get the order ready, depending on how busy they are, so you can't order from them when you are in a rush since they fry to order. Where else have you guys tried chicken and beer in Taipei? 

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