Saturday, April 28, 2012

Foodlovin' @ Shilin Night Market

Bear with me, because I'm about to discuss at length one of my favorite places in the whole wide world: the Shilin night market in my beloved Taipei. It's on the 'must see' list of all Taiwan tour guides, and for good reason. Shops and food stands abound - it's an overwhelming experience for all five of your senses in the best way possible. Crowded every night of the week, it's where locals and tourists alike go for an amazing time!

And yes, everything I'm about to show you, my aunt+cousin+I ate in one night. *happyface*

One of my classic fave stands is the scallion pancake (蔥油餅) + egg stand.

A little old lady pan-fries your scallion pancake to perfection, adds an egg, puts some magic sauce on it, and boom - heaven.

One of the most popular stands is the shengjian bao (生煎包) stand. (There are many such stands, but only one of them has an inexplicably long line. That's the one you want to hit up.)

These pan-fried buns are filled with veggies or pork, and both versions are delightful. The pun is pillowy-soft, and the veggies/pork are wonderfully seasoned. The bottom of the bun has a slight burnt crisp that makes me swoon.

We visited a Thai-fusion stand, which also had some seating. And though the seating was cramped like any seat you'll find in the night market, it was a welcome rest for our feet.

Here, we ordered things like:

1) stinky tofu (a definite MUST for any trip to the night market):

2) crab pancake

3) shrimp tornado roll

4) thai cold noodles

Say what you will about stinky tofu, but I can't get enough of the stuff. Fermented and fried, I love the 'stink.' The other fried things were also awesome, and the Thai cold noodles (which is what this particular stand is most known for) were a little sweet, a little sour, and a lot spicy. Refreshing!

After our gorge-fest at the Thai fusion stand, we walked around for a bit more until we were distracted by a conspicuously long line for these skewers.

Turns out they were skewers of grilled scallions wrapped in marinated pork meat. The pork itself was tender and so flavorful, but it was difficult to eat with a whole bunch of scallions, as they were hard to chew and kind of overwhelming. Note to self: no need to stand in line for these next time. Would rather focus on things like...

Toasted marshmallows over waffles!!

I told the guy to make mine extra 'burnt,' and he obliged and made me a masterpiece. This tasted exactly like it looks - a sweet fluffy dream.

Then it was time for second dessert: douhua (豆花) or sweet tofu soup. My favorite kind is douhua + boba. I know, how could anyone resist?

This sweet tofu was light, fresh, with the right amount of sweetness. As for the boba, here's a hint: any boba in Taiwan has the perfect texture and taste - bouncy and slightly brown-sugar sweet. It's impossible to find bad boba in Taiwan. This boba was even better because there was red bean inside of it! So fun. And delicious.

We were all pretty stuffed by this time, but on our way back to the metro stop, I walked by this stand, and I just had to have some 'cow tongue' bread, or niu she bing (牛舌餅). Apparently, this flat bread resembles cow tongues? I've never seen a cow tongue up close and personal so I can't vouch for the name. :)

This freshly grilled flat bread comes in various flavors, and as the brown-sugar-obsessed lady that I am, I chose the sweet brown sugar one. (And by 'one,' I mean five.) I love the simplicity of this flat bread. I also loved the vendor and his ability to throw up some deuces.

And there you have it - that was all one lovely evening at the night market. There is so much more to see and eat, and I can't wait to go again later this summer. I hope you get to visit it some time, too!!

Metro stop: Jiantan station
Taipei, Taiwan

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Korean French Cuteness at Bistro Petit

Oh Williamsburg.  Will your cuteness ever cease?

Diana and I met up with a couple of her law school friends for brunch at Bistro Petit one Sunday afternoon.  It's a tiny ol' thing with a handful of metal seats lined along the large, bright windows and another few facing the small bustling kitchen.

Everyone say hi to Mike and Julie !  While Diana and I were busily eating two breakfasts that fine morning, Mike and Julie were healthfully taking a spin class and had worked up a mighty appetite for our meal together.  

Mike's plate of vanilla pancakes came out first, much to his stomach's delight, and the pretty plate came accompanied by a bruleed banana, which you all should very well know, is my most favorite thing of life (besides crispy duck skin, pork fat and potatoes of all shapes and forms).

He said the pancakes were just okay.  (He managed to clean the plate though.)

They also ordered wild mushrooms which we couldn't stop gushing over as it came in the most charming red French oven pot.


But then everything came in charming red French oven pots, and it was too cute!  I continued gushing about them in my head because I didn't want to test anyone's gush-tolerance.

Julie ordered the bacon, egg and cheese bread pudding, as she was too intrigued by the sound of a savory take on this traditionally sweet dish.

I nibbled a piece of this dish, and it was remarkably light, despite its appearance, and the flavor was very mild.

Diana and I shared the truffle mac and cheese which was light, creamy and perfumed with truffle oil.  I wonder if I could wear truffle oil as a perfume.  I wonder the kinds of boys I would get...probably the ones with great taste!

Our main dish was the kimchi bouillabaisse, a seafood stew served in an adorable black pot filled to the brim with shrimp, scallops, pollack fish and mussels.

I am sure Greeshma is salivating quite heavily at this point, and as she should be.  Everything in the stew was delicious.  The seafood was cooked perfectly, and the mussels were fantastically fresh.  The broth was so deeply flavorful, Diana couldn't stop drinking spoonfuls of it.

Everyone's favorite part of the stew, however, was the rice gnocchi which we made sure we ate every last bit of.  "Like soup tapioca!" Diana proclaimed.  Chewy and delightful to eat.

Oh - and the seaweed was nice too!

And of course, it is only fitting to cap off such a lovely, charming meal with French doughnuts, freshly made to order.  The doughnuts come with choice of flavor (cinnamon, mint or citrus), and seeing as Diana and I had previously eaten a cinnamony breakfast treat, we opted for citrus.

They arrived piping hot in a cute little fry pan which kept these five beautiful, powder-sugar-dusted gems nice and warm until we were ready to eat them.  (Which was seriously immediately.)

And oh!  Such bright, sparkly joy!  These airy, eggy doughnuts were so soft, tender and light - absolute heaven.

I could've eaten all five.  In fact, I might eat all five again really soon.  And you can too!

I am a new fan of Bistro Petit, and I can't wait to try more menu items soon (though the bouillabaisse and doughnuts are must-orders for anyone!). A couple of things to note though:

1. Cash only.
2. No reservations.
3. Gets pretty sweaty in warmer weather.
4. Bring your own water (they do not serve tap water), but they do sell bottled water and other drinks.
5. The place is self-serve (place orders at the register).

Now I just have to think what flavor doughnuts I want to try next.  Can you tell I have a one track mind? And that track is doughnuts.

Bistro Petit
170 South 3rd St
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Bistro Petit on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pok Pok Comes to NYC!

New York was so ready for Pok Pok.  Open only since Wednesday, waits were already over an hour long by 6:30p (the restaurant opens at 6p).  New Yorkers really want their Thai and Southeast Asian-inspired cuisine.

Diana and I had eaten at the original Pok Pok in Portland, and though that was just a little over a year ago, it feels much, much longer, and I was totally game to relive the memories with Anne during the restaurant's opening week.  You can tell she was totally game too (especially after a few Changs)!

With little productivity made on a Friday, we had both decided long before our arrival the dishes we wanted to eat:

The Khao Soi, a noodle dish featuring hand-pressed fresh coconut milk (extra manual labor makes dishes extra delicious) and fall-off-the-bone tender chicken drumsticks.

Khao Soi accoutrements: pickled greens, a wedge of lime, cilantro and some roasted chili flakes.

To me, this dish tasted exactly like ca ri ga, a Vietnamese yellow curry chicken dish, and like it had just come from my mom's kitchen (an equally magical place).   The coconut milk was balanced and not too heavy, the dish slightly sweet but quite savory, and the chicken absolutely tender.  I snagged a few pieces of stray chicken skin when Anne was not looking (delightful).  A very enjoyable and homey dish, but Anne and I both agreed, the spice factor of this soup could have been punched way up.

Mid-meal, Anne had a present for me.

Sticky rice !  Aww, I've always wanted that...and the guy in the pink shirt looks like he wants it even more.

Every table had a plate of the infamous Pok Pok wings, and we also could not resist the siren call of the gorgeously glazed, spicy wings.  Sticky with an amazing caramelized palm sugar crust and tangs of fish sauce and chili's pretty spectacular.

A plate of Muu Kham Waan, charcoal-grilled pork neck, was served in an exceptionally tangy, addictive garlic / lime / chili sauce and fresh cilantro was our hands-down favorite dish on the table.

As with the flank steak we had last year, this dish was also served with iced mustard greens that cut the tart dish's spiciness with a burst of fresh, crisp flavor.

I am not sure if I have ever consciously eaten pork neck before, but it is a great cut, chewy but tender with a touch of fat.  Super love it.

Anne then got stoic with the stirring of the Kung Op Wen Sen, a clay pot filled with glass vermicelli noodle and prawns large enough to see from space.

While the clay pot dish was quite good, with noodles perfectly flavored with sweet soy and pepper and the prawns absolutely meaty and fresh, I am not sure I would order it again in lieu of say...more pork neck.  It's a solid dish but not particularly mesmerizing.

 Although.  Anne and I did find some charcoal encrusted bits of pork belly at the bottom of the clay pot, and we both savored that with divine emotion.

For dessert, though my stomach was absolutely bursting at the brim, my eyes ordered a little somethin-somethin from their sweets menu: the Pok Pok affogato with Vietnamese coffee (obviously the best kind of coffee) and condensed milk ice cream.  Oh. And fried crullers.  Like no big deal.

Can I tell you that condensed milk ice cream might be my new favorite flavor of ice cream?

The affogato was so good.  The coffee was bitter, but not too bitter, and the ice cream was so thick, it melted slightly but not too quickly, which was perfect because the freshly fried cruller was so crispy and airy, and was complemented perfectly by thick spoonfuls of the amazing condensed milk ice cream.


That my friends, is one dreamy bite.

Pok Pok was a really terrific meal.  Anne and I are already thinking about our return visit with more strategic ordering (no noodles, more protein!).  And more affogato! 

127 Columbia
Brooklyn, NY

Pok Pok NY on Urbanspoon