Given the blistering temperatures of late, I decided to give BlackBall Taiwanese Dessert a try, despite the tepid reviews on Yelp. BlackBall is a Taiwanese dessert chain that markets itself as an ‘healthy’ dessert alternative, with an emphasis on grass jelly desserts and the Taiwanese penchant for QQ, i.e., chewy.
I went to Taipei with the goal of hitting up as many night markets as humanly possible. So our first night in the city, we headed off to the closest one to our hotel, Huaxi Night Market (華西街觀光夜市), which was rather sedated the night we went, with a lot of shuttered shops. So we instead spent a fair amount of time traversing Mengjia Night Market (艋舺夜市) instead. Both are anchored by Longshan Temple, a 16th century Buddhist-Taoist temple located in the middle of Taipei’s oldest district, Wanhua.
Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) is a sprawling night market that extends along several streets in the middle of Taipei’s 2nd most populated district of the same name. While it’s widely cited by tourist guides and a great experience overall, if I were pressed for time, I’d pass this one, only because it lacks the signature grittiness of other Taipei night markets. (Food’s still awesome).
Continue reading STREET FOOD 101: Taipei’s Shilin Night Market
Tamsui is a smallish seaside town north of Taipei. Only 30 minutes away from Taipei by subway (it’s at the terminus of the Tamsui Line), Tamsui makes a good day trip for travelers with some time to spare in Taipei. Tamsui is known mostly for Dutch and Spanish settlements back in the 1600s.
It’s also home to the Tamsui Old Street, a historic neighborhood filled with shops, which evolves into the charming Old Street Night Market (淡水老街夜市) as the sun sets.
If you only have time to visit a single night market in Taipei, it’s got to be Raohe Street Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市). Located by the banks of Keelung River, it was the best night market I visited in Taipei, for having a nice mix of both eccentric and traditional street bites.
The most famous night market north of Taipei is in Keelung, a sleepy port town of about 400,000. The Miaokou Market (廟口夜市, literally “temple mouth market”), begins at the entrance of Dianji Temple (奠濟宮) and is home to a variety of interesting street foods.
MJ Cafe and Teahouse is one of San Gabriel Valley’s many Taiwanese style cafes, known for its dizzying variety of tea-infused drinks and its confusing 17 page menu. The chain since expanded, opening up branches as far south as Irvine and as far west as Sawtelle.
Black & White, like many San Gabriel Valley tea shops, is housed in a suburban strip mall off the corner of Nogales and Amar Roads in the leafier part of West Covina. Parking tends to be difficult throughout the day, as the strip mall is also home to a diverse medley of Southeast Asian places, ranging from Filipino to Thai to Indonesian.
Off the Grid is a a food truck experience more so than anything. I first stumbled on this event on Yelp, essentially a food truck market held once at a week at Fort Mason Center, which was once a military port.
Now I must admit, I’ve never been too fond of food trucks (especially those of the bourgeois sort), and Off the Grid didn’t really change my general opinion of them. Granted, there were a lot of interesting dishes I ended up having, given the sheer volume of trucks present on site.
I know this post is a bit overdue, but my schedule’s been jammed packed as of late and this is the first real down time I’ve had in a while. I know I’ve told several people that I was done with my 626 Night Market reviews, but I have to say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the 626 Night Market summer series this past summer, and I just had to blog about it.
I’ve been getting a number of suggestions from different people in terms of restaurants in the area that I have yet to try. I don’t know why I’ve never tried Mama Lu’s Dumpling House until recently. However, Nelson from noonieandcoonie.com suggested that I try it, specifically for their beef rolls. Normally, I think, I feel reluctant to go to dumpling houses because I don’t usually go out of my way to eat dumplings in a restaurant. It’s one of those things where I’ll either buy a frozen bag of dumplings from the supermarket and make it at home or make homemade dumplings myself. But, I’m a big fan of beef rolls and wanted to know what all of the rave was about.
The restaurant itself is located in the plaza where Cocary used to be located on Garvey. I’ll be honest and say that I actually got lost looking for this place when I went to eat with my friend Calvin. We always have a tendency of getting lost when we try and find a restaurant we’ve never been to before, but we made our way there.
We ordered about 3 dishes which included: beef noodle soup, xiao long bao, and beef rolls. The beef noodle soup was a hefty portion for such a small price. We shared it between the two of us. I thought the beef noodle soup was decent. The meat was well cooked and was falling apart (I really hate it when the meat is tough). The broth was a little salty for my taste, but I tend to eat a little blander than most people when it comes to the salt department. I liked that the noodles weren’t overcooked (pet peeve). Overall, the beef noodle soup was just like any other beef noodle soup I’ve had so far. I know it’s considered a national Taiwanese dish despite its mainland Chinese origins, but I have yet to have a beef noodle soup that really stood out from the rest. It’s just really good comfort food for me.
When it came to the xiao long bao, I was really excited. I don’t normally eat xiao long bao that often, so I feel it’s a treat whenever I do eat it. When I first took a bite of the xiao long bao, I usually let the broth run into my spoon to see how much is inside. I like to compare the contents of the xiao long bao between different establishments. I must say, I was actually disappointed. Why? This xiao long bao was on the drier side. The broth itself was flavorful and the xiao long bao had a nice soft consistency to it, but not overcooked. However, the main characteristic of a good xiao long bao is the broth inside of it. The lack of broth inside the xiao long bao made it overall dry and when it began to cool down, it was almost like eating dumplings. I was really sad. I like a xiao long bao which has so much broth inside it bursts in your mouth. Sadly, I have yet to find good places for this.
So far, this place isn’t looking too hot, but luckily the beef rolls are here to save the day! When Nelson told me that Mama Lu’s was great for their beef rolls, he was not kidding. I was really excited to have beef rolls because I also don’t eat them too often, perhaps even less than xiao long bao. And let me say I was pleasantly surprised. The beef rolls had so much flavor and so many textures, it was like a party in my mouth. The beef was perfectly cooked and was a nice contrast to the pan fried wrap. I was actually really surprised to see that this beef roll was pan fried, and I think that is what made all of the difference.
Sure, the beef roll was a bit on the oily side because it was pan fried, but it made such an impact on the dish, I don’t think I can eat beef rolls the same way ever again. Right when you bite into it, you get a nice crunch before you sink your teeth into the soft beef that melts in your mouth and combines with the sweet flavor of the hoison sauce. I think that pan frying the beef roll also helped keep the roll itself together. Often times, I find that the beef roll will fall apart because of the sheer weight of the contents of the dish. However, I think that with the fried wrap, it helps give some structure to the dish, which made it easier to eat as well.
So what do I think about Mama Lu’s Dumpling House? Awesome beef rolls! It was my favorite thing out of the 3 dishes we ordered. I think the only reason I would go out of my way to eat here is to have the beef rolls. Other than that, you can find similar dishes elsewhere for around the same price and probably similar quality. Would I make this a regular place to go to?
Um…maybe not? As much as I loved the beef rolls, I think that I would need more than that to justify driving 30 minutes away to eat at this restaurant, when there’s a similar restaurant in a closer vicinity. However, if you are ever in the Monterey Park area, it is definitely worth a try!
153 E Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91755
Tofu King (臭豆腐大王, “Stinky Tofu King”) in Arcadia is big on Taiwanese-style stinky tofu. According to the LA Times, it’s owned by the same family who owns a small stinky tofu establishment in Rowland Heights (anchored by HK2 Food District, an “upscale” Asian supermarket). Tofu King offers a handful of Taiwanese dishes and snacks (all listed on a one page highlighter yellow menu).
On our visit, my friend and I shared some Taiwanese-style stinky tofu, fermented and deep-fried, served with some sweet-sour vegetable pickles (that the owner calls Taiwanese kimchi). The tofu wasn’t nearly as fermented as I thought it would be (probably due to health regulations, as the LA Times suggests), but it was tasty nonetheless. I especially liked the sweet sauce drizzled on.
My friend ordered the “mushroom rice,” which is plain white rice served with mushrooms, a soy egg and minced pork, also cooked in soy sauce and five spice powder. I thought the portion size was unusually small.
I ordered Fuzhou-style fish ball soup. (Fuzhou is the capital of Fujian province, although most Taiwanese folks trace their ancestry to southern Fujian). Fuzhou-style fish balls have an inner pork paste filling, while the outside is made of white fish paste. The entire dish was composed of those fish balls, green onions, bean sprouts and rice vermicelli. The dish was filling, but pretty plain by Chinese standards.
I’ve also been to Tofu King’s original location on numerous occasions. Whereas the original location is reminiscent of a Chinese food stall (and the lingering smell of fermenting tofu), with its cramped space and outdoor seating, this branch definitely provides a classier dining experience.
Tofu King (臭豆腐大王)
713 W Duarte Rd Ste C
Arcadia, CA 91007
Oh My Pan is is a Taiwanese-style bakery-cafe (a la 85C) located in Minh Plaza, on the corner of San Gabriel and Valley Blvds. After getting com tam (Vietnamese broken rice) at Com Tam Thuan Kieu, Josie and I headed over to Oh My Pan to try it out.
The bakery is pretty spacious, serving up Asian buns, cream puffs, cake slices and even sea salt coffee. They also hand out stamp cards for tea drinks (buy 10 get one free).
After class ended at Gabrielino High next door, a bunch of high school students began rolling into the bakery to get their tea fix. When I went to Gabrielino in the 2000’s, the nearest boba place was almost 4 blocks away, at Quickly.
Josie and I ordered some teas and split two desserts. The black sesame cream puff had an interesting nutty taste, from the smeared on black sesame cream. I enjoyed it.
We also shared the strawberry cake slice, which is essentially alternating layers of sponge cake and cream, which real strawberry slices embedded in between. I loved it. The cream was light and airy, while the sponge cake was delicate and moist. Yummy.
Josie pulled out her notebook and began sketching all of us at OMFC, as caricatures for the blog! They shall be revealed soon.
Oh My Pan (胖胖屋)
801 E Valley Blvd Ste 105-106
San Gabriel, CA 91776
My friends and I tried out this place because they have the cutest egg cakes. Their menu is HUGE, we took a really long time deciding what we wanted. I got the Japanese Popcorn Milk Tea, which tasted so yummy! You can taste a slight hint of popcorn, which I really like. You’ve probably never had it before and it sounds weird to you, but trust me, it’s really good; adds a light nutty flavor to tea haha. The egg cakes were definitely cute, we got My Melody, Doraemon, Hello Kitty, Tarepanda, Keroppi, and Pikachu! Too bad they weren’t as good as they tasted, they were a bit dry…even after dipping it in straight up condensed milk. The other dish we got was their sampler appetizer with fish cake, chicken, and sweet potato fries, which costed $5 and definitely not worth it, you’re basically getting deep fried MSG on a bed of cabbage. It’s a cute place to hang out since there’s free wifi and it has air conditioning though.
Stone Age Cafe
18481 E Colima Rd.,
Rowland Heights, CA 91748