Tag Archives: dining

A food journey through Taipei, Taiwan

Excited to greet my first meal in Taiwan: oyster omelette, pork over rice and milk tea. SCREAMfmLondon

I rolled up for a long weekend in Taipei, Taiwan without many plans beyond a long list of foods to eat.My first stop was checking into the luxurious Airbnb I’d booked (which boasted cable TV and a spacious, sunken bathtub) — only to find out I’d need to wait a few hours more for cleaning. I was just about to feel dejected when the cute Taiwanese guy who’d come to meet me on behalf of the host offered to take me to lunch and show me around the neighborhood.

So, I stashed my bag in the building’s basement and we took off onto the vibrant streets of the Da’an District. He gave me all the scoop on the neighborhood, regaled me with tales of Airbnb guests who’ve come and gone, and bought me all the milk tea I could handle.

When we finally stopped for a proper meal, he recommended the classic Taiwanese braised pork over rice and an oyster omelette. The omelette consists of oysters and vegetables cooked with egg and sweet potato starch, covered with a sweet chili sauce, and is absolutely delicious. The pork rice is a simple but unmistakeable quick meal in Taiwan.

My first day in Taipei was such a success, I couldn’t wait to see what was next.

It doesn’t get better than this street food! SCREAMfmLondon

It was straight to the night market once I was out on my own. Taipei has a number of these bustling markets full of cool clothes and accessories, gadgets and, of course, amazing street food.

Mysterious and delicious Taiwanese street food: barbecue pork stuffed with green onions. SCREAMfmLondon

I was immediately drawn to some fabulous-smelling barbecue pork concoction. I watched some other foreigners order it with ease, but once it was my turn, I was somehow roped into a full-on conversation with the vendors in Mandarin Chinese. Which perhaps would’ve been cool if my Mandarin wasn’t limited to “thank you,” the numbers 1-10, and “I love you.” But the food was worth it — smoky barbecued pork stuffed with green onions and seasoned with pepper and other spices.

Candy or nah? Candied tomatoes on a stick at the Raohe Street Night Market. SCREAMfmLondon

Next up was some dessert! Or so I thought. These columns of brilliant red fruits dipped in sugary syrup alluringly glistened under the warm lights of the Raohe Street Night Market, enticing me. But… they’re actually candied tomatoes and plums. I nibbled on the crunchy candy that coated the outside, but homie don’t play with tomatoes, and homie especially don’t play with tomatoes presented as dessert.

I wish I loved this, but I guess it wouldn’t be a food adventure if I didn’t try something that I found completely strange.

Blueberry swirled ice cream in Taiwan. SCREAMfmLondon

The next day, I met up with a friend from Korea to check out the Taipei Zoo. We grabbed some ice cream cones on our way to the train station. Mine was blueberry and vanilla swirled together, and was a more crisp consistency than typical ice cream.

Rice burger at the Taipei Zoo. SCREAMfmLondon

While starving at the zoo, I grabbed a rice burger — that is, pork sandwiched between two “buns” made from lightly-seasoned rice — and some cheese fries.

And some Taipei Zoo cheese fries. SCREAMfmLondon

After the zoo, we rode the Maokong Gondola and saw a total of zero stunning mountain views because it was too dark. But at least there was no line that late in the day. The best part of the ride was, naturally, the delicious street food that greeted us at the top!

Sausages in Maokong. SCREAMfmLondon

I immediately grabbed some amazing skewered sausages from a street vendor. These were one of the highlights of my food journey, actually. They were cooked to perfection and the flavors were so rich.

Taiwanese milk tea with herbal jelly. SCREAMfmLondon

And would it be Taiwan without some more milk tea? The one I bought in Maokong was slightly different, though. Instead of your typical boba tea with tapioca pearls, this one is served with cubes of chewy grass jelly. The jelly is made from a plant similar to mint and has a slight herbal taste to it that really enhances the delicious flavor of the tea.

Street food vendors in Taipei, Taiwan serve moon-shaped shrimp cakes and other delicacies. SCREAMfmLondon

Before the weekend was over, I needed to make one more trip through the night markets. After all, I was saving the best for last…

Vendors serve up Prince Cheese Potato’s famous dishes at Shilin Night Market in Taiwan. SCREAMfmLondon

Prince Cheese Potato was at the very top of my must-eat list. It was actually a pretty essential deciding factor in planning my trip to Taiwan in the first place. This famous stall at the Shilin Night Market stuffs its baked potatoes with all kinds of delicious toppings (including octopus, pineapple, scallops, chicken, tuna and German sausage) and then drowns them all in melty nacho cheese. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted.

Prince Cheese Potato’s Club and Cheese at Shilin Night Market in Taiwan. SCREAMfmLondon

I ordered a Club and Cheese, one of the most popular menu items. It’s a baked potato filled with ham, corn, egg, etc., doused with the trademark cheese sauce. Ah, it’s heaven. It’s well worth the trip to Taiwan, I promise. I love it so much. I want to marry this dish and become the Princess Cheese Potato.

Banana mango shaved ice dessert in Taipei. SCREAMfmLondon

On my way home, I decided to make one last stop for some dessert in a random back-alley restaurant, and I’m so glad I did. This banana mango shaved ice treat was probably the best shaved ice I’ve ever had. It’s similar to Korean bingsu — a refreshing dessert that often pairs thinly-shaved ice with fresh fruit and sweet syrup — except the Taiwanese version was swimming in condensed milk and was infinitely sweeter. It was so fantastic.

And, just like that, the Taiwan adventure was over and it was time to head home. But there was one just more thing to eat.

Taiwan’s famous pineapple cakes. SCREAMfmLondon

You cannot pass through a Taiwanese airport without getting some souvenir pineapple cakes to bring back for your friends. The small cakes are travel-friendly and famously tasty. The outside is flaky like a pie crust, and the inside is filled with gooey pineapple jam.I had a delicious and action-packed adventure in Taipei, and I just dream about all the foods I wasn’t able to try yet. Until next time, Taiwan!

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The best Japanese ramen in Seoul at Ittengo

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The Tonkotsu Ramen at Ittengo, a Japanese ramen restaurant in Hapjeong, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

For months, my friends and I have been obsessing over Ittengo, a small Japanese ramen shop located in a hip dining neighborhood near Hapjeong station. Day after day, rain or shine, the line of customers waiting to dine at Ittengo never seemed to get shorter. We pressed our faces up against the restaurant’s small windows like stray cats trying to see what made this food so special.

After watching dozens of people brave Seoul’s humid summer nights and, later, the freezing winter ones just to eat some of this ramen… We knew we had to try it. And, finally, we did.

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The minimalist facade of Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

There was, of course, a long wait when we eventually made it to Ittengo. And, of course, it was extremely cold out. But, at this restaurant, you write your name and your full order on the list out front, so you can kill some of that wait time deciding what to eat.

Ittengo is known for its special basil-based broth that comes out a kind of algae green color, but this was unfortunately all sold out when we dined there. There are three types of ramen served at Ittengo, all given animal names in Japanese depending on the broth’s color. Kitsune (wolf) is the lightest, a traditional tonkotsu ramen (7,000 KRW). Next on the list is the Midori Kame (green turtle), which is the aforementioned basil pesto-infused ramen (10,000 KRW). And last is the Kayomasa (red tiger), which is the spicy ramen (8,000 KRW).

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Ittengo’s Kitsune (wolf) ramen, named after its light-colored broth. SCREAMfmLondon

Once your party is taken inside and seated, the ramen is served almost immediately. The restaurant’s intimate set-up is, I’m sure, a main reason for the lengthy wait. The dining room is comprised of just one central table around which all of the customers sit and eat together. The room is dimly lit, and the counter is sprinkled with candles and small knick-knacks.

Another reason for the wait is, obviously, because the ramen is delicious. It’s absolutely the best Japanese ramen I’ve had in Seoul. The pork bone broth is beautifully rich and flavorful. The noodles are thin and mixed with green onions, served with tasty slices of braised pork belly on top. Every bite is excellent, and every element of this dish is done perfectly. Peppers covered in yuzu juice are served on the side to contrast the strong savory flavors of the ramen.

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Amazing thin ramen noodles at Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

Ittengo
11 Poeun-ro, Mapo-gu
Hours: daily from 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

Food: Pho Vietnamese Rice Noodles in Hapjeong

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A large bowl of pho on a cold winter morning. SCREAMfmLondon

In the hipster enclave of Hapjeong, there are many hole-in-the-wall restaurants, cafés and bars that serve interesting dishes and minimalist décor. One such spot is simply identified as “Pho.” This intimate restaurant can only seat a few parties but has nice hardwood tables, clean decorations and tasty Vietnamese food.

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Love the fresh vegetables in these rice paper-wrapped spring rolls. SCREAMfmLondon

We were sitting so close to the couple at the next table that I kept shooting glances at their delicious-looking food and ordering exactly what they had. We started by splitting an order of spring rolls. They’re rice paper stuffed with cabbage, carrots, cucumber and other fresh vegetables, served alongside a peanut dipping sauce.

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Chili shrimp stir-fried rice. SCREAMfmLondon

For my main course, I ordered the chili shrimp stir-fried rice. The stylish bowls make this dish look deceptively small, but it’s actually really filling. The rice is mixed with seafood like shrimp and baby octopus as well as a variety of vegetables. It’s not overpoweringly spicy but does pack a good punch. It also came with a nice, small bowl of soup on the side.

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Pho Vietnamese Rice Noodles. SCREAMfmLondon

But the trip would not have been a complete if we didn’t try the pho. This serving was also very generous, and the dish included a fair amount of meat. Perfect antidote for the freezing cold wind in Seoul these days.

Food: Chocolate, blueberry and more great bingsu

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Blueberry cheesecake bingsu will always be one of my go-to orders. Love the fresh fruit, colorful shaved ice, and bites of rich cheesecake. SCREAMfmLondon

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Tried-and-true Sulbing bingsu. This is chocolate cheesecake with truffle bites and cocoa powder. We have to play rock-paper-scissors to see who gets to eat the chocolate decal on the top. SCREAMfmLondon

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This was a seasonal bingsu for the summer. Icy green grapes, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, jelly cubes and cream. Light and refreshing for hot, humid days. SCREAMfmLondon

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Yes, this blueberry cheesecake bingsu is everything. Ice cream, shaved ice, cheesecake bites, blueberries and blueberry syrup all join together in perfect harmony. SCREAMfmLondon

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A visit to Myeongdong brought this delicious treat: fresh, handmade grape juice served alongside a towering bowl of chocolate brownie bingsu. SCREAMfmLondon

For more bingsu, click here. Which one do you want to try?

Scenes from Busan: Jagalchi Fish Market and more

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Busan’s famous Gamcheon Culture Village. Houses built on windy roadways on the foothills of a coastal mountain make this spot a must-see for tourists to South Korea’s second-largest city. The alleys are uniquely decorated with murals, sculptures and vibrant colors. SCREAMfmLondon

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Jagalchi is Korea’s largest seafood market. Vendors sell all types of fresh seafood throughout the market’s meandering corridors. SCREAMfmLondon

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Vendors at Jagalchi Market offer everything from live turtles and eels to dried fish and seaweed. SCREAMfmLondon

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Small restaurants found inside Jagalchi Market serve freshly-prepared fish dishes. SCREAMfmLondon

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Busan Gamcheon Culture Village at dusk. SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Tim Ho Wan dim sum in Hong Kong

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Tim Ho Wan’s steamed dumplings with shrimp (shrimp siu mai). SCREAMfmLondon

Where in the world can you sit elbow-to-elbow with strangers speaking dozens of different languages while chowing down on Michelin-starred food for less than $10? That’s Tim Ho Wan — the Hong Kong-based dim sum chain famously called the world’s most affordable Michelin-star restaurant.

Dim sum and yum cha (drinking tea) date back to ancient Chinese traditions, originating with the Cantonese in southern China, when roadside teahouses were set up to give travelers and traders a place to rest and eat snacks along the Silk Road. The bite-sized dim sum dishes are fully cooked and ready to serve from steamer baskets and small plates, providing the utmost convenience.

Tim Ho Wan opened in Hong Kong in 2009, received its first Michelin star in 2010, and has since opened a number of additional locations around Asia. But nothing beats the original.

To get a seat in the packed restaurant, diners have to take a number at the desk out front and wait patiently to be called. I rolled up optimistically hoping there wouldn’t be a crowd, but, well. There was. As I waited for my number to be called, I realized that I maybe should have studied some Cantonese numbers. Luckily, I was dining alone, so the hostess quickly plucked me from the crowd and led me inside to fill an empty chair at one of the bustling tables.

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Tim Ho Wan’s famous baked buns with barbeque pork. SCREAMfmLondon

I sat at a table where five other people were already dining, their delicious-looking plates covering the cramped space as I perused my menu. An elderly woman sat across from me, eyeing me skeptically as I did things incorrectly (man, I think you’re supposed to rinse off your plates and chopsticks with tea before the meal, but nobody told me what to do?!) and tried to help me use the correct utensils.

After using a pencil to check items off the green paper menu, the food begins piling up quickly.

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Tim Ho Wan’s vermicelli rolls stuffed with beef. SCREAMfmLondon

First to arrive was my vermicelli roll stuffed with beef ($21 HKD, or about $2.70 USD). Seasoned soy sauce is poured over the dish as soon as it’s placed on the table. These three rolls were super delicious — especially the two on the bottom that were able to soak more of the soy sauce into their rice noodle wrappings. The perfect tenderness and consistency, but I might have liked a little more beef flavor.

As I was finishing up these rolls, my steamed egg cake ($16 HKD) arrived. Y’all, this was so amazingly good. I was definitely expecting something that more closely resembled egg, but when a tasty, sugary sponge cake appeared, I was not mad about it. It was so light and fluffy with a tantalizing brown sugar kind of flavor. I loved this and could have eaten 20 of them.

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Tim Ho Wan’s fluffy, spongey steamed egg cake. SCREAMfmLondon

The Tim Ho Wan menu items I’d heard the most about were the baked buns with barbeque pork ($20 HKD for three buns), so I obviously had to try them out. These char siu bao did not disappoint! The three buns were served encased in perfectly-cooked, flaky breading. Slightly sweet and crunchy on the outside, but chewy and meaty on the inside. I think I could eat 20 of these as well. The texture is absolute perfection and the flavors blend together so well. These are Tim Ho Wan’s signature dish for good reason.

Finally, I ended the meal with some steamed pork dumplings with shrimp ($27 HKD). I used to eat a lot of microwave shrimp siu mai from Trader Joe’s, but it’s an honor to get to try the real deal. These were great (what else did you expect?), packed with shrimp filling and bursting with flavor. Hot and juicy, and the perfect way to top off a great meal.

After the four small plates, I was feeling pretty stuffed, but so happy that I was able to taste these excellent dishes. It’s worth the wait, it’s worth the trip to Hong Kong — Tim Ho Wan is a fantastic dim sum experience.

Food: Japchae, anchovies and more Korean school lunch

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Clockwise from top left: radish kimchi, japchae, dressed lettuce, squid soup, and black rice (heukmi bap). SCREAMfmLondon

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Clockwise from top left: stir-fried anchovies, potato croquettes, napa cabbage kimchi, beef and seaweed soup, and rice mixed with carrots, bean sprouts and soy sauce. SCREAMfmLondon

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Clockwise from top left: sesame radish namul, pork with vegetables, young radish kimchi, miso seaweed soup, and rice. SCREAMfmLondon

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Clockwise from top left: napa cabbage kimchi, stir-fried squid with pork and vegetables, salted seaweed, potato and onion soup, and rice. SCREAMfmLondon