Thursday, May 18, 2017

desserts/american: i strongly recommend THE PIE GUY

(No storefront yet, order through order forms on Facebook or Rakuten)

visit reviewed: 2/17/2017

When a friend of a friend emails and says, "I have a friend that makes pies, can I introduce you?" the answer should always be YES. My ranting about the lack of American style pies in Taipei is nothing new and my search for them over the years has led me to try Mom's Pies, Rose Pie, My Sweetie Pie, Drip Cafe (their lemon meringue and banana cream pies were my favorite for awhile), McDonald's (they've kept the fried apple pie all these years), WXY, and now the The Pie Guy. 

Founded this past year, Pie Guy aims to bring traditional American pies with natural ingredients and crusts made with butter, but in mini sizes. He grew up loving and making desserts with his family, playing with the scientific side of baking and his idea for Pie Guy came with taking recipes that had used over the years but adjusting them for mini form. 

There's over a dozen flavors to choose from and I was lucky enough to get a special sampler back to try his top 9 so that I could try them for you guys. Each pie is packaged in a sturdy plastic case and bubble lid and then in a pizza sized cardboard box. (I received this for free, but the opinions expressed are my own.)

OOOOOOOOHHHH. Where do we start? 

The pies from top to bottom: lemon meringue, apple, blueberry, coconut cream, key lime style, chocolate cream, banana cream, chicken and chili. 

The lemon meringue was one of my favorites, with a sweet and tart filling and torched meringue atop.  You can actually find a lot of lemon tarts in Taipei, but it's so much better with pie crust and meringue atop.

Apple pie was another favorite, made with Granny Smith apples, since this is also one of those "lots of tarts but no pie" situations in Taipei. I still remember when I went to BING last year and they had the most amazing apple pie but a few months later when I went back, it had turned into a tart. Now I don't have to look because now I know where I can get my apple pie fix. 

Blueberry is made with Maine blueberries and the filling swirled through the top of the crust so you can see what flavor it is. 

Key lime style has a different crust, with homemade graham crackers that he also premakes. The fresh limes are from Taiwan, so that's why it isn't called key lime and he didn't want to use bottled juice. I am a sucker for pies with a bit of sourness to go with the sweet. Loved this one too. 

Chocolate custard was the right amount of sweetness and comes with bits of bittersweet chocolate atop the whipped cream, which all goes well with the buttery crust.

I brought these to a potluck and they all got devoured after my photos so I didn't get inside photos of all of them. The chicken and chili ones are, of course, best heated up and Pie Guy felt like the mini sizes made them easier for reheating in Taipei kitchens. You can eat them cold, room temperature or ten minutes at 180 degrees in the oven. 

So since Pie Guy doesn't have a store (yet!), he's made it easy to order with forms in English and Chinese on Facebook. Pies come in sets of three (NT$499) and multiples of three, with prices slightly cheaper as you order more, six mini pies are NT$799 or nine mini pies are NT$1069. There are also  weekly popups in Nangang or Neihu so you can see the pies in person, with the schedule also on Pie Guy's Facebook page. 

Usually the pies come is sets of three with the same flavor, but I'm excited to announce that I've convinced Pie Guy to do a special HUNGRY IN TAIPEI x PIE GUY sampler pack, with apple, blueberry and key lime style mini pies! 

You can try THREE different flavors in one 3-pack (which you would usually need to order 9 pies to try three flavors). The flavors available for this set are apple, blueberry and key lime style for a promotional price of NT$449 for a limited time (only until 6/10/2017) which will include FREE shipping, which takes 3-4 days. 

This sampler pack is available only through these order forms: 

I've also partnered up with the Pie Guy to do giveaways on my Instagram and Facebook pages this week, so try your luck with winning some mini pies there. Yay!!! Who doesn't love pies?

Thursday, May 04, 2017


photo credit:

OVER THE YEARS, I've probably gotten hundreds of emails and messages from readers, not to mention comments on social media like my Facebook page, Instagram and twitter. I read all of the messages and try to respond if I can and if I have the time. 

I've received many great restaurant recommendations from you guys.  Some messages are touching, a note of thanks or details of how they used my blog while they were in Taipei and appreciate my hard work. I've loved hearing from restaurant owners telling me that my posts helped them get new customers or that they feel a noticeable impact.

I've led journalists and tv crews on the hunt for the best eats in Taipei, and as far as Keelung, Shenkeng, Tainan and Kaohsiung, arranging the right restaurants to feature and shoot. 

Most of the time, people ask for restaurant recommendations, or a list of must eats, but sometimes questions get very specific. I've even gotten asked to recommend places to propose to someone. (What a huge responsibility, right??!)

Once in awhile, I get dumb questions that can be answered by Google or Google Maps. It can be frustrating, but I've reminded myself over the last year that I don't have to answer EVERY single question or plan people's entire itinerary for them.

I thought it would be interesting to post some of these questions and answers over the years, since some of these answers might be something you've been wondering about too, OR maybe something you guys can help me answer!

This one was cool to research because, hey, Taiwan came in SECOND PLACE at the Baker's World Cup! Who's tried these bakeries?

JANUARY 15, 2017 

Subject: Tracking Down Taiwanese Bakeries

Hi Joan -
My partner and I are traveling to Taiwan later this month and I am trying to track down some bakeries. You might know that this past year, Taiwan did quite well at the Baker's World Cup, second place!

The winners are three gentlemen, whose names can be found here:

I've managed to track down one of their bakeries:

But I am wondering if you know anything about the other two men or their bakery locations. I'm a professional baker myself and enjoy nothing more than "bakery tourism" when I travel. I love your blog and we will be using it as a resource for our trip. My partner Alexandra caught wind of you all the way over here in Boston.

- Dan S


JANUARY 15, 2017

Hey Dan,

Thanks for your email. Your question piqued my interest since I actually hadn't heard about this win. 
I'm guessing you got the CTC bakery from city543. According to 40 minutes of research and Google translating, it doesn't seem to be one of the bakeries. 

Check out this Chinese article

The three bakeries are 

Shakespeare Boulangerie 

Un Jour A Paris 

Wu Pao Chun

One is in Kaohsiung and the other two you can find in Taipei. You can check out their Facebook pages. 

The only one I've been to is Wu Pao Chun, who is the baker who won in 2010 and led this team. 
Their shop is in Songyen Eslite. 

Enjoy browsing the bakeries! 



JANUARY 15, 2017

Thanks Joan. I can't express how much I appreciate your great detective work! IS this blogging a business for you? You are very passionate about it. We're actually staying in Kaohsiung for most of the trip with family and a few days in Taipei in February. I would be happy to take you out for a pastry as a token of gratitude. 

- Dan

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

pizza/fusion: i recommend MILANO PIZZERIA

No. 55 SiPing St, 2F

MRT: Songjiang/Nanjing (2 minute walk) 

hours: 11:30-2:30PM; 5:30PM- 10PM. Closed Tuesdays

$$$ (about NT$700/person+)

kid friendliness: hawaiian and cheese pizzas available, and lots of dessert pizzas. 2nd floor restaurant.

visit reviewed: 4/24/2017

must orders: burrata pizza, fig pizza

FOR MONTHS, my friend and her husband had been telling me about this hidden pizza place they've been wanting me to try. "It's never crowded and I want you to post about it because I don't want it to go out of business," he said. "E loves it so much, he once ate there for five days in a row," she said. And today was the day, I finally got my mouth on this fig and mascarpone cheese pizza I had seen on her instagram weeks earlier. 

First thing you should know is that this is the entrance, next to a noodle shop in a lane that sits in front of the SiPing traditional market. No hipster neon lettering signage declaring "Keep Calm and Eat Pizza" in bright pink, no giant pizza logo. I had to double check the address on google maps twice before remembering that it was on the second floor. Walking a little closer, I spotted a red sign above the doorway.

Once upstairs, opening the door reveals a open kitchen decked with a wooden long bar, bookended by two pizza ovens. There's lots of window light, but muddled by sheer curtains and drapes, while the tables are decked with white tablecloths and emerald green runners. 

The menu was a bit overwhelming as a first timer, with over 18 pages to flip through. The beginning of menu were suggested set menus, then side orders, salads, appetizers, then meat pizzas, seafood pizza, calzones, vegetarian pizzas, meat dishes, and finally dessert pizzas. Even their salad options came with all sorts of topping choices- Europe Fresh Salad (NT$380) or with options blue cheese, duck confit, anchovies, italian cold cuts, smoked salmon or parma ham and fig. I couldn't even distract myself with their main dishes, I was here for pizza.

There are almost 50 pizzas to choose from, in 6 inch or 10 inch sizes. I knew I wanted the fig pizza for dessert, but there were SO many choices for the regular pizza. Duck breast and foie gras? Pig Knuckle? Crab and ikura? Scallop? Zucchini?  I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into.

Milano Pizzeria's dessert pizzas alone on the menu has over a dozen options, including mango, strawberry, mulberry, fig, dried lychee, peach, tiramisu, adzuki bean with matcha and nuts with raspberry jam.

I wanted to see what my friends' favorites were so I just ordered the caesar salad to start. (NT$380) It was lightly dressed, and came with a generous dusting of cheese over mixed greens, as well as some oven roasted tomatoes and olives. It was big enough to share between 2-3 people.

When my friends finally arrived, I let her do the ordering. She said she usually ordered the margherita with burrata (NT$740) and her hubby's favorite pizza was the fish and ikura- listed on the menu as flatfish pizza (NT$500). And we had to get the fig pizza (NT$480). Since there were only three of us, we got 6 inch pizzas instead of 10 inch, to share.

As soon as the first pizza arrived to the table with huge chunks of burrata cheese atop each slice, I knew this would make me happy.  I mean, who doesn't love burrata, the extra creamy cousin to buffalo mozzarella? The crust was pliable and not too thin and one person could probably finish a six inch by themselves. I LOVE BURRATAAAAA! 

The flatfish pizza was dotted with a few small orange pearls of ikura (fish roe) hidden under the cheese, and olives. I'm not a huge fan of engawa (the fatty part of the flatfish near the fin) even as sushi, since it's a bit too oily for me and has a specific chewy texture, though I have a lot of friends who love it. I tried one slice and didn't want another. (Sorry E!)

I could see the appeal of the pizza though-- I mean there's smoked salmon or clams on pizza, why not other types of seafood that work when baked or charred? Or have I lived in Taiwan too long that this type of menu no longer shocks me? There's also squid, cuttlefish, crab and roe or shrimp pizzas available here, for the more adventurous eaters. 

Last but not least, was the fig pizza. With a thick smear of sweetened mascarpone cheese, almost like a frosting, big slices of fresh figs and berries atop made this almost like a tart. But it was still a pizza, as there was mozzarella cheese atop the crust, though this pizza was served room temperature to cool, which made the crust not as tasty. But as I wondered aloud about where they got their figs, my friend said that Milano Pizzeria imported most of their ingredients, and that's why their prices were higher.  If the prices were a little lower, I would strongly recommend this place, but for now, it's a solid recommend. 

A thing of beauty.

Milano Pizzeria has been open for four years, but there was only another table or two eating while we were there during prime lunch time. Was its signless location near the SiPing traditional market too hidden, or was their menu too creative and pricey for most people? The average prices of the pizzas in the NT$400-800 range for 6 inches was definitely on the high side, but I could definitely see myself coming back for burrata and parma ham and the fig pizza when the craving hit. Would hard core pizza traditionalists say that these kinds of toppings aren't "real" pizzas? In the age of rainbow grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese pizzas, I think it's hard to make that argument. 

WHAT's nearby Milano Pizzeria that I also recommend: Kura Sushi, Baba Kevin's Barbecue, My Zhao, Regent Taipei, Fika Fika Cafe, Joseph's Bistro (a little reminder to myself of places to blog!) 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

taiwanese/late night: i strongly recommend ZHI XIANG LIANG MIAN



No. 143, ZhongXiao E. Rd, Sec. 5

MRT: Taipei City Hall

$ (Cash only) 

kid friendliness: sure

Visit reviewed: 4/11/2017

24 hour cold noodles (涼麵) means the option of eating them as a midnight snack or for breakfast! We had just left the Coldplay concert in Taoyuan, hungry and wet, having escaped the mess that was the post-concert flood of people trying to get home. Luckily, one person insisted on navigating us to a little shop on Zhongxiao East Road (a hop and skip away from W Taipei) that had offered up cold noodles, fish ball soup, shredded chicken rice and lu rou fan, 24 hours a day.

If you've never had cold noodles (aka liang mian) in Taipei before, it seems like a simple bowl of spaghetti-like noodles, topped with sesame sauce and julienned cucumbers. But every place has its own version of the sesame sauce- some with more soy sauce, some with chili oil, some with  peanut sauce.  I've even picked up packaged versions at 7-11 when I needed something on the go. Of course, it's much tastier with a tableful of semi-drunk friends, from a post-concert high, sharing a few bowls for less than a cab ride across town. Here, a bowl of liang mian costs NT$45-60, lu rou fan (braised pork rice) NT$35-45.  Probably some of the cheapest (and satisfying) eats you'll find in the Xinyi District. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

beef noodle soup: YONG KANG DAO XIAO MIAN



No. 5, Lane 10, Yong Kang Street
MRT: Dongmen Station

 $ (cash only) (about NT$150-200 per person)

Visit reviewed: 4/5/2017

[TAIPEI] YONG KANG STREET HAS A LOT OF FAMOUS EATS (mango shaved ice, original Din Tai Fung, spring onion pancake that now always has a line- for more details, check out my guide to Yong Kang Street ), but also a lot of unexplored side alleys with restaurants filled with locals rather than tourists. Tried this knife cut beef noodle shop for the first time today (there are two on Yong Kang, this one is in an adjacent alley. The other one, Yi Ping, where I took a writer for CNN ended up including it in his best beef noodle soup list and now there hangs a red banner announcing its inclusion 😂). 

Enjoyed the tomato beef noodle soup, but the thick noodles are quite filling. You can probably share a bowl (like we did) if you're planning on snacking along Yong Kang Street. Don't forget to pick up some cold dishes and spicy beef butter for your soup at the self serve station!

Check off menu only in Chinese, but there are some photos with English along the wall of the restaurant. Choices are beef noodle soup, tomato beef noodle soup, zha jian mian and then variations without the beef or the noodles if you wanted just the broth and noodles. 

I tend to try the tomato beef noodle soup  (NT$200) over the regular beef noodle soup whenever I see it on the menu. It imparts a touch of sweetness and freshness to the broth. I thought the beef was tender and the portion quite sizable for the large bowl.  The three of us didn't finish two large bowls.  

Zha jiang mian (NT$90) which is a minced pork and tofu sauce with julienned fresh cucumber over the knife cut noodles. Mix up the sauce and cucumbers into the noodles before eating.

There are four beef noodle soup shops in the short Yong Kang Street area now that I've tried (five if you count Din Tai Fung's beef noodle as one).

Yong Kang Beef Noodle is probably the most famous as it has been around for over 50 years and is now a tourist spot, but it's my least favorite bowl, reaffirmed my revisit a few months ago with Chef Sheridan from Las Vegas. It's a bit too salty and the noodles didn't have any bite. The beef noodle soup shop hidden by the Smoothie House mango ice shack isn't bad. Yi Ping San Xi Dao Xiao Mian has smaller pieces of beef and shorter strands of chewy knife cut noodles.

My favorite out of the bunch? Probably still Din Tai Fung's beef noodle soup (with half tendon half beef), followed by this spot.

But if you've never had knife shaved noodles, you should definitely try it at least once (followed by some spring onion pancake from the vendor around the corner).


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