Voglio viaggiare per il mondo!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Taiwan: Shihlin Revisited

The Shihlin Night Market is so huge that one cannot possibly hope to polish off all the great snacks on one visit. So, we went back to Shihlin another day for lunch and dinner and opened ourselves to the many more choices that Taiwanese street snacks offer.

鲁肉饭 (minced meat rice)

This is one of my favorite Taiwanese street snacks, and it's also the simplest. I introduced Huey Woon to it, and I think she loves it too! ;) Just a bowl of good rice (I love Taiwanese rice, they're of the same breed as Japanese rice) topped with minced, cubed or ground fatty that has been stewed in soy sauce and spices. This stall that I tried was one of the few stalls at Shihlin that opened during the day. They provide very good and spicy chilli that goes well with the rice. At NT 20, it's a steal.

臭豆干 (smelly tau pok)

My second time trying this smelly dish, and although this stall serves the smellier version of the fare, I still wasn't put off by it. This time round, tau pok is used instead of tofu, and it's fried to an even crispier level. Also, this stall serves the tau pok with cabbage instead of preserved veg. I love the crunchiness of the deep fried tau pok, which is totally in contrast to the smooth fried tofu that I tried at Hsi-men Ding. I think I'm really starting to appreciate this local favorite.

台南棺材板 (Tainan coffin bread)

As inauspicious as the name sounds, this Tainan street snack is now a national favorite and can be found in most night markets. It is not hard to understand why this dish is so popular. Essentially, it is similar to French Toast, but filled with savory fillings, such as Black Pepper Beef or Curry Chicken. Thick cut bread is dipped in egg, deep fried, cut along three sides, opened and then filled with the various toppings. Joanna and Joel shared the shrimp one, whilst Huey Woon and I tried the bacon and cheese. It is highly sinful, but very enjoyable, as with all unhealthy foods. It definitely does not look difficult to make... someone should perhaps open a stall in Singapore. With so many toppings, I believe it will attract the Singaporean crowd as well. NT 40 each.

大肠包小肠 (Big Sausage wrapped over small sausage)

Taiwanese sausages are very popular in Singapore. This snack (NT 40) combines the fatty pork sausage that has a sweet taste with a rice sausage. Customers can select the flavor of the pork sausage, for example garlic or black pepper, and the sausage will be wrapped in a glutinous rice sausage (糯米肠), and served with cucumber and radish (something like the German Sauerkraut). It is quite messy to eat, and it would have been better if the rice sausage had been made a little bigger to at least contain the pork sausage properly. Anyway, do take note to stay away from this snack for awhile because the Taiwan health authorities have detected preservatives and chemicals in the factory-made rice sausages that are harmful to the body. If you really must try this, only eat from stalls who hand make their own rice sausages.

Other snacks

Joel and I went to try other snacks from stalls that are not situated at the main night market of Shihlin. In the narrow and less crowded roads off Shihlin, there are also some good finds worth trying. I had the tough crispy version of the scallion pancake (蔥油餅), a flour pancake with many thin layers, made with scallions. I usually have the soft fluffy ones, so this is a first for me. I asked for an egg on top (NT 23, NT 18 without). It was perfectly done, sunny side up and the yolk tasted great with the hard pancake, which is eaten with a fantastic soy sauce and chilli combination. I think this stall should be quite famous as there are newspaper cuttings pasted on the cart (a common tactic used by Singaporeans to locate good food). This is probably the only stall that serves such a variation of the scallion pancake. Thumbs up!

Joel had this kueh like thing that is stuffed with pork and mushrooms (NT 25). I think it's called He Fen Bao. The outer kueh is made out of rice flour (it's actually hor fun skin), like the chwee kueh of Singapore, but instead of serving it with salted radish and chilli like us, it is filled with savoury pork and mushrooms. Very tasty and I enjoyed the chewy soft texture of the rice flour crust.

Taiwan: Food Galore (Hsi-men Ding)

Any Taiwanese will tell you that the absolute die die must try stalls at the popular teenage hangout Hsi-men Ding are Ah Zhong Mian Xian (阿宗面线) and Ya Rou Bian (鸭肉扁).

Ah Zhong Mian Xian (阿宗面线)

I tried a bit from Joel and Huey Woon who were sharing a bowl. Ah Zhong has maintained the standard of the mee sua really well since the last time I tried. The starchy gravy is savoury and makes you want more. The mee sua is so smooth it slithers down your throat and the pig intestines are very chewy. The price has increased to NT40, like most stalls in Taiwan, and you have to stand outside the stall to eat the noodles.

Ya Rou Bian (鸭肉扁)

This stall is extremely popular among the Taiwanese and it is not surprising to see any 2 Taiwanese schoolgirls sharing half a duck. You can choose to order a bowl of noodles or beehoon (NT50), but only one slice of duck is given. So, on top of that, we ordered another plate of duck (NT150) to share between 3 people. The soup based noodles/beehoon has a generous serving of beansprouts and the soup is very tasty. The duck meat served at Ya Rou Bian is actually a breed between duck and goose. Thus, the taste is slightly gamier than duck but also more tender. You cannot find anything that tastes quite like this in Singapore (you might be able to find it in Hong Kong), so pls try!

Smelly Beancurd (臭豆腐)

You will never ever catch me near any smelly tofu stall in the past. So, for me to try this famous snack is a real shocker. Credits to Wen Wei and Joel for forcing me to try. We went to this vegetarian smelly tofu place which I specifically remember avoiding last time due to the pungent smell. This time round, I actually went into the shop to sit. The smell didn't seem that bad anymore, maybe cuz I was more open to trying the dish after seeing it on Discovery Travel and Living (my fav tv channel btw). It was surprisingly good. They gave some pickled vegetables and chilli to go along with it. It's like durian, it's all in the smell but the taste is definitely not as bad as the smell. It's like eating normal tofu, except of a different variation. Basically, I'm fairly open to anything fried, but as for the steamed version of smelly tofu, I think that'd take me another couple of years to pluck up the courage! It's times like this when the foodie in me disappears for awhile ;)

Taiwan: A Foodie's Haven (Shihlin Night Market)

In this next travel blog, I will update on all the Taiwanese snacks and cuisine that I tried during my 9 day trip to Taiwan. I've been to Taiwan twice previously, but this time I tried and re-tried everything that I've tasted and never tasted before.

大饼包小饼 Da bing bao xiao bing (literally translated as big biscuit wrapped over small biscuit)

Essentially this consists of a crispy pancake with sweet or savoury filling wrapped in a crepe. There are many fillings to choose from, such as peanut, yam, sesame, red bean, coconut, curry, mala chilli, crispy fillings, salty yam, salty peanuts and black pepper. Once you have made your choice, the person will wrap the crispy pancake or biscuit in the crepe. Then, using a pestle-like instrument, the crepe is pounded so the crispy biscuit is crushed into tiny crunchy bits. I had the yam filling. In Taiwan, the sweet fillings (yam and red bean) are more popular than savoury. The texture of this snack is highly unique. The soft and chewy outer layer, coupled with the very crispy inner layer reminds me of the crispy popiah from Malaysia. Most places sell it for NT30 (SGD1.40), or 4 for NT100. Worth a try!

苦瓜凤梨加蜂蜜 bitter gourd and pineapple juice with honey

Predicted to replace the long outdated bubble tea craze, this is what most people are drinking in Taiwan now. Bitter gourd (you can choose the white or green one) and pineapple juice with honey. This drink is as refreshing as coconut juice and it finishes with a bitter aftertaste. Those who do not like bittergourd should still give it a try with the green bittergourd, whereby the taste is much milder. At NT60, it is slightly pricey, but oh well, it's supposed to be good for you and as we all know, good things don't come cheap!

芒果冰 mango ice

A dessert often shown on tv, I definitely recommend everyone to try this at least once. It is not like our ice kachang in Singapore, where the ice is really shaved from a big block of ice. Over here, their ice is made out of condensed milk and ice, so it's sweeter and evokes a melt-in-your-mouth type of sensation. Along with the mango syrup and real mango fruit, there's only one word to describe it: Buonissimo! (italian for extremely good-tasting) NT80

豪大大鸡排 XXL Chicken Cutlet

This is probably the most famous of Taiwanese street snacks, and there's probably only one stall that does it real well. XXL chicken cutlet (NT50) at Shihlin Night Market. You can't miss it. First row, longest queue. Go figure. I always ask for the EXTRA SPICY (超辣), which is really hot. it's a must for me, i love my food extra spicy. Always. This stall refuses to cut the chicken cutlet as the owners feel it compromises on quality. The skin is crispy and the meat under is very tender - the skin and meat are kinda separated so you can really taste the difference. Have the extra spicy chicken cutlet in one hand, and a huge cup of bubble tea or shaved ice in the other. That's the way to walk around in Shihlin!

The other version is the Taichung one where the chicken cutlet is chargrilled, and marinated with dark bbq sauce. The more famous stalls have queues that are even longer than XXL at Shihlin. That I have yet to try, must go to Taichung some day and hit their night markets!

Turkish Ice cream

I see this alot in Taiwan, but I never try it since we have it in Singapore. The only different thing about the Taiwanese version is the height. They make the ice cream extra tall and it's interesting to watch people try to balance and eat it. My friends tried it and told me that it didn't taste too good. It's a mix between the icy and creamy kind of texture, so that made it kinda weird.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Adelaide - Day 13

I've been wanting to blog about this day since like forever... one of the reasons why i wanted to go to Aussie, and I mentioned this b4, was to go horse-riding and wakeboarding. I didnt manage to accomplish the wakeboarding part cuz i'd have to go to special schools allocated for the sport. However, i did go horse-riding!! one of the ocf member's churchmates opened their house for international students and lydea, weiqin, rach and i went to their farm at Coromandel Valley to ride their horses. On the way there, i bought myself a hotdog from a barbie (BBQ, it's very Aussie) stand. it's a bbq hotdog on bread along with grilled onions and sauce.

The family has two dogs, Benjamin and Grace (in pic with lydea). Sadly though, Ben was set to be put to sleep the following week cuz he had cancer. Margie, who owns the farm with her husband, accompanied us throughout the whole horse-riding experience. They have 3 horses - Sprat (blue reins), Jess (green reins) and Kaoru (blue blanket). I rode Sprat first. He's a very naughty horse and kept pulling the reins out of my hand. Then he would gallop off, so i had to grab the saddle or i'd fall off. Jess is much tamer, but less exciting as well. Kaoru is the sweetest thing. We couldnt ride him, cuz in human years he's like 90years old alr. all of them are covered with blankets since it's winter, and margie had to take the blankets off Sprat and Jess and replace them with the saddles. She told us that there were 3 main stages of horse-riding. First would be the walk, which is slow and steady, then the trot, which goes faster and bumpier. Finally, the gallop which is very quick and smooth. I had a great time..it's been quite long since I've riden a horse so I really enjoyed the wonderful morning.

After that we went back to Flinders and had our lunch in the car. Then rach and i headed out for Brighton beach. This is the second brighton beach that we visited, the first being in Melbourne. Like Glenelg, it had little shops along the street and the sea was just fab. Rach also brought me to this Marilyn Monroe cafe that she had been tellin me about. We split a malteasers cheesecake (yes, you can imagine how good it was) before we saw that they had Mars cheesecake too! dang.. would have so loved to try the mars cheesecake but the malteasers one was too rich. After Brighton, we went to dan murphey's to get some wines. We got another long flat moscato and a gossips sweet wine. For dinner we cooked Chinese consisting of veg, satay chicken and mushroom omelette. We also had the ice cream mooncakes (sago cream with mango and pomelo) that I bought for rach, plus we drank the wine too! That was my last night in Australia and this post wraps up the whole Australia travel blog ;) Buon appetito!

oh btw, just a couple of photos of where I stayed for the one week in Rachel's room in Adelaide - my nice airbed and sleeping bag!

Adelaide - Day 12

Today we went to Hahndorf!! It's this nice german village place with little cottages and nice food. Finally got to try the pot belly pies that dee had been raving on and on about. haha. they are home-made by this very nice australian guy who still remembers Rach when we went to the shop, although 2 weeks had already gone by! I had the chicken mango and rach had the beef pie. check out the photos! i think i'm getting better at taking photos of food.. haha. just kiddin..these were some lucky shots, and dont they look good! they do look better than they taste though. I feel that the crust wasn't rich or crumbly enough, although some ppl might prefer less crumbly crusts which hold fillings better. He prob used less butter when making the crust, hence it was less salty and tasty. The filling was generous, and I enjoyed the tangy sweet chilli combined with the fleshy mango fruit and chicken. Overall, i preferred the pies at pie in the sky (best pies i've ever tasted!), but these ones were not that bad either.

Took quite alot of photos at Hahndorf, and we also had ice cream at Natura's. Dee and rach missed this the previous time. apparently their fig ice cream is really good, but i think rach and i dint enjoy it much. we got to try all the flavors before we chose ours, and i chose nectar and banana. Nothing special, but i did enjoy the banana. Definitely prefer chunky monkey though!

After Hahndorf, i made my first visit to Rundle Mall and then we went to central market again. Rundle's this street/mall full of shops like most shopping centres in SA. Accompanied rach to have her yang chow fried rice at this chinese place near central market. Haven't been to Aussie in 8 years, and their portions are still so big!