poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie

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A Brief Stop in Taitung

Welcome to the 2nd post in a series about my Taiwan trip! In case you missed it, the first part is here.

I started writing this post and was 3 paragraphs deep when I realized, “Jen, this is SO BORING.” So, I started over, with the goal of being as brief, informative, and interesting as possible. What better way than by using bullet points? Bullet vacay recap! Woot woot!

  • Where: Taitung
  • Trip duration: 24 hours
  • How did we get there: train from Taipei that took ~4.5 hours. Make sure you get a reserved seat!
  • Why: Taitung was en route to Green Island. Also, I had heard good things about it from a friend.
  • What we did: dropped off bags at our hotel; went to get lunch at a famous noodle spot; walked around for a bit (not much to see); bought fruit at the infamous fruit street; checked in; took a nap that was supposed to be 1 hour but ended up being 2 or 3; got denied at Mabanai, a famous indigenous restaurant, after taking a taxi there (They turned us away, saying that they do not seat parties of 2 –WHAT? WHY?? Also, we were very surprised that it was listed in Lonely Planet guidebook if it had those kind of policies); wandered around and got denied at a second place; third time was the charm — delicious!; walked back to the hotel and crashed; took a ferry early the next morning for Green Island!
  • Hotel: Traveler Hotel. I was very pleased with our experience here. It’s nothing fancy, but what can you expect for $40/night? It was clean and had AC, as well as a mini-fridge.
  • Misc: Expect to drop a lot of money on taxis. The new train station, downtown Taitung, and the ferry landing are very far apart from each other. Each fare was NTD$200-300. We also had one driver take us on a circuitous route. 😦
  • Bottom line: Would I recommend Taitung as a destination? No. It’s fine as a stopover en route to Green Island or Orchid Island, but it’s too small to have the conveniences of a bigger city like Taipei (transportation, food choices, activities) and too big to be charming.

And now, the exciting part — pictures!

The view from the train. We passed a lot of farms and mountains.

One of the famous noodle shops in Taitung. They are famous for a thick rice noodle dish called bi-dai-bak 米苔目. Unfortunately, I don’t have the name for the restaurant, but it was just around the corner from our hotel.

A large bowl of 米苔目 was only NTD$40 (US$1.35). The noodles are topped with meat sauce, dried fish flakes, dried scallions/garlic, and fresh green onions. I added a fish ball for NTD$5 (18 cents). Scrumptious!

Ready to eat!

A view of the dining room. This space was recently renovated, but the shop had been around for many decades. The owner even came over to greet us.

As mentioned above, we had some trouble finding a restaurant for dinner. After wandering around for an hour in the rain, we finally stumbled upon a cute little restaurant called Michi. My understanding is that the restaurant specializes in local, seasonal, and organic foods. Just our cup of tea! The food was flavorful and the owner was very friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, I’ve lost the business card, but it’s in one of of the main streets downtown, close to the night market and other restaurants.

TC and I both got the beef special. Clockwise, from top left: appetizer/salad (mushrooms?), sauteed greens, fried tofu, watermelon slices, braised beef, rice, and soup. All for about US$9 each, including beer.

Even though we got the braised beef and rice set meal, everyone else there was eating hot pot. It’s just like the Taiwanese to be eating hot soup in the middle of summer! I’ll always think of Michi fondly, because up until we sat down for that meal, our night had been going all wrong. It’s great how a good meal (and a beer or two) can help you re-center and feel better instantly.

Bon appetit!

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Taiwan travelogue, where I’ll recap our adventures in Green Island!



Noodle Heaven = Shan Dong

Y’all know that I love me some noodles, so it’s a shock that I haven’t written about my favorite noodle place in the Bay Area: Shan Dong restaurant in Oakland. They have fresh, hand-made noodles that cost $1 more per dish, but it’s a no brainer: you gotta get them. I’m not exaggerating when I say that their noodles have the perfect texture.


I am particularly fond of the Szechuan noodles (dan dan mien), pictured above, as well as the satay beef noodles. The chow mein is decent, even though I don’t usually order it. Unfortunately, I can’t speak for the noodle soups, since my dining companions are not usually in the mood for them. However, the waitress once obliged my request for a stir-fried version of one of the noodle soups, which was excellent. (Did I mention the servers here are super nice? Well, they are!) Not all of the noodles are good here, however. I’ve been disappointed by both the ja jiang mien and the sesame paste noodle. Both were oily without much flavor.

Anyway, the other thing that’s very good at Shan Dong are the potstickers. I used to order dumplings (steamed), but I was always a little disappointed by the thick skin that quickly became soggy after only 5-10 minutes. When I saw the potstickers on the menu, I was like, “Eureka!!” Since that glorious day, I have only ordered potstickers. The thick, homemade dumpling skin is perfect for frying. The filling could be better, but I’m not going to complain.

potstickers with pork and chives

fun with potstickers, I

fun with potstickers, 2

OK, on to the non-noodle dishes: I must say this is Shan Dong’s weakest point. Granted, I haven’t tried that many dishes, but the ones I have tried (e.g., mu shu vegetables, dry braised green beans, sizzling rice soup) were nothing to write home about. But, really, who cares? I will gladly trade great noodles for so-so Chinese dishes.

Dry braised green beans. Pretty OK.

When TC and I found out that my new apartment would be a mere 6 blocks from Shan Dong, we made a pledge to limit ourselves to one visit every 2 weeks. So far, we’ve done really well — only one visit over the last month. There are just too many other places to try, but I know that Shan Dong will definitely be in our regular rotation.

p.s. It’s Thanksgiving on Thursday! Just want to remind you of these fun posts/recipes from years past:
What to do with that turkey carcass
Looking for a cranberry sauce recipe? – I tested 4!

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Junkie Noodle (with video!)

This post's namesake. One of the stalls in a Sogo Dept Store Food Court.

Sincere apologies for the delay between posts! Just when I thought I was all caught up, a whole month flies by and there are still tons of photos to post from my trip to Taiwan in November.

First up: the cornucopia of awesome noodles I inhaled ate. As most of you already know, I love me some noodles. Morning, noon, night… it’s always time for noodles! My love of noodles probably comes from the fact that there are so many different kinds of delicious varieties that are found in Taiwan. Without further ado, here are the noodles (and dear Taiwanese-American readers — please correct my Romanization!).

There were a lot of great noodle carts and small shops near my parents’ house. Among them:

"Pork petal" noodle soup -- pork that is covered with fish paste. Sort of like a pork/fish meatball. Served with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, egg, and green onion.

Fried noodles with mushrooms, carrots, Napa cabbage, and pork. Yummy.

Thin rice noodles with pig intestines. Sounds disgusting but usually quite good (this bowl wasn't so great though).

During our family trip to Yilan, we also stopped in at a crowded noodle shop:

Wonton noodle soup. A mere $1.30!

I had fun with my zha jiang mien (noodles with soy paste).

And of course, noodles could also be found in any food court in Taipei:

My nephew T, already the noodle-holic at 4 years old. We start them young.

Also found at a food court, a motorized bowl of ramen! I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m really, REALLY excited about this thing. (Thanks to my sister PL for the video.)