Tag Archives: restaurant

Taipei Thing #15: Have a KGB Burger

31 May

KGB: Kiwi Gourmet Burgers

Michael Turton suggested that I have a KGB burger, which I had no problem with, since they’ve got two things I love (see below). And I was already scheduled to have dinner and language exchange in Shida with my friends Curis and Shelley, so it wasn’t a tough sell getting them to agree.

Thing I love about KGB #1:

Hunter's Gold

I seriously miss Woodchuck Dark & Dry (now called “802”), which I drank religiously at Gandalf’s, a mainstay of the artsy/musical/treehugger crowd in my hometown until it burned down the year I graduated from college. For that reason, cider is a bit nostalgic for me, and I never miss ordering it when it’s available.

Thing I love about KGB #2:

CC Heaven

I’m not sure I’ve ever ordered anything else at KGB. CC = cranberry & camembert cheese. On a burger! Try it. Trust me, you’ll love it. The one pictured is a “slim,” since I was stuffed from all the other food (and those fries all ended up on Curis’s plate, too), but I still finished every bite because that’s how much I love this burger.

A few more shots ought to do it for this post:

Enormous side salads

Stuffed

Decor

Mmmm. Just writing this post makes me want to go get another CC Heaven right now…

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Side note: The Ice Monster Returneth

27 May

It's coming...

I had been told that Ice Monster will reopen in June, and that seems to be the case, if this apparent facelift is any indication. I can’t say I particularly care, since I didn’t actually go to Ice Monster very often, except that it will be nice to have a Taipei institution on the map again. There had been news reports this spring that business has gone down for other shops on Yong Kang Street since the closing of Ice Monster, so hopefully its return will bring back the tourists and the shoppers. I’m also interested to see what changes are being made behind those temporary walls. We’ll find out soon.

Taipei Thing #3: More about those pigs (vegetarians, beware)

27 May

A closer look.

My dog went a bit crazy this evening when I got home. He could smell the pig blood on my shoes.

After noticing the pig truck for the first time on Saturday, I happened to be passing the same place at the same hour tonight. This time, after watching a bit from afar, I decided to ask the workers if they’d mind my taking some photos. Not only did they not mind, they also invited me into the truck for a better look. As you can see above, the view from the inside is quite different. A few more:

I was surprisingly not disgusted by this.

More pieces.

Stamps.

I expect some people will be rather disgusted by these photos, and if that’s the case for you, I’d advise you not to watch the video below.

As for me, I was fascinated rather than disgusted. After all, if I can’t stomach seeing where the pork I eat comes from, I probably shouldn’t be eating pork in the first place. The only thing that was slightly gross was standing to the side in the truck as they carried off two pigs, and seeing what was presumably fat slide down one of the carcasses as it passed no more than a foot away from me. Of course, that may have been more terror than disgust – terror at the possibility of that fat sliding off and hitting me. Ick.

And actually, it was the people that I found the most interesting. This particular truck had two men working – one was middle-aged, while the other appeared to be perhaps a few years younger than me. Both were very friendly. The older man seemed almost proud of his work, happy to have someone take an interest in his job. The younger man asked if I was going to put my photos and video on a blog, or possibly Facebook (you can hear him say “妳要放在部落格?” at the end). When I said I’d probably do both, he told me he thought Americans didn’t use Facebook, and that I looked Australian – something about the shape of my face? We had a nice chat, and I got the impression that I was a welcome distraction from what is normally tedious work.

In any case, if you’re still reading, and haven’t been bothered so far by the photos above, here’s the older man in action. Watch how smoothly he works, not even looking when he hangs the meat hooks:

If you’re interested in seeing the process for yourself, the market is located on Xi Ning South Rd., about a block south of Zhong Xiao West Rd. According to the workers, there are many trucks in and out of the market all night (I saw 3 come and go while I was there), so there will be plenty to see. Be a bit careful if you get close, though. The pavement will be covered in blood.

PS: Lest anyone feel the need to use the comments to discuss the horrors of meat-eating and the cruelty of pig slaughter, let me forewarn you that any such comments will be deleted. This blog is meant to be an exploration of urban life in Taipei, not a platform for promoting an agenda – unless, of course, that agenda is to share with others how great Taipei is.

Taipei Thing #10: Have red bean & mochi ice at Tai Yi Milk King

26 May

Tai Yi Milk King. Go in the daytime to avoid lines.

Continuing with Monday’s food tour, here’s another suggestion for good eats, this one from Joan, the world-famous hungry girl. I never really took advantage 臺一牛奶大王 when I lived only 2 blocks away, so I was happy to oblige on this task! We went in the early afternoon, so the place wasn’t too busy. Normally, there are lines on summer evenings, especially on the weekend, but we didn’t have to wait at all.

First, check out all the choices:

Kaifu with Tai Yi's large selection.

Of course, it’s all in Chinese, which is probably the reason I didn’t go there much when I arrived in Taipei. Here are some more special items you can get at Tai Yi:

You can pick up an order of tang yuan (湯圓) to take home.

Tai Yi is pretty well known among locals, but it doesn’t get the tourists like the overrated Ice Monster used to (and will again soon), so I think it offers a more “authentic” Taipei shaved ice experience. The menus and no-frills environment are good evidence of that.

Joan’s suggestion was to try the red bean and mochi ball ice (紅豆湯圓牛奶冰). I’m not a fan of red bean, but I live for 湯圓, so I gave it a try. Kaifu went with the pudding ice, which cracks me up every time I see it. (There’s a place on Yong Kang that even serves it with sprinkles!) Here are our ice masterpieces:

Red bean & mochi ball ice & pudding ice

I have to admit that I wasn’t able to finish all the beans in mine, though I did of course finish all the 湯圓. Just look at how many beans they piled on there!

Red bean overload

We had just eaten our vegetarian meal and a shawarma, too, so I was really full by the end of the ice. I’d consider getting it again, but perhaps asking them to tweak the bean/mochi proportions, or else sharing with someone else. In any case, it was good to get out of my usual habit of getting mango or strawberry ice. Thanks, hungry girl!

PS: As a self-appointed expert on public restrooms, I advise you not to use the bathroom at Tai Yi before you finish your ice. In fact, the bathroom smells so bad that you may want to just head to McDonald’s a block away to use their relatively clean facilities!

Taipei Thing #9: Get a shawarma from Mohammed in Gongguan

26 May

Time to make the shawarmas!

This was another suggestion from Jesse, with whom I used to work at a cram school in Gongguan, way back when I first arrived in Taiwan 5 years ago. That’s also how long I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Mohammed and his wife, who run this shawarma stand near the corner of Xinsheng and Roosevelt.

There are a few places to get shawarmas (沙威瑪) in Taipei, including in my own neighborhood, Ximending, but I still go back to Gongguan for my shawarma and a bit of conversation. For me, it’s like having a food that was my favorite in childhood, since I probably had a shawarma at least twice a week in my first year in Taipei. Very nostalgic.

For the uninitiated, here’s the menu:

The offerings.

Your choices are:

大沙威瑪 – large shawarma – $60NT
加起司 – large with cheese – $70NT
小沙威瑪 – small shawarma – $50NT
加起司 – small with cheese – $60NT

Although the menu is only in Chinese, Muhammed speaks English, and he’ll make sure you get what you want. You can also adjust the ingredients a bit, adding or leaving out the shredded cabbage, diced tomatoes, chopped onions, a mildly sweet – salad dressing, and spicy sauce. I always get the small, no cheese, no spicy, and feel pretty full for awhile. Here it is:

Photo doesn't do it justice!

Unfortunately, the angle of my photo makes it seem like this shawarma is all bread, which it’s not. How do you even photograph a shawarma and make it look good? All the good stuff is on the inside! Muhammed’s shawarmas are really juicy, so if you get one, it’s best to keep it in the wrapper, and avoid wearing your favorite shirt.

By the way, while you’re waiting, if you want some Chinese practice, you can check out the articles about Mohammed’s stand that have been published. I used to look at these every time I came, hoping to recognize new characters. It’s fun to think how far I’ve come, since I started out knowing nothing at all, and these days I can read almost 100% of the articles. Another piece of the nostalgia for me.

And to Jesse, who is probably quite jealous, reading this thousands of miles away in Canada, Muhammed still remembers you, and he said to tell you hello! This one’s for you:

All smiles.

Taipei Thing #8: Eat at 新卡莎 western-style vegetarian restaurant

25 May

Vegetarian lasagna! Good!

Kaifu suggested that I try out an interesting vegetarian place in Gongguan that he had been to before, so who better to help me find it? I had never heard of this place before, but surely had passed it without noticing. (Location here. #1 on the map)

There were surprisingly a lot of choices on the menu:

Choices, choices...

I was tempted to go for the basil steak, a house specialty, but the lasagna was calling my name. I was afraid I’d be disappointed, since Taiwan isn’t exactly the place to go for decent lasagna, but it turned out to be quite good (see header photo). The lasagna was stuffed with fresh vegetables, and not too oily. I’d get it again, if I weren’t interested in trying other things.

Here are a few more photos from our visit:

Kaifu's mushroom dish. Reportedly a little tough.

The dining room. Classy "western" style.

The storefront is nice, except for that ugly sign.

Overall, I liked the place. I’d like to go back a few times and try some other dishes, especially that basil steak. Another thing that made this task fun was the owner’s son, perhaps 4 years old, who was helping to set one of the tables. I was holding my breath as he handled the glassware, but he was ridiculously adorable shifting the silverware around, trying to make sure everything was in the right place. Keep an eye out for him if you go. 🙂

Taipei Thing #7: Eat at Yong He Dou Jiang in the middle of the night

25 May

蛋餅 (egg pancake) and 蘿蔔糕 (radish cakes) - two of my favorites

Jonas is responsible for this suggestion as well. Despite the enormous meal at Nonzero, Katy, Ping, and I were somehow able to manage a little extra eating. Perhaps the walk to Eslite and all that browsing had helped us burn off some of our dinner?

The plan was to visit the popular Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wang (永和豆漿大王) on Fuxing South Rd. For as long as I’ve been in Taipei, this has been the go-to place for late night eats. Here’s what we saw when we arrived:

What? Foiled!

They were closed! Not a person in sight, either, so we couldn’t ask what was going on. I had never seen this place closed before, but apparently even the King takes a rest sometimes.

Luckily, the Yong He Dou Jiang name is ubiquitous throughout Taipei, and we were only a short taxi ride away from this lesser-known place, located at the corner of Xinyi and Guang Fu:

Who needs a Da Wang anyway? Katy marches in.

The breakfast was excellent, of course. The staff were all hard at work, making me wonder if they were just starting their shifts or nearly ready to go home.

A calm evening for the staff

This is where the magic happens.

Note the menu, which gives you an idea of how cheap breakfast can be in Taipei. The food in the header photo, 2 orders of 蛋餅 and 3 of 蘿蔔糕, add up to a grand total of $66 NT (or $2.05 USD!). I’ll admit that we couldn’t even finish it all – maybe we were more full from dinner than we had thought.

We also had the place to ourselves, which gave us a chance to share our book selections from Eslite and muse over the crumbling spackling of the restaurant’s walls.

The loot.

Katy, the happy reader.

Fine late night dining, Taipei style

The wall, up close. A flying buffalo? Or a hopping rabbit?

I had passed by this Yong He Dou Jiang before without giving it much thought, but now I think I might prefer it to the Yong He Dou Jiang royalty on Fuxing. It seemed much more homey and personal, and I like that in a restaurant. I’d also like to see what becomes of the spackling.