Category Archives: 5 hearts

dessert: 愛玉之夢遊仙草 (àiyùzhīmèngyóuxiāncǎo; fig jelly dreams of grass jelly)

date january 09, 2012

contact No. 56, Tong Hua St., Daan District, Taipei City/台北市大安區通化街56號/02.2706.1257

hours 7 days a week 12:00-03:00

price 50NT (avg. dessert)

rating ♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)

I love dessert, especially Asian desserts. My friend introduced me to 愛玉之夢遊仙草 (roughly translated as Fig Jelly Dreams of Grass Jelly) near Linjiang Night Market (臨江夜市), more popularly known as Tonghua Night Market (通化夜市), back in 2007.

As the name of the store suggests, they are most famous for their fig jelly (aka aiyu jelly) and grass jelly (aka xiancao) desserts, which range in price from 50NT to 60NT. They can be served on ice or hot. The store itself is pretty tiny and maybe only sits 20ish people if you cram in. There is often times a line of people waiting to get their bowl of grass jelly and/or fig jelly (they also have tofu pudding [豆花]), but the line goes pretty fast. Also, you can always get your dessert togo or even delivered (only if you are purchasing 20 or more bowls and live within a 2km radius). Personally, my favorite thing on the menu is the grass jelly ice with coffee creamer (仙草奶球冰) for  50NT, which just happens to be one of their signature dishes (招牌).

Before pouring the coffee creamer on.

The grass jelly ice with coffee creamer (仙草奶球冰) comes with grass jelly and your choice of two toppings over shaved ice with one of the small individual servings of liquid coffee creamer. They have a lot of toppings to choose from, such as: tapioca balls (珍珠), glutinous rice balls (湯圓), taro balls (芋圓), mung bean (綠豆), red bean (紅豆), peanuts (花生), jobs tears (薏仁), etc. I always get the glutinous rice balls (aka tangyuan) and taro balls (aka yuyuan). I don’t know how they do it, but their glutinous rice balls are ALWAYS cooked perfectly. The mixture of all these things together is amazing. The toppings add the perfect amount of sweetness to the unsweetened grass jelly and the coffee creamer makes the ice creamy, for a lack of better description. I also like the glutinous rice balls and taro balls because it adds a chewy texture to the dessert.

Overall this bowl of creamer, “qq” balls, grass jelly, and ice is a great dessert. It’s also pretty good for someone who doesn’t like particularly sweet desserts. I usually share this bowl with someone because it’s too much for just me, but I’ve seen plenty of people get their own, too. Either way, if you’re in the Linjiang/Tonghua Night Market area and are looking for a quick dessert, I highly recommend giving this a go.

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dessert/taiwanese: s.f.t. juice & ice (辛發亭冰品名店)

date november 21, 2011

contact No. 1, Anping St., Shilin District, Taipei City/台北市士林區安平街1號/02.2883.1123

hours N/A

price <300NT

rating ♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Jiantan MRT (捷運劍潭站) at Shilin Night Market (士林夜市)

One of the things about keeping a food blog is that you become the food guide to all your friends. One thing that my friends visiting from the States always ask me about is shaved ice, more specifically “snowflake ice” or milk ice (雪花冰). One of the most famous places in Taipei for this type of shaved ice is probably S.F.T. Juice & Ice (辛發亭冰品名店) at the famous Shilin Night Market (士林夜市).

According to my friend, this store claims to have invented “snowflake ice” aka xue hua bing. They proudly boast on their banner that their shop has been around for 46 years. Whether or not they actual did invent “snowflake ice”, who knows. What I do know is that their “snowflake ice” is delicious! Note that directly across from S.F.T. Juice & Ice is another shaved ice shop. Their banner is green. When we last went it looks like they might have finally closed shop. Basically no one was ever in there. Even if there was a huge line at S.F.T. and the other place was empty, people would wait at S.F.T. Just watch out for that.

The inside of S.F.T. Juice & Ice it pretty compact. Lots of tables jammed pretty closely together. There is almost always a wait to be seated, but the turn over is pretty quick so you shouldn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes for a seat.

Menus are taped to the tables and in Chinese only. The ones marked with the little thumbs up are their most popular flavors. This place is most famous for their “snowflake ice”, which is thinly shaved milk ice. Besides from the “snowflake ice”, they also have traditional shaved ice and fresh fruit juice. I’ve had several of their “snowflake ice” flavors, including:

– Green Tea Snow Ice with Red Bean (抹茶紅豆雪片) 70NT
– Snow Ice with Fresh Mango (新鮮芒果雪片) 90NT
– Snow Ice with Maple Syrup and Tapioca (楓糖粉圓雪片) 60NT
– Cherry Snow Ice with Chocolate Syrup (櫻桃巧克力雪片)

Of all the flavors I think my favorite is the Green Tea Snow Ice with Red Bean (抹茶紅豆雪片) for 70NT. The ice tastes like creamy green tea. It’s not too sweet, and still has a little of the bitter tea taste. Condensed milk is drizzled over the top and red bean is served on the side. So good.

I was really surprised to find that they still had fresh mango at the end of November. The snow ice with fresh mango and fresh strawberries are seasonal, so I’m used to the mango being out. Anyways, it was a good surprise. The two out-of-town friends (first time to Taiwan) both loved the Snow Ice with Fresh Mango (新鮮芒果雪片) for 90NT. The milk ice is served with fresh mango chunks and condensed milk. This was gone in about 2 minutes.

Our visitors wanted more, so we got the Snow Ice with Maple Syrup and Tapioca (楓糖粉圓滿雪片) for 60NT. This was pretty tasty, too; probably the sweetest of the ones we got.

On a different occasion my friends and I decided to try the Cherry Snow Ice with Chocolate Syrup (櫻桃巧克力雪片). This was not so good…After the first bite we all just sat there staring at each other trying to figure out what it tasted like. Then it hit us, cough syrup: cherry cough syrup with Hershey’s chocolate syrup drizzled over it. If you’re a fan of the medicinal cherry flavor you might like this, but I’d stay away from it…

Overall, S.F.T. is a great place for shaved ice, and maybe even the originator of “snowflake ice”. So, if you’re in the Shilin Night Market area or looking for some tasty shaved ice, give it a go.

sushi/japanese: hashi sushi (橋壽司)

date november 15, 2011

contact No. 292, Sec. 2, Yonghe Rd., Yonghe District, New Taipei City/新北市永和區永和路二段292號/02.8925.2223/0975.780.275

hours 7 days a week [lunch] 11:00-14:30 :: [dinner] 17:00-22:00

price 300NT-600NT

rating ♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt Dingxi MRT (捷運頂溪站)

I think that every time I post about sushi I say it’s my favorite thing to eat ever. So, to drive home that point: I love sushi, it’s my favorite thing ever.

Ashley has been telling me about “the cheap sushi place in Yonghe” for a while now, but we haven’t been able to go until tonight. Totally worth it.

Hashi Sushi is located in Yonghe District right next to the original location of Yonghe Soy Milk King (永和豆漿). The nearest MRT is Dingxi (頂溪). Just walk north up Yonghe Rd. (永和路) toward Zhongzheng Bridge (中正橋) and you’ll see it right past Yonghe Soy Milk King (aka Yonghe Doujiang).

Hashi Sushi is kind of a hole in the wall kind of joint. Nothing fancy, wallpaper kind of peeling off the walls, but honestly that’s my favorite kind of sushi place. My favorite sushi place in San Francisco is Sushi Zone and it most definitely falls under the category of “hole in the wall” sushi joints. Hashi has two floors; the first floor has the sushi bar and about 6-7 tables.

I know this picture makes the second floor of Hashi look like ghosts and creepy Japanese horror film children should be lurking, but Ashley said when it’s open (which it was not when we went) she prefers to sit up here.

The main menu at Hashi is in Chinese and English. There is a picture for every item, which is always helpful. They have a pretty large variety of fish. Most of their menu is made up of nigiri sushi; they also have maki sushi, hand rolls, chirashi, sashimi, and salads. Prices are not listed on the picture menu, but on the order sheet (which is in Chinese only). All the nigiri runs about 30NT-90NT for 2 pieces. Hand rolls range from 30NT-160NT and chirashi 250NT-680NT.

On a white board behind the sushi bar they have some specials that aren’t on the main menu.

Between Ashley and I, we ordered:
– Seared Scallop Nigri Sushi (炙干貝) 90NT
– Sweet Shrimp Nigiri Sushi (胭脂蝦) 80NT
– Grilled Chicken Wings (雞翅; 2串) 60NT
– Hamachi Kama (青魽下巴) 250NT
– Mixed Seafood Chirashi (海鮮丼) 250NT
– Salmon with Salmon Roe Chirashi (鮭魚親子丼) 300NT

I love scallops. Raw, baked, pan seared, whatever, I love them all. Ashley said their Seared Scallops were delicious and she was right. For 90NT you get two pieces of Seared Scallop Nigiri Sushi (炙干貝), or on their menu “Roasting Scallop”. Lightly torched, the scallops were sweet and buttery. Melt in your mouth buttery. Squeeze some of the kumquat juice on the scallops for a little acid.

Another thing I love, amaebi, otherwise known as Sweet Shrimp. For 80NT we ordered the Sweet Shrimp Nigiri Sushi (胭脂蝦) 80NT, or “Big Sweet Shrimp” on their menu. Like the scallops, the sweet shrimp was melt in your mouth delicious. Sweet, fresh, and melted in my mouth.

Ashley ordered the Grilled Chicken Wings (雞翅) for 60NT. One order comes with two skewers of two wings each. The wings are really tender and pretty tasty. Add some lime for acid.

Ashley also ordered the Hamachi Kama (aka Yellowtail Cheek). For 250NT you get a pretty sizable portion of hamachi kama (青魽下巴). The cheek is lightly seasoned with salt and comes with a side of grated daikon radish. The fish was really tender and delicious. Add lime for some acid.

Ashley ordered herself the Mixed Seafood Chirashi (海鮮丼) for 250NT, known as Mix Sashimi with Rice on their menu. I’m not exactly sure what all was in this, but for sure there was tuna, salmon, sweet shrimp, squid, salmon roe, and tamago. She was happy with it and everything looked tasty and fresh.

My favorite fish is salmon, so I opted for the Salmon with Salmon Roe Chirashi (鮭魚親子丼) for 300NT. This bowl had some seared salmon, along with completely raw salmon, salmon roe, sliced onions and tamago. Everything was delicious and fresh. You get a lot of salmon, which is nice. For the price and quality, this is a pretty delicious deal.

Overall, I kind of love this place. The fish is fresh and affordable. There are a lot of other things on the menu that I want try and will most definitely be back here.

japanese: 紅蜻蜓食事處 (hóngqīngtíngshíshìchù)

date september 28, 2011

contact No. 35-1, Yongkang St., Daan District, Taipei City/台北市大安區永康街35號之一/02.2394.7517

hours Monday-Friday 18:00-01:00 :: Saturday [lunch] 12:00-15:00 [dinner] 18:00-01:00 :: Sunday  [lunch] 12:00-15:00 [dinner] 17:00-24:00

price 300NT-600NT

rating ♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)

nearest mrt MRT Dongmen (捷運東門站) Exit 5

For the past two years I have been walking passed 紅蜻蜓食事處 on Yongkang St. (永康街) and always thought, I want to eat here, as I love Japanese izakaya places. Finally after two years, my friend Ashley took me.

紅蜻蜓食事處 is located on Yongkang St. past the park, across from the Dante’s Coffee, at the corner of Yong Kang St. Lane 37.

One of the reasons I never made it to 紅蜻蜓食事處 (roughly translated as Red Dragonfly Restaurant) is because it’s tiny and usually full. Ashley and I met at Yongkang after work around 7:30pm on a Wednesday night and managed to grab the last table, which happened to be one of the two tables they have outside by the entrance. In total, 紅蜻蜓食事處 has only 4 or 5 tables inside and the bar at the grill that in total probably seats around 25 people. Outside, where we sat, they have two tables that seat 2 to 3 people.

The menu at 紅蜻蜓食事處 is in Chinese and Japanese only. Luckily, there is a photograph for every item on the menu (note: what is written on the actual menu may slightly vary from what is written on the order sheet). Ashley and I decided to order:

– Chicken leg skewers – 3 skewers (雞腿肉 – 3串) 90NT
– Pork skewers – 3 skewers (梅花豬肉 – 3串) 90NT
– Bacon wrapped asparagus – 2 skewers (培根蘆筍 – 2串) 100NT
– Japanese style mushrooms – 2 skewers (和風香菇 – 2串) 120NT
– Cold tofu with mountain yam (山藥冷豆腐) 120NT
– Mixed stir fried vegetables (綜合炒野菜) 150NT
– Curry korokke – 2 pcs. (咖哩可樂餅 – 2個) 90NT

I ordered the curry korokke, aka curry croquette, (咖哩可樂餅) for 90NT because I love curry and I love potatoes. These were pretty tasty. For 90NT you get two lightly fried croquettes. The curry flavor was just enough and the sauce on top, which tasted like katsu sauce,  added a nice sweet/tartness.

Ashley recommended the cold tofu with mountain yam (山藥冷豆腐) for 120NT. This was probably my favorite thing we had. The cold tofu with mountain yam comes with a chunk of cold tofu with ground mountain yam, raw egg yolk, and nori (dried seaweed) shavings with some kind of light broth. We’re pretty sure you’re meant to mix it all up and eat it. Warning, this is not going to be for everyone. Mountain yam has a very slimy texture when raw, much like the sliminess of okra. On top of the raw egg, this is pretty slimy, but I really like that. To me, all the flavors work really well together, but again, this dish is not for everyone.

One order of the chicken leg skewers (雞腿肉 – 3串) comes with three skewers for 90NT. The chicken was deliciously tender and marinated in what tasted like teriyaki. Very good.

Ashley picked the meihua pork skewers (梅花豬肉) 3 skewers/90NT (left). I thought the pork was okay. I think of the skewers we ordered it was my least favorite, but it was still good. It was lightly seasoned with salt, but I kind of felt like it was tougher than I generally prefer. We also got bacon wrapped asparagus (培根蘆筍), which came with two skewers (3 pcs. each) for 100NT. I loved these. I liked the saltiness from the bacon and the crunchiness from the asparagus. So good.

For vegetables we got the mixed stir fried vegetables (綜合炒野菜) for 150NT. This was a tasty plate of vegetables (cabbage, bell peppers, onions, king oyster mushrooms, carrots, etc.). It was a little on the salty side, but for me that was okay because I like salty foods. The vegetables were cooked perfectly so that they still had a little crunch, which is great because nothing is worse than a plate of soggy veggies.

The last thing we added to our order was the Japanese style mushrooms (和風香菇), which comes with 2 skewers (6 pcs.) for 120NT. I thought these mushrooms were pretty tasty. The were grilled then topped with ground radish, green onions, and a sweet and tangy sauce. If you got one without much sauce they were kind of plain, but I still liked it; Ashley did too.

Ashley said that inside the restaurant they have on their most popular dishes up on the wall. I’m not sure if anything we ordered was part of that “most popular” list, but overall I thought it was all pretty damn tasty. The thing about going to an izakaya, though, is that it can add up quickly price wise. By the end of our meal we had decided that we had ordered the perfect amount of food for two people; our bill came out to 760NT, but we didn’t order and alcohol, so keep that in mind. There were a lot of other things I wanted to try on the menu so I will definitely have to go back and try them.

updated/thai: sawasdee

date March 18, 2011
contact No. 10, Alley 4, Lane 286, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Road, Daan District, Taipei City/台北市大安區羅斯福路三段286巷4弄10號/02-2368-4300
hours 7 days a week [lunch]11:30-14:00/[dinner]17:00-21:00
price <NT300
rating ♥♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)
nearest mrt Gongguan MRT (公館捷運站)

Read my original review of Sawasdee.

I went to Sawasdee on a Friday night after work. Got there around 7:15pm and it was full as usual. Luckily I grabbed a table right as a couple left, so I didn’t have to wait.

I mostly just wanted to update this post because I got a picture of their signature fried chicken with sweet pepper sauce rice meal (招牌椒麻雞飯).

For 110NT if you order the meal you get the chicken, rice, soup, steamed egg, and some stir fried veggies (carrots, cauliflower, bok choy, and cabage). As usually all the sides were delicious. Steamed egg was good, soup was flavorful, and the veggies were well seasoned and not overcooked. The chicken was delicious. The batter on the chicken is not very thick; I think it might just be flour and egg. I really love the raw shredded cabbage under the chicken. Let it sit for a while under the hot chicken to warm up and soak up the sauce. The sweet pepper sauce is seriously delicious. It has a pretty good balance of sweet, garlic, chili pepper, and vinegar taste. It’s not too spicy for those sensitive to spice; the kick is pretty light in my opinion, however if you are particularly sensitive to spicy things (for example if you get things small spicy [小辣] or mini spicy [微辣] and think it’s still spicy) I’d maybe stay away. I literally left no sauce on the plate. It tastes great on the chicken and great on the rice. Really I just wanted to share this. Too good not to. Plus for the ridiculously great price of 110NT, this place never disappoints.

bakery/dessert: pozzo bakery

date February 12, 2011

contact 1F, No. 172, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei City/台北市忠孝東路四段172號1F/02.2772.2121

hours 7 days a week 07:00-22:00

rating ♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5 hearts)

website http://www.sanwant.com/en/3-0.htm

nearest mrt Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT (忠孝敦化捷運站)

For my birthday, my friend bought me a cake. I love cheesecake and that is what she decided to buy me from Pozzo Bakery located on the first floor of the San Want Hotel (神旺大飯店).

I’ve tried a lot of cheesecake in Taiwan and I must say, this was the best. I don’t really like super sweet cheesecakes like the ones they have at The Cheesecake Factory. While they’re good, I feel like all the extras drown out the cheese flavor and just make an already rich “cake” richer. This green tea cheese cake was really creamy and not at all too sweet. To me, it was the perfect sweetness. The green tea flavor was really only in the green swirl on the top, which was fine with me. It added subtle hints of green tea versus having the entire “cake” be green tea flavored. The crust was tasty, not graham cracker, but I’m actually not a huge fan of graham cracker crusts. It was crumbly and tasted kind of like pie crust, just not solid like pie crust, if that makes sense. Also, the crust had a thin layer of mochi with red bean, which was a nice surprise. Only complaint would be the weird clear gelatin layer on top of the cheesecake. I notice that they do that to a lot of cakes in Taiwan, and I’m not sure why, but I’m not a fan. Luckily, it’s easy to take off if you don’t want to eat it, which is what I did.

Overall, for cheesecake fans I highly suggest trying this. I read on the website that they recommend their pear cheesecake, so I might have to try that, too.

japanese/sushi: tsukiji market (築地市場)

date february 09, 2011
contact No. 34-4, Yong Kang St., Taipei/02.2396.8088/台北市永康街34-4號
hours 7 days a week [lunch] 12:00-14:30 [dinner] 17:00-22:00 (last call at 21:00)
price depends. anywhere between 300-1500+
rating ♥♥♥♥♥ (5 hearts out of 5)
nearest mrt MRT Dongmen (捷運東門站) Exit 5

For my induction into the quarter century landmark, my friend and I decided to celebrate with our favorite: sushi. I never realized how many restaurants there are on Yong Kang Street (永康街), but Stephanie said there were a lot of sushi places that looked pretty good, so we decided to try one. After some random walking, we saw Tsukiji Market (築地市場), named after the famous fish market in Tokyo.

Tsukiji Market is a small two story restaurant. The first floor is the sushi bar which seats about 10. We were asked if we wanted to sit at the bar or upstairs. We took a look at the upstairs; it’s pretty small, maybe seats 15 people total with only a few tables. We opted to sit at the bar because we like to watch the chefs in action.

The menu is hand written and only in Chinese, so be warned non-Chinese readers. The menu is split into sections: sashimi, cold appetizers, hot appetizers, fried foods, chirashi bowls (180-880NT), hot bowls (160-380NT), and soups. The waitress pointed out that they do not typically offer nigiri sushi or rolls, only sashimi. However, she said if you wanted nigiri or rolls, you could tell the sushi chef and he would do his best to accommodate you. The waitress was very nice and helped us pick some things out.

We both love sashimi, so we had to get some. We opted for the Tsukiji daily sashimi plate (築地本日刺身) for 580NT. The plate comes with types of fish, two pieces each. I’m not exactly sure what types of fish some of this was, but it was all fresh and delicious. I don’t like wasabi, but I do appreciate fresh wasabi and that is what they served.

While sitting at the bar, we saw the chefs making a salad that looked delicious. We asked the server what it was and it just so happened to be the combination seafood salad (綜合海鮮沙拉) for 280NT. We decided to get it and it was a very good decision. In terms of seafood there was shrimp, octopus, crab meat, and fish eggs. There were a lot of vegetables, too: okra, broccoli, baby corn, cherry tomatoes, seaweed, cucumbers, and red onions. All of this was served on a bed of iceberg lettuce and topped off with a japanese vinaigrette. This salad was delicious! Everything tasted fresh, the vegetables were cooked perfectly, and the dressing was nice and tasty. Definitely recommend this.

Stephanie and I really love cod roe and potatoes, so when the waitress recommended the cod roe baked potatoes (明太子烤洋芋) for 180NT, we had to get it. At first we thought they forgot our order since it took forever to get to us, but I think they might have just been waiting for us to finish other things so that we’d have space on our portion of the bar. It was well worth the wait. It was amazing. The potato slices were pretty thin and baked just so that the edges were crisp, but the center soft. The baked cod roe on top was delicious. We savored every last bite.

The couple next to us ordered the chicken karage (和風炸雞) for 160NT and it looked pretty tasty, so we decided to get an order. The outside was deliciously crispy and the chicken inside was juicy and tender. The chicken was marinated and had a slight sweetness to it that was perfect.

At the last minute, right before last call, Stephanie decided to order the beef carpaccio (生牛肉佐碰醋) for 260NT. Like everything else, this was pretty tasty. Unlike traditional carpaccio, the vinegar was separate from the beef. Everything was good. Get a little bit of everything for the perfect bite.

Stephanie asked if they did anything for birthdays and one of the chef’s asked if I needed him to sing happy birthday to me. He was relieved when I said no, something about he had to sing it yesterday. Either way, at that point it did not sound like they did anything. Then suddenly, sushi appeared in front of me. I’m not sure exactly what kind of fish the white was, but the other was maguro. Either way, both was delicious, lightly torched to bring out the fats. Usually birthday freebies are desserts, and while I am a dessert whore, free sushi is way better.

Basically, I love this place. We started talking with the workers as they were cleaning up, and they were all very nice. I noticed that they do take reservations, so I recommend them if you want to sit at the bar. We went on a Wednesday night and the bar was full most of the night. Really, for the price, you definitely get the quality. The portions and quality of what you get for the price is well worth it. They also have a lot of sake and a few bottled beers. I will definitely be back.