Tastes of Taiwan

December 12th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I just realized that I’ve been in Taipei more than three months and haven’t written a single review of what I’ve eaten here. However, most of my meals out in Taipei have been working lunches with our client, so I never had the opportunity to fully review and critique every aspect of the dining experience like I would if I were going to review the place. Nonetheless, I have not forgone a true food adventure. Our client, a Taiwanese with a taste for adventure, promised us at the beginning of the project that he would take us to a different restaurant for lunch every day. Despite the wide range of food options near the office, this was nonetheless a tall order for a three-month project. But he was true to his word. And now I’ve been asked to rank the top five places we’ve visited during these three months, and we will re-visit each place once on our last week in Taipei.

Most memorable client lunches:

  1. Potstickers at Ma Shan Tang (麻膳堂)
  2. Japanese restaurant where I had a dish of silken tofu, thin pork slices, onions, and mildly spicy sauce in a small saucepan
  3. Soon dubu, Korean tofu stew, at DuBu House
  4. Ding Tai Fung
  5. Japanese tonkatsu place

Another memorable meal I had was at a Japanese restaurant with a (relatively expensive) prix fixe five-course menu, but it did not make the top 5 because it’s too expensive to visit again.

Excluding client lunches, I’ve also had some very memorable food in Taipei night markets, in Jiufen, and elsewhere:

  • Taiwanese breakfast of peanut-soy milk, fried dough fritters, fried dough fritters and omelette wrapped in glutinous rice
  • Jiufen: oolong tea, yu yuan and deep fried squid

  • Raohe night market: a Taiwanese crepe with shaved peanut candy and three kinds of ice cream, 大腸包小腸 (a Taiwanese “hot dog” with a glutinous rice bun), 胡椒餅 (a baked bun with meat and scallion filling), 雪花冰 (shaved ice with condensed milk), fried quail eggs, and Taiwanese okonomiyaki
  • Oolong milk ice tea
  • Dong Qu Fen Yuan (东区粉圆)
  • Maokong: stir-fried mountain grass, tea-infused fried rice, sweet potato fries
  • Fancy Japanese food in places I never learned the name of

Taiwan is truly one of the most livable places I’ve been to and a food paradise. I would love to move here someday!

Best of Bangkok

July 25th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

In 2012, I spent more than three months working in Bangkok. I was lucky enough to be working with a team who wanted to discover the best of Bangkok as much as I did. Near the beginning of the project, we had a list of some of the best restaurants and bars in Bangkok, and by the end of the project, we had gone to every single one of them at least once, often more than once.

So now I’ll pass on my discoveries.

Best upscale Thai: Bo.Lan

Runner-up upscale Thai: Nahm

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Review: Lei Gardens

November 25th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Lei Garden at Chjimes is one of two Singapore locations, although this fine dining Cantonese establishment is better known for its restaurants in Hong Kong. We decided to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival by having dinner at Lei Garden, which turned out to be top-notch for ambience and only passable for food.

The place is swanky, I’ll give you that. Fine bone china, multiple chopsticks (you know a Chinese restaurant is fancy when they give you more than one pair of chopsticks), cream-coloured walls and seats, thick linen napkins, and high-quality tea.

For starters, we had some crispy roasted pork, cut into cubes and dipped into mustard sauce. I have never really understood the appeal of crispy roasted pork, but it’s a Canton thing so I suppose Cantonese people like it. For me, I could only admire the fact that the pork was cut into perfect cubes without crumbling the crispy skin. Now how did they manage to do that? This puzzled me for a good part of the evening.

Crispy roasted pork

We had some sort of pork soup, but they removed the contents of the soup and placed it on a plate in the middle of the table, while only serving individual bowls of soup broth. This puzzled me as well, but maybe I am just not used to high-end Chinese dining. Separating the soup and the contents of the soup did not seem strange to my companions. The soup was savoury, although a little too much, and the broth was thickened by some of the pork fat that had melted into the broth.

Contents of soup

A glistening roast duck suddenly appeared next to our table and disappeared just as quickly. They cut the skin into thin squares and wrapped them in a flour wrapper before serving to our table. The duck skin was roasted to crisp perfection but unfortunately tasteless. I slathered on generous amounts of tian mian jiang (Peking duck sauce) and just enjoyed the textures in my mouth – crispy skin, fresh cucumber, and soft flour wrapper.

Peking duck in wrap

The most savoury dish was probably the twice-cooked pork belly, using pork belly with nice thick layers of fat. This is a traditional Chinese dish called 东坡肉 (dong bo rou) from Hangzhou, which is close to my home province of Jiangsu. At Lei Gardens, the taste was not at all authentic.

Twice-cooked pork belly

The latter half of the meal was filled with rather ordinary and uncomplicated dishes: stewed cabbage with mushrooms, stir-fried asparagus, fried rice, and fried noodles. Simple but well executed.

By Singapore standards, this was decent Chinese food, but for this price, I’d rather take my money elsewhere.