Monday, December 5, 2011

Dinners & Lunches in Taiwan

In my last post I re-lived some of my favorite small eats in Taiwan.  There are endless casual and delicious places to discover! However there are also a ton of sit-down places and finer dining.  The cuisine in Taiwan is very heavily influenced by the Japanese, so it really is a wonderful fusion of Chinese and Japanese. Here's a smattering of a couple of the bigger meals I had in Taipei!

Business Lunch at Sumie
One huge difference between Taiwan and the US is that they actually take lunch hours! While the norm for us (especially in the Financial industry) is that we grab something really quick and work while eating at our desks, the norm in Taiwan is to get away from the office and have an hour+ long meal.  So jealous!  As such 'Business Lunches' are quite popular.  While I was in Taipei I tried the Business Lunch menu at Sumie, in the San Want Hotel.  It cost about $30 to $40 USD per person.  We got a lot of food for the value, check it out:

Prices for the Business Lunch vary depending on the main 'entree' that you choose, but you still get [Before your entree] Sushi, Salad, Appetizer (Eggplant), Mushroom and Turnip Soup, [After your entree] Oden with Miso Soup, Mochi dessert. So much food!

Eggplant appetizer.  Delicious! and Beautiful

Entree: Deep fried soft shell crab
Entree: Grilled Codfish with Miso
Entree: Sukiyaki Beef
As if the entree wasn't enough, we also were given Oden and miso soup afterwards.

Lunch at Din Tai Fung
Din Tai Fung is famous (like, really famous!) for their dumplings.  Unlike a lot of touristy places, this one actually lives up to the hype.  Make sure you go early, or be prepared for a long wait.  It's a popular stop for tour groups, so that tends to clog up the table turnover sometimes.  They have lots of varieties of dumplings and also regular food as well.  Everything we had was delicious! Go go go!

Looks like a dumpling factory! That's because it kind of is.  It's unreal how quickly these guys churn out dumplings.  They weigh each dumpling to make sure it's the right weight (wow, quality control!) and their expert fingers move amazingly fast as they fold the dumpling skin.
Appetizer: bean sprouts!

House special appetizer: It had seaweed, bean sprouts, vermicelli, I can't remember what else but it was really really good!
Their famous Xiaolongbao (Soup dumplings!)
There's a process in eating these little critters! After dipping it in a bit of ginger/soy sauce, plop it in your soup spoon.  Take a little nibble (just so you break through the skin), drink the soup that spills out in your spoon, and then go ahead and devour the rest of the dumpling :)  Oh sooo good!
Pork and shrimp dumpling
And now on to dessert!  This was their Sweet Eight Flavor (sticky) Rice with red beans and other sweet treats.
This is their Taro dumpling. I had never even knew this existed before but gosh was it good.  It was delicately sweet and a perfect end to the dumpling extravaganza!

Hot Pot
One of the things I LOVE eating is Hot Pot.  If you're unfamiliar with what it is, you have a big pot of broth and you cook your veggies, meats, seafood, whatever you want!, in it.  There are dipping sauces too! It's pretty healthy, or at least feels like it is, and is perfect on a cold day.  Taiwan has awesome hot pot, and one place in particular that was on my list of must-try's was Mo-Mo Paradise.  It's actually not one of the highest-rated hot pot restaurants in Taipei, but it is a chain and quite well known, and well... I just happen to have a person connection to it :)

Plate of veggies, which they refill and refill and refill again, and again.  Oh happiness!!  My parents never had to yell at me to eat my veggies.  I love 'em.
We opted for the pork broth, and it came with two choices of meats and unlimited veggies
Here is the veggie cart that rolls around to restock you.  "Yes I'll have more of that, that, and yes that.  Yes and more of this too.  Keep on piling! When are you coming back?" I couldn't be stopped.
Marathon Dinners
I'm not sure if this is the norm there, but the dinners I was graciously invited to by family and family friends in Taipei were multi-course, many hours long, and absolutely delectable!  Marathon meals, I call it, because just as you're approaching the middle of the courses, the end is not quite in sight and you've got to muster up the will to keep on going.  The variety and quality of food laid in front of me was beautiful and delicious:

They LOVE king prawn there - these were huge, bigger than my hand!

[Banquet Dinner]

I'm guiltily saying this is quite possibly the best version of Shark fin soup I've ever had. It's currently still legal in Taiwan, but not for much longer.  I'm glad, for the sake of the sharks.
Another version of the king prawn!

[Japanese Dinner]

Chilled sake glasses, and oh gosh that endless sake...
Octopus, two ways
Fresh fresh sushi! Doesn't it kind of look like bunny ears?
Fish, I'm not sure how it was prepared or what kind it was for that matter. I just remember it was very boney and difficult to eat.  I must practice de-boning fish before I return next time.
Croquettes, two ways.  Both delicious!
Here's that king prawn again :)
Chicken which was SO tender. I wish I knew how they cooked it...
And finally, udon soup to close the meal :)

Clearly, I came back with some extra pound-age.  But how can you not when in Taiwan?! :) 

Thanks for taking a trip down memory lane with me!
Piggy KL

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