poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


Taiwanese Beer Snacks

For our last weekend in Taiwan, my big sister P suggested that we have a sisters-only (plus significant others) outing. This sounded fun enough, but what made it more exciting was the venue: a traditional Taiwanese beer snack restaurant. (Note: I don’t know if this is what they’re called, it’s just what I’m calling it for the purposes of this blog.)

In all my visits to Taiwan, I had never heard of such a place, let alone been to one. Taiwan consumes much less alcohol compared to its neighbors Japan, Korea, and China, so it surprised me that such restaurants actually exist. The idea is simple: eat lots of cheap, fried, salty foods that taste great with a beer (or two, or three). If my memory serves me right, most dishes were only NT$99 (US$3), with some special snacks costing a bit more. I forgot how much the beer was, but I did not think it was outrageous. Plus, we got to sample pineapple and mango beer!

View of the restaurant from the street.

The fish tanks out front.

Pineapple beer. We also sampled mango beer. Both were good, but a little too sweet for my taste.

Clams, greens, and some unidentifiable food (mushrooms? sausage?)

Veggies, ribs, and stir-fried greens with beef.

Fried pig intestine with basil and scallions.

Fried oysters with salt and pepper for dipping.

Fried fish with peanuts. A classic beer snack.

Fried fish filets (front) and beef with vegetables on a sizzling platter (back).

Green beans, garlic, and an unidentified meat product.

Two of my brother-in-laws with TC.

Yay sisters!

All in all, I thought the food was really good and went very well with the beer. After dinner, TC and I joined my sister P and her husband for a karaoke outing — TC’s first time ever! It was a very fun evening and one that I will remember for a long time to come.


October in a nutshell! (“How did I get in this nutshell?!”)

Sorry about the title of this post; I simply couldn’t resist the silly joke from Austin Powers. hehe. Anyway, now that I’m done with the Japan posts, my next goal is to breeze through the rest of 2009 as quickly as possible. Who needs to live in the past? Not me! Plus, with my ailing memory, it’s frankly very difficult for me to remember what I ate last night, let alone the food I had months ago.

In the beginning of October, I flew to Charleston, SC to attend J&N’s big fat Greek and Southern wedding. Charleston is renown for its cuisine and the weekend was full of culinary delights! On Friday, J’s mom and sisters hosted a Bridal Tea at The Thoroughbred Club. On the menu: open-faced finger sandwiches, scones and crumpets, tea cakes and more! Everything was so elegant; I really felt like I should’ve been wearing a big ol’ hat with a gigantic bow. In the evening, the rehearsal dinner was held at High Cotton. The highlight for me was the bacon-wrapped shrimp hors d’œuvres – YUM. Dinner was good too, with a creamy crab bisque, chicken with mushroom sauce (chicken marsala?), steamed asparagus, and rice and beans. I was really full but managed to have a few bites of the tasty praline cheesecake.

At the pre-reception cocktail hour at the Francis Marion Hotel, I helped myself to delicious Firefly sweet tea vodka + lemonade cocktails, which J had introduced me to back in August at her bachelorette weekend. There was a salad (no photo), followed by a filet mignon AND crabcake with asparagus (so good), and wedding cake (also very good, though again, no photos. Sorry — the Firefly must have kicked in. haha.) It was a fabulous wedding weekend! I had so much fun with catching up with friends from grad school and hanging out with the bride and groom and their warm, welcoming families. Congrats J&N!

J&N leading the guests in a traditional Greek dance.

The main course: filet mignon, crab cake, mashed potatoes, and asparagus.

In the middle of October, I celebrated another birthday. The theme was “let’s pretend we’re 10 again!” Following lunch at In-N-Out, we went to play putt-putt, laser tag, and arcade games at the Scandia Family Fun Center. Everyone got High School Musical goodie bags and the winning team at mini-golf went home with mini/airplane bottles of liquor. (Hey, just because I was pretending to be 10 again didn’t mean I was gonna give up adult fun too!) In the evening, we went to the Albatross for Pub Quiz, which was a lot of fun even if my team (High School Musical: The Team) didn’t win.

In-N-Out Fries, animal style!

A few nights later, M&K took me out for a birthday meal at Trattoria La Siciliana in the Elmwood neighborhood of Oakland. It’s a great little Italian place that does family style meals and is cash only, FYI. We started with freshly baked Italian bread and the house dipping oil (so good). Then we had the stuffed zucchini (delicious!), followed by mushroom ravioli (best ever), chicken and potatoes in tomato sauce (just so-so, not pictured), and broccoli rabe (very good, not pictured). For dessert, we got the chocolate cake which never disappoints. An excellent meal!

Also in October, KH and I visited the then-newly opened Burger Bar, one of the restaurants owned by chef Hubert Keller. I ordered the Black Jack burger, an Angus beef patty with Monterey Jack cheese and olive tapenade ($13.75). The burger was good but not great. The tapenade was an interesting twist, but the beef was sorta tasteless. As for the fries — I’m totally serious and I don’t mean this as an underhanded compliment — they are as good as McDonald’s fries, thin and fried perfectly. KH’s burger was much tastier, in my opinion. She got the Kobe beef burger ($16) which was super juicy and tender. Instead of regular fries, she opted for the sweet potato fries, which were also very good. Service was quite slow but I assume that it was because they had just opened and were still working out the kinks. Hubert Keller was actually there to ensure that his new restaurant was off to a good start. I took a photo of him from afar because I was too shy to approach him, and also because he looked pretty busy, so I didn’t want to disturb him.

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Fried Foods = Taiwanese Specialty

About to dig into some spicy and delicious pork stuffs.

I’ve finally made it to my FINAL Taiwan post! Whee! Twelve posts later and I’m still 2.5 months behind, but I will be staggering more recent photos (i.e. Thanksgiving) with my Japan posts.

I only realized a couple of years ago that a lot of Taiwanese food is fried. Maybe that’s why it’s so delicious! I’m grouping a few meals together in this post. The first photo is from the basement food court of Taipei 101, on the same day my sister and I had afternoon tea. We shared a combo meal featuring some Taiwanese staples, including oyster omelette. The oyster omelette is very interesting because it has eggs and oysters (duh), but also something glutinous (because Taiwanese love chewy stuff) and lettuce. It’s topped with a sweet ketchup based sauce, often in a slightly disturbing shade of fluorescent orange.

The second set of photos are from a meal with two of my sisters at a more upscale, Taiwanese restaurant in one of the department stores. Of all of the dishes we had there, I’d say the most authentic/unique was the clay pot filled with pig intestines and pork blood pudding. I know, it sounds awful and disgusting but it’s actually really delicious. You’ll just have to take my word for it!

Before I left Taiwan, my mom took me back to the Taipei Train Station Food Court (aka the Largest Food Court in the world) for my last taste of Taiwanese food. We had oyster omelette again, as well as vermicelli noodle soup (only so-so), and a giant fried meat ball, another Taiwanese specialty. It’s basically minced pork, garlic, and bamboo shoot inside a very chewy skin, topped with that same orange sauce as the oyster omelette. When it’s good, it’s SO good, but this one was just ok.

Finally, I finish with this great photo of a giant bowl of delicious noodles that cost about $3 and bigger than my nephew’s head!