Well, finally it was the day to depart. I really love Taiwan – all the sights, sounds, smells… But I definitely was really missing my wife and kids. That was the hardest part of the trip. Being a stay at home dad is so rewarding – not seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces was really killing me.I packed everything up and met Kyle to go out for some dim sum.
Okay, I gotta say this place was awesome. I also have to say that I really need to find a decent dim sum place near me in the states because this just blows everything at home away. The best was the duck – I loved the duck I’ve has in Asia, but Taiwan’s offerings blew away what I’ve tried in Thailand and Malaysia. This was just – there’s no way to describe.
Kyle had to go and deal with business again so I ended up kicking it in the hotel lobby for a couple of hours. Had a chance to catch up with my friend Matt on the phone. I also attempted a walk to the nearest convenience store but my eyes were being a pain. I did see this interesting little sign – no clue what it was trying to tell me, but shortly after I passed it, I walked back to the hotel to enjoy a couple bottles of orange juice.
We then visited this interesting little place – The Miniatures Museum of Taiwan. Tiny little detailed buildings and room and o ther things. It was kind of creepy to be honest. Kind of blew me away that we only spent an hour or so here but some of these things took years to be created.
Time for my last meal in Taipei. We went out to this place – Karen Teppanyaki. So teppan is the name for the surface used to cook and yaki just means fried – as in yakisoba just means fried soba noodles. The food was extremely good – I could have eaten it all day. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time.
Kyle hailed me a cab and we said our goodbyes. Was such a good trip – didn’t have the chance to meet Kyle’s family last time so it was really nice to have the chance this time. To be honest, I was a little worried about the trip back, mainly navigating the airport. I’d done it a year before, but my sister had accompanied me – this time it was legally blind guy in the foreign airport. But it was easy and I was able to get through security and everything easily. There was time to kill and so I was able to hit the Hello Kitty shop and grab my wife something nice. The flight was great – had an aisle seat with a space between me and the guy sitting next to the window so room to stretch out a little bit. I listened to some music, took a few catnaps. Walked around a bit. I did get stuck in the bathroom blowing my nose and then we had the turbulence over southern Japan – that was interesting! Wasn’t too bad. Turned out the guy next to me was coming to the United States from the Philippines. His mother had petitioned for him to become a citizen 15 years ago and finally he was able to move. That’s a long time! Speaking of time, so my flight took off on the 21st at 11:30pm from Taiwan – and arrived on the 21st at around 7pm in the United States. Definitely messed with my head a little – bring on the jet lag!
Well, now it was the moment of truth. I got stopped coming back from Malaysia by the USDA to look through my stuff in 2014 and they took out a bunch of noodles. That sucked. This time, no problem. They’d been asking everyone in front of me ‘did you bring any food items with you?’ but they just asked me ‘where’d you go?’ ‘was it a good trip?’ I think I looked beat and they just sent me onward. ‘Welcome to the United Sates.’ Was good to be home! I did the above video a couple days after I got back. I want to say thank you to the Taiwan International Food Expo for inviting me and Howsler Foods for sponsoring my trip – it was an amazing experience and I can’t stress enough how much fun it is to visit a foreign country. Definitely put it on your bucket list!
A couple of months ago, I was invited by Kyle Kao of Mom’s Dry Noodle – a company in Taiwan – to visit and check out their operation. Just like last time I traveled (last May to Thailand), my wife is pregnant and the trip would happen when she was too far along. Again, just like last time, she said it was alright to go and I was accompanied by my sister Sue. Like many of you know, I can’t see very well so I need a little help when travelling. In the following posts, I will chronicle everything we saw and did while there. Thank you so much to Kyle for extending this invitation, as well as to Perry, James and everyone else we met there – You made us feel welcome and we had an amazing time! I hope you all enjoy the posts!
November 13th, 2016 we headed to the airport. Got there around 10pm to make sure I’d get through security and check luggage in time for our flight. The flight was at 12:50am (the 14th) – and we would arrive around 13 hours later (which would be around 6am on the 15th, Taiwan time! The flight was great – I ate the dinner, took a sleeping pill and got about 6-8 hours of sleep. After the trips before, I was totally prepared; I knew that if I didn’t sleep on the flight, I’d get there zonked – and early in the morning. This time it was nice to feel human when I arrived. First thing, we went through immigration. I walked up to the counter ‘hello, how are you doing?’ ‘Not good’ the officer replied. Apparently I needed to fill out a form and then return to the desk. ‘Fill this out and then find me.’ I filled it out and then talked to different officer and was let through into Taiwan! Taoyuan Airport is a place I’d been 4 times previous, connecting to different flights – but I’d really wanted to get out of that airport and see Taiwan. Well, this time I was able to. We headed out and met Kyle and were off to breakfast.
Kyle took us to a little place in Taipei – soy milk, soup dumplings, a congee-like soy item, fried radish cake, buns and a kind of Taiwanese pastry followed. It was early – and busy. Afterwards we stopped in at a Family Mart – kind of like 7-Eleven (Kyle told us that there are around 2,000 7-Elevens in Taiwan – and we saw a ton of them everywhere). Checked out the noodle selection and got some bottled waters. Next we visited a temple (out of order sorry – that’s the next video) then visited the Mom’s Dry Noodle office. It was a neat place – got to meet Perry Chen, co-founder and watch a presentation about the company. Then we tried some of their new products – good stuff! Also got to meet James Lee – making the shallot and spring onion base for one of their noodle products. A huge, bubbling cauldron with steam issuing upwards; a strong scent wafting in the air. They also make a spicy Sichuan base – I’m guessing that really opens up the sinuses when its cooking! Next stop was lunch at a restaurant in a new Breeze Mall called Dim Dim Sum. I’ve been a fan of dim sum for as long as I’ve loved noodles and this place had some great stuff as you see towards the end of the video.
Okay, rewinding a little bit (we did so much on this trip that it’s a little hard to put it in the right order). Like I was saying, after breakfast we checked out a Taoist temple. As we got closer to the entrance, we could hear chanting, a drum being hit, a bell. There was a large covered area full of people looking toward the source of the chanting. People would bow at certain points. Others were throwing things on the ground which Kyle explained were kind of like dice; you ask a question – should I stay at my job or go for a new opportunity – questions like that that involve changes in the direction of one’s life. If the two pieces land face up, the answer is yes. Otherwise, the answer is no. The chanting and the sound of the pieces hitting the ground was compelling; the architecture was amazing as well.
Next, we headed to the Taipei 101 which is the world’s second tallest building. There was a Jason’s Market there and I scored some noodles. Then we took the elevator up, up and up some more. It was weird – it didn’t feel like it was moving – just a little hum and feeling my ears popping as it hurtled upwards at 10 meters per second. The view was amazing from the 88th floor, and then a quick hike up three flights of stairs and we were on the outside deck – very windy at the top! Afterwards, we checked into our room at the United Hotel and had some down time (we walked over to the local 7-Eleven and I nabbed some noodles. Then it was time to go out for dinner.
We went to a restaurant called Hawji. Had papaya milk – much like an Orange Julius but with papaya juice. We talked a lot about food and that I really wanted to find a place to try snake while in Taipei. Steamed spider was mentioned – and yeah, I would’ve tried that if we’d have found it somewhere. New things are what I live for, and eating spider and snake are definitely things I’d not tried before. We dined on squid, shrimp salad, duck, pork and other delicious fare.
After dinner in front of Hawji restaurant. From left to right: Hans ‘The Ramen Rater’ Lienesch, Kyle Kao, James Lee, Susan Lienesch and Perry Chen. Kyle is holding a framed label I brought from the Mom’s Dry Noodle package that made The Ramen Rater’s Top Ten Taiwanese Instant Noodles 2014 Edition in the top spot.
After dinner, we went to a fruit stand and they got me a sugar apple – a bumpy green fruit with really soft innards that was very sweet and tasty. I tore into it when we returned to our room at the United Hotel and looked out the window at the Taipei 101. Our first day in Taiwan was really amazing – already have seen and done so much and there are four more days to go!
A while back, I was all but out of instant noodles and put out a call for some. One of the people who responded was Prima Taste – they sent some from Hong Kong and this is one of them – thank you! My wife is a big fan of Hello Kitty and we’ve tried the Curry flavor one in the past. Let’s have a look in this soy sauce flavor one!
Detail from the side panels (click to enlarge). Contains fish. To prepare, add in sachet contents and fill to line with boiling water. Cover and let stand for 2 minutes. Stir and enjoy!
It’s a little playing card – the other one had one of these as well (click to enlarge)!
The little noodle block.
The powder soup base.
A soy scented powder.
The solid ingredients.
Some veggies and little pieces of Hello Kitty kamaboko!
Finished (click to enlarge). The noodles hydrated nicely and have a thin and flat skinny gauge. The chew was alright. The broth was a light shoyu (soy sauce) and a little ho-hum. The supplied vegetables and kamaboko were unremarkable, although eating Hello Kitty faces is definitely enjoyable. 3.0 out of 5.0 stars. EAN bar code 6900082020177.
Feasting on Penang’s succulent culinary treasures continues, with a lot of prawn-tasticness! Here is the United States, we often call them shrimp, but looks like everywhere else, they’re prawns. Did you know that the translation of the Chinese word for lobster is ‘dragon prawn?’ Well, now you do. I for one will be calling them prawns from now on. Let’s check out day three!
We started the day with a few interviews in the lounge at the Eastin Penang with a few newspapers. Pictured are the folks from The Star, Malaysia’s most-read English newspaper. I also interviewed with Guang Ming Daily, Kwong Wah News and Sinchew. Those links go to the stories they published.
Today was about our little friend the prawn. Our first stop was at a little restaurant.
Well-worn floors: the battle scars of well fed diners.
The first bowl of Hokkien Prawn Mee for the day.
Note two two types of noodles – regular gauge and bihun. It’s been hard; since we go to so many places, I can’t eat the whole bowl! Nice prawn broth with pork highlights.
We cut through a side alley to our next destination. I’ve always really liked alleys; they’re always overlooked. Businesses spend so much time on their fronts, but the alleys show the wear of time so beautifully.
Thomas leads us to our next destination – more mee!
After last night’s festivities, I have to admit a bit of a hangover. Penang’s heat and humidity cut a little by these oscillating fans.
Thomas returning after ordering our next bowl of Hokkien Prawn Mee to sample.
This was my favorite bowl of Hokkien Prawn Mee of the whole trip – just wonderful stuff.
These big propane tanks are the lifeblood of the hawker. See the one on the far right? Basically, they’re lit and that cylinder on top is where you would set your wok. Amazing how these simple contraptions are the source of heat for so many of the amazing delicacies of Penang.
This is a banana pancake – fluffy and full of bananas. What’s nice is that it wasn’t as sweet as I would have expected. Thomas informed me that extremely sugary isn’t the way over here.
Back through the alley to the van to go to our next stop.
There’s a morning market we drove by which was very busy.
Cooking is going on 24/7 in Penang. Everywhere.
The last Hokkien Prawn Mee of the day.
Another really neat looking floor.
One of my favorite things about Hokkien Prawn Mee are the fried shallots that garnish the bowl.
You know what this is? Here we have pork rinds which are fried pork skin. They go a bit further here – this is fried pork belly – I would say those who love bacon really need to take note of this!
Stone Pot White Curry Mee!
Next we went to the mall and peeked around a bit. Then we went out for dim sum at Canton-I. We started with some boiled peanuts.
During my trip to Penang, I’ve really wanted to try everything I can – especially things I normally might not. This congee is supplemented with these little crunchy bits on the lower left: fried pork intestine. How are they? Well, they’re crunchy and reminiscent of pork rinds. They went really well with the congee, which is kind of like a porridge.
The little char siu buns were so good! The filling wasn’t dry like the ones I’ve had so many times in the United States, but very moist and featured an almost gravy like sauce.
Had to try these little piggy buns! But what’s inside them?
The paste inside is a mix of peanut butter and other things. The other bun had a red bean paste.
This roast duck was very moist – liked it quite a bit. Really nice to have tried duck a couple ways – I really hadn’t tried it before this trip.
One of my wife’s faves is this stuffed wide noodle. We also had the standards – pork bun, prawn ball and shumai.
These little buns were filled with a runny egg mix which was sweet.
Here’s another great change from Chinese food in the states. You know the appetizer with cold pork, sesame seeds, hot mustard and ketchup? Here’s what is SHOULD look like! That pork was just perfect. At the center is an aged salted duck egg.
An iced sweet melon dessert with honeydew balls.
Now this one is a mango dessert, but the little balls aren’t mango. For ages, I’ve seen these ‘glutinous rice balls’ at the Asia grocery stores around me in the US and never knew what they were. Well, that’s what these are. They’re chewy and were pretty good in this. Imagine taffy consistency marshmallow and you’re pretty close to what this was like.
All done. On the way to our next to-do, I took this shot of the KFC in the mall. KFC, McDonald’s Burger King, Subway and Pizza Hut are all over the place here. Difference is that here you can get tom yum pizza at Pizza Hut.
Next stop was a ferry to Butterworth. Lots of motorbikes loading on!
Why this commercial? Living in Anacortes, Washington growing up, we were so close to Canada that we got Canadian TV commercials. This was one I thought was fascinating. Malacca. Sounds really cool. One of those words that just stuck in my head and just seemed cool. What is Malacca?
The Strait of Malacca. Riding the ferry across was a really great moment of this trip for me. Penang is an island, connected to the minland by a bridge. It also has ferry service. Fishing is an important industry. These are all parallels to where I grew up. Anacortes is on fidalgo Island, next to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Fishing is a big deal too. It’s connected to the mainland by a bridge (much shorter than the 7km Penang Bridge) and ferries can be taken to the islands. We’ve experienced so many things that are so different from where I consider home, but this seemed to me like a moment where everything came together in a really personal way for me that is hard to describe.
Here we are at the front of the ferry.
A ferry returning to the side we started off on.
Okay dude who requested pics of noodle aisles in Malaysia – here you go! This is the Econsave supermarket at Chain Ferry, Butterworth.
Lots of instant noodles! We ended up finding about 30 different varieties to bring back. One thing I really wanted to do is get a ton of Malaysian instant noodles so in the near future, I can do a The Ramen Rater’s Top Ten Malaysian Instant Noodles Of All Time list. I’ve reviewed 44 varieties and would like to have reviewed about 70 before doing a top ten.
Finally, it’s time for dinner – and this place was probably one of the most unique places I’ve dined in my life. It’s called Floating Seafood Paradise.
Why is this place so unique? Well, there are big fishtanks and big holding ponds where fresh seafood are raised. You want fresh seafood? It does not get any fresher than this. Not only that, everything is connected together – you dine while floating on the water.
These large shelled snail-like sea creature were really big and interesting – I don’t remember what they’re called, but delicious would be a description.
These are Mantis Prawns. They’re absolutely enormous! I have checked them out on YouTube in the past. They eat clams and other shellfish. They have the ability to flick their flicking thing at the speed of a bullet and smash the shell of their prey open!
This guy looks like a small shark!
The meal starts with a little appetizer of chickpeas.
Thirsty? Coconut milk – straight out of a coconut.
Can’t remember what kind of fish this was but it was delightful – crunchy fins were really nice.
Breaded clams. Starting to think now that maybe clams are called cockles here.
Fresh cooked Mantis Prawn. Seriously – that’ a lot of prawn meat! We also had some fresh crab. Thomas said I should try the crab roe – of everything I tried on the trip, I would say that was the one thing I wasn’t really keen on; very ‘of the sea’ kind of taste. The crabs came with wooden clubs to crack open the shells. The claw meat was especially succulent.
I’m pretty sure this is the sea cucumber and duck. The sea cucumber reminded me of what Jell-o gelatin would be like if it was overdone – yeah, like ultra-dense Jell-o. Wasn’t keen on it alone, but along with a bite of the duck and the sauce it was out of this world.
Finally, a bana leaf with a lovely offering of Chilli Crab. It has such a sweet and spicy kind of flavor that was just plain nice. Another great day of trying the food of Malaysia. I must say that I’m finding the fact that pretty much everything is served family style really lends itself to a communal meal setting. Nobody hovering over their food here – everyone shares their opinions of it and it’s a great experience. More on the trip tomorrow with day four!
Here’s one that was sent by Abbie C. of Hong Kong – thanks! I always try to source Hello Kitty and Pokemon related instants as my wife likes Hello Kitty and my son’s a Pokemaniac. Let’s check this one out!
Here are the side panels (click image to enlarge). To make it, add boiling water up to the line and let it sit a couple minutes.
Here’s the lid (click image to enlarge).
The noodle block.
A prize! Here’s the front and back of what looks to be a little playing card.
The powder soup base sachet.
Has a nice curry scent.
The solid ingredients sachet.
Little bits of vegetable and Hello Kitty kamaboko!
Finished (click image to enlarge). The noodles are your typical cup noodles. They are thin and flat. They have a very light chew to them. The broth is a nice and rich Japanese curry – very nice. The veggies hydrated well. The kamaboko? Well, just like all hydrated kamaboko, they’re slightly rubbery and more of an add texture than something with much flavor. The added bonus of being able to chew up Hello Kitty’s head is quite nice. 3.5 out of 5.0 stars. UPC bar code 6900082020276.
Here’s a TV spot for a Hello Kitty menagerie of sorts.