Tag Archives: taiwan

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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Lunar New Year 2017 in Taipei, Taiwan

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Colorful lanterns and crowds of revelers in front of Ciyou Temple in Taipei, Taiwan on New Year’s Eve 2017. SCREAMfmLondon

This weekend, I happened to be in Taipei, Taiwan in time to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which fell on Saturday, Jan. 28 this year.

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Colorful lanterns represent the Year of the Rooster. SCREAMfmLondon

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2017 is the Year of the Rooster.

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Lunar New Year 2017 in Taipei, Taiwan. SCREAMfmLondon

Around town, many Taiwanese people burned Joss paper (also known as “ghost money”) in metal fire pits as part of a special holiday ceremony. The sheets of paper are burned in honor of the deceased.

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Ciyou Temple in Taipei, Taiwan. SCREAMfmLondon

Ciyou Temple is an ornate temple dedicated to Mazu, a Chinese goddess of the sea. The temple was built in 1753 and is an impressive historical landmark in the Songshan District of Taipei.

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Ciyou Temple in Taipei, Taiwan. SCREAMfmLondon

The temple has an impressive six floors of detailed decorations to see.

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Lanterns cover the street in honor of Lunar New Year. SCREAMfmLondon

After midnight on the new year, locals shoot off fireworks to celebrate.

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Happy Lunar New Year 2017! SCREAMfmLondon

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Happy Lunar New Year! SCREAMfmLondon

What’s in my DramaFever queue this month?

‘Boys Over Flowers’
Starring: Ku Hye-sun, Lee Min-ho and Kim Hyun-joong
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Episodes: 25

boysoverflowers

Photo courtesy of Group 8.

“Boys Over Flowers” is probably the perfect introductory drama — it is so extra.

The story follows Jan-di, a plucky girl from a working class family who receives a scholarship to attend the exclusive Shinhwa High School, which is populated primarily by rich assholes. She faces some of the most hardcore bullying I’ve ever seen depicted on screen (the kids light her bike on fire!). The most fearsome of the students are the F4 clique: Jun-pyo (the gorgeous heir to the Shinhwa fortune who owns a surplus of fabulous coats), Ji-hoo (the insufferable Nice Guy™ who cries while playing the violin alone in the woods), Yi-jung (the playboy who is popular at school because he’s such a great potter) and Woo-bin (I’m not even sure what his story is, but I’ve grown fond of his silly hats and random usage of English slang).

Obviously, all of the cute rich boys begin fighting over Jan-di’s affections, and there is a life-or-death situation in every episode. People are getting chloroformed and kidnapped left and right. It’s truly wild.

There are a lot of complaints that could be lodged about “Boys Over Flowers,” and I had to read some spoilers to make sure the ending wasn’t going to piss me off, but it’s just so over-the-top ridiculous I can’t help being hooked.

‘Commitment’
Release Date:
Dec. 6, 2013
Director: Park Hong-soo
Starring: Choi Seung-hyun, Han Ye-ri and Kim Yoo-jung
Genre: Action, Drama
Rating: Not Rated

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Photo courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

This is cheating because “Commitment” isn’t even on DreamaFever, it’s on Netflix. But I’m going to talk about it anyway.

Myung-hoon is a North Korean teenager who has to go undercover as a spy in South Korea in order to save his younger sister from the labor camp where they’ve both been imprisoned after their father’s death. It’s a fairly lengthy and involved film (and it involves some knowledge of the politics revolving around the Korean War), but it is surprisingly captivating throughout with a handful of sweet, action-packed fight scenes.

To be honest, I mostly wanted to watch “Commitment” as an excuse to spend two hours gazing adoringly at Choi Seung-hyun (better known as T.O.P, a rapper and member of the boyband Big Bang). He’s painfully attractive, and a talented actor to boot, so it’s time well spent.

‘Absolute Boyfriend’ (aka ‘Absolute Darling’)
Starring:
Ku Hye-sun, Jiro Wang and Kun Da
Genre: Romance
Episodes: 20

absoluteboyfriend

Photo courtesy of GTV.

“Absolute Boyfriend” is a Taiwanese adaptation of a Japanese manga novel, but it stars a Korean actress, Ku Hye-sun, and dubs over her dialogue. It’s really weird.

That aside, the show is about a single woman, Xiao Fei, who ends up purchasing a robot boyfriend from an eccentric salesman through a strange sequence of events. Once she receives her order, she feels uncomfortable about it, but it’s too late! To make matters worse, the arrival of the robot boyfriend dredges up all the hidden feelings her neighbor and best friend, Zong Shi, has for her, and he starts spilling his guts all over the place. Eventually, the robot begins to develop human emotions as well, putting a hitch in the plans. He is played by Taiwanese boybander Jiro Wang, who is completely perfect as the lovable galoot with a rockin’ body, and I could totally go for one of my own, if anybody wants to hook it up.

The show starts off light-hearted and silly, but it really takes a dark turn somewhere in the middle. There is a lot of implied sexual assault and rape that I was not prepared for or expecting (again, people keep getting drugged and kidnapped!). I found it so disturbing I had to take a break from watching the show for a while. Once I resumed, the episodes became increasingly sad as they neared the ending. This is not what I thought I was signing up for — I’m glad to have finally finished “Absolute Boyfriend” and gotten it out of my life.

‘High School – Love On’
Starring: Kim Sae-ron, Nam Woo-hyun and Lee Sung-yeol
Genre: Romance, Supernatural
Episodes: 20

highschool

Photo courtesy of KBS2.

“High School – Love On” is the best show of this bunch, and I am fully obsessed.

It’s another romantic teen melodrama — albeit a lot more realistic than something like “Boys Over Flowers” — with a fantasy twist. Seul-bi is an angel of death who suddenly takes a human form after accidentally saving the life of a high school student, Woo-hyun. Once she’s stuck among the humans, she has to decide if she wants to return to her world or stick it out in high school and give mortal romance a shot.

All of the characters are well-rounded and interesting, from the school bullies to the kids’ parents and teachers to the other angels who appear throughout. The main love triangle is possibly the best I’ve ever seen on television, as I’m equally invested in all three characters and love the unique dynamic between each pairing. Woo-hyun and Sung-yeol are such compelling frenemies and have amazing chemistry — probably because the actors playing them are Nam Woo-hyun and Lee Sung-yeol, two members of the boyband Infinite. I’m rooting for them to all end up together in polyamorous happiness.

So far, I am really adoring “High School – Love On,” and I can’t wait to see the drama continue to unfold. Thankfully, I don’t have a life, and watching dramas is all I do anymore.