Jun 26, 2010

Mama's Sweet Red Bean Soup

This is a simple recipe from my mom.


Red beans
Granulated sugar
Sea salt
Heavy whipping cream or whole milk (if desired)


The quality of the ingredients is crucial since this is such a simple recipe,
This is especially true regarding the choice of red beans.

Try to use organic red beans,
Pick the type that looks "full," or "plumped."
If the beans are not sealed in a bag, smell it first,
Superior red beans come with an elegant sweet fragrance that you can't get from the regular kinds,
Trust me, you'll know when you smell one.

I didn't include the quantity/measurement in the recipe,
It's all up to you,
Some people like it dry; some like it soupy.

Here's how you make this Asian dessert,
First, pick out damaged red beans (broken, chipped, etc),
Rinse under cold water and pick out the ones floating on top of the water,
Afterwards, soak the beans with filtered water for a minimum of 2 hours,
My mom soaked it for 4 hours.

Once the soaking process is done, drain out the water,
Transfer the beans to a pressure cooker,
Pour in more filtered water,
The ratio between the beans and water can be somewhere from 1:3 to 1:5, depending on your preference.

Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of sea salt,
Set the timer to 4 minutes, leave the rest to the pressure cooker.
Once it's done, add in granulated sugar till desired sweetness level.

Some people cook the beans without a pressure cooker,
That's doable, but can take hours to do so.

You can enjoy the red bean soup the way it is,
Some pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream on top of it,
Or you can try what my dad always does,
He prefers thicker red bean soup (almost no more liquid),
He'll scoop the beans in a medium sized bowl and pour whole milk to replace the liquid part,
Be creative and see what you like the most!

Cindy's Rating: 8

Jun 22, 2010

"Fashion Meat" Sukiyaki - Taiwan Taipei

10 more days till I'm back to California,
I miss the sunshine already,
It's like monsoon season in Taiwan, hot and humid.
Oh! did I even mention the non-stop rain?

So what can I do besides getting stuck at home?
How about getting stuck at a restaurant? Sounds merrier (or fatter)?

潮肉壽喜燒 (Fashion Meat Sukiyaki or Tsao Ruo Sukiyaki) -

"潮" pronounces as "tsao," contains different meanings such as tides or fashionable,
As for a restaurant, the meaning should be fashionable.
"肉" pronounces as "ruo," means meat.

One question first,
Have you ever had sukiyaki?
Basically it's a little bit similar to shabu shabu, 
However, instead of clear soup base,
Sukiyaki uses soy sauce based seasonings and either hot water or tea for the soup base.

For dipping sauce, simply take a fresh egg and break it into a small bowl -

Once the thinly sliced beef has been cooked in the pot,
Just dip it with beaten egg and enjoy it immediately.

Sounds weird?
Japanese use a lot of raw eggs in their dishes,
Same thing applies to Europeans,
So if you get a chance in the future, just be brave and give it a try,
Raw egg yolk is the best!

Beef and pork slices -

This place also provides Angus beef (not in the picture),
The service is awesome,
Waiter/waitress will stop by the table and start teaching customers how to prepare the meat properly -

There're some delicious items created by the restaurants,
Such as cheesy beef roll:
Simply make a beef roll with Parmesan cheese wrapped in the center,
Transfer to the soup base and cook till the meat is done,
Take it out, sprinkle with some coarse black pepper, one yummy dish is done!

Or just cook the meat and sprinkle with some wasabi powder, mustard powder, and Shichimi Togarashi powder,
You'll get various flavors popping inside your mouth.

I'll never feel full by eating meat only, call me a carb person,
So clear rice noodles is a must for me when eating sukiyaki (bottom left) -

(You can tell how messy my table was, one messy eater!)

Chicken thighs -

Stewed beef with potatoes -

This was not cooked with the soup base,
But it was on the menu and I love stewed potatoes...
So...so...even though I was super full...I still ordered this dish...

Dessert time! (Oops, that's my friend in the background) -

The waiter removed the pot and brought over an iron net for the dessert,
It's mochi time!
They slowly cook the rice cake till it turns fluffy and slightly burned on the edges,
You can either eat it as the way it is,
Or dip the rice cake with condensed milk and some peanut powder,
"Or" you can put sweetened red bean or ice cream inside the rice cake,
It's DIY, do-it-yourself dessert time!

Tsao Ruo Sukiyaki is an all-you-can-eat place,
Besides meat items, it also covers vegetables, salads, seafood, small cooked dishes, soups, soft drinks, and ice creams,
So all these food plus table-side service, only costs about $15 U.S. during lunch hours,
What a bargain huh?

Cindy's Rating: 7

潮肉壽喜燒 "Fashion Meat" Sukiyaki or "Tsao Ruo" Sukiyaki台北市大安區東豐街41號1樓

1st Floor, Number 41, Don Fun Street, Da En Area, Taipei, Taiwan

Jun 18, 2010

MOCA Taipei: Summer Holiday - A Solo Exhibition by Tim Yip

We're not gonna talk about food today,
Instead, I'll show you an awesome exhibition by Tim Yip,
(Currently showing in Taipei till August 8th)

Tim Yip? Unfamiliar with the name?
Let me just present you this artist's brief introduction from MOCA Taipei's website:

"Tim Yip’s rise to worldwide fame began after obtaining the Academy Award for Best Art Direction for the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2001.

His multidisciplinary works maintain consistent aesthetics while exploring fields such as film, theater, television, costume design, space design, photography, painting, and literature.

Hsin-chiang Kao, former editor-in-chief of the China Times literary supplement section, once referred Tim Yip as “a name difficult to be labeled.” The artist’s cross-media, cross-domain, and cross-cultural experiences have made him one of the most prominent Chinese art designers."

Getting interested?
Since most of you won't be able to present at the exhibition,
I'll show you some of the pictures during my visit.

Exhibition ticket -

There's a "trick" with the ticket, I'll tell you about it in a little bit.

"Space Lili"-

Once again, I'll use the description from MOCA Taipei regarding this special exhibition,
It's definitely better and more understandable than my poor English expression:

"In this exhibition, Tim Yip integrates local elements and images within his works. He captures Taipei at different hours of the day, serving as the background of Lili’s photographs and videos.

It is the artist’s intention that through his design of Summer Holiday, the audience can participate in Lili’s story and at the same time draft their very own stories in the city."Hall way -

"Existence" and not-so-welcomed Cindy -

"Desire" -

More Lilies -

Close up I -

Close up II - 

"Sleeping Lili" -

Remember the ticket I was telling you about? Voila! -

It's actually a detachable magnet,
The kind you can stick on the fridge, pretty creative huh?
MOCA Taipei always has creative tickets,
Once I got a ticket shaped like sun glasses!

There're more and more places like MOCA Taipei in Taiwan,
Hopefully this trend will go on, making Taiwan a place with creative energies!

For more details regarding MOCA Taipei and "Summer Holiday,"
Please visit: http://www.mocataipei.org.tw/_english/index.asp

Jun 11, 2010

SALON DE THE de Joel Robuchon - Taiwan

It's afternoon tea time!

Seriously, today is officially the 9th day since I arrived in Taiwan,
And I'm still having jet lag,
Somebody help please!

Anyways, it's been raining in Taiwan, making it hard to do outdoor activities,
So to make up my lost fun times, why not enjoy a nice, elegant afternoon tea, indoor?

SALON DE THE de Joel Robuchon @ BELLAVITA -

I tried L'atelier when I was in Vegas,
(L'atelier..How can I describe it, let's just say it's the cheaper "branch" of Joel Robuchon).
It was Christmas eve I think,
Of course, the price was jacked up during holiday season,
And I wasn't too "surprised" with the food based on the $$ spent.

But everything deserves a second chance yep?
So here I am again, similar restaurant; different place,
Let's give it a try!

The entire place is mainly designed by two color tones: black and red, just like all other Joel Robuchon restaurants.
You think he likes red??

Sidetrack, I do like the carpet -

There's a bread and dessert section outside the dining area,
Sadly I couldn't put up all my courage and step outside with my gigantic camera,
Not kidding you, but it's hard to be a paparazzi!
So all I got is this sneak peak picture of the "back" of the beautiful bread/dessert section,
I really tried! -

So me and my friend ordered afternoon tea set, without sandwiches,
The set comes with 1 coffee macaron, 1 mango macaron, 2 citrus flavored madeleine, your choice of 2 cakes, and 2 beverages (mostly tea of course).

The set costs $1,200 NT, around $40 U.S., trust me, I don't eat like this all the time.
Here it comes our tea pots -

Super heavy tea pots, must be hard to be the waiters/waitresses there,
Muscle is a must.
I picked Minty flower tea, nothing too spectacular.

Mango macaron -

I'm never a big fan of macaron, just not really into the texture,
Saves me $$ in a way because most of the famous macarons are so pricey, lucky me.

Close up of papillotte (hazelnut chocolate cake) and coffee flavored macaron -

Papillotte was too sweet for my taste,
I can eat very sweet stuff, but I think this cake's sweetness level was a wee bit too over.

However, the coffee flavored macaron was a success,
Probably the best dessert of all the ones I tried that day.

Close up of mille-feuille a la framboise (raspberry flavor) -

The pastry is light, fluffy, and crunchy, not bad.
But not THAT good that'll make me wanna come back once again.

My friend was hungry so she also ordered this simple and classic spaghetti with red sauce,
Pardon me that I can't remember the exact name,
The place does not allow taking pictures of the menu, unless for the covers only,
Unfortunately, that's how I keep track of all the names of the food I ate...so yeah...
Let me present you with....spaghetti with red meat sauce! -

Probably the best classic spaghetti dish I've ever had,
It was flavorful and yet not too heavy,
You can taste a slight aroma from the red wine, not bad, highly recommended.

I had highs and lows experiences with Joel Robuchon's creations,
As a result, it's hard to give this place a set rating,
Dessert was ok, however, the spaghetti was wonderful,

Cindy's Rating: 7 (fair grade I think, at least for now)

SALON DE THE Joel Robuchon - Taiwan
台北市信義區松仁路28號3樓 (BELLAVITA 3rd Floor)
(02) 8729-2626

Joel Robuchon office website

Jun 5, 2010

"Healthful" Chocolate Wafer Sticks from Taiwan

Imagine constraining yourself inside a tiny space where you can't even fully stretch out your legs for 13 hours,
Yes, 13 hours straight! That's how long my flight was from California to Taiwan,
Well, I shouldn't even be complaining because the guy next to me had even longer flight,
After 13 hours from CA to Taiwan,
This plane ride mate has to wait for another transfer flight from Taiwan to Thailand,
Seriously, I don't know how he can do it,
Or how can his back or neck do it,
Mine was as stiff as a wooden chopping board after 13 hours.

My initial intention was to show you some restaurant reviews from Taiwan,
Yet this long-haul flight has brought another side effect to me - jet lag, which made my restaurant reviews plan...impossible.

And my poor mom,
She has to drag me out of the bed every night since I started to fall sleep around 6 p.m.,
You know what time is it as I first start writing up this blog post? 5 a.m.!
My sleeping schedule is all messed up.

As a result,
I'm currently not capable of going out to enjoy some good food and sharing that with you,
What can I say,
I really don't wanna fall asleep and land my face on the plate during dinner.

But! But luckily there're some wafer sticks at home that I can share with you first,
Let's just start out with this popular snack in Taiwan before I can dine at the restaurants without getting my face stick with veggies and meat?

Wafer sticks -

Flavors from right to left:
Chocolate, strawberry, brown sugar, peanut, sweet milk, and coffee.

Somehow people over here are crazy about these wafer sticks,
You can't even find them in a store or supermarket,
The only way to get it is through phone orders.
Since there's a limited capacity regarding the production volume,
Sometimes the wait can take up to months after placing the order.

Name-wise, it's called "healthful."
I'm guessing, partly is due to the meaning of "health,"
And partly is due to its pronunciation,
Healthful sounds a wee bit like "black chef" in Chinese,
Healthful = Hei Shi Fu = Hei (Black): Shi Fu (Chef, or master chef).

Chocolate wafer sticks -

So how come I get to enjoy 6 buckets of wafer sticks earlier than other people?
Well well well, connection is key,
My dad's friend knows someone from "Healthful" so we get to have these snacks right after placing the order.
Called that unfair? Nah.

I haven't open the other ones besides the chocolate flavored wafer sticks,
It's not as sweet as the ones you find from both Taiwanese and American grocery stores,
And the texture is more "condensed" instead of "crunchy, and fluffy."
Not bad at all!

Now I gonna keep my fingers crossed the whole time that my jet lag can go away faster,
I need to stay awake while enjoying my spicy hot pot, fried chicken, and all other yummy good eats!!

Healthful Wafer Sticks

Jun 2, 2010

Failed Tarts Plus...See You Guys in Taiwan!

Quick post here before I need to leave in a hurry to catch my flight back to Taiwan,
Here it is, my failed blueberry tart -

One important lesson learned from this trial and error result,
Never ever get lazy while baking stuff!

Point 1:
I was too lazy to let the frozen pastry thawed completely before use.
As a result, I got a chuck of baked flour instead of separate crunchy layers.

Point 2:
I didn't use pie weights, ended up with big round bad tasting dough.

Point 3:
I premade the sauce and waited for too long,
Ended up the sauce was too runny.

Point 4:
Too lazy to make the syrup to brush on top of the berries...so it's not shiny and pretty..

Either way,
Please look forward for some good eats and restaurant reviews from Taiwan!