Nan Men Market (Taipei, Taiwan)

Nan Men Market has many independent vendors selling all sorts of preserved and freshly cooked Chinese food.  If a food can be pickled, dried, salted, or otherwise preserved, it is probably sold at Nan Men market.  Dried scallops, shrimp, fish, pork jerky, mullet roe, and mango were on display, and these were just some of the items that I could recognize.  Others, I had no clue (I have captioned what I can below).  The sights, smells, and tastes are very different from a Western palate.  Definitely worthy of a visit to take lots of photos and buy gifts to bring back to unsuspecting folks at home.

Cosmo Bakery and Maison Kayser (Taipei, Taiwan)

The Western-style breads in Taiwanese bakeries are very different from what we are used to in the US or Europe.  The Taiwanese breads are pillowy soft and sweeter (and they stay fresh for a longer time).  Cosmo bakery is located on the corner of Mingshen E. Rd and Kuangfu N. Rd. They bake breads on site throughout the day with unique flavor combinations.  I particularly liked a chocolate bread with sweet cheese filling.  Cosmo has a generous sample policy, where guests can try each of their breads.  The store on Mingshen E. Rd is currently their only location, but I have a feeling that more Cosmo bakeries will be coming soon (Bay Area please!).  Like most food items in Taiwan, the breads are very reasonably priced.

I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon a branch of Eric Kayser’s Parisian bakery Maison Kayser in the food court of the luxury Breeze Center mall in the Shongshan District of Taipei.  They had crusty French bread and pastries, similar to the ones available in Paris.  I had a delicious Tarte Citron and Millefeuille.

Link to Breeze Center Maison Kayser here.

Link to Cosmo Bakery here.

Restaurant Review: Nine Yun Teppanyaki (Taipei, Taiwan)

Japanese-style teppanyaki houses are very popular in Taiwan.  At these restaurants guests are seated around a metal cooking surface on which the chef expertly cooks meat, vegetables, and seafood that is then served immediately.  The chef uses only two metal spatulas to do all the cooking and often incorporates quite a bit of showmanship.  Nine Yun is an upscale teppanyaki steak house in Taipei.  They have various multi-course set menus.  There were different options for soup, including one with shellfish and cuttlefish in a perfectly clear, flavorful seafood broth.  We had an incredible Japanese king crab that was sweet and succulent.  Alaskan cod was moist and delicate.  The thin slices of beef shortrib only required a minute or so of cooking and were incredibly tender.  The ribeye was the best, very flavorful.  There was a deliciously rich rice congee made with crab broth from the Japanese king crab.  Dessert and tea were served on a rooftop garden.  Nine Yun is more expensive than the typical department store food court teppanyaki places in Taipei, but is very high quality and definitely worthwhile.

Link to Nine Yun website here.

Taiwan Bubble Tea

Chun Sui Tang Bubble Tea

Chun Sui Tang Bubble Tea

Bubble tea is a popular drink worldwide that originated in Taiwan.  Chun Sui Tang, loosely translated as Spring Water Meeting Place, is a bubble tea house that serves bubble tea and small snacks.  The owner invented the first bubble tea in Taichung, Taiwan in 1983.  He wanted to find a way to popularize traditional Chinese tea.  So instead of hot he served it iced, with milk and chewy tapioca pearls.  There are multiple Chun Sui Tang locations throughout Taipei.  The bubble tea is great here, as is the food menu, with excellent radish cakes, kung fu noodles, and chicken wings.

50 Lan is a popular chain in Taiwan that I went to almost daily.  They serve dozens of varieties of bubble tea.  Ask for the English menu if it is not displayed on the counter.  I really liked one with pineapple and thin strips of coconut jelly.  Like at Starbucks, one can customize the drink by choosing the size of the pearls, small or large, the amount of ice, and the amount of sugar.  So instead of a venti skinny vanilla latte no whip, one would order a medium milk tea, less ice, 70% sugar, large pearls.  While these drinks might cost $3-4 USD in the US, they are much more reasonably priced in Taiwan at 25-45NT, at an exchange rate of 30NT per USD.

TenRen uses real milk instead of milk powder, and it makes a big difference; this place was a favorite of my local relatives.  Sadly, it’s much harder to get my daily bubble tea fix back in the States!  Boba Guys in the Mission, San Francisco, make a good one, with freshly brewed tea, Straus Family Creamery milk, and chewy boba.

Chun Sui Tang website here.

50 Lan website here.

Ten Ren website here.

Boba Guys website here.

Taiwan Wedding Banquet


There is much symbolism and tradition represented by the food in a traditional Chinese wedding banquet. These are extravagant affairs, meant as a showing of prosperity and a grand celebration of the union of bride and groom and two families.  I had the great joy of attending my cousin’s wedding in Taipei, Taiwan.  The day began with the bride and groom arriving by motorcade to the groom’s home.  They were greeted with loud firecrackers and the congratulations of passers by.  The bride wore a western-style white wedding dress with long train and feathered white shoes, and the groom wore a formal suit.  They were presented with oranges, for luck, and apples, for peace.  They bowed to honor the groom’s mother and father.  They ate a soup of glutinous rice balls (tang yuan) stuffed with dates, which is a not-so-subtle symbol of fertility.

The wedding banquet took place at the sleek and modern Le Meridien Taipei.  A long table was set up to receive the guests.  There were separate hosts for the groom’s side and bride’s side who greet each guest and receive the red envelopes containing gifts of money, which were meticulously accounted in a ledger.  There was a signature book for the guests to sign. There was an ornate floral arrangement showcasing beautiful pictures of the bride and groom.

A map designated the seating arrangements for eighteen tables of a dozen guests each.  At one end of the room was the head table, for the bride and groom, their parents, and the elders of each family.  The head table was covered in traditional red, while the remaining tables were covered in a silvery bronze satin.  There was an elegant formal place setting with a small wedding favor for each guest.  Placed on the center of each table was a floral arrangement, the menu, and plates of cold appetizers.

For the cold appetizers there was roast duck, chicken, tofu skin, jellied fish skin, preserved tiny fish with peanuts, fermented cabbage, and preserved mullet roe.  The salad course featured an enormous piece of abalone dressed with a soy-yuzu dressing.  This was followed by a bowl of glutinous sweet rice balls, a traditional wedding dish.  Typically, these are served as a soup, but here they were served dry, and one was crisped on the outside with sticky glutinous rice and sweet red bean filling on the inside, perhaps the best bite of the day.  Next was a rich chicken broth with mushrooms and slick chicken skin.  The main courses were a mix of east and west: an enormous single prawn with scallions, a perfectly cooked beefsteak with garlic and soy and mushrooms and Chinese vegetables, delicate steamed fish with soy, ginger, and scallions, sweet rice with dried scallops and shrimp.  For dessert there were rich chocolate brownies with walnuts and a bowl of white yogurt pudding with a circle of mango sauce on top that gave the illusion of a sunny-side up egg.  Finally, fresh fruit of sweet pineapple and watermelon.  Ten courses, because ten is a perfect number.  Each guest received a parting wedding favor of an enormous gift box containing a selection of Chinese pastries.  An outstanding culinary celebration of a joyous occasion.

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