Our Love Affair with Taiwanese Food Continues...Leong's Legend III

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

Warning: we were invited to review this restaurant and the entire meal was paid for by the house. The following below is our independent view, but you have been warned.

Our first meal of the year was at Leong’s Legend in Chinatown, London and we left happy and satisfied if not particularly bowled over. Yet, when an opportunity to sample the food again at the new branch in Queensway arrived in our inbox, we were eager to not only eat more xiao long bao (Shanghainese steamed buns), but also to try out other dishes.

Located in prime position opposite Bayswater tube station and just next to Four Seasons, Leong’s Legend III opened a couple of weeks ago and was in prime position to catch the crowd of hungry passer bys, especially with the high density of South East Asian students living around the area. At 7pm, the uniquely styled interior aimed to resemble a restaurant in olden China (like in the old kung-fu movies!) was already filled with people happily chomping and chatting away.

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 13

Having already eaten here once before, we knew what to expect – a mixture of Taiwanese food along with some Sichuan and Cantonese staples served in a slightly weird mix of dim sum, Taiwanese small dishes (xiao chi), various meat and vegetable dishes to share as well as some rice and noodle type things. Thankfully, we had recently spent a week in Taipei and while I wouldn’t call us experts in Taiwanese food, at the very least we’ve been exposed to (a lot of) the local fare.

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 01

The first lot of dishes, we let the restaurant choose for us (I only specified that I didn’t want to eat the oyster omelette as the Taiwanese style is very different from the Malaysian type I’m used to). Dishes described in order of them arriving on the table.

Tofu topped with pork floss, served with century eggs. I was slightly taken aback that this was a dish chosen by the house to impress us as although it is a common enough side dish in Taiwan, it is usually hardly spectacular. Oh how mistaken were we as the additions of the pork floss as well as the sweet and spicy sauce at the bottom made this dish far more interesting. Even the PigPig liked it and she hates tofu. The light tofu also made a nice foil to the rich preserved eggs, although I found the eggs to be on the rubbery side. Bizarrely, I can’t find this on the menu!

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 03

“Sticky Rice with Shredded Pork” 筒仔米糕. Pretty much exactly what it says, the mound of glutinous rice was topped with some really tasty thin strips of pork, the flavour helped in no small part by the dried shrimp. The slightly sweet chilli sauce (not spicy at all) at the bottom added some extra taste too. Overall really tasty.

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 04

“Casket (Minced Chicken & Mix Vegetables in a Crispy Box Shape of Toast)” 官财板. Apparently a regional speciality of Tainan in Taiwan, the restaurant was quick to point out this is a popular dish. Essentially, it was a chicken pie but using deep fried bread instead of the usual puff pastry. Still, it was pretty cute despite the macabre name, tasted pretty good and the PigPig liked the thicker than usual filling. More importantly, the bread was really crispy and didn’t feel greasy at all considering it was deep fried.

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 05

“Taiwan Mini Kebab with Pork” 虎咬猪. One of the things we missed on our last visit despite hearing so many good things about. Essentially composed of a large-ish slice of braised pork belly, crushed peanuts and preserved vegetables in a Chinese man tau bun. All in all it was a great little thing (better than the one we had at Shida night market in Taipei); the slightly sweet bun and the salty fatty pork is a typical Chinese mix while the peanuts added a slightly different twist. I did find the pork really fatty though as it was about half fat, but some people (the PigPig being one of them) obviously love it that way.

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 06

“Legend’s Siu Loung Bao (8 pcs)” 精制小笼包, hereafter referred to as XLB. Most people already consider Leong’s Legend’s XLB to be the best in London, so for me the most important part of this visit was just to verify that the quality has been maintained at this branch. If memory serves me right, they were pretty similar, although this has both its good and bad points. Firstly, they were still really tasty and full of the delicious broth filling. Unfortunately, the skin is quite thick and rough and definitely cannot be compared to Din Tai Fung’s. Still, I was really happy eating them and this is certainly the best I’ve come across so far in London.

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 07

“Tainan Steamed Meat Ball” 彰化肉圆. Unfortunately, we didn’t like this in Taiwan and we didn’t like it here. The filling itself is pretty decent, a mix of pork, minced mushrooms, water chestnuts and bamboo but the dumpling skin was quite thick sticky starchy and gooey, which didn’t sit well with us.

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 08

After that, we decided to order a couple other things to get a more thorough sample of the menu.

“Hot and Fiery Beef Slices & Beef Tripe” 夫妻肺片. Although more of a Sichuan dish, the PigPig was craving for something spicy at this point. The cold strips of beef and the villi of the tripe in particular soaked up a lot of the sauce while still allowing the taste of the meat to come through (don’t eat this if you don’t like tripe!). Very well seasoned dish.

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 09

“Taiwan Spicy Beef Noodle in Soup” 王家牛肉面. Although one of the most famous Taiwanese noodle dishes, we didn’t actually order the beef noodle soup here but they mistakenly delivered it to our table and told us we might as well try it anyway. Frankly, it was a little underwhelming as the beefy soup base was mild for my tastes and I didn’t particularly like the type of noodle used (similar to ramen, but with even less bite and spring). The noodles somehow added a rather "powdery" taste to the broth. The beef was tasty though.

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 12

“Fried Noodle with Beef in Sa Cha Sauce” 沙茶牛肉炒面. Continuing on with the PigPig’s love affair with shacha sauce… by this point we were absolutely stuffed so even though the couple of mouthfuls we had tasted great, we couldn’t finish the dish and had to take away the rest. The noodles had a really strong BBQ flavour but the beef felt like it had some tenderiser over it which dulled the flavour a bit. Still, I’m looking forward to this for lunch the next day.

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 11

For drinks we had Ice Tiger Coffee and Pearl Milk Tea, both of which were pretty good.

Leong's Legend Bayswater, London 02

Food – 6.0
Service – 5.5
Atmosphere – 6.0
Value – 7.0


Ok so some of the food here wasn’t as good as some of the things we had in Taiwan, but that’s pretty unfair since in Taiwan we sampled pretty much the best of what was available; similarly the Malaysian food here, while delicious at times, can’t compare to the best at home either. Still, the food here is pretty delicious overall and the menu has a really wide selection of Taiwanese snacks.

Best bit: the XLB, always a favourite of mine.
Worst bit: not being able to try their version of Typhoon Shelter crab, which was the most amazing crabby thing I had in a while.

Thanks again Victoria for the invite!

Leong's Legend III
82 Queensway,
Bayswater,
W2 3RL,
London
Tel: +44 (020)7 221 2280
Official website


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Chicken Katsu Oyakodon

I'm a huge fan of Japanese cuisine. I don't mind having Jap food everyday, every meal (that's if the wild boar doesn't complain). I came across this dish at Swee San's The Sweet Spot. It is another relatively simple meal to put together. The hardest part was frying the breaded chicken. As you know, I hate deep frying, don't get me wrong, I LOVE deep fried food, just not the deep frying process in my kitchen. It often leaves my kitchen really greasy and the amount of oil just puts me off. Well..some things are better left unknown right.

Chicken katsu don

Oyakodon literally translates into "parent-and-child rice bowl dish". The "parent-and-child" here is a poetic reflection of the presence of chicken and egg in this dish. Traditionally, oyakodon is prepared with chicken, egg, green onions, and other ingredients all simmered together in a sauce then served on top of a bowl of rice. Here, deep-fried chicken cutlet (katsu) was used, which made it even better.

Chicken katsu don 2

This was so good, maybe I should get a deep fryer just for this!
Ingredients: serves 2
  • Cooked rice enough for 2 people
  • 2 chicken legs - deboned
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • plain flour - enough for coating chicken
  • 1 egg - lightly beaten
  • panko breadcrumbs - enough for coating chicken
  • oil for shallow frying/ deep frying
For sauce:
  • 1 large onion - sliced
  • 1 stalk spring onions - sliced, save some for garnish
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp hon dashi
  • 2 tbs Kikkoman soy sauce
  • 2 tbs mirin
  • 1 tbs tonkatsu sauce
  • 2 eggs - lightly beaten
Directions:
  • Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on both sides of chicken. Leave for about 10 mins.
  • Set up breading station: place flour, egg and panko on 3 separate plates.
  • One by one, dip chicken in plain flour, shake off excess flour, next coat chicken in beaten eggs, shake off excess egg then transfer to panko and coat thoroughly. Pour more panko on plate if not enough. Shake off excess panko then shallow fry or deep fry breaded chicken until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
  • Heat up a bit of oil in another pan, add onions and fry until soft and translucent.
  • Add spring onions, water, hon dashi, soy sauce, mirin and tonkatsu sauce and turn the heat to high. When the mirin mixture comes to a boil, add beaten eggs, turn the heat off and cover the pan, leave the eggs to cook in the residual heat for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Place cooked rice in bowls.
  • Cut chicken into strips, place on top of rice.
  • Pour egg mixture onto chicken strips.
  • Garnish with some spring onions.
  • Enjoy!

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Spicy Miso Udon & Cooking Goodies from Wagamama

Thursday, 27 May 2010

I love my iphone! There's just so much you can do with it and there's always something new. I recently found out that you can actually order food with your iphone! Wagamama sent me a press release regarding their recent launch of UK's first food-ordering app for iphone, you can download the app from here and try for yourself. You can use the app to locate their nearest branch, browse the menu and place your order. Your selection is then transmitted straight to the kitchen. You can also choose a convenient pick-up time if you don't want to dine immediately. Besides the press release, I was also sent a Japanese noodle soup bowl set. I was jumping with joy when I saw the soup spoon - THE soup spoon that I was so tempted to sneak out from the restaurant =P

Here's an extremely easy yet satisfying meal. A complete meal that could be prepared in less than 30 mins.

Spicy miso udon

Ingredients: serves 2
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia's Miso Ramen
  • 2 packets of udon
  • 4 fresh prawns
  • 6 slices naruto fishcakes (the one with a pink spiral in the middle)
  • 2 eggs - hard boiled
  • Vegetable (your choice)
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Japanese furikake (Rice seasonings)
For soup:
Directions:
  • Bring to boil 4 cups of water.
  • Add spring onion.
  • Mix in 3 tbs of miso paste and hon dashi. Simmer for about 15 mins.
  • While miso soup is simmering, boil noodles in another pot. Drain and place into 2 bowls.
  • Mix mirin and chili oil into miso soup. Add more chili oil and miso paste to taste if needed.
  • Add vegetable, prawns and naruto to simmering miso soup. Simmer until prawns are cooked.
  • Pour miso soup over udon.
  • Garnish with some sesame seeds and furikake.
Spicy miso udon 2

Thanks again Lucy for the Wagamama goodies!

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Sichuan Restaurant

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

When my friend suggested eating Sichuan after watching Iron Man 2 (yeah I know, this is how long this has been sitting on my hard drive instead of being posted, pretty good movie though), a little flicker of memory made me take more interest than usual. Then I remembered, Mr Noodles and Su Lin have been raving about the deep fried corn in salted egg yolk there, and apparently the other stuff is pretty good too.

So I was flicking through the menu in the restaurant to find that there was no such item on the menu. Imagine my disappointment when I got on my iPhone to find that they have been talking about Sichuan in Acton, not the Sichuan in Greenwich *sigh*

Well ok life moves on and we let our friends (newly engaged too, congrats!) do the ordering whilst I happily snacked on the spiced beef jerky (really great snack, very tempted to ask them for more, but I do think the more traditional pickled stuff makes for a better opening start).

Sichuan restaurant, London 01

On first impression, the pepper and chilli beef looks like a humongous plate, but sadly most of the bulk is actually bean sprouts hidden under the beef. Still, the slices of beef were tender and the strongly flavoured sauce was not only tasty, but also masked the taste of the inevitable tenderiser.

Sichuan restaurant, London 02

The brinjal dish was ok without being fantastic in any particular way except for the amount of oil used to cook it. The Pigpig liked it though, happily drowned her rice in that tasty oily gravy.

Sichuan restaurant, London 03

Another deceptive large portion arrived in the form of deep fried spicy chicken, apparently a very typical Szechuan dish. With generous amounts of dried chillis and Szechuan peppers used, this really had my tongue burning in that strange way that kept me coming back for more. My only complaint is that some of the pieces of chicken used had some splinters in the bone, which made things interesting.

Sichuan restaurant, London 05

The only thing the PigPig wanted to try was the deep fried mantou (Chinese buns), mainly because she wanted to eat it with condensed milk. Think she secretly likes the spicy sweet combo after her sweet sesame mochi in mala soup experience in Taipei. The buns itself were already slightly sweet so this wasn’t weird or anything, but I still do prefer eating them with the usual savoury dishes.

Sichuan restaurant, London 04

Lastly, we also ordered a fish, which came out quite a while after the previous dish for some unknown reason. The fish was quite good, no strong fishy smell and the spicy sweet-and-sour-like sauce was tasty, lacked any strong heat.

Sichuan restaurant, London 06

Altogether, the bill came to just under £15 each for four people. At first glance, the portion sizes look huge, but then most of the plate of beef was actually bean sprouts, and the chicken dish was about 80% chillies. I still had room for dessert and was quite tempted to stop by Lucky 7’s for a milkshake on the way back.

Food – 5.0
Service – 6.0
Atmosphere – 5.0
Value – 6.0


The taste of the food was how I like it, strong hitting and not pulling any punches whilst the level of heat was probably a little bit too low for my liking for proper Szechuan food (I’m guessing I have a pretty average spicy tolerance and I’m not a chilli-freak). That being said, for similar menus, prices and styles of cooking, Gourmet San is probably the better tasting one.

Best bit: not being chased out of the restaurant after finishing the meal. It’s a really rare occasion for me to be able to sit and chat with buddies over cups of tea in a Chinese restaurant in London lately.
Worst bit: accidentally eating a Szechuan pepper, which happened more than once. A numb tongue is weird.

Sichuan Restaurant 川妹子
Greenwich,
Millenium Leisure Park,
Bugsbys Way,
London,
SE10 0QJ
Tel: +44(020) 8305113

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Spicy Sweet & Sour Tofu

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

I'm not a huge fan of tofu. The only tofu I enjoy eating is Japanese egg tofu 玉子豆腐. It is smooth, creamy and eggy, a bit like undersalted chawan mushi. Other tofu like Silken tofu, however, has a really weird aftertaste and so I often cover the taste with strong flavoured sauces like mapo tofu. Silken tofu is great for steaming and often used in soups like miso soup, basically dishes that don't involve lots of stirring as it disintegrates easily. For deep frying or braising, firm tofu would be a better choice. Firm tofu has a layer of slightly hardened/ rough skin. Unlike Silken tofu, which is soft, thick and creamy, firm tofu is harder, porous and spongy so it's good for marinating or braising.

Spicy sweet and sour tofu
Ingredients:
  • 1 block (420g) firm tofu
  • 3 cloves garlic - pressed
  • 1 tbs grated ginger
  • 1 cup (about 8 stalks) garlic chives - chopped
For sauce:
  • 2 tbs sweet Thai chili sauce
  • 2 tbs tomato ketchup
  • 1 tbs light soy sauce
  • 1 tbs black vinegar
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 3/4 cup water

Directions:
  • Drain tofu. Dry tofu with paper towels. Cover tofu with 3-4 paper towels and carefully place a pan or other weight on top of towels to press down on tofu, leave for about 30 mins. This is to get rid of the excess moisture. After drying, cut the tofu into 16 pieces.
  • Mix all ingredients for sauce in a small bowl.
  • Heat up some oil in a pan, pan fry tofu cubes until all sides are browned. Or you can deep fry the tofu.
  • Leave a bit of oil in the pan, add garlic, ginger and only the white parts of the garlic chives. Fry until fragrant.
  • Add in fried tofu cubes and the bowl of sauce. Mix.
  • Reduce heat to simmer until sauce thickened. Mix every now and then.
  • Lastly, mix in the green parts of garlic chives.

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Watercress Soup Two Ways

Monday, 24 May 2010

Chinese believe that our body reacts differently to different kinds of food which affect our state of health. I believe you heard of yin and yang? Which often relates to female and male, cold and hot? Yin foods are cooling and calming while yang foods have opposite effects which increases your body's heat and often leads to sore throat, nose bleed, pimples and acne, mouth ulcers and the like. Having said that, although yin food is nourishing, too much yin food leads to dizziness, weakness, pale. So, ideally, it's best to eat both types of yin and yang food to keep the body in balance.

It's been extremely hot for the past few days and so it's time for some yin foods!

Summer Contrast

In Malaysia, where the temperature is always 30°C or higher, you can get all sorts of Chinese "cooling tea" 凉茶 like monk's fruit drink 罗汉果, sugar cane juice, Chrysanthemum tea, "turtle" jelly 龟苓膏. Apart from drinking cooling teas, soup is another great way to remove excessive "heat" from the body. Watercress soup 西洋菜汤 is a very common "cooling" soup in Chinese families, my grandma used to cook this at least once a week. Besides its "cooling" effect, it is believed to detoxify our lungs of impurities, so it's good for smokers. It is also used traditionally as a cough remedy.

Watercress & Ikan Bilis Soup

watercress soup
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup ikan bilis (dried anchovies)
  • 6 cups water
  • 350g watercress 西洋菜
  • 10 dried red dates
  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • Salt

Directions:
  • Wash ikan bilis and place in a pot. Add 6 cups water, bring to boil then lower heat to simmer for 30 mins.
  • Strain to remove ikan bilis.
  • Place ikan bilis stock and other ingredients in a pot, bring to boil then cover and lower heat to simmer for at least 2 hrs (the longer the better). I left it to cook under pressure for 45 mins.
  • Add salt to taste.

Ingredients for watercress soup
From bottom clockwise: ikan bilis/ dried anchovies, goji berries, red dates

Watercress & Pork Rib Soup

watercress soup pork ribs
Ingredients:
  • 1 kg pork ribs
  • 6 cups water
  • 350g watercress 西洋菜
  • 10 dried red dates
  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • Salt

Directions:
  • Blanch pork ribs to get rid of scum. You can do this by placing all the pork ribs in a pot, add water to cover pork ribs. Bring to boil, you'll see scum floating while it's heating up. When water is boiling, remove from heat and strain. Wash ribs in cold water.
  • Place blanched pork ribs and other ingredients in a pot. Bring to boil then cover and lower heat to simmer for at least 2 hrs (the longer the better). I left it to cook under pressure for 1 hr.
  • Add salt to taste.
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Galvin at Windows*

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

Bearing a shiny new Michelin star, this beautiful restaurant is just one out of four restaurants in the newly emerging Galvin empire. Receiving largely positive reviews from both critics and bloggers alike, I’ve been wanting to try them out for quite a while.

Located on the top floor of the Hilton hotel in Park Lane, arguably the most impressive part of the restaurant is the highly impressive view of southwest London. Luckily, we were seated overlooking the Serpentine River and Kensington Gardens. We didn’t get to see much of the restaurant (was busy looking at both the wife and the view) but it looked fairly impressive while also being quite busy.

Galvin at Windows, London 02

Part of the reason we went to Galvin @ Windows for a Sunday lunch was because they still have a set lunch on Sunday. We both had three course set meals (£27) but one of them included half a bottle of wine (three choices of red and white each), half bottle of water as well as a cup of coffee for £42.

Two types of bread were offered – sourdough and olive and nut. They were both pretty decent, but nothing fantastic. The Pigpig was a bit disappointed that the bread wasn't warm. Let’s move on…

Galvin at Windows, London 01

Veloute of pea, soft poached duck egg”. The pea mixture was simply brilliant; a smooth creamy velvety concoction full of the sweet pea flavour. The occasional scattering of split peas added the only texture to the dish. Meanwhile, the egg yolk added even more richness to the soup. A great starter.

Galvin at Windows, London 04

Salad of smoked trout ‘3 ways’, Jersey Royals, asparagus & mustard”. Unfortunately, this looked as unsubstantial as it was uninteresting. There were rillette, croquette and plain smoked trout versions.

Galvin at Windows, London 03

Steamed fillet of hake, piperade, saffron potatoes & black olive tapenade”. I didn’t have a lot of good experiences with hake, but the meaty fish was perfectly cooked here such that it retained the juices and flaked apart beautifully. The sweet flavours from the piperade (sautéed onions, peppers and tomatoes) complemented the fish well while the olives added a mature twist.

Galvin at Windows, London 06

Roast corn fed coquelet, braised celery, pommes Anna & sauce Bois Bourdain”. Essentially roast baby chicken along with some slow cooked celery and a healthy slash of sauce. The sauce was pretty good, nice balance of flavours (sweet, salty, sour) which didn’t overpower the naturally mild-ish chicken taste.

Galvin at Windows, London 05

Vanilla pannacotta, Gariguette strawberry semifreddo, basil & strawberry jelly”. This was a really interesting combination for me; the pannacotta itself was already quite nice with the strawberry pieces but the semifreddo (felt like a granite) added a nice twist. The little hint of basil was just enough to make it different without being too overpowering and weird-ing it out.

Galvin at Windows, London 08

Dark chocolate tart, mango & cumin scented Chantilly”. Luckily we were smart enough to finish off the pannacotta first, because this chocolate tart was incredibly rich and it would have been difficult to appreciate the milder pannacotta later. Anyway, the chocolate itself was great and the tart crust was delightfully crunchy but I wasn’t a big fan of the cumin aroma.

Galvin at Windows, London 07

Altogether, the total cost was £80 for two sets of three course meals as well as a half bottle of wine, a bottle of still water and a cup of coffee. Along with the coffee were some petit fours while some marshmallows were delivered along with the bill.

Galvin at Windows, London 09

Galvin at Windows, London 10

Food – 7.8
Service – 5.5
Atmosphere – 7.5
Value – 5.0


Including the three recent Michelin starred set lunches (Launceston Place, Hibiscus, Ledbury) all costing about £40 (total) each, this was arguably the weakest and most unimpressive of the foursome. Not to say it was bad or poor, but in comparison to the other trio, some of the dishes here were somewhat ordinary especially the smoked trout and roast chicken.

Also, you may have noticed I didn’t mention an amuse-bouche, simply because we weren’t offered any although I’m not sure whether this was intentional or not.

Still, my mostly positive experience means I am interested in trying out the other chains in the Galvin line.

Best bit: the view, really awesome.
Worst bit: gimme a moment… no, sorry, cant think of anything too negative.

Galvin at Windows*
22 Park Lane,
London,
W1K 1BE
Tel: +44 (020) 7208 4021
Official website

Galvin at Windows on Urbanspoon

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Shacha Beef & Garlic Chives Stir-Fry

Here's yet another Shacha sauce recipe. I know...not another one, but it's just too yummy to resist. Besides using it as a dip for hotpot, this is another very popular use of shacha sauce - pairing it with beef. Shacha beef was how I first hear about this sauce. "Shacha" translates into "sand tea", so when I first heard about shacha something, I thought it was the something in a sauce made with ground tea, turns out it's something totally different. I can understand the "sand" as the sauce is "gritty", but I still don't get the "tea" part. Anyway, it's tasty stuff, glad I tried it and I hope I've convinced you to get a bottle too!

shacha beef and garlic chives
Ingredients:
  • 260g beef - sliced
  • 70g (about 10 stalks) garlic chives - chopped into 1 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1 tbs grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic - pressed
Marinade:

Directions:
  • Mix together beef and all ingredients for marinade, leave for at least 30 mins.
  • Heat up a bit of oil in a pan, add ginger and garlic, fry until fragrant.
  • Add marinated beef, stir-fry until almost cooked.
  • Mix in garlic chives and about 2 tbs water. Stir-fry until beef is cooked and garlic chives wilted.
  • Season to taste if needed.
Now for something really random...

Besides shacha sauce, I'm currently addicted to Hipstamatic, an iphone app. Found out about this really cool photography app through Rita's other blog, Living La Vida Rita.

It makes something really ordinary looks cool, so I've been snapping non-stop, mainly random little things...

The piggies

Feeling the mood?

Cheers

Cheers...have a great weekend!
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Shacha Fried Bee Hoon

Thursday, 20 May 2010

I've finally finished my Shacha sauce! I'm marinating some beef for a stir-fry tonight. Glad in a way, as I normally have many opened bottles of sauces used only a few tablespoons. If I were to go through my pantry and fridge now, I'd find a few expired bottles. Anyway, here's another great use of Shacha sauce, and there'll be more posts on ways to finish off your Shacha sauce.

For fried bee hoon, I usually soak the dry noodles in a salted black liquid before frying. This is to soften the noodles and at the same time "infuse" it with some flavour and to "dye" it brown. Before this, I used to boil it like what you normally do with pasta, drain, wash with cold water then fry. After boiling, the noodles tend to clump together forming a ball making it really hard to fry. The noodles tend to break, become soggy and unevenly coloured. With this soaking method, I get nice evenly coloured noodles!

shacha fried beehoon
Ingredients: serves 4
  • 1 packet (375g) bee hoon/ rice vermicelli
  • 10 prawns
  • 1 head Chinese cabbage - sliced
  • 4 sticks Chinese sausages - sliced
  • 1/2 bulb garlic - pressed
  • 3/4 cup dried scallops
  • 1/2 cup water
Soaking water:
  • 3 liter water
  • 1/3 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup light soy sauce
  • 3 tbs sesame oil
  • 2 tsp white pepper powder
Seasonings:
Directions:
  • Place bee hoon and all ingredients for soaking water in a pot. Soak bee hoon for at least 1 hr. Drain, reserve bee hoon-soaking liquid for later use.
  • At the same time, soak scallops in 1/2 cup water until softened. Drain and shred scallops with fingers or a fork. Keep the scallop-soaking liquid for later use.
  • Heat up a non-stick pan, add sliced Chinese sausages and fry until fat released and lightly crispy on both sides. Remove and leave aside for later use.
  • Sear prawns in oil, remove, leave aside for later use.
  • Spoon away oil and leave about 1 tbs in pan. Add cabbage and a pinch of salt. Fry until wilted. Remove and leave aside for later use.
  • Add a bit of oil in pan. Add garlic, fry until fragrant.
  • Add shredded scallops, fry until dry.
  • Mix in shacha sauce and sugar, fry until fragrant.
  • Add in softened bee hoon, all the scallop-soaking liquid and 1 cup of bee hoon-soaking liquid. Mix evenly. Leave to cook until dry.
  • Add more bee hoon-soaking liquid and conitnue frying if bee hoon is still undercooked.
  • Add light soy sauce to taste if needed.
  • Mix in cabbage, Chinese sausages and prawns when bee hoon is cooked.
I am sending this dish to Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook who is hosting this week's Presto Pasta Night.

presto pasta nights
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7D6N of Fun in Taipei!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Day 1

Depart: Wed, 31 Mar, 09:50
Arrive: Wed, 31 Mar, 14:50 (we arrived at 14:10, earlier than expected)

Kuala Lumpur LCCT - Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport - Apply youth travel card 青年旅遊卡 - Free Go bus to Neijiang hotel 內江商旅 - Tea @ Ay-Chung misua - Drinks @ Presotea 鮮茶道 - Tea @ Taoyuan St. beef noodles - walk ard XimenDing 西門町 - MRT to Longshan temple 龍山寺 - walk back to Ximending - shop ard XimenDing - MRT to Shilin night mkt 士林夜市 - MRT back to hotel, rest

Taipei 14
Ximending - a popular shopping and fashion district in Taipei. This is where all the young people hang-out and shop. I will still choose to stay here if I ever go back to Taipei as it's really convenient with lots of shops and things to eat.

Taipei 2
Kenting ice tea 墾丁冰茶 @ Presotea 鮮茶道, near Ay-Chung misua. Fruit tea with slight hint of coconut with jelly. Nice and refreshing.

Taipei 3 longshan temple
Longshan temple 龍山寺 - A very popular tourist spot. The temple is really huge and grand.

Notes:
  • Apply for youth travel card (青年旅遊卡) @ the tourism passenger service center in the airport which gives your discounts at selected restaurants and tourist sites.
  • Apply for EasyCard (悠遊卡) @ MRT stations or 7/11 store - a stored-valued smart card used to integrate fare collection for various transports by one card. NT$500, which includes $400 stored-value and $100 refundable deposit. Think: Oyster Card but for a cheaper and cleaner Tube.
  • There are many buses from the airport to the city centre (about 1 hr journey) and other parts of Taiwan. We took Free Go (飞狗) bus as it stops right outside our hotel. NT$140 one way, 260 return. We only bought one way as we wanted to take the cab for our return trip as we had lots more baggage then.
Taipei 1
  • For cab services, you can call +886935-247-935 (Mr. Chan Jun Ting 陈俊廷), he charges NT$888 one way (airport-taipei city centre).
  • Neijiang hotel 內江商旅 - minutes from Ximen MRT station. Just off the main street so very convenient with lots of shops and restaurants nearby and most importantly quiet (I'm a very light sleeper) and clean. NT$1580 (Fri, Sat and public hols) NT$1380 (other days) per standard double room, including breakfast (a sandwich and a pack of juice sent up to your room every morning). Picture of room here (yea, it does look like this). The only downside, you have to call them to make reservations and they only speak Mandarin +886(0)2-2381-2147、2381-2148 台北市萬華區西寧南路112號 No. 112 Xining South Rd.

Taipei 12
Hotel breakfast - pork floss, egg, ham and creamy dressing sandwich with a box of juice. Although it's the same every morning, we still look forward to it as it's really delicious.

Day 2

9 AM Bus 260 to Yangmingshan National Park - Minibus 108 to Zhu Zi Hu 竹子湖 - walk to calla lily fields - Snack @ random mantou store - Minibus 108 to Hsiao You Keng 小油坑 - minibus 108 to Leng Shui Keng 冷水坑 - Minibus 108 to YMS terminal - 1 PM bus 230 downhill to Xinbeitou MRT - Lunch @ 24hour small eatery 北投24小吃店 - Desserts @ Meet Fresh Sweets Shop 鮮芋仙 - Spa at Shan-Yue hot spring Hotel 山樂溫泉 - Tea @ hotel - 5 p.m. MRT to Danshui 淡水 - 5:30 PM Ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf & Lover’s Bridge (渔人码头&情人桥)- 6.45 PM Ferry back to Danshui - Dinner @ Danshui Old St. - Dinner @ Tu Hsiao Yueh, Minquan West Rd - Shop @ Ximending - Hotel, rest

Taipei 4
Calla lily fields.

Taipei 5
Hsiao You Keng 小油坑 (left) - a volcanic hotspot. You can see yellow sulphur crystals, and sulphur fumes emiting from the rocks. Beautiful but smelly; Leng Shui Keng milk pond 冷水坑牛奶湖 (right) - hot spring named from the unusual yellow and while sulphur that colours its water.

Taipei 7
Special “Hot Spring MRT” at Xinbeitou station. They have huge TVs showing introduction of Beitou.

Xinbeitou train

Taipei 6
Spa at Shan-Yue hot spring Hotel 山樂溫泉 - NT$980 for a double room with private hot spring tub for 2 hrs and tea afterwards.

Taipei 8
Danshui Fisherman’s Wharf/ Lover's bridge 淡水漁人碼頭情人橋 - people normally go for the sunset but the weather was too gloomy to see anything.

Notes:
  • Take bus 260 from a bus stop outside Ximen MRT, exit 3 to the bus terminal at YMS (abt 45 mins).
  • Explore YMS via Minibus 108 (a YMS inner bus route) - can use Easycard. Or you can buy a day travel card for NT$600.
  • Can take bus 230 at YMS terminal to Beitou MRT, about 30 mins journey. Bus stop is outside 7/11 store.
  • Other things to do in Beitou: Beitou Geothermal Park (Hell Valley) the source of sulfur water(磺水头) or ghost lake(鬼湖); Beitou Library Eco-Building; Beitou Hot Spring Museum (北投溫泉博物館) . Devil Hot Spring (地熱谷溫泉). We were too lazy after walking around YMS, so we just went for a 2-hr spa at a hot spring hotel.
Day 3

9 AM Breakfast @ Fu Hang Dou Jiang (traditional Taiwanese breakfast) - Taipei Storyland 台灣故事館, main station - Walk to Zheng's pork trotter rice - Walk to Ximending - MRT,bus to National Palace Museum - bus back to MRT station - MRT to Houshanpi - Dinner @ Hu Xu Zhang (pork rice 鲁肉饭) - Shop @ Wufenpu - MRT to Ximen - Supper @ Mala hot pot - Hotel, rest

Taipei  storyland
Taipei Storyland 台灣故事館 - retro-style street scene museum. It's suppose to represent an imaginary neighborhood located in what is now Taipei’s Zhongzheng District (中正區). They have streets and small alleys of little shops like old-fashioned convenience store, pharmacy, cinema, cafe... We had fun, definitely worth a visit!

Opening hrs: 9 AM to 8:30 PM hrs daily. Last admittance: 2000 hrs.
50, ZhongXiao W.Rd, Sec. 1.
Operating Hours: 1030am to 11pm daily
Getting Here:
Take exit 6/8 from Taipei Main Station and walk to the B2 level of K-Mall (next to ShinKong Tower)
Admission Ticket: NT 280 with NT 150 cash voucher
Nearest mrt: Taipei main

Taipei 10
National Palace Museumn 國立故宮博物院 - to see museum’s most treasured objects - Jadeite Cabbage & Meat Shaped Jasper. Well worth a visit just for these 2 items.

Operating Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM daily (ticket: NT 160, youth travel discount: NT80)
Take the Red Line to the Shilin Station. At Exit 1, take bus R30 (Red 30) to the National Palace Museum.
Nearest MRT:Shilin Station

Wufenpu
Map of Wufenpu. Taken from Taipei Tourist Map, version Dec. 2007.

Wufenpu 五分埔 is Taipei's biggest wholesale clothing market. It is fashion paradise - they follow the latest fashion trends and prices are cheap (you really have to bargain). The girls went crazy and spent more than 3 hrs there. Forced to leave by the grumpy boys, if not will be there the whole night. Open 7 days a week, most shops open around noon and close after mid-night. Sunday until 9 PM. Avoid going there on a Monday as reserved for wholesalers and the service might not be as good as usual.

Day 4

8:30 AM to Yeliu (Queen's head) - Tried betel nut 槟榔 - Jiufen 九份 - Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park 金瓜石 - Golden Waterfalls 黃金瀑布 - Yin Yang Hai 陰陽海 (Bay of two colors) - Nanya Rock Formation 南雅奇石 - Keelung 基隆 - Lee Hu Pastry Shop 李鵠餅店 - Tea @ Din Tai Fung - Snack @ Raohe pepper bun - Dinner @ Kao Chi - Shop @ Ximending - Hotel, rest

Taipei 11

Notes:
  • We hired a private cab/ guide for a day trip in Taipei County area. If you are interested, here's the driver's contact:
  • +886921-915-586 Meeky Yang (杨振银); Email: meeky589@yahoo.com.tw; Rate: NT$3000 (12 hours)
  • The cab is quite spacious and clean. Meeky is very punctual and friendly, he speaks mainly Mandarin and very little English. He's a very good guide IMO - very chatty, he'd tell you lots of stories along the way. Due to the horrible weather, we went back to Taipei city earlier and he continued to chauffeur us around and dropped us back at the hotel after dinner.
Day 5

Red House Theater 紅樓劇場 - Breakfast @ Ya Rou Bian (goose & noodles) - Walk ard Ximending - Lunch @ Shui Long Wang - MRT, bus to Wulai - Check-in Full Moon Spa Hotel 明月溫泉 - Wulai Old St. - Log cart to waterfall - Log cart back - Snack @ Wulai Old St. - Rest in hotel - Dinner @ Taiya Po Po - Snack @ Wulai Old St. - Hotel, rest

Taipei 13
Red House Theater 紅樓劇場, Ximending

Taipei 15
Wulai

Taipei 18

How to get to Wulai:
  • Take MRT to Xindian station 新店 (green line terminal stop), take bus 1601 (just behind the tourist information center at Xindian station) to Wulai terminal stop (about NT$40, 45 mins).
Day 6

Breakfast @ hotel - Walk ard Wulai - Bus, MRT back to Neijiang hotel - Lunch @ Hope noodle - Taipei Arena 台北小巨蛋 - Dessert @ Hello Kitty Sweets Cafe - Taipei 101 - Tea @ Taipei 101 food court - Coffee @ Mr. J II - Eslite Book Store 誠品書店 (Xin Yi Store) - Dinner @ Shida night mkt - Supper @ Ah Chai - Hotel, rest

Taipei 16
Taipei Arena 台北小巨蛋

Taipei 17
Taipei 101

Notes:
  • It was a public holiday (tomb sweeping day) so a lot of little traditional eateries were closed.
  • We were all too tired and lazy and so we traveled around by cab instead of the MRT. Traveling by cab was actually quite cheap: NT$70 from Hope noodle shop to Taipei arena; NT$115 from arena to Hello Kitty Sweets; NT$105 from Hello Kitty Sweets to Taipei 101; so with a party of four we spent about NT$20 per trip on average which is about the same price per person as taking the MRT but much more convenient.
Day 7

Brunch @ Ji Ma Chen Oyster Noodle King - Brunch @ Ay-Chung Misua - Shop @ Ximending - Cab to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport

IMG_4159
Ay-Chung Misua round 2!!! A MUST-TRY!

Depart: Wed, 6 Apr, 15:40
Arrive: Wed, 6 Apr, 20:50

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Map of the places we visited or at least intended to visit. Tourist attractions in blue, food in red (all were in my to-eat list, but we didn't manage to hit all).


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