Thursday, August 18, 2011

Special Edition: Why Taiwan is Food(and Drink) Heaven

Although our blog focuses mainly on food in Vancouver and Toronto, Amy and I have decided that food in Taiwan is a must-share. If you quickly scroll down and scan through the photos, need I say more? (Before you scroll down, please remember to come back and continue reading!)

(Photo credit Amy Chen)
This photo is only one corner of a typical convenient store in Taiwan. Every time I visit a 7-11 in Taiwan, I must stand in front of the fridges for at least 5 minutes to decide on which beverage I want to have. I always have the urge to try each and every bottle. 

(Photo credit Nathan Chiu)
By convenient, I really mean convenient - you could have a three-course meal in this place anytime, any day! 

Since I had to keep myself from moving into 7-11, I asked my dad to take me to a local spot. This place is one of the different versions of a traditional local Taiwanese breakfast place. Instead of sandwiches and burgers, they serve all sorts of buns.

Taiwanese Style Breakfast: Chinese Donut, Chinese Cheese Omelette, Cold Soy Milk
After some thinking, I decided to go with my favourite Taiwanese style omelette and a Chinese donut. I usually don't get the Chinese donut because of how oily it is, but I decided to have it since I wouldn't be able to have good ones once I left Taiwan.

Taiwanese Style Salty Soy Milk   鹹豆漿

My dad got something that was rather interesting to me. I tried some of this salty soy milk and actually really liked it. It basically tasted like Chinese soup but with a hint of soy milk. To my surprise, you could even choose the spicy option, which made the soup even more flavourful. The chinese donut in the soy milk also tasted really good after soaking up all the soup.

(Left) Guava Calpis 芭樂多多 
(Right) Passion Fruit Chewies 百香ㄉㄨㄞ ㄉㄨㄞ
Taiwan's summer is very hot and humid, especially for us who live in North America. As a result, I constantly feel thirsty and am always craving cold bubble tea.  Plus, where else would you have bubble tea if not from where it originated from! When it's hot I don't like to get milky drinks so I opted for the Guava Calpis. Both guava juice and calpis are my favourite drinks, so there was no way I wasn't going to enjoy this drink. Sure enough, it tasted a little sour, but extremely refreshing. I got my cousin the Passion Fruit Chewies, which is just passion fruit tea with all sorts of chewy stuff such as tapioca pearls, lychee jelly and rice/tapioca noodles.

Tainan Noodles  台南擔仔麵    60NT≈ $2.00
Moving on to lunch, I decide to feature a small place that must visit every time I go back to Taipei. Their store front is tiny and sits on Yong Kang Street (永康街), the street famous for food. Being a fan of soup and noodles, I always choose this place amongst all the other restaurants even on a hot day. It is a simple good-tasting bowl of noodles in soup with some minced pork, but when you have it, you feel like you're brought back to suburban parts of Taiwan where perhaps your grandparents grew up.
(Top Left) Chopped Squid  小卷      (Top Right) Vegetables     地瓜葉
(Bottom) Pan Fried Tofu  油豆腐     Total: 150NT≈ $5.10
Pictured above are some typical dishes that Taiwanese people eat with their bowls of noodles. Like the noodles, they aren't fancy looking, but can still fulfill your taste buds and stomach. I really like this kind of Taiwanese small-eats that are simple but can still leave you feeling satisfied.

Häagen-Dazs Yogurt Ice Cream Fondue   
哈根達斯 夏威夷濃情冰淇淋Fondue   888NT$ ≈ $29.15
After some hot lunch and walking around the city, nothing beats a short stop at a nice air conditioned restaurant. Yes, Haagen-Dazs has restaurants in Asia and they are rather packed most of the time. (The one I visited is at No. 173 Tung Hwa South Rd. Sec. 1.) The yogurt that substituted the usual chocolate fondue was actually a bonus because it was very refreshing and added a good sour touch to the sweet ice cream. The restaurant is also decorated in a very cozy manner, making it a great place to meet up with old friends to catch up. The only downside was that the ice cream melted very fast and it got kind of gross when the flavours were mixed together.

Party in Your Mouth Honey Toast
甜蜜派對蜜糖吐司    220NT$ ≈ $7.48

Some of you may recognize the toast in this photo above as it is apparently the new "hot" thing this summer. After hearing about the craze and seeing all the photos online, I decided to visit Dazzling Cafe (No. 11, Alley 7, Lane 205, Section 4, ZhōngXiào East Rd, Taipei) and witness this awesome honey toast. The proper way to eat this chunk of toast is to cut it open and eat the tiny toast blocks hidden inside with the toppings on top. The toast was crunchy and warm, and it tasted really well with the ice cream and custard on top. Although the honey toast was not as mind blasting as I thought it would be (there wasn't a party in my mouth), I could fully understand the craze for it because I mean, look at how pretty and delicious it looks! They also offer all sorts of different honey toast flavours with different toppings. I hear that honey toasts can be found at many places in Vancouver!

Laetitia Original Custard Cream Puff
拉提莎 經典原味泡芙  100NT$  $3.28 (each)
I came across the cream puffs pictured above in the basement of one of the many department stores in Taipei. Although I thought they were a bit pricey, I have to say, the cream puff was definitely worth my money. The outside was just right, a bitch crunchy but also soft. Most importantly, the crust was still warm. After two small bites or one huge bite, the sweet custard came gushing out and boy were my taste buds in heaven!

Uni-President Pudding  統一布丁  12NT$  $0.39
Pictured above and below is what I call the legendary Tong Yi Pudding from Taiwan. If you mention this to any local in Taiwan, they will probably say "Yeah I know it, so what?"  It can be found in any convenient store or super market in Taiwan and is extremely cheap. But when you suddenly can't have it, it's like this piece of you has been torn from you and there will always be this hallow hole. That is the magic of this pudding. You will be surprised how many Taiwanese Canadians miss this pudding after moving to Canada - they aren't at T&T! 

The pudding can be eaten in several different ways (there are videos online, I'm serious). Pictured above is not how I usually eat it, but I thought it would be easier to see the pudding if I dumped it out of the plastic container. The top part seems like solidified caramel and is very sweet but also a tiny bit bitter, resembling the burnt parts of a creme brulee. The most delicious way to eat this pudding is to have a bit of the black part and the yellow part together in one bite. I have also seen people dice up the entire pudding and then eat it. I guarantee you, no matter how you eat it, it will taste just as good.

If you're wondering, "what happened to dinner"?! Fret not. For me, dinner in Taiwan is usually taken care of at the infamous Taiwanese night markets, which deserve an entire blog post! Stay tuned!

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