極品軒 Ji Pin Xuan - Taipei

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I'm currently holidaying in Taiwan and thought I'd take this opportunity to showcase the fantastic food Taiwan has to offer. First up - 極品軒 (Ji Pin Xuan) in ZhongZheng District in Taipei City. The interior was lovely.

The main event was the 烤方 House Special Roast Meat (small) NT$418. (Approx AUD$13.70)

This is a very rich and flavourful braised pork belly dish. It was accompanied by a plate of sliced buns. When a piece of pork belly is placed between two flaps of bun, this is what the Taiwanese call, "虎咬豬" (Ho ka ti) translated as "Tiger bites pig". The pork meat was succulent, the fat was deliciously oozy and the skin was tender, yet had a slight give to it. The perfectly balanced sauce was thick and indulgent - a delicious rice puller!

We couldn't not order a tray of 小籠包 (xiaolongbao - steamed bun filled with soup), as made famous by Taiwan's 鼎泰豐 Din Tai Fung restaurant.
The pot on the left contained some cooking oil, which was added to the dish on the right (清炒鱔魚 Stir Fried Eel NT$428) at the table while it was still hot. The wait staff then stirred the dish to evenly distribute the oil, which released delicious aromas.

We also ordered Braised Bean Curd in Brown Sauce and Clam Soup. I can't remember what the fish dish was called, but the sauce was incredible and the whole fish had been braised and slow cooked for so long that you could eat every part of the fish - even the bones! At the end of the meal, we were each given a complimentary bowl of sweet red bean soup :)

Address: 台北市衡陽路18號 Phone:(02)2388-5880~2

The Grand Hotel

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Description from Wikipedia about The Grand Hotel:

The Grand Hotel retains the elements of classic Chinese architecture in its building. It is not only the most splendid landmark of Taipei, but representative of contemporary palatial architecture.

I went to the Grand Hotel this year in March for the Farewell Banquet of a work conference. It was every bit as palatial as it looks in the pictures*. It's not surprising at all that this magnificent establishment has played host to many foreign dignitaries. What was surprising - the quality of food matched the majestic architecture. I wondered if this was the kind of place that relied on the beauty of the interior design and didn't worry too much about putting effort into the food.

I needn't have worried. The pork pies (top left) melted in my mouth when I bit into the pastry, and the selection of cold entrees explored different textures (crispy duck skin, creamy salad, the unique flavour of the fish roe and the crunchiness of the jellyfish). The other dishes were delicious in their own right, but the standout dish for me was the unagi (Japanese eel) with Chinese-style sticky rice. What a perfect fusion dish!

*Pictures of the Grand Hotel were not taken by me, they were sourced from Google images.

Coming soon - my next post will feature a review of Courgette!

Taiwan showcase - Ice cream spring roll

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I have been taking photos of food for years. I can’t remember when I started. Therefore, I have a huge collection of food memories to share. And because my fondest food memories were during my trips to Taiwan, I’ve decided to begin a showcase of Taiwanese food.

This is something I always have to get whenever I see it – the ice cream spring roll. The one below is from the Tonghua Night Market in Taipei City. 

This particular vendor makes the best ones I’ve ever had.

For the uninitiated, the ice cream spring roll (or spring roll ice cream, as it says on the sign) consists of peanut brittle shavings, some coriander (optional), and three scoops of ice cream wrapped up in a popiah "skin". For a demonstration, here is a youtube video of the process.

You can even customise your ice cream spring roll! The vendor will ask you if you want ice cream (in pineapple, taro and peanut flavours), if so, which flavours (all the same, one of each etc). They will also ask if you want coriander. I prefer mine with one of each flavour of ice cream, plus coriander.

It's an unusual dessert burrito, of sorts. The crispy texture of the peanut brittle shavings contrasts with the soft, smoothness of the ice cream (which is more like gelato, less creamy, punchier flavours and very refreshing) and then the coriander takes it to a whole new level. It's truly an intriguing taste sensation and is definitely one of my all-time favourite Taiwanese night market foods!Would you try it if you had the opportunity?? Leave a comment and let me know! Or if you've tried ice cream spring roll before, where did you get it from?