Cheap and Fresh Sashimi in Taiwan

It’s close to impossible to not realize how inexpensive sushi and sashimi can be in Taiwan.  The knife work may not be as perfect as those done in the Nobu restaurant in New York City.  The plating may not be as aesthetically pleasing but for me, Taiwan is where you want to be if you want to eat affordable sushi and sashimi everyday.

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For those who read Chinese, this menu sheet tells you that the sashimi plate shown here, 生魚片, is $150 TWD or roughly about $5 USD.  It’s incredibly fresh.  No tummy aches.  No fishy tastes.  And it’s sold by a vendor who operates out of a cart that has some indoor seating.  As a New Yorker, I take note to not order raw fish in the restaurant on Sundays and trust well-known Japanese grocery stores for my raw fish purchases. When I spend only $50 USD for a satisfying sashimi dinner for two, I think it’s a great deal.

In Taiwan when it comes to eating sushi and sashimi, I am like a child in the candy store who suddenly realizes her allowance just got doubled or possibly tripled.  Sushi and sashimi as a cuisine option here is as popular as the Taiwanese and the mainland Chinese cuisines.

Did you know that Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese for over 50 years?
Taiwan under Japanese rule

The Japanese influence is evident in this island’s cuisine and culture.

Lastly, I will admit that I ordered a couple more dishes, including a handroll and fish eggs, than the ones pictured here. But because they looked so good when they arrived at my table, I totally forgot I wanted to document the meal.  My brain stopped working when they arrived!  My apologies.  You are only seeing half of what I ate.

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Taiwanese style clam soup with ginger

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Green vegetables to show that I can be a good eater

Water Spinach, Pork Belly and Roasted Duck

Typhoon Matmo battered Taipei last night and this morning.  The wind howled and shook the windows.  The rain poured heavily.  Schools and most of the stores were closed for the day.  After everything was back to normal this afternoon, I ventured out and found this nice restaurant less than one block away from where I am staying this Summer.

昌鴻港式燒臘
地址:台北市大安區四維路170巷27號 電話:( 02 ) 2708-6786‧0968-647-768‧
It’s a Hong Kongese style restaurant where they serve mostly roasted meats such as pork, duck, chicken, sausages, and with lamb thrown in for good measures.  Lamb is usually not a part of the Hong Kongese cuisine.  Lamb is more popular in northern China.

Other than the meats, they stir fried a very mean and crunchy water spinach!  Although I enjoyed the roasted meat, the water spinach was my favorite dish of the night.

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This is pork belly with tofu and pickled vegetables.

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This is roasted duck.

Digressing from Food to Visiting Longshan Temple, 龍山寺

The temple visitors and monks chanting the sutra on an early hot Sunday morning (before 8am!). Very serious. Incense burning everywhere, creating heat and smoke.

Longshan temple is located in the city center of Taipei. When I visited, there were many disabled people who came to pray for their health. There were also many disabled people pandering right outside of the MRT entrance. There were also people seeking to know their fortune. It made me Feel mixed about the role of religion.

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Wonton Soup and Taiwanese Bolognese Noodles, 餛飩湯和滷肉麵

At Danshui for lunch, we found this tiny store front that was opened for lunch before 11am on a Sunday. After we made our way up the narrow stairs, we sat down to a nice bowl of wonton soup and a bowl of Taiwanese style Bolognese noodles. Simply, yum is the word. It’s just right.

 

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Stinky Tofu, 臭豆腐, Take 1 and 2

A few weeks ago, I announced on FB that the only reason for coming to Taiwan this Summer was to eat Stinky Tofu. For most Westerners, soybeans can already be a foreign concept not to mention this deep-fried fermented soybean tofu, served with pickled sour cabbage, chili, garlic mash and sweet sauce.

For some, Stinky Tofus can be a piece of heaven and smell fragrant and sweet. For others, they are truly smelly, wafting a long distance to find the noses that despise them. I don’t know what makes us different (childhood food training and olfactory exposure?) but I do know that you are missing out big time!

Longs story short, I am on a quest to find my most favorite Stinky Tofu and fulfill the purpose of my stay in the next four weeks. Here are my first two tries.

Take 1
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This was from the Golden Beach of Danshui, a small city north of Taipei, 新北市淡水黃金海岸。It was bad. It was not stinky, not smelly and completely tasteless. Where is the garlic mash, man? I had very high hopes for my first encounter and I ended up not finishing it. Blah.

Take 2

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This was from a place I visited fours years ago, near the Taipei Teaching University, 國立台北教育大學, on Wolong Street, 臥龍街。The photo looks worse than Take 1 but sure tasted a lot better. On a scale of 1 to 10, I will give it a 5. Too saucy, not crispy enough, the pickled cabbage was just mediocre. But the owner of the stall was very nice and eager to please.

I must say I am disappointed by my two tries. The quest goes on… There is still the night markets and the place near my stay last year.

For all the ladies who want to lose weight, my formula last summer was stinky tofu and Mr. Brown’s coffee for brunch, work while sitting on my behind all day, bubble tea and a tall glass of icy mango smoothie in the late afternoon, lots of physical activities and sweats before dinner, and at last a “light” dinner consisting of a big bowl of noodle soup with all the helpings! Went home to NY at least seven pounds lighter without meaning to lose weight. Do I hear some converts?

My Beloved Fruit, Wax Apple 蓮霧

Growing up in the city center of Kaohsiung, we were lucky enough to look into the backyard of one of our neighbors who had a wax apple tree. It was the only tree that stood in the center of their yard. Looking down from our kitchen window as a seven-year-old, the tree seemed enormous and green. Wax apple is one of my fondest memories of Taiwan. I associated it with the warm Spring weather, bright sunshine, green leaves and the juicy juicy taste that makes me dream of Taiwan.

The season of the Wax Apple in Taiwan is around April and I never return in April. Sadly, this photo is no comparison to the glorious fruit that is embedded in my memory.

Curious about wax apples?

Most Favorite Tonkatsu Place, 日式豬排

Purple and white rice. 紫米和越光米。When I asked the lady what 紫米 is because I simply repeated her pronunciation of the phrase without comprehending it, she looked at me stunned and said, “purple colored rice.” Felt illiterate.

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Tea to pour onto the purple rice, mixing in a sour plum and a small spoon full of wasabi into the saucy concoction.Tonkatsu is served on a hot plate of sizzling hot cabbage, garnished with shredded nori.  Miso soup with kombu and picked 小黃瓜 on the side to complete the ensemble.

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Picked dikon as an appetizer.

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Sesame seeds that you grind at the table to add to the Tonkatsu sauce.

This experience took place at the 九州杏子日式豬排日本餐廳 at 106, Section 3, Zhongxiao East Rd, 300號10樓, Taipei. 02 8772 9822