H Mart in Williston Park, NY- Tasty Sashimi and Great for the Pocketbook 

I shop at Asian grocery stores, from time to time. When I am out in Queens, I tend to go to H Mart in Williston Park on Long Island. H Mart is best for one reason: You can buy reasonably priced sashimi and indulge/gorge until your heart beats with delight. You can buy all the accoutrement and make the plate real pretty. This plate consists of tuna, salmon, octopus, yellow tail, seaweed salad, and the “smelly” daikon salad (My co-workers had a huge issue with the daikon salad when I brought it into work one day.  They threatened to go to HR to stop me from eating the smelly food!) Of course, I also had ginger and wasabi. All in all, this plate was less than $50. The effort to cut up the sashimi was minimal. The presentation was beautiful.

So why wouldn’t you do the same, if you are a sashimi fan and eating out in restaurants is not always economically viable?

The H Mart in Hartsdale (Westchester, NY) has a hot food court (My post on Reliable Food Court Eating). That’s also an excellent option for delicious Asian food with ingredients straight from the supermarket. This is as close to Asian local/home eating as one gets in the New York ti-state area.

This experience took place in

H Mart
400 Hillside Ave
Williston Park, NY 11596
(516) 699-0270

P.S. This is my 6th of 17 challenge, writing one post a day until I go on vacation this month.

Wanderlust Taiwan- Cafe Sole at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park 松山文創園區, A Heritage Site

I was at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park 松山文創園區 for a playdate with my artist friend and her children. Songshan Cultural and Creative Park had been a tobacco plant since the Japanese colonial days in 1937. In 2001, the Taiwanese government designated the location as a cultural heritage site. In 2011, it was transformed into a creative hub for local artists to exhibit their work to the public. We walked around the center visiting the exhibits, got hungry and stopped at Cafe Sole for a snack and breakfast.

Cafe Sole is not only about coffee but also about creating a dialogue between the environment and the taste of coffee. The environment of Songshan, its history and creativity, brings a uniqueness to the coffee in Cafe Sole. (ok, I did not make this up. This is a direct translation of their About Cafe Sole in the Chinese site). Cafe latte. Cute bear. Excellent coffee. Cafe Sole sources internationally award-winning coffee beans that are produced out of small villages in central Taiwan. Shame on me- I had no idea that Taiwan produces coffee beans let alone award-winning ones. Ham and Cheese Panini. Made with love. Very well executed and presented.Raspberry Vinegar Tea. This is not something you see everyday in New York. Vinegar tea is very popular in Taiwan; it’s similar to the idea of drinking apple cinder vinegar to boost your immune system. The vinegar tea is usually combined with a variety of fruits and flowers.Chocolate muffin. It’s made with good dark chocolate. 🙂

Afterwards, we got freshly squeezed watermelon juice. Nothing can compare to delicious watermelon juice on a hot, scorching tropical summer day. It was a perfect day with culture, friendship, fine coffee and tea. Cafe Sole is a great stopping place for tired feet. Songshan Cultural and Creative Park should be on the list for international visitors.

This experience took place at

CAFE SOLÉ 日出印象咖啡館
at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park 松山文創園區
No. 133, Guangfu S Rd,
信義區台北市 Taiwan 110
+886 2 2765 1388
台北市光復南路133號
Mail: cafe.sole.tw@gmail.com

Wanderlust Taiwan- RaoHe Street Night Market Beef Noodle Soup, 饒河街齒牛香很不好吃

This is the RaoHe Street night market 饒河街夜市 beef noodle soup experience. We went in because the place was packed with people. It was one of the few places that had a store front, running fan, cold bottled water for the foreigners, and AC. As a rule of thumb, a restaurant overflowed with diners is probably a good bet. I was wrong. I think this was the worst meal I had in Taiwan this summer.See the menu behind the man who was staring at the camera? The night market noodle soups are in general about $1 to $1.5 USD cheaper than those in a slightly more up-scale restaurant. Read the other beef noodle post, click here.紅油炒手 Dumplings in hot chili sauce, a famous Sichuan dish. This was good. The sauce on the freshly cooked dumplings that were still tender and warm made the dish. The green veggies balanced out the spiciness.紅燒半筋半肉Braised half tendon and half beef noodle soup. It was tasteless. I don’t know how they stay in business.牛筋和海帶, Beef tendon/kelp/tofu. Meh and blah. We mixed these into other dishes and added a lot more sauce to make them ok to swallow.泡菜, Taiwanese pickled vegetables. Best dish of the night.

The restaurant was busy because they had a store front, tables and chairs, and efficient management of the diners. The wait staff is extremely efficient to usher you in and out. Because of their efficiency, they are able to let you sit down in an air-conditioned room, resting your sore feet from walking the night market. This is the reason why the restaurant was busy. This is how they stay in business by working on the peripherals and not the main product. It absolutely had nothing to do with the quality of their food!

Taiwanese food is almost always yummy and excellent. Having a bad meal is blasphemy in my book. Yuck! 台北市饒河街齒牛香的牛肉麵難吃。真丟臉啊!

This experience took place at

No. 104, Raohe St,
Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105

 

 

Wanderlust Taiwan- 十三香精緻麵食麻辣火鍋牛肉麵, 13 Flavors Noodle Shop

I feel badly writing about a Taiwanese restaurant that does not have an English name nor a site in English for my readers since majority of my readers hail from the US. The restaurant name, 十三香精緻麵食麻辣火鍋牛肉麵, is a long description of what they served; it means 13 flavors fine noodles, mala hot-pot beef noodle soup. Yeah, not terribly marketing friendly nor is it easy to recall. Mala is a description for level of spiciness; the literal translation is numb and spicy. The sauce originated from the Sichuan region of China.

十三香精緻麵食麻辣火鍋牛肉麵, 13 Flavors, is located in Taipei, on Heping East Road, between the National Taipei University of Education and my summer residence. My daughter and I walked by this restaurant twice a day for 20 days this Summer. Below is the evidence of sampling two of their finest noodle soup dishes. This is the mala beef noodle soup with half beef cubes and half tendons麻辣半筋半肉麵. I grew up with beef noodle soup. One of the few fond memories I have with my father is going to a neighborhood beef noodle shop in Kaohsiung 高雄市, where the sunshine filled the open-air restaurant, time stopped and all demands and expectations disappeared. It was just my father and his little girl each eating a big bowl of noodle soup in silence. This is the shredded pork with pickled cabbage noodle soup 榨菜肉絲麵, my daughter and her father’s favorite noodle soup. I was there in the country of my birth, after being away for decades, eating a big bowl of noodle soup with my little girl in silence. In that broth, I saw the reclaiming of my heritage, the passing of my heritage to her, and the intricate relationship between a mother and a child who takes after her father.

13 Flavors is popular. Restaurant is open only at night which is a rare occurrence in Taipei; Taiwanese people have a very strong work ethic and often work around the clock. When we walked by, the restaurant was always filled with diners. 13 Flavors certainly charged enough for two bowls of noodles. The beef was $190 TWD or a little more than $6 USD. The pork was $100 TWD or a little more than $3 USD.

How was the food, you may ask, since this is the primary focus of this blog? It was okay, I believe. The broth for the beef was decent but not special. My daughter gave the pork broth a thumbs up. I would say that the noodles were pedestrian for this level of restaurant and service – better than noodles from the street stands and the night markets yet they were nothing special. But I strongly suspect that I am biased in this view. The memories of childhood and the philosophical question of whether we repeat the mistakes of our parents are what dominated in my thoughts.

This experience took place at

十三香精緻麵食麻辣火鍋牛肉麵

台北市大安區和平東路三段48-6號
No 48-6, Section 3, Heping East Road,
Taipei, Taiwan
Phone:+886 2 2733 8986

Han Bat Korean in Midtown Manhattan, NYC- Salty Korean Dishes at Reasonable Prices for the Location

It was a hot August night and I found myself in midtown Manhattan wandering upon Han Bat, a Korean restaurant with an extensive menu and filled with people, Koreans and more. Rule of thumb on eating in a restaurant that you have not done any research on – look to see whether the restaurant is full and who are inside. This rule seems to work most of the time. I stopped in and was immediately seated. The restaurant was buzzing with energy; many middle-aged Korean waitresses were walking fast back and forth and giving directions to the bus boys. This could not be bad, could it? There were groups of Korean women coming in and out; there were groups of non-Koreans ordering very advanced Korean dishes and there was me- the Asian non-Korean types.Complimentary side dishes. From top left going counter-clockwise: spicy cucumber, kimchi, seaweed, bean sprouts and lettuces. The kimchi was too salty.Complimentary side dishes. From top left going counter-clockwise: bean sprouts, seaweed, greens, fish cake. Fish cake was very yummy and the bean sprouts were king (sweet, juicy and crunchy).Haemul Dolsot Bibimbap: Seafood, octopus , squid over rice in hot and spicy stone pot. # 50 on the menu. Yes, there are probably a hundred dishes on the menu. It took me a while to sort through. This has the making of all possible good things for me: I love bibimbap; I love octopus; I love seafood. It was meh. Meh. Meh. The burned rice at the bottom of the stone pot (Dolsot) was the best part of the meal. The sesame leaves on top added no value from my limited culinary perspective. The rest was nondescript. I ate because I was hungry.Soon Doo Boo Chi Gae: Soft bean curd with hot and spicy sauce. Seafood. # 6 from lunch special. This was an interesting experience. It came with an egg that is supposed to be cracked over the boiling soup. However, the egg came by itself on a dish with the complimentary dishes, without instruction. So the egg sat there until it dawn on me that it should go in the dish long after the soup came. By then, the soup was no longer hot. One of the middle-aged Korean waitress (mama san) saw it and took the entire dish back into the kitchen to heat it up. She came back with the boiling hot soup and then the egg was properly dropped into the soup. The service is outstanding! She insisted that the dish is served properly. The broth was delicious and spicy. The tofu was silky smooth. Drinking boiling soup on a summer night is an experience that makes you sweat!

In conclusion, Han Bat was ok. The place is obviously popular. The prices are very reasonable for a midtown location. The food is a hit or miss. I feel the chef was a bit rough with the food. The food is not very refined. A lot of salt. I had been to Han Bat once before and I recall I felt similarly. Would I return? Maybe – to try other dishes on the menu and see if my experience is consistent.

This experience took place at

Han Bat Korean Restaurant

53 W 35th St
New York, NY 10001
b/t Avenue Of The Americas & 5th Ave
Midtown West
Phone number (212) 629-5588

Wanderlust Taiwan- 玉欣珍’s Ba Wan 員林肉圓, A Mega-Dumpling for a Buck 50!

This meal took place on a lazy Saturday afternoon after swimming with a friend. Between my friend and I, we have three multiethnic children. As we walked through the streets of Taipei, we naturally got looks with the girls speaking loudly in English. My friend picked this restaurant 玉欣珍 because there is usually a long line during lunch hour and they are famous for their giant size meat dumpling that is called Ba Wan, 肉圓. See CNN’s “40 Taiwanese Food We Can’t Live Without.” Ba wan is number 12.

I have later come to learn that 玉欣珍 serves traditional Taiwanese gourmet dishes. Ba Wan is just one of them. This little place is presumably named after the owner, 玉欣珍. Only women wearing pink shirts work here in this tiny kitchen/store front.Ba Wan 肉圓: here is what CNN had to say “Ba wan is a Taiwanese mega-dumpling. Made with a dough of rice flour, corn starch and sweet potato starch, it looks almost translucent after cooking. Pork, veggies and sometimes eggs are stuffed inside and gravy poured on top.” Ba Wan served in a bowl, with a stewed-in-soy-sauce egg. The texture of the dumpling is more elastic than the gnocchi, chewy but bouncy. When you break into the dumpling, all the gooey umami-infused juice come flowing out and mixed with the egg. This is heaven in a bowl for $1.5 USD or $45TWD.This bowl of noodles was excellent. Regular egg noodles with wontons, in clear broth, garnished by fresh bean sprouts and green onions. Without the wontons. Plain noodles. Parboiled bean sprout leaves with meat sauce.

This meal of traditional Taiwanese gourmet food for 2 adults and 3 children cost about $12 USD. It was fulfilling and delicious but with no ambience. Five of us huddled around a tiny table but we loved it. The girls were happy with their friends and the food. What more could I ask for?

This experience took place at

玉欣珍傳統美食坊
地 址:台北市大安區大安路一段51巷11號1樓
電 話:02-2740-3218
營業時間:週一到週日24小時

Wanderlust Taiwan- Fresh Gourmet Eating for $20 USD 藏月日式豬排專賣店

So here is the deal. One can easily get a high quality and delicious meal for two at a decent local neighborhood restaurant with high western standards in Taipei, Taiwan, for about $20 USD. This restaurant below is one of the examples. 藏月 is in the Daan district in Taipei. The decor, service, and food rival those in the NYC metropolitan area. Is it any wonder why I prefer to eat in Asia, live in Europe for the majestic architecture and enriched culture and raise my daughter in the suburbs of NY for the education?A box filled with goodies: from left to right- eggs sweetened, pickled vegetables, and sea cucumber seasoned with vinegar.Tonkatsu腰內肉豬排咖哩套餐: crispy and meaty with sesame sauce and cabbage.  Charcoal grilled fish. I believe this was the milk fish.mmexport1438856613880One of my favorite desserts: panna cotta or the caramelized pudding焦糖布丁as the Taiwanese calls it.

Yes, visit Taiwan for the gourmet food that doesn’t shrink your wallet. Visit Taiwan for the variety and freshness of food that satisfy your stomach. Come with me this December for the warm climate and the sunshine. 🙂

This experience takes place at

藏月日式豬排專賣店

No. 58, Section 3, Heping E Rd,
Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
地址:106台北市大安區和平東路三段58號
電話:(02)2733-8720
+886 2 2733 8720