Monday, January 30, 2012

Sun Moon Lake: New Era Art Resort & Spa

Led by Jimmy’s parents, we drove south of Taipei to a resort near Sun Moon Lake for some sightseeing. By the time we checked in and settled into the New Era Art Resort & Spa, it was time for dinner. There was a restaurant on the premises – two in fact (one catering to vegetarians).

Among the things we ate that night at the restaurant…


Steamed bamboo with a side of a kewpie-like mayonnaise.




Stir fried veggies, noodles, and peppers.


Steamed chicken.


Steamed fish.


Pork knuckles.


Tiny deep fried fish.

Once we had digested dinner, a few of us checked out the pool facilities, which included hot tubs and steam rooms. I know that I slept real well that night.

Stinky Tofu and CoCo Bubble Tea

Sun Moon Lake and the Aboriginal Culture Village

More links from the Tea in Asia 2011 trip:

    Saturday, January 28, 2012

    Stinky Tofu and CoCo Bubble Tea

    Earlier in the day, everyone went to around the city to do some sight seeing. I stayed back at the hotel, since I was exhausted from the Hong Kong-Macau-HK-Guilin-HK part of the trip.

    There's not much food porn for this little bit. Scroll down to the stinky tofu part if you'd like.

    I had breakfast next door at a familiar place called Dante Coffee. I wanted to see if the sandwich was as good as last time I had it. The coffee shop sells both half portions (one slice) and two portions (two slices). It wasn't difficult ordering from the menu. I just pointed to the photo and paid. The lady said something to me in Mandarin. I had no idea what she said. I just nodded. Mhmm...


    When I picked up my sandwich and sat down, I gazed at the slice for a few minutes. The photo above was taken from last visit to Taiwan. The layers were there, although both slices looked as dry as the bottom slice in that photo. I took a bite and it was the same combination of sweet success. The fluffy sweet Taiwanese bread played against the ham and the saltiness of the cheese. I wish there'd be more ham. Overall, the breakfast sandwich was as good as I remembered it to be. I still need to recreate this.

    My late lunch, in the form of beef noodle soup, was found at a restaurant near the City Lake hotel. Located steps away from the Huzhou station, I could've wandered off further but I didn't feel like an adventure. After all, I stayed at the hotel to rest and recharge.

    With the help of the front desk, I picked up a map that listed and marked out where the nearby restaurants were. I asked for beef noodle soup and the lady pointed at a beef noodle soup restaurant on the map, so I took a little stroll across the intersections. The restaurant was small and quite, but I knew that I was in the right place as soon as I sat down. There were old people and younger couples enjoying bowls of beef noodle soup. Bingo!

    I was given the menu and stared back at it. There were a few pictures but the menu was in Mandarin. How lovely... I eventually settled on the smaller bowl of beef noodle soup and a half order of dumplings. As for the tea that I was given, IT WAS WINTER MELON TEA! You don't know how excited I was. It tasted like every other winter melon tea I've had, but it was a gazillion times better than the muted stuff restaurants usually serve.

    While I nervously waited for my food to arrive, I watched the other people in the restaurant. An older gentleman took a break from his bowl of noodle soup and walked up to a corner of the restaurant, where there was a drink dispenser. He refilled up his cup and his wife's cup full of, what I can only assume was winter melon tea. Oh my! I happened to finish my cup a few minutes before he got up. I looked up at him as he walked back to his table, then looked at my empty cup, then up at the drink dispenser. I grabbed my cup and walked over as casually as I could. I tried to hide how giddy I was when I approached the dispenser. My cup was filled with the mysterious tea. I triumphantly walked back to my empty table and took a sip. Heaven -- sweet thirst-quenching heaven!

    As I got up to fill my cup again, another middle-aged couple walked in. They must've been regulars because the owners welcomed them in and began having a loud (but happy and non-aggressive) conversation with them. Then the lady said something which was equivalent to, "I'll have the regular." The owner disappeared from the dining room and the lady walked to the other corner of the restaurant where there was a table of condiments. She picked up a bowl and filled it with something. Looked like veggies, hot sauce and vinegar or soy sauce. She brought it back to her table and then waited for food.

    I must've looked like a tourist. Definitely. I had been sitting in the restaurant for a good ten minutes, staring at the menu and looking around the restaurant. I walked up to the condiment table an grabbed a dipping dish and scooped out some pickled mustard greens. There was a bit of minced garlic mixed in their finely chopped condiment. I picked up the bottles of mysterious sauces and smelled each one to find the soy sauce. I poured a bit into another dipping dish and then headed back to my table like a boss.

    Thursday, January 26, 2012

    Seafood Dinner in Taipei, Taiwan

    Our flight landed on a dark and wet runway in Taipei, Taiwan. The clouds were quite low and depressing – much different from the sunny weather in Hong Kong.

    That night, we had a huge dinner with some family and friends that welcomed us. To be honest, most of the dinner was a blur.



    I do remember that this sashimi was super fresh. It was so fresh that the fish was still twitching. Seriously. Can you see the slight blur of the tail?



    My favourite dish was the noodle dish. No surprises there.

    And here are some of the other dishes we had that evening:









    We were all stuffed before the sweet and sour pork arrived. There were a few other dishes that I didn't take photos of. Crazy, huh? I swear two large set meals were ordered. It was so overboard!

    Two people got the Taiwanese vegetarian set instead. Taiwanese Buddhist vegetarians cannot eat meat and smelly vegetables like garlic, onions, shallots, and the like. Since there are a lot of people that practice this religion in Taiwan, it’s quite easy to find restaurants that serve vegetarian meals.



    These two vegetarian dishes were among the many that were served that evening.

    Although I don't remember much of that evening, I do remember that I was happy to be back in Taiwan! What a great welcoming dinner.

    Last Meal in Hong Kong: Tsui Wah Restaurant

    Stinky Tofu and CoCo Bubble Tea

    More links from the Tea in Asia 2011 trip:

      Wednesday, January 25, 2012

      Breakfast in HK: Tsui Wah Restaurant


      Our flight to Taiwan was scheduled to leave sometime after noon, so we had plenty of time to enjoy breakfast that wasn’t dim sum or smoked salmon – not that there was anything wrong with those two choices. We were brought to the Tsui Wah Restaurant. I hear it's a popular chain.

      I’ve always seen restaurants offer Hong Kong breakfast fare, but I thought the restaurants just made it up. Take the macaroni soup with ham. Really? In Hong Kong?


      Yes really. And of course HK has to take it another step and add in abalone. Hahaa!


      Some of us had the macaroni soup set, while everyone else got the instant noodle one. Why I didn't try the macaroni soup is beyond me.


      They used Nissin instant noodles. Yum! The tender satay beef didn’t taste like the satay I’m used to, which was a good thing. While I liked the mild satay flavour, Mom thought it wasn’t impressive. But that’s what I like about the Hong Kong style breakfast – it’s not that impressive. Okay, ignore the abalone in the macaroni soup.



      Aunty had a lemon tea to drink. I chose milk tea. Mmm…. Milk tea.


      Buttered toast with condensed milk? Okay! I was surprised I still had space in my stomach after finishing my over easy eggs, toast and bowl of instant noodles. The milk tea helped everything go down easily. I wished that I could've had another cup of milk tea to enjoy on the car ride to the airport, but that was just being greedy.


      For the bill, we were able to pay it off with our transit cards. The staff didn’t accept them at first. They explained that the payments couldn’t be split between the cards. After we pleaded our case, one of the managers reluctantly accepted and swiftly left the scene.


      On the drive to the airport, the blue skies and bright sun beamed happily. I couldn’t wipe my smile off my face. I knew how lucky I was; being able to travel overseas and experience the things we did without my health becoming an issue.


      This also made me smile. I’ve seen signs that warned drivers of deer, moose, ducks, and turtles, but cattle on a highway?

      Sportful Garden Restaurant and The Peak Tower

      >> Arriving in Taiwan
      Seafood Dinner in Taipei, Taiwan

      More links from the Tea in Asia 2011 trip:

        Sunday, January 22, 2012

        Happy Year of the Dragon!

        Happy Chinese Lunar New Year everyone!!

        Yes... even you.

        Yeah, I know you're not Chinese..

        ... ahem

        This image was taken in Guilin, China. Read more about the wall here.

        While Monday is technically the Chinese Lunar New Year, our families celebrated the holiday together during this past weekend.


        We didn’t have as many dishes this year, cause we noticed that we always had too much leftovers.

        One of my aunts tried to make head cheese with wood ear mushrooms, pork ears, tongue, and meat. I was expecting to bite into firm cartilage, but I never did. It tasted pretty good!

        My other aunt made the bean curd wrapped pork sausages.



        A plate of shiitake mushrooms with napa cabbage and winter melon with chicken and carrots.


        Cha siu, roast pork, roast duck and marinated squid from Double Happiness in Chinatown. The BBQ pork (cha siu) was very flavourful. The squid was the opposite. It was bland and needed more marinating.


        A pot of seafood soup containing: fish maw, fish balls, napa cabbage, chicken, dried abalone, and sea snail.


        Instead of making zang (aka zongzi, nom asom, banh tet), my aunt tried to make patties. Now that’s using your head! She fully cooked everything prior to assembling it all together with the help of cling film. This takes a fraction of the time and fried up real well.


        Look at the patties being fried to a golden crisp. They almost look like gu chai gue.


        We ran out of chow mein pretty early. How about a balanced bowl of chow mein and rice? Double carb action!

        I hope the year of the dragon will be good to everyone.




        Want to see what we ate in the past?

        Chinese New Year 2011

        Chinese New Year 2008

        Friday, January 20, 2012

        Sportful Garden Restaurant and The Peak Tower

        Our last full day in Hong Kong had arrived. There was one last thing we needed to see. The Peak Tower.


        Before we headed out to the ride the Peak Tram up, we had baguettes with smoked salmon and smoked cheese for breakfast – again. What an awesome breakfast!

        We also bought a few baked items from a pastry store that was located in a subway station. They were paid for using our prepaid (Octopus) transit cards, too!


        This was the chocolate flavoured one. All of the innards were chewy. It reminded me of the deep fried sticky glutinous rice dumplings that can be found on the dim sum carts – the one that’s football shaped. I found all of the flavours underwhelming, but they tasted great with a cup of coffee.

        It was a light breakfast that gave us just enough energy to pack our things for Taiwan.

        Aunty wanted to take us out to try some expensive dim sum. I though the stuff we ate the previous trips were expensive. Not so.

        Friday, January 13, 2012

        Ngong Ping, Tian Tan Buddha, Dai Pai Dong

        Warning: Your computer might implode from all of these photos. Continue at your own risk.

        It was our second last day in Hong Kong before leaving to Taiwan. We had a few more things we wanted to do before departing. One of them included going to see the Tian Tan Buddha.

        We luckily bought our cable car tickets ahead of time, because there was a very long line up that snaked from the parking lot to the counter. We were able to bypass the other tourists and ride the cable car in under ten minutes.


        Lots of floating bubbles greeted us as we got off and walked through a gift shop.

        As we walked through the Ngong Ping 360 area, we found a wishing tree hiding behind a sign. I had to take a picture of a few of the wishes.


        This was probably written by someone who was Chinese (and not because of the writing on the sides of the paper).


        This by someone who was probably North American.


        And whoever wrote this was probably a hippie. Just kidding.


        As we walked towards to Tian Tan Buddha, there were a few restaurants along the road. There were plenty of stores too. Not only were there a lot of tourists, but also stray dogs.

        Just as the road opens up, I spotted a small stand that was selling the Hong Kong style egg waffles. There was one on the cooling rack, but I didn’t know when it was made. So I just asked the lady if she could make me a fresh one. She gave me a smile and a nod.


        She turned on the gas and the small pink fan to warm up the charcoals. Next, she heated the metal waffle iron.



        The batter was poured on the hot waffle iron and then it was flipped over.


        No, no, no… Don’t even think about eyeing my waffle.

        The sweet fragrant smell of vanilla filled the air as the waffle continued to cook. It definitely reminded me of Toronto’s Chinatown.


        My waffle was set down on the cooling rack for a bit. The lady fanned it while chatting on her cell phone and then tossed my waffle in a paper bag.

        I retreated to sit down nearby to enjoy my waffle. Some dogs tried to follow me, but I gave them an evil glare and they backed off. That’s right. Back off, get your own waffle!


        As I enjoyed my freshly made Hong Kong style waffle, I watched a stray dog stalking two ladies. One lady stupidly threw some jerky away from them to try and get the dog off their trail. Genius. The stray dog just followed them even closer.

        The two ladies tried to take touristy shots of one another, but the dog didn’t care. It just wanted more food. Then an older Chinese lady walked up to the dog and fed it crackers. She muttered something about how it was sad that the dogs were neglected and had to resort to begging and scavenging for food. Really lady? There’s a reason they’re roaming around freely. It has something to do with people feeding the dogs.

        Anyway, I began to get irritated so I turned my attention to a gardener. I curiously watched the gardener worked on the bushes that lined the road. He just randomly picked off the leaves in no particular pattern. He walked to the back of the bushes, trimmed some leaves, and then came back to the edge of the road. Watching the indecisive gardener was amusing. I guess the bushes that lined the road needed a bit of trimming.

        Check out what the gardener left behind.



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