30 December 2008

lunch at my aunt's, part 1

I've forgotten how nice it is to be a passenger in a car. not having to worry about taking a wrong turn, getting off at a wrong stop... it's very peaceful and a nice break! I went to visit my uncle and aunt's home in the outskirts of Taipei, where it is quieter and less hectic than the city center. And with it raining, it made a perfect setting for a homemade meal by my aunt. I got the lovely opportunity to watch, absorb, learn, photograph, and most importantly, eat!

First up, I don't know if it has a name, but a chicken broth that has lots of sake and ginger.

Chop the ginger and smash them with the side of a large flat knife. This part is loud. Bam bam bam!

Cut your chicken up into large chunks.

Heat up some sesame oil.

In a separate pot, boil your chicken for a bit.

Throw your ginger into the wok with the sesame oil and let it sizzle.

Take your chicken out of the boiling water.

Add it to the ginger and sesame oil mix

Add the sake. Lots of it.

After it' cooked for a while and the chicken is nice and brown, move it to a crockpot.

Dump in the rest of liquid from the wok, as well as adding more sake. And maybe some water, I think. (I wasn't paying very good attention!)

the rest of the meal, which includes another soup, veggie sides, and a pancake noodle thing in part 2. coming next year. because I am heading to the south for 5 days! and when I get back, I also hope to get some memory/ram added to my computer as it's driving me crazy how long it takes to load photos/resize them.

Happy Early New Year!

29 December 2008

piles of bread

looks good, doesn't it? cream puffs and sweet breads, yummy yum yum! too bad it's all fake!

If i weren't so bad at these types of games, I definitely would try to win one! but i have never never been successful at these so it wasn't even worth trying. Taiwan has lots of underground shopping streets, and they are filled with food, cheap clothing/shoes, useless trinket shops, accessory shops, and machines like this. all to make your walk home much more interesting and fun... and much harder to keep my wallet full! really - walking in america is no fun, there is nothing to see. but here, you can 1) avoid rain, 2)avoid traffic lights and being run over by cars and motorcycles, 3) snack as you walk, 4) shop as you walk. that 20 min walk home seems more like 5 min when you walk in one of these. of course, being underground is not as good as fresh air, but then again, i'm not so sure if being above ground is any better thanks to the pollution.

25 December 2008

christmas eve and christmas day

i had a most perfect christmas eve and christmas day. I spent it doing what I love most: baking and sharing, in a city i love: taipei.

between a choice of a 5 day trip to the philippines or 3 private baking lessons....... i can only afford one splurge, so i picked the baking lessons (plus, cheaper than the trip). and they are so so worth it. other parts of asia can wait, because at this point i value knowledge more than beautiful beaches.

oh... i also splurged on one more thing. another lens: the 50mm f1.8 lens that gives me beautiful blurs! taipei's bo-ai rd is the street to go to for anything camera related! shop after shop of nothing but camera related goods. but make sure you ask at least 5 different stores the prices for the thing you want so you know what the lowest price is.

after i made lots of bread today, I gave most of it away. because that is what you are supposed to do with food, and nothing makes me happier than seeing people enjoy the things I make, especially when they are edible.

i'm working on translation and writing down everything I learned, so in time I hope to have a more detailed post up!

24 December 2008

christmas trees / les sapins de noël / 聖誕樹

In America, we all put up christmas trees in our homes and decorate the house with lights. But we also spend a lot of time at our homes as they are large and comfortable.

In Taiwan, houses are rare and most people live in small apartments or condos so there really isn't the space to decorate. Taiwan is also big on walking and public transit; people are out and about quite often. So there are a ton of christmas trees outside in Taiwan - you'll see them underground, on the streets, in stores, in restaurants - everywhere! It's a nice way to let everyone enjoy the x-mas spirit.

In an underground shopping street. This one is pretty typical, nothing really special.

In Taipei 101. This christmas tree has "gears" with xmas motifs as well as yellow lights running inside of it. Very original, don't you think?

Outside of Taipei 101. Just look at the color, I think it's pretty obvious who sponsored this tree.

Inside Taipei 101 again - this one changes colors continuously! I really like it when the trees deviate from the normal xmas trees I am used to.

The best for last. In a coffee shop in SOGO shopping mall. Aren't they beautiful? The repetitive teardrop pattern combined with the feathers on the bottom row, and the cut out patterns on the top ones - so, so pretty!

I'm not having a very traditional xmas - (it's not even an official holiday here in taiwan! people love it because its fun, but don't really celebrate it like we do in the states) - but it's okay, because i love being in Taiwan! i hope everybody else out there has a wonderful xmas eve and xmas day!

19 December 2008

Louise by Aunt Stella's / Louise露薏蕬咖啡

Loise by Aunt Stella's / Louise露薏蕬咖啡

Right outside of the Zhongshan metro shop, you can enjoy some afternoon tea at Louise by Aunt Stella's. I think Aunt Stella's is mainly a cookie company that sells mainly for weddings/gifts/birthdays/etc, but "Louise" is their cafe where you can sit and eat cake. And sit and eat I did, yum! This particular one is outside along the sidewalk so as long as the weather is nice you can enjoy the sights and sounds of all the people walking around.

Name: Fresh Fruits Cake
Price: 480NT = 14.76USD = 10.36EURO
Comments: I didn't actually eat this, but I love itanyway because it's pink and has strawberries. And I think the shape is interesting too. I am guessing it is a tart, topped with a cake, then topped with fruit? I only wish they made a smaller version so I could try some! But it's definitely given me some ideas for mixing tarts and cakes, which I never would have considered until I saw this. What's also driving me nuts is how I can see a little bit of white cream peeking out - and I can only wonder, what else is hiding inside this cake?

Name: Matcha Redbean & Condensed Milk Cake / 抹茶紅豆 / mo3 cha2 hong2 dou4 / lit: matcha red bean
Price: 95NT = 2.92USD = 2.05EURO
Comments: I love green! Isn't this cake so pretty? The combination of red bean and matcha is your typical chinese flavor. I wanted to get this but I opted for the Mont Blanc, which you shall see later.

Name: Vanilla Chiffon Cake with Fruit
Price: 95NT = 2.92USD = 2.05EURO
Comments: Kiwis, oranges, strawberries, some other fruits I can't remember... a very typical chinese cake!

All the pretty cakes to pick from... I hate making decisions!

Name: Cheesecake / 大理石起士 / da4 li3 shi2 qi3 shi4 (I actaully don't understand this chinese name at all... but it was what was on the name card. It literally translates to big logical rock stand up gentleman??????????? actually, i understand the last 2 characters. "qi shi" sounds like "cheese" so that part makes sense. but not so sure about the first 3.)
Price: 95NT = 2.92USD = 2.05EURO
Comments: Tasted just like a typical cheesecake! Not as light as Taiwanese style, but not as heavy as Cheesecake Factory style, just a very good and yummy cheesecake.

Name: Mont Blanc / 蒙布朗 / mang4 bu4 lang3 (say it... name makes sense now, doesn't it?)
Price: 95NT = 2.92USD = 2.05EURO
Comments: What I chose! I was fighting between this one and the matcha one, but my curiosity about what was inside the mont blanc won. It had a pretty dense cake base, then a chiffon style cake layered with cream on top that was covered by the swirl of cream you see here. Then they topped it with a real chestnut as well as a chocolate straw, how cute.

Name: Strawberry Parfait / 草莓題拉米蘇 / cao3 mei2 ti2 la1 mi3 su1
Price: 95NT = 2.92USD = 2.05EURO
Comments: How can you go wrong with cream + cake + strawberries? You can't, that's why!

Forgive me, this is an awful shot of the fruit tea (it's empty now and all that's left is the fruit). You can get it either hot or cold (we got it hot) and it is tea with apples, pineapples, lemons, and oranges. I usually don't like tea but this was delicious! Just a note, you have to get it in a pot, so make sure you are with someone to split it with. Or, just come very thirsty.

Conclusion: I think Americans would like the cakes here. They are sweeter than most cakes here in Taiwan, and the cakes are slightly denser, which is closer to what we have in the US. A wee bit more expensive than other cakes in taipei, but still very cheap if you are converting from american dollars... and even cheaper if you are coming from europe! I'm so happy to not be blowing 5-7 euros on slices of cakes anymore! The atmosphere here is very nice as well as it is next to a subway station so it's great for people watching.

15 December 2008

Berry Milk: My favorite cake shop!

I love cake shops. And I love how in Taiwan, there is one on every corner, sometimes even more. Each bakery is unique in their style and I go crazy knowing I only have one stomach and can't eat it all. Plus, there are the bread shops... so it's always, cake, or bread?

However, one bakery stands out as my favorite because of one very very obvious reason for anyone who knows me: strawberries. All of their cakes use the strawberry in some form. And that is all it takes to make me swoon! And now that I've got 30 days in taiwan, it shouldn't be an issue to try all of their cakes, should it? I present to you, Berry Milk!

It's all in the packaging.

layered strawberry cake
The basic: a vanilla cake layered with a cream and strawberry filling, and topped with a mirror glaze as well as a thin piece of chocolate and strawberries!

strawberry and raspberry cream puff

another layered cake, but without whole strawberries in the filling

Anchored by whipped cream and cake at the bottom, then a layer of apples (! i didn't expect that), some pink mousse, and topped with little cookie bits, a strawberry, and a chocolate straw!

Conclusion: 4 down, 15-ish more to go? Not distinct only to Berry Milk, but it is the subtleties of flavors that I enjoy so much in Taiwanese cakes. They are not overpoweringly sweet or rich, so you really get to enjoy the flavors and textures without feeling sick or on a sugarhigh afterwards. I promise to branch out to different cake shops later, but I always have to visit this one first!

14 December 2008

taiwanese bread / le pain taiwanais / 台湾面包

taiwanese bread / le pain taiwanais / 台湾面包

other than pâtisseries, this is what i live for... savory taiwanese breads. sweet taiwanese breads are good too, but it is the savory that hits the spot for me. when i am in taiwan, i make a beeline for the bakeries ASAP. i'm also on a mission to master the baking of them so i can recreate these wonders at home in texas. what's so special about them? the fact they are freshly baked daily, have a distinct chewy texture, the addition of herbs, are never too dry or crumbly, look so good, are so cheap... i could go on forever.

so to succeed in my mission, i must first study the breads! after all, how can i imitate them if i don't even know the name of them or what's in them? i go to the bread shop that is no more than a few steps from my grandma's home, and it's actually part of a convenience store. however, it doesn't mean the bread is any less delicious! it's still baked in store every morning and smells oh so good.

so as strange as i look tediously writing the chinese characters for these breads in the store, it's completely worth it. (i've also added my attempts at french - don't count on it being accurate, it's more for my own practice of learning new vocabulary)

bread #1: corn and ham bread

玉米火腿麵包 / yu4 mi3 huo3 tui3 mian4 bao1 / corn & ham bread / pain aux mais et jambon

麵粉 / mian4 fen3 / flour / la farine
玉米 / yu4 mi3 / corn / le mais
火腿 / huo3 tui3 / ham / le jambon
蔥末 / cong1 mo4 / scallion bits / la ciboule
奶油 / nai3 you2 / butter / le beurre

an otherwise piece of ordinary bread that is topped with corn, thin slivers of ham, and bits of green onion! the corn + green onion/scallion combo is what does it for me. yum yum yum. i swear there's a mayo sauce added to this that they didn't mention.

26NT = .78USD = .58EURO

the name:
蔥花肉鬆捲麵包 / cong1 hua1 rou4 song1 juan3 mian4 bao1/ green onion and pork floss roll

麵粉 / mian4 fen3 / flour / la farine
雞蛋 / ji1 dan4 / egg / les œufs
鮮 奶 / xian1 nai3 / fresh milk / le lait frais
新鮮蔥花 / xin1 xian1 cong1 hua1 / fresh chopped onions / les ciboules hachées fraîches
肉鬆 / rou4 song1 / pork floss/ ? (i've no idea how to translate that into french)

this bread definitely had that magical mayo that again isn't mentioned on the little card in front of the bread. it is the mayo that makes this. yes i love how the pork floss melts in your mouth, the aroma of the green onion... but it is the mayo that is hidden in the rolled part that adds a slight twang of sweetness that works perfectly with the rest of the flavors.

26NT = .78USD = .58EURO

咖哩酥餃 / ka1 li1 su1 jiao3 / flaky curry dumpling / quenelle feuilletée au curry (i bet i butchered this one up...)

麵粉 / mian4 fen3 / flour / la farine
蛋 / dan4 / egg / les œufs
糖 / tang2 / sugar / le sucre
豬肉 / zhu1 rou4 / pork / le porc
咖哩 / ka1 li1 / curry / le curry

so it's technically not a bread, but it's good enough to be mentioned. a firm flaky crust stuffed with a curry meat filling. and emphasis on firm. it may be flaky but it doesn't make a huge crumbly mess that flies around as you bite into them as most delicate flaky things do. this is made up of thicker layers, so there is a slight chew, and zero melt. my mom actually makes this in the states - all you need is to cook some meat with curry powder, some potatoes if you like, and stuff them in frozen ready made pie crust, then do an eggwash on top. it tastes close enough! of course nothing beats the stuff in asia! i think this actually originated somewhere else in asia, but i'm not sure where.

25 NT = .75 USD = .56 EURO

Conclusion: YUM. I do wish the store listed -all- of the ingredients on the little title plates, and not just the major ones. I'm having lots of fun documenting and learning! Next up, more savory, and definitely some sweet breads! and more pictures of the actual store. once i get back to the states, i'll begin my attempts to bake subpar imitations!

09 December 2008

new toy + time traveling

I got a new toy. Combining the earnings from my photograph and metal piece, along with birthday and xmas gift... I got myself an entry level DSLR camera. But that's not important. What's really important is the macro lens I got. The body is just an accessory for me. Everything i ever dreamed of doing, I can do now!

I'm hopping on a plane tomorrow and going to the motherland, taiwan. And you bet i'll be bringing my new toy and hitting up the pastry shops and photographing EVERYTHING delicious looking. and photographing everything non delicious looking as well too.

then, when i return home, i will tackle the very first recipe from alain ducasse's pastry book: the hazelnut monte carlo. and i will take very very beautiful photos of it!