Friday, December 2, 2011

Small bites in Taiwan!

I've returned from my trip to Taiwan, and I can confidently say I lived up to my Piggy name!  Taiwan has an abundance of good eats and I was fortunate enough to find amazing hole-in-the-wall places and also experienced some fancier dining as well.  Believe it or not I even found a Beef Noodle Soup Festival.  I've been back for over a week now and am going through withdrawal missing all the yummy Taiwanese treats I had.  In my next few posts I'll share some drool-worthy pics, and if you ever make your way to Taiwan be sure to message me and I'll share some of my favorite spots!

The trip started off great with a surprisingly delicious serving of chicken congee on our flight from JFK to Taipei.  It even came topped with ginger, scallions and mushrooms. Well done Eva Air!

Breakfast
One of the things I love most (and therefore miss most!) about Taiwan is breakfast time.  It's no ordinary danish or toasts there.   We're talking about egg pancakes, radish buns, meat buns, soybean milk, fried crullers, rice 'burritos'... gosh the list goes on, and now I'm totally making myself hungry again even though I just ate dinner :(

There was an awesome family-run Taiwanese breakfast joint right around the corner from my in-law's apartment. Quite literally - a hole in the wall.
Here's the "menu"... I would offer some translation except the only things I can decipher are the numbers!  Don't worry, I took pictures...
Egg pancakes ("dan bing").  Light and fluffy beaten egg is topped with a thin pancake and rolled up.
Meat bun ("su bing").  The bun part is so flaky!
Vats of soybean milk!
Savory soybean milk
Buns filled with fried crullers ("shao bing"). Very healthy! (not really...)
I have dreams about this. I'm not even kidding.  ("Fan tuan").  There's no English translation of this, but it can best be described as a rice burrito filled with pork sung, picked vegetables, a fried cruller, and sometimes even some egg.  Best eaten hot, but it's ok room temperature too - I wound up bringing 4 of these on the plane ride home and noshed on them all the way back!
Radish bun ("luo bo sou bing").  Another thing I dream about. 
Inside of a radish bun.  Warm, flaky and oh so good!
The English translation of this is literally 'Chive box'  ("Jiu tsai he zhi").  Essentially it's like a veggie pocket.
Here's the inside.  It's filled with vermicelli noodles, chives, tofu, eggs...  this was seriously delicious!
Shao bing filled with egg
Here's a glimpse of how the family breakfast shop makes their goods.  One of the ladies is baking it in an open flame oven, flipping it every few minutes.

Bubble Tea!
Taiwan is the land of bubble tea, which just so happens to be the #1 thing I am obsessed with.   There are lots of different bubble tea chains there but my favorite one is 50lan.  They're one of the more popular ones so it's pretty easy to find one wherever you are (I even found a little 50lan kiosk at the Taipei Zoo!).  If you're unfamiliar with bubble tea, you should definitely try it! You can order lots of different flavors of tea and add tapioca balls in it.  Back here in the US, the tapioca balls are the size of marbles.  However at 50lan their bubbles are tiny! 

50lan
Notice the tiny bubbles.  This was bubble tea #1 of 8 during my trip :)

Beef Noodle Soup
Another thing Taiwan is famous for is Beef Noodle Soup ("niu rou mien").  Lin Dong Fang is very well-known for niu rou mien and according to some in the blogosphere it is the best in Taipei. I had to give it a try!
Here's the sign to Lin Dong Fang.  Hmm.. indecipherable huh?
Fortunately Google maps knows English in Taiwan and came to the rescue
 :)
Selection of their cold appetizers

Niu rou mien!  Check out that glistening fat.  The broth wasn't too heavy but still had some good depth and flavor.  The meat was tender with a good balance of tendon.
The chewy noodles were pretty good, though I prefer ones which are hand-pulled. 
Aside from a heaping bowl at Lin Dong Fang, we also couldn't pass up the Beef Noodle Soup FESTIVAL that was going on in Taipei while we were there! Yes, a whole festival dedicated to it.  Wow, awesome idea!  Check out some serious noodle action going on...




When given too many choices and you're lost as to what to try, one good clue is to see where the locals are flocking to.  This particular station had a line 30+ deep.  I can't remember what it was called, but it was pretty good sample for $2.  It wasn't nearly as good as Lin Dong Fang though.
That's just some of the small bites (which turned into big bites!) we had in Taiwan.  Next time I'll share some fancier eats I had with family/family friends at some big dinners. 

Piggy KL

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