Jess Food Therapy
 
Since the cherrypopping of my kitchen, I've actually been sticking to the plan and doing more homecooking!

With no oven available these days, I've been forced to abandon my lazy method of dumping everything into a grill pan and instead, try other cooking styles. Much to my excitement, new dishes such as tomato salads and eggplant parmesan were born!

But my most intriguing discovery in the past few weeks is that the crazy Japs are geniuses when it comes to food. Why? One word: efficiency!! Ever heard of Microwave cooked pasta? It works, it really does! And it saves SO much time!!

:) 
 
 
After well over six months, i finally gave in to my sad, lonely kitchen. You can't blame me for taking THAT long, since food in Taiwan is not only thumbs-up delicious, but dirt cheap! Back in LA, for a hearty Chinese dinner in Alhambra, guarantee at least 40 bucks for two. So you can see how spoiled I was after moving to Taiwan. But after all these months, even I missed my own cooking. 

At first, I felt like a stranger in my own kitchen, unfamiliar with the ovenless layout and all. But as I familiarized myself with the tiny space, I suddenly remembered how to cook!

You have to forgive me for my amateur dishes as I'm basically relearning how to cook again. Excuse my humble omelet and my grilled chicken/artichokes/cherry tomatoes/olives sandwich.... which despite their simplicity, made me oh-so-very-happy.     

What's next!!! 
 
 
Last time I went to Kenting, it was for our 6th grade camp. I still remember the busses filled with hyperactive, testosterone-driven boys and naive, chatty girls, all excited to go on a trip without their parents for the very first time. For almost all of us, it turned out to be one of the best memories throughout our young, adolescent lives.  Haunted trail, boogie boarding, team building, hiking, talent shows, communal dinners…the trip was a wonderful bonding experience. But surprisingly, the very best part of that trip had to be the 12 or more hours spent on the road. With no other choice but to sit through the long bus ride, new friends were made, old friends got closer, secrets were shared, crushes were revealed, first loves were formed. Ah, "the magic school bus." 

Fast-forward some 13 years. 

Half awake, I stumbled out of my apartment complex at 9’oclock in the morning to find a perky, smiley driver opening the door to a shabby, 8-person van.  As I clumsily climbed into the vehicle, I caught incoherent mumbles of what appeared to be “good mornings” and “hellos” from my groggy, absolutely-not-morning-people friends. Some were staring into space as they bit into their breakfast sandwich while others were already fast asleep.  I looked down at our weekend itinerary.

Destination: Kenting. Time: 6 hours (AT THE VERY LEAST)

“Oh boy,” I thought as I closed my eyes.  “This is going to be a long ride...” 


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For many of us, despite having lived in Taiwan for many years, it’s not often we would venture out the Taipei bubble. We would always travel out of the country, but rarely within. This time around, friends and co. decided to change up our repetitive weekend activities and give Taiwan a chance. To really “appreciate” Taiwan thoroughly, we passed up on the convenience of a train and decided to go with the old-school method of driving instead. And when I say "appreciate," I mean "pig out." 



Stop #1: Taichung 
(台中)

Our first stop of the trip was Taichung, the third largest city in Taiwan with a population of just over one million. Also known as Taiwan's "culture city," Taichung offers cultural attractions like museums, temples, art galleries and historical sites. But for my hungry companions and I, we were more into the local delicacies, like the suncakes (太陽餅), milk candy (牛軟糖), pineapple cake (鳳梨酥), chicken feet jelly (
雞腳凍)... 

But my Taichung highlight gots to be the Taiwanese "meatball" (肉丸). Normally not a big fan of 肉丸, this 60-year-old restaurant completely restored my respect for this local dish. At first look, it resembled every other 肉丸 you find in every alley of Taiwan. Gooey and transparent on the outside, it could pass for a block of clay. But as soon as I took the first bite, I was completely taken away by the perfect combo of the flavorful, tender pork meat/the soft, chewy dough/and the pungent garlic sauce that unified everything. Though the 肉丸 was fried, it was light and fluffy. Costing a mere 30NT, I could've had seconds or thirds if we didn't have a packed schedule in front of us. Addictive!! 

People: next time you're in Taichung, be sure to visit 台中肉丸60年老店 and bring me some to go!
Stop #2: Kenting (墾丁)

After probably 1000 tracks of songs, 10 rounds of games, 5 sessions of naps, and 2 more bathroom breaks, we finally arrived in Kenting. Yippy!

Hungry as hippos, we headed straight to the busy Kenting Street Market (墾丁大街) to get our night started. Aside from the myriad food stands, the street was packed with fun souvenir shops, eclectic restaurants, cheap-thrilled games, tons of out-of-towners, and 
pubs with not-so-hot trannies...

"Funny" I thought to myself, " not the Kenting I remember."
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Out of all the food stands, my favorite was 一品滷味. Can I say MARINATE HEAVEN? There are a couple famous marinate stands throughout Kenting Street Market, but ㄧ品 is by far the most OG of them all. The story goes that the owner started cooking since he was 16. After years of training, he then went off on his own with nothing but 500NT in his pocket. With that, he worked his way to opening up the first marinate stand in Kenting Street Market that's now visited by thousands of locals/tourists on a daily basis. Bravo!

We ordered three full plates of marinated tofu, tempura, pigs blood, daikon, broccoli, noodles, and more. We were finished and out the door in 20 minutes. Delicious! 
To our disappointment, after a long night of crazy fun and games, we woke up the next morning to an unwelcoming weather that Kenting's usually not known for. What could've been a lovely day of sailing, surfing, go-carting, paint-balling or just laying out on the beautiful white, sandy beaches... came down to staying dry, playing more games, and eating some more. 

It didn't turn out half as bad as we ate more of Kenting's seafood delights while also leveling up on our Taboo skills. 
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Stop #3: Tainan (台南)

Alas, it was time to say goodbye...

Before heading back home, we made one last stop in Tainan for lunch where we unexpectedly came to discover another 30NT bowl of wonder. It literally made one us cry from happiness. Located on 國華街, this obscure, little shop has no store name. It simply sells two items: Taiwanese herbal soup with intestines (四神湯) and minced pork over sticky rice (米糕). 

The 米糕 unconditionally, irrevocably stole all our hearts...

What seemed like a simple bowl of rice had such depth and warmth it left me scratching my head, wondering how it was ever concocted. And of course, the owner would not spill a single word. Rightfully so. That spoonful of sticky rice topped with marinated diced pork, homemade dried pork (肉鬆), and slice of vinegar cucumber will forever linger in my mind. 

Till next time, Tainan.

P.S. - we ended up going back and ordering 20 more 米糕 to go. 
Stop #4: Taipei (台北)

I watched as the beat-up van slowly drove away from my apartment complex.  I can't believe we've just survived lord knows how many hours in there, I thought to myself. How did the time ever pass us by? 

21 questions. Singing to Babyface. Rapping to Jay-z. Napping. Bejeweled. Heart-to-heart. Categories. Going down memory lane. 

I smiled. 

Fast-forward some 13 years, some things don't change.
 
Koh-Koh for Thai 07/08/2010
 
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Yes yes, the hungry blogger is back! 

In a sense, I don't even really qualify myself as a "blogger," as the term usually describes a person who keeps and updates a blog..." But heck, now that I am no longer occupied by table settings, dress changes, color themes and other wedding madness, I finally have some "me" time to concentrate on my favorite activities: eating and writing. 

To make up for the months of disappearance, I hope my honeymoon details will suffice. I will keep it F-Rated, of course. F for food. ;)

As some of you may know, the husband (now THAT will take some getting use toand I spent 6 fine days/5 lovely nights on the beautiful, fun and funky island of Koh Samuieast coast of the Kra Isthmus in Thailand.  

The perfect honeymoon spot, the island offers something for everyone. For the lazies (like me!), Koh Samui has beautiful white, sandy beaches and tranquil pools where you can read, nap and tan for hours without ever feeling restless. To spoil yourself even more because you deserve it, arrange a long Thai massage set up right on the beachfront!

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For those who are more adventurous and not afraid of the outdoor heat, Koh Samui also has plenty of water activities, elephant rides, crocodile shows, bungy jumping, horseback riding, boxing shows, full moon/half moon parties and touristy locations to visit like The Big Bhudda, Namuang Waterfall, and my favorite, the "Secret Bhudda Garden" where we blasphemed the sacred Thai gods by throwing up fives and peace signs behind their holy statues for our memory sake. 
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I also highly recommend renting a scooter for a day to discover the island all by yourself. If you're not good with maps, make sure to grab along someone who does :)
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And I dont know if this happens to you but many times, when I go on vacations, there's always ONE thing that could've been better - the hotel, the service, the people, the food.... But this time around, I enjoyed every bit of my dear Samui, especially the meals. From lunch to dinner to midnight munchies,  even the drinks and fruits were outstanding! I'm sure breakfast was just as good but being on vacation mode, I slept through my daily snooze button and let my husband enjoy the mornings to himself. 

Whether you crave American, Australian, Italian, Spanish, or Thai food, Koh Samui has it all. But unlike the time when I ordered salmon sushi in Dominican Republic and was given smoked salmon over a hard bulk of dried rice, the chefs here know their ingredients and how each type of cuisine should taste. Fresh, authentic, complex and always with a hint of sweetness and spiciness, it's almost impossible to order the wrong thing... 

There's always an end to a journey, but I will never forget Koh Samui. Nothing will ever beat (affordable) fancy dinners under the starry skies, right on the beach, accompanied by live music and gentle breeze. As the evening tides softly hit against the white sands and coral reefs, a lighted lantern will pass you by, flying higher and higher into the night, filled with the romantic wishes and whispers of the lovers around you. 

You can't help but fall in love all over again...
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BAH-BI-Q ~ 04/14/2010
 
BBQing was one of my favorite activities back in LA. With Cali's beautiful, sunny weather, you can have a BBQ for no reason at all. Whether it was for someone’s birthday, a Lakers’ game, or just for the heck of hanging out, it was always so easy to get a BBQ going. All we needed was a backyard/beach/park, a portable grill, a group of chill friends, frisbee/football, buns/patties, condiment, and we were good to go! With an ice-cold Corona in one hand and a perfectly grilled bacon-wrapped hot dog in the other, life was pretty darn good… 

Now that I live in Taipei, all-American BBQs are a thing of the distant past. Unless you feel that Chili’s and Friday’s can suffice.  I've got the friends, the food, the grill, the location – but what always ruins the plan is the stubborn weather. If Cali is "not too cold not too hot," then Taiwan is "very cold, very hot, very rainy, and very humid.”  Plus, people can't seem to get up early enough even if their lives depended on it (I have to admit, myself included).   

But one thing Taipei does not lack is the limitless restaurants hidden in the nooks and crannies all over the city. Although authentic Western BBQ restaurants are hard to come by, you pretty much forget about them once you try the Taiwanese version of BBQ (烤肉/燒烤). 

While I do miss the outdoorsy California BBQ experience, hickory-smoked beef ribs, and pulled-pork drenched in ten layers of BBQ sauce, Taiwan offers me something better and more unique:  thinly-sliced beef tongue, salmon-filled rice balls, buttered spinach and corn, chicken cartilage, and miso-marinated intestines. And instead of dipping your meat in thick, heavy “Smokin' Coles Original Bold n' Spicy Barbeque Sauce,” you can enjoy each bite with the effortless combination of lemon juice and finely, finely chopped onions & scallions. 

Simplicity at its best! 

胡同
www.hutong.com.tw
台北市敦化南路一段161巷17號
(02) 277601575


大腕燒肉專門店
台北市敦化南路一段177巷22號1樓
(02) 27110179

**call beforehand for reservation

 
Yes to Yilan! 04/05/2010
 
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Sometimes, a simple weekend getaway is the cure to all. That is, with close friends, beautiful scenery & good food of course. 
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酸菜白肉鍋 @ 圍爐
It’s that time of the month again.

Funny how I eat around sixty meals a month but only feel inspired to
write once in every blue moon. I guess it’s becoming harder and harder to pick out which of the hundred good meals I’ve been eating is worth calling out over the others.

But today, the decision was made easy by the cold, gloomy, rainy weather.  As soon as I opened my eyes this morning, all I could think about was hiding underneath my warm, cozy blanket and staying there until the sun came out to play again. As I struggled internally, another thought came to me, this time in the form of a giant, steamy pot, embellished with tender beef & pork slices, oysters, crab meat, mushrooms, corn, leafy greens, tempura, peanut sauce, soy sauce, vinegar…  

Oh yes – I happily thought as I got out of bed – I’m having
HOTPOT tonight. J

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Besides being my
favorite dish in the whole wide world, hotpot boasts quite a long and mysterious history. Some says this dish traces all the way back to the 三國時 (Three Kingdoms Era), when 銅鼎 (Copper Tripod) was the original hotpot predecessor. Others believe hotpot belonged to Northern Han Era, since the word “hotpot” was found in their archaeological literatures. Either way, it’s safe to say that this magical Chinese potage has been a centerpiece for many, many, many families over the last 1700 years!

For those who’ve never had hot pot before, I encourage you to give it a try. I guarantee everyone will love it because ultimately, you are your own chef. You decide what goes in the pot, and what goes in your mouth.
 
Just know that whoever you are, wherever you are, there’s a safe place for you in the world of hotpot. 

If you are a carnivore, you have beef, pork, chicken, and lamb slices and meat balls to choose from. For my seafood lovers, throw in the fish, prawns, clams, mussels, crabs legs, muscles, and octopus. If you’re a vegetarian, don’t even sweat (no pun intended), hotpot cannot survive without the deliciousness of cabbage, spinach, daikon, tofu, tomato, and corn since the veggies ultimately makeup the foundation of the soup.  

Today, there are over a hundred hot pot variations, each with different personalities. Some of my favorites include:
  • 麻辣鍋(Spicy or “ma la”), a Sichuan-styled hotpot where 花椒 (flower pepper or Sichuan pepper), 鴨血(duck blood) and tofu are meticulously added to guarantee a bad night sleep yet a second round the week following.
  • 酸菜白肉鍋, a Manchurian–styled hotpot cooked with copious amount of pickled cabbage & thin pork slices to create the perfect mild & sour soup base. 
  • Sukiyaki (or Suki), a Japanese-influenced hotpot version which uses sweetened soy sauce, butter, and onion which completely immerse itself inside the beef & cabbage slices.
  • Then of course, there’s 刷羊肉 (instant-boiled lamb), 鴛鴦鍋 (yin-yang or half spicy/half mild), lu (Vietnamese), Steamboat (Singapore & Malaysia), Thai Suki, etc. 
But of course, hotpot is much more than a big bowl of never-ending scrumptiousness. For me, eating hotpot is a sacred moment. I only share it with the people I'm closest to. I've realized that as we get older & our lives get more complicated, it has become harder and harder for us to squeeze in any time for our family, friends and even ourselves. As it turns out, the only time we all try to make available is dinnertime! 

And unlike other meals that can be eaten in front of a TV or chowed down in minutes, hotpot takes time, patience, careful watch, and actually requires everyone to sit down together at the same dinner table. It's during times like these that families and friends get to catch up on each others' lives while enjoying each other's company. For some odd, supernatural reason - whether it's the round shape of the pot or the aromatic steam from the soup or the variety of fresh ingredients... whatever it is, hotpot has an indescribable endorphin-charged, magical power that somehow makes people happy.

And nothing beats happiness, even if it's temporary :)

---

Here's my humble instructions on how you should tackle this beautiful mess: 

  1. Gather your family and/or best friends (the more the merrier) around a big, round table and plop the giant baby smack in the middle
  2. Order everything you like on the menu (don’t forget to order an ice cold one)
  3. Once the soup boils, dump everything in
  4. As the ingredients cook, let your stomach gurgle and your mouth salivate 
  5. Focus in on your target: I'm talking about that big, fat juicy slice of beef
  6. Get your chopsticks & spoon ready! 
  7. It's war! Grab ‘em while they’re hot
  8. Enjoy an hour of heaven J 
火鍋

沙舞璃
www.shaburi.com.tw
臺北市敦化南路1246
B2 No. 246, Dun Hua South Road, Sec 1
(02) 8771-5548

橘色
www.orangeshabu.com.tw
臺北市大安路1135
No. 135, Da An Road, Sec 1, B1
(02) 2776-1658 

辣壩子臺北市中山北路五段安439
N. 439, Zhongshan N. Road Sec 5
(02) 2881-1188



麻辣鍋

鼎王
www.tripodking.com.tw
臺北市光復北路89
No. 89, Guangfu N Rd
(02) 2742-2116

滿堂紅
臺北市仁愛路四段228號之4
No. 228 Ren Ai Road Sec 4
(02) 2701-6669

寧記
www.ning-chi.com.tw
台北市信義路四段398-1
(02) 2703-4691

鼎旺
臺北市安路一段251
No. 251, An he Road Sec 1
(02) 2704-4172




酸菜白肉鍋

圍爐
臺北市仁愛路四段345436
No. 36, Ren Ai Road Sec 4 Alley 345 Lane 4
(02) 2752-2141



Sukiyaki

MOMO Paradise
humaxasia.com.tw/momo
臺北市松仁路222
Neo 19, 2nd FL No. 22 Song Ren Road
(02) 8786-1128
 
 
Behind Tienmu's Mitsukoshi and Jasper Villa hides one of the most amazing finds in Taiwan. If you smell hard enough, your nose will eventually lead you to my newest obsession – Saffron: Fine Indian Cuisine.

To be quite honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Indian food. But looking back, that’s probably because I’ve never actually had real Indian food before. In the past, the only times I would ever come in contact with “Indian cuisine” in Taiwan would be at my school’s annual food fair or during weekend visits to the American Club. And when I say Indian food, I’m referring to samosas…JUST samosas.

Even after I moved to California where actual Indian restaurants existed, I still never went with Indian when choosing a place to eat. Lacking culinary knowledge (or balls), Indian food sounded way too adventurous for me. Burgers and fries sounded like safer bets. 


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Oddly enough, it took a full circle around the world for me to fall completely, and utterly in love with Indian food. The encounter was purely accidental but I knew it was love at first sniff. It’s funny how out of all places, Taiwan would be the one popping my Indian cherry…

It was a cool autumn day. My fiancé and I spent the afternoon hanging out around Tienmou, window-shopping and snacking here and there. As we headed towards the Mitsukoshi buildings to catch the bus home, we were suddenly hit by a gust of pungent aroma that hypnotized our every senses, disabling us to do anything but hunt the spellbinding smell down.

We found Saffron all right. That memorable day marked the first (and-never-the-last-for-as-long-as-I-live) encounter of our Indian adventure. 


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Saffron opened just a few years ago. The owner is an Indian native and has been doing business in Taiwan for many years. He’s always dreamed of opening an authentic Indian restaurant in Taiwan. I’m so thankful his dream came true!

To him and his wife Josie, what makes Saffron so delicious is the careful selection of ingredients. There are close to 80 items on the menu, and they’ve all been specially chosen to bring more than just family-type cuisines to guests in Taiwan.

They are being way too modest.

To me, what makes Saffron so damn delicious is the complete experience! From the moment you walk in the door (or in my instance, from a few blocks away), the fragrance of garlic, cumin, ginger, coriander, curry…completely envelops you. When you begin exploring the menu, you’ll find a long list of authentic Indian dishes. They may sound intimidating at first, but you’ll find that they are all heavenly delicious. As you wait and enjoy the elegant Hindu décor, you’ll find yourself inching to take a peek at the Indian chef in the upfront open kitchen. Carefully, he bakes your Garlic Naan (bread) and skews your Tandoori Chicken. By the time your plates are in front of you, you’ll find yourself hungrier than you’ve ever been before. And that is perfect, because the next step of eating will be one of the best experiences in your life.

Your taste buds will never be the same after that.

Indian food is so careful, sophisticated, and smart with such brilliant use of spices and ingredients. I mean, who ever thought of dicing up cauliflowers, mixing it with mashed potatoes and garlic, while seasoning it with turmeric, paprika, cumin, garam masala and salt? Or, what about Bhaji, Indian-styled onion rings? Instead of simply slicing and frying the onion the way American do it, Bhajis are bounded by a fragrant chickpea flour batter and then flavored with turmeric, chili powder, cumin and coriander after frying.

I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Over the past years, Indian restaurants have popped up left and right throughout the country. Today, I guarantee you’ll find an Indian joint at almost any department store food court in Taipei. People are loving it here and how can you blame them? Although it may not be as blatantly obvious as the 葡式蛋塔 (egg tart) or 芒果冰 (mango ice) fad, I can see Indian food subtly becoming the next culinary trend here in Taiwan.

So jump on the bandwagon and experience the best of Indian food at Saffron!
Saffron
天母東路38-6號
 38-6, Tienmu E. Rd
(02) 2871-4842

Regular Hours: 11:30-2:00pm & 5:30-9:30pm
Special Hours: Th-Sat11:30-2pm, 5:30-10pm
**closed on Monday lunch time
**credit card accepted. 10% service charge
 
 
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I remember back when I used to live in LA, my fiancé and I would oftentimes crave for some good old-fashioned Taiwanese food. And when that happened, we would have to fight through an hour of traffic and starvation after work to somewhat suffice our hunger. Even though we knew LA already offered much better Taiwanese food versus other cities in the states, we still couldn't help but miss the 燒餅油條 (baked buns w/ fried crullers) from 永和 or the 仔麵線 (oyster vermicelli) up in 七段 or the 大腸包小腸 (sausages) outside of Sogo Cashbox...

It just wasn't the same.

So, when we moved back to Taiwan, we wasted no time hitting up all of the above and more. Out of them all, 度小月 (Tu Hsiao Yueh) became one of our favorite local "攤子"(food stands). 

There are a few reasons why I think people enjoy 度小月 so much. The food, the decor, the atmosphere, the location(s)... you name it. But, what captures me the most is how it still appeals to the modern customer even after 115 years in business.

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The story goes way back to 1895 with a young fisherman named Hong Yu-tou. During the summer and autumn, fisherman could not go out to sea due to hurricanes. They coined the season as "小月." Thus, in order to make ends meet and "度過" (survive through) the difficult months, Hong knew he had to branch out into other sorts of businesses. Luckily, he remembered an old minced meat recipe he learned from a chef back in his hometown Zhangzhou, Fujian and decided to experiment on his own. Next thing he knew, he came up with an amazing new noodle dish which he carried on shoulder poles and sold throughout the village. Customers would gather around his mobile food stand and watch as he pull together his newfound masterpiece. Hong decided to name his new success: "度小月但仔麵" (Tu Hsiao Yueh Tan Tsai Noodle). 

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After a century has passed, the stewed-minced-meat-and-shallots-sauce-with-shrimp-soup-and-oil-noodle recipe still remains a big hit with the locals (and tourists alike). But what used to be bamboo shoulder poles and one simple dish of 但仔麵 have been replaced with four restaurant chains, thick menu booklets, inflated prices, and even its very own branded products. While some may feel 度小月 has fallen victim to today's franchise frenzy, I don't mind and even appreciate the upgrades and changes because the restaurant has remained true to its Taiwanese heritage through its cooking method and food.  

And plus, I always get a warm, fuzzy feeling after a 度小月 meal, as if I've been brought back 115 years to a home kitchen in Southern Taiwan! 

Although much has changed with 度小月 over the decades, there are still noticeable traces of its century-long history embedded throughout the restaurant: pictures of master Hong at work, old Chinese tunes playing in the background, traditional lantern lighting/decor, and most distinctly, the old-school 攤子 that greets customers as soon as they walk in the door. Just like how it was done a hundred years ago, customers can gather around the storefront kitchen and watch as the cook whips up a hearty bowl of Tan Tsai noodle, now with the options of 米粉 (vermicelli) or 粿條 (pho). 

P.S: I always go for the 粿條! 

The menu selection has also expanded over the hundred years, with popular new items including 蚵仔 (fried oysters), 滷大腸 (stewed pork intestines), 炸蝦捲 (fried shrimp rolls) or 烤虱目魚肚 (grilled fish stomach). Though the menu has gone through considerable transformation, you can taste the time and thought that went into inventing each new dish. Each simple yet complex dish reflects 度小月's continued dedication to delivering the highest quality and most authentic Taiwanese cuisine. 

So, the next time you crave for some Taiwanese food, make sure to pay a visit to your local 度小月 for a real, time-warping experience. That is, if you live here. (Sorry!)

As my fiancé simply puts it: "Dude, it's Taiwanese soul food."
度小月
www.iddi.com.tw

台南店
台南市中正路16號
16 Chongcheng Rd, Tainan City
(06) 2231-744

台南中正二店
台南市中正路101號
101 Chongcheng Rd, Tainan City
(06) 2259-554

台北分店
忠孝東路四段216巷8弄12號

12 Lane 8 Alley 216 Sec 4 Chung Hsiao E. Rd, Taipei City
(06) 2259-554


台北中山店
台北中山北路2段180號1F
No.180 2 Zhongshan Rd, Taipei City  (02) 2585-1880
 
 
It's a new year! Happy Twenty-Ten!!!

But before I move forward to the next year, I'd like to commemorate winter 2009 as being one of the best three weeks of my life. Mainly because of the people (family & close friends), the location (motherland Taiwan) and of course, the food.

Although I probably gained ten pounds this break from all the dishes I've devoured mercilessly, I hold no regret since they were shared with my favorite people. One meal in particular I will never forget, and that is the home cooking of my 84-year-old grandma.   
My grandmother was born in the countryside of Fuzhou (which is located on the southeast coast of mainland China), in a small village called Dongmen. In 1939, my grandmother escaped from China to Taiwan. She was literally on a tiny fish boat for 1 month and 4 days. The boat eventually gave out, forcing her to swim the last few miles to shore! While much of China's communism was (is) to blame, my grandmother escaped for love! She had just gotten engaged and her fiance was waiting for her in Formosa. She was twenty-five. 

Once the young lovers reunited in Taiwan, they got married within two months and had four children in the years to come. The youngest child and daughter was my mom. 

My mother has always told me that growing up, she ate nothing but grandma's cooking. Every meal was a Fujian feast. Being so far away from home and watching her four children grow up in a foreign country must have been difficult for my grandmother. Food was the only way to connect her children to her past and bring them back to their roots.

She probably never imagined it having any effect on her children's children or her grandchildren's children...


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The night before New Years Eve, my mother's side of the family all joined together at my aunt's cozy little apartment. Some met for the first time in ten years while others met for the very first time. 

It was my grandmother's idea of gathering the gang up and celebrating 2010 big. She had already started preparing all the ingredients the day before and wanted no one to enter her kitchen. She wanted all of us to sit back and relax while her, the oldest person in the room, did all the work while we reap the benefits. 

And like always, we reaped the heck out of the benefits. 

One after another the hot dishes came. Seafood and more seafood. It's no wonder since the coastal area of Fuzhou produces 167 varieties of fish and 90 kinds of shellfish. Fried fish, fried shrimp balls, octopus sashimi, steamed scallops, crabs... There was never a dull moment or an empty bowl. Even with 11 hungry adults (one being 8-months pregnant) and 3 kids, we barely cleared the plates nor stopped ourselves from eating.

All the while, I noticed my grandmother watching from the kitchen, a conquering smile on her face as she worked the wok. I'd probably do the same if I cooked half as well as her.

I am now (almost) twenty-five and engaged, yet my life is in no comparison to my grandmother's tough life then. I look at what a wonderful and eventful year 2009 has been for me and how lucky it is that I have good health, loving family, close friends, a roof over my head, a job and the best husband-to-be. I feel humble and proud for all the things my grandmother has given and given up for her husband and children, because ultimately, her sacrifices affected me.

Although we are almost 60 years apart, one thing I fully understand about my grandmother is her cooking, Fujian or not. Over the decades, it has miraculously brought together four generations of sons and daughters.

Cheers to an even better year!
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Appetizer 蔥鑤蝦米小魚
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Octopus Sashimi 章魚生片
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Fujian-Style Fried Fish 紅遭魚片
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Fried Shrimp Ball w/ Chopped Celery & Carrots 炸蝦球
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Wok-fried Pork mixed w/ Sweet Vinegar Sauce 糖醋排骨
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Kantodaki 關東主
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Steamed Scallop & Daikon w/ Mushroom 干貝蘿菠
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Stir-fried Kidney & Fried Bread Stick 腰花炒油條