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
My first morning in Taipei, I had one thing in mind: having a nice hearty Taiwanese breakfast. Lucky for us, Four Sea Soy Milk King (四海豆漿大王), an unassuming neighborhood breakfast joint, was only a few blocks from our place, nestled in a residential area of Datong District.
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.
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
Class 302 is pretty well known among Asians in the LA area, especially for its shaved snow (a dessert similar to shaved ice, except the “snow” has a really fine consistency) and its kitschy school lunch box meals. The place has wooden school desks and a blackboard, reminiscent of old school classrooms. This was my first time coming to Class 302 with my DSLR, so I decided to snap pics and make the most of it.
While waiting for my high school friends to arrive, I ordered an appetizer of sweet potato fries (with plum spices) to prevent them from kicking me out (it was a rather busy Sunday). To my surprise, the fries were hearty and thick, and made just right: crispy and flavorful batter that retained the sweet potato’s juicier innards)
When my friends arrived, we ordered, after a bit of thinking. One of my pet peeves, as I’ve mentioned, are poorly designed menus. Class 302’s is no exception. It was pretty difficult to navigate through bulky binders with sheet protectors and too many pages.
I ordered the railroad pork chop noodles, a fried slab of pork chop over a noodle soup. The soup was bland, but the portions were pretty big. Likewise, I thought the railroad pork chop wasn’t seasoned enough.
My friends got combo biandang (便當) meals instead: Rosemary salmon with Taiwanese sausages, and Basil chicken with preserved vegetables （鹹菜）. I sampled a bit of their meals, which were pretty bite-sized and came in metal lunch boxes. Nothing special imho. I thought the chicken was a bit greasy and the salmon was bland.
For dessert, we split a green tea flavored shaved snow, with red beans and mochi, along with a heapful of condensed milk, even though it was raining that day. They make pretty damn good shaved snow. Everything melted in my mouth like I wanted to, but I still think Pa Pa Walk’s shaved snow trumps Class 302.
Check out Josie’s review of Class 302 before.
P.S. The parking can be maddening, especially on the weekends, because that plaza is anchored by a 99 Ranch Market and Class 302 is surrounded by a medley of Chinese restaurants.
Class 302 (三年2班)
1015 Nogales St # 125
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
Pork sung sushi (肉鬆壽司) has a special place in my heart, because all the Taiwanese moms would pack these as snacks for their kids. And we would eat them at the playground.
I decided to take a stab at it and try making it myself for a picnic and it was a fair success considering it’s my first time even making sushi.
Ingredients (top to bottom, left to right):
- Black sesame seeds (for California style rolls)
- Sushi rice vinegar (added to rice after it cooks)
- Japanese rice
- Rousong (pork floss or pork sung)
- Seaweed sheets
- Sushi mat
Slice the cucumber into narrow strips to put into the sushi. Remove the seeds.
On the vinegar mat, lay the rough side of the seaweed sheet facing upward. Spread a thin layer of rice on top, and lay out the cucumber slices and pork floss.
Using the sushi mat, roll up the sushi firmly to form a nice and tight tube. Spread a few rice grains at the end to make the seaweed sheet stick.
To make California style rolls, I laid out some plastic wrap on the sushi mat and added a layer of rice above the seaweed sheet. After rolling up the sushi “tube,” I sprinkled some sesame seeds on the outside to make it prettier.
Tada! Looks delectable, doesn’t it?
Yi Mei Deli (義美豆漿點心) is a pretty popular deli in Rowland Heights, next to the HK Food Market. It’s along a string of businesses that include a Taiwanese stinky tofu joint. Five of my friends and I came in on a Sunday morning, not realizing how cramped and busy this place gets.
Orders are taken at the counter and then delivered to each table. We had to keep a sharp eye out to find an open table to swoop in on. This is not the place to go for larger groups.
Chinese donut / 油條 ($1.45): I can’t get myself to Chinese donuts youtiao, because Hokkien and Burmese folks call it yo chia kway/yi kya kway (油炸粿). Rant aside, this was crispy and freshly fried, not hard, stale or extra oily (the usual problems).
Hot soy milk ($1.60): Delicious and fresh-tasting. It comes in a bowl with a soup spoon and has a crisp, light and very slight and sweet taste. There’s also the option of getting the soy milk salty for a few cents more.
Mushroom and egg tamale / 香菇蛋黃粽 ($2.95): Nothing special. It tasted like the frozen zongzi was simply microwaved. The sticky rice was dry too (not enough pork lard, perhaps), as was the filling, which was mostly mushrooms. Underwhelming at best.
Leek pancake / 韭菜盒子 ($4): Literally “leek box” in Chinese, this is a savory dish, with vermicelli and chopped leeks inside. Not worth it at all imo. The “pancake” was the size of my palm and had nothing extravagant inside: just vermicelli, chopped leeks and dried shrimp. It tasted very plain. I felt gypped.
No frills service. All the waitresses were reasonably friendly and attentive though. A lot of them didn’t speak English though. They were pretty nice about it when I accidentally took a frozen zongzi from the fridge and attempted to eat the frozen thing (wondering to myself why Taiwanese folks eat these frozen), because the cashier told me to grab one.
Sort of pricey given the food portions, but suffices for a so-called authentic Taiwanese breakfast experience. I’d come again for the FRESH soy milk.
Address: 18414 Colima Rd, Rowland Heights, CA 91748 | Yelp