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.

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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!



Taiwan Highlights (2012 Edition)

Two weeks back and I’m finally getting around to posting about my trip to Taiwan. I took hundreds of photos, so I went through and selected the ones I thought were most representative of my trip, while also picking out some food photos (of course). They’re haphazardly organized into 3 sections: Chinese food, non-Chinese food, and miscellaneous (people, places, things). I should also note that many of these pictures are courtesy of my sister JS. Thanks sis!

Are you ready? Here we go…


xiao lung bao (soup dumplings) from Ding Tai Fung

I’ve blogged about these previously. We ate at Ding Tai Fung twice. I wish I had just ordered 20 for myself.

This is a photo from one of the lunches we had at a stir fry restaurant. It was really good, but we ordered too much food. I was stuffed.

At the same restaurant (as above). See, I’m such a nice, nurturing girlfriend!

The best Peking duck EVER, which I’ve also blogged about previously.

Dim sum with the family.

We ordered too much again, so we played “spin the lazy Susan” to see who would have to finish the last piece of food. My niece “won” when the food landed in front of her, as my dad and I were eager to point out.

At Kiki, a Szechuan style restaurant, for a gathering with my cousins. This is only 1/3 of the food that we got. Once again, it was delicious, and once again, I was stuffed.

On our last full day in Taiwan, my mom arranged this buffet lunch at my uncle’s karaoke joint. These are just the hot items; there was also a table full of salad, pizzas, and fruit.

At this same karaoke/lunch buffet feast, we celebrated Father’s Day early (in Taiwan, it’s on August 8th). My mom’s friend from elementary school, Auntie Huang, brought this yummy cheesecake. Of course, cheesecake isn’t Chinese or Taiwanese, but I do think they have a different take on it in Taiwan.

Shaved ice, two ways. On the right is the more traditional version, with tapioca balls and boiled peanuts. On the left is shaved ice with fresh mango topped with mango ice cream. Both were doused with sugar water.



My sister P and her husband cooked us this simple and delicious pasta. I really enjoyed it, as it was one of the few truly homecooked meals we had the whole trip!

This was our first lunch at a ramen place in Taipei Main Station. TC got the fried rice. It was much better than the ramen, which was overly garlicky even by my garlic-loving standards.

After the ramen, we went and got some fancy mochi. Despite appearances, it was not good. Very disappointing.

After about 4 days of non-stop Chinese and Japanese food, TC was craving Western food. So, we made a stop at Coke Forest, which appears to be a rip-off the fairly successful TGIF franchise. Anyway, it was decent.

We also ate a lot of pizza. My cousin’s husband is now the pizza chef at my uncle’s restaurant, serving (more or less) authentic American pizzas. They were delicious!

For dinner one night, we went to a Western style steakhouse, where you typically order a set menu that includes salad, soup, appetizer, main course, dessert, and a beverage. TC opted to get the croissant-like dough on top of his soup. He was a big fan.

Some cute bear donuts from Mister Donut, a Japanese donut chain that is super popular in Taiwan. I finally tried one of their donuts, and honestly, I don’t understand the appeal. Kind of bland and dry.

There’s a relatively recent chain called “Ireland’s Potato,” which features fries with all sorts of toppings, ranging from the familiar sour cream and onion to spicy wine meat sauce. Hm…



TC and I on the plane from SFO to TPE, ready for our big adventure.

Some hella steep stairs at Yangmingshan National Park. Some of the steps were knee-high.

My dad makes his own special gruel for breakfast, with a blend of every kind of seed, oat, grain, and yogurt you can possibly imagine. TC was a big (and only) fan.

Chang Kai Shek Memorial Park at sunset.

My whole family, minus 2 nephews.


Stay tuned for upcoming posts about our side trip to Taitung and Green Island, as well as a post featuring delectable Taiwanese-style beer snacks/”tapas”!