Another beautiful day in Taiwan – again, really great weather which I thoroughly enjoyed to no end. Started things off by having some Din Tai Fung.
So we went to the Din Tai Fung in the Taipei 101 Mall. Was a cloudy day and as you can see, the 101 was socked in pretty well. It’s kind of hard to understand how tall that building is until you stand next to it. Long story short, it’s really, really, really tall. So yeah we have a Din Tai Fung near where I live but I definitely think it pales in comparison to the one here in Taipei.
So my Kyle had some business to attend to as did I. Back to the hotel for a bit to chill. My business involved getting my suitcase all ready for the voyage home tomorrow. I’d been kind of packing and repacking the whole time so as to not have a lot of stuff to do at the last minute. Later, it was time for dinner with Kyle and his family. This is a clip of the elevator at the hotel – I really liked how it was very talkative. I forgot to get some audio outside the elevator where I was on the 6th floor – they had this exceedingly sleepy and mellow music playing all the time. It’s these little things I find so enjoyable about Taiwan.
I went to dinner with Kyle and his wife and son at a restaurant called Seafood Steampo. To be honest, he’d mentioned steamed seafood and I thought bland at first. This wasn’t bland. This was amazingly good and definitely there should be places like this everywhere.
After dinner, we hit Carrefour for a final search for a particular Korean variety I’d seen last trip and been looking for this trip. No dice. Can’t complain though – I did bring home 45 new varieties!
While I didn’t find the noodles, I found this and was able to bring home a couple packs for my wife who is the consummate Hello Kitty fan. Went back to the hotel and passed out.
Taiwan 2017 Day 1 & 2: Travel,. Arrival & Exploration
Off I Go
On November 14th, 2017, my wife drove me to Seattle International Airport. My main impetus for the trip was to do an awards show at the Taiwan International Food Expo – the first food show I’d ever been invited to. They asked if I’d come and do a little awards ceremony for the top three from The Ramen Rater’s Top Ten Taiwanese Instant Noodles Of All Time 2017 Edition list that came out in September. I was definitely all in for doing this for sure – after visiting Taiwan last year I was keen on visiting again. This time was different – it was my first time travelling alone. I was a little pensive about this (I’m legally blind) but I have flown to Taiwan 3 times previously and so thought hey – I can do this. Oh – and a week before I broke my pinky toe. That was really annoying but broken toe be damned – I was going! So I got to the airport around 11pm, went through security, grabbed some drinks and snacks and headed to my gate. Hopped on the plane just after midnight.
So last time I flew, I didn’t walk around much during the flight. I had taken some sleep aids to get through the flight faster. Long story short, I got a blood clot in my lung. My doc said I really dodged a bullet and so I wanted to be safer this time. I got an aisle seat so I could get up and walk around more easily.
The flight to Taiwan takes 13 hours. It’s a big chunk of time to sit. I watched some Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on my phone and took a couple cat naps. I got up and walked around every hour or two.
After a long flight, people are definitely eager to de-plane. It get s a little silly usually but yeah I got off the plane eventually. I was in row 71 – the next to last row and so I figured I’d get off when I got off. One thing I should mention – I think plane boarding is done completely wrong. They have people board in order from front to back. Why don’t they do back to front? Just seems like it would be so much more orderly. Anyways, I got off the plane, went through customs and was in Taiwan. Got my suitcase and met up with my friend Kyle from Howsler Foods. The Food Expo invited me, but they sponsored my trip – a big thank you for that!
Arrival & Exploration
Kyle recommended we check out a breakfast place – my flight arrived at around 6am and so that sounded like a good plan. This is a popular and bustling place. There was a long line, but it didn’t bother me at all – was nice to be off the plane and I knew it certainly wouldn’t take 13 hours to get n!
So to the left of the pic above, you can see them working on the prep for food there.
Soy milk – served cold, is a popular breakfast item. It’s a little sweet and refreshing.
Okay, so why this isn’t here in the United States I don’t know but it should be. This is a big Chinese donut with fried egg in the middle. As I write this, it’s been a month since I returned and I sure could go for one of these right now! After breakfast, we headed over to the hotel. Got checked in and got to rest a while.
I stayed at the Green World Nangang hotel which was close to where the big Food Expo was held. Nice big room and bathroom – very comfy. Chilled for a while and got cleaned up to go out to go check out a couple places.
I had wanted to check this place out since I’d first heard about it. Love Instant Noodles is a restaurant that served instant noodles piping hot and garnished to perfection.
I had some Ottogi Jin Jjambbong and Kyle tried the Samyang Foods Buldak Bokkeummyun for the first time. Was impressed – he didn’t even think it was super spicy! Food was great – I gave my card to the man who served our food and he was stoked – I ended up doing selfies with Alan and Joyce – really nice people and a wonderful restaurant I definitely want to visit again.
Kyle recommended trying Taiwanese cold noodles a couple doors down.
Cold noodles were nice in the hot weather – they had a sesame and soy kind of taste to them. Afterwards, we hit RT Mart so I could get some things then back to my room at the hotel to relax before dinner. I really wish I had gotten some pics/video in RT Mart – I mean it’s pretty big and they had the tallest and longest noodle aisle I’ve ever seen.
We hit up this place for pork rice.
As you can see (click to enlarge), food is pretty inexpensive in Taiwan. Looks like the most expensive thing on the menu is 130NTD – which is just over $4USD.
A nice pork chop over rice – very tasty!
Here’s the chicken version with a stewed egg as well.
A big slab of tofu and… I can’t remember what was on the plate in the background – but it was good. Afterwards, back to the hotel to pass out until morning.
Yeah, I couldn’t just pass out. I was pretty stoked – I had scored a ton of noodles and things in RT Mart and so I did a YouTube live stream. The wifi at the hotel was very good and so had no problem doing so. Finally after talking to my wife and kids, I passed out.
Came down to have a last try at the breakfast buffet. I’d been putting off the noodles but I figured I’d kick myself if I didn’t give them a try before I left. Good stuff!
A little of everything before I go.
I took this photo right when we were leaving our corner suite for the last time. The view of Bangkok was addicting; wish I could’ve taken it with me as more than a photo. I think we’ll be back someday though.
Last night at the farewell dinner, I met the guy who accompanied us to the airport. Mr. Yatra had spent some time working in the Seattle area which is very near to where I live. He told me his favorite place to eat was a restaurant called Tai Tung – a place I’d been years back as a kid. Upon dropping us off at the airport he bid us a kind farewell, reminding me ‘hey don’t forget – go to Tai Tung!’ Mr. Banks also gave me a call before we left to bid farewell which was really nice of him. Really going to miss all the people we met. We went and checked our bags and then went through security.
We had a good amount of time to kill before our flight, so it was a perfect time to do some shopping. Found a lot of really neat stuff and stuffed my carry on. I even got one of those little cats that wave – maneki neko – at a ramen shop!
This is the most wonderful thing ever. It’s a superpower air conditioner! They’re all over the place at the airport in Bangkok and some had little wifi antennas and had speakers with flight info and announcements.
A hot dog? Yes, a hot dog. Some fast food sounded good and we hit Dairy Queen. Yes, they have Dairy Queen in Thailand. Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, KFC, Domino’s and Burger King. I’m sure McDonald’s was lurking somewhere as well – but no Taco Bell! I think what was interesting was the presence of sesame seeds on the bun.
A pic of the overhead menu.
So when it was time, we went to our gate and waited. And waited. And waited. It was very close to boarding time and nobody showed up to open the gate. Everyone was looking at eachother a little confused. My sister went and tried to find info. Well, EVA Air didn’t feel like letting us all know that the gate was moved! So we ended up waiting here.
There was another air conditioner, but it wasn’t running… So eventually, they had everyone go to the left down a corridor – and onto the tarmac. We all got on a bus (hey wait – can we take a bus to Taipei?) and it took us down the airfield to a plane we boarded by stairs. Eventually, we took off. Now, the delay was pretty long. We were supposed to have about a 3 hour layover I believe in Taipei. Well, with the delay in Bangkok and then when we got to Taipei the pilot came on telling us we’d be circling since the airport was too busy – for 20 minutes! What was scary was that that announcement came up right when we were supposed to boarding our connecting flight! We eventually landed and just booked it as fast as we could through the checkpoint and to our gate. I figured worst case scenario, I do know a lot of instant noodle people in Taiwan, so all might not be so horrible if we end up having to wait for another flight. Well, we ran ran ran through Taoyuan airport and got to our gate. There we waited about an hour and got to board our plane. Phew!
The flight from Taipei to Seattle is a real brain-smasher. Our flight left Taipei around 11pm on the 20th. Then about 10 hour later, it arrived in Seattle at 7pm – on the 20th. But we finally arrived – got our bags, went rhgouh security (which was mind blowingly fast for US Customs) and we were off in our own direction – my sister to her car and I went and waited for my wife to pick me up. It was weird to be back; It’s a strange feeling; like Frodo Baggins after the long journey he took and then coming home, never looking at things the same way again.
I must say I recommend everyone visit Thailand; the people, the sights, the everything. It’s so different from here. I loved it! I love being back though as my wife and I are starting our next big adventure with a new baby on the way this summer. I want to thank my sister for accompanying me – if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to go. I want to thank everyone at Thai President Foods and President Rice products – everyone was so nice and kind to us. Also want to say thanks to all the great MAMA noodle distributor from Europe we had the fortune to meet – a great group of people! In conclusion, I would say that I found one thing in Thailand; harmony. Looking out the balcony way up high, I didn’t hear the sounds you might expect in a big US city – sirens and possibly gunshots or people yelling and honking. The traffic was crazy but it worked and people accepted that it was crazy. The way of the Thai is to give when you can, forgive transgressions and then to forget they even occurred. I think Western society could gain a great deal of insight from Thailand. Well, until my next adventure!
A few months ago, I received an email from Ms. Pojjanee over the Thai President Foods. They make MAMA instant noodles and I had recently done a Meet The Manufacturer series with them. It was just after New Year’s and she asked if my wife and I would like to visit their factories in Thailand! There was one hitch though – my wife would be in her third trimester of her pregnancy at the time of the trip and we both agreed that it might be a little too much for her unfortunately. My sister was happy to take her place if it was alright, and it was. With that, here we go on our trip!
So the first leg of our flight left from Seattle, Washington at 1:50am May 14th. A well-packed plane took off on time.
We were greeted to water bottles in our seats. I had no clue how many water bottles I’d bsee on our trip – good thing really; Asia’s a hot place this time of year!
On the little screen embedded in the seatback in front of us, you can watch movies as well as this little GPS animation – really amazing that most of the time we were at 35,000ft, going over 500mph and the temperature outside was usually 40 degrees below zero – that’s cold!
After about 12 hours, we arrived in Taipei at Taoyuan Airport. We had a couple hours to mill around so we checked things out.
Back in October on my trip through here on my way to Penang, the theme was large sculptures of insects and beetles on fruit. This time, little people with large eyeball heads was the theme.
A Hello Kitty airplane! I found out they have Hello Kitty neck pillows, Hello Kitty food and even Hello Kitty printed toilet paper on these.
The Hello Kitty airplanes have their own Hello Kitty gate, and nearby, a Hello Kitty breastfeeding room.
We opted to skip this one – sounded a little rough.
Next was our flight to Bangkok – we were glad that it was much shorter than the 12 hours it took to get to Taipei!
Here’s my sister on a travelator at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. Getting through security was really easy and the man who checked my passport even smiled at me at the end! We got our luggage and met the guys who took us to our hotel room to relax a bit before going out to have something to eat.
Bangkok’s street were bustling with motorbikes and cars. Hot, humid and vibrant.
We stayed at the Chatrium Hotel, which is next to the Chaophraya river, a main waterway through Bangkok.
The room was very spacious and comfortable – but the real perk was outisde on the balcony.
We both almost fell over when we saw this amazing view. We were on the 23rd floor and could see everything! We tried to relax a bit but basically ended up just staring out the window just saying ‘wow’ a lot.
A view from the balcony.
The guys picked us up again and took us to a restaurant on the river called Lotus. Here we have some creamy shrimp tom yum soup.
I had mentioned that I was very interested in trying Durian. Durian in known as the King of Fruit!
It’s a tough one to describe – definitely has to be experienced firsthand. It’s texture is kind of like a banana mixed with the stringiness of what you’d find inside a pumpkin. It has a very creamy kind of texture, reminiscent of papaya and ice cream. The one thing is that it has a smell – very strong smell!
A video my sister took of me trying fresh Durian for the first time. Mr. Banks (across from me) seemed fascinated to see how I’d react to the flavor.
They gave us a little sealed tray of it to have after dinner in the room. Now, during my time in Langkawi I remember seeing a sign in the hotel there that said no pets or Durian was allowed. Back at the Chatrium Hotel, we were going up the elevator and I noticed it started to smell. When we got to the room, it became quite evident that the smell was quickly filling the room! We tried putting it into a couple plastic bags, but no dice – the King of Fruit couldn’t be stopped! We knew then it had to go away!
We went back down to the lobby where I asked how it should be disposed up – the concierge had a very disapproving look and said it wasn’t allowed in the hotel and that I should find a receptacle outside the hotel to put it. Here’s the little trash can we found a little ways down. It’s funny – I really liked Durian a lot in my mouth, but not so much in my nose! It was really nice to now have a Durian story with me now.
Finally it was time to go to sleep – a long journey to Bangkok was over and a week of seeing new places, people and sights await!
I was planning on doing a post each day consecutively, mirroring the prior week when I was actually in Malaysia, but I hit a snag yesterday. I’d always heard of this thing called ‘jet lag’ and now I can tell you, it’s real. Shifting from timezones and different days really messed us up! We woke up at 2pm yesterday! Haven’t slept in like that since I was a punk kid! Well, we went to sleep at a realistic Pacific time zone time last night and so this morning I’m doing day two! This is a long post folks! Here we go!
After a good night of sleep, we emerged from our room at partake of the buffet breakfast downstairs.
Here’s my wife having breakfast with me. This hotel is really neat; the little hexagons everywhere are pretty nifty!
Our hosts Annie & Thomas said maybe have a light breakfast as we’d be going all over the place today and trying all sorts of different foods that Penang has to offer. Clockwise starting with the noodles: wok fried Maggi Mee, a piece of shumai, chicken rice, a hash brown, beef slice and in the center cheese sausages.
They had neat little desserts too!
Alright – time to take on the day!
The view from our room this morning.
Our first stop is the factory where MyKuali is produced. On the way, we got to see the big billboard on the Penang Bridge!
Here’s the factory! The first thing we did was sit down with CEO Mr. Tan and his wife. He brewed delicious cups of tea as we discussed my first impressions of Malaysia and chatted about the role of the instant noodle in the world. It was really great to meet them both.
Then we went into a conference room and I was greeted by applause – wasn’t expecting that! The people who work here asked me some questions about my experiences reviewing instant noodles and my thoughts on Malaysia so far. I brought a couple gifts for them – one was a book about my hometown of Anacortes, Washington showing historic photos of the fishing industry there. The other is being held by the woman in the picture . When I first reviewed their MyKuali Penang White Curry Noodle, I loved it and it was very spicy and so it easily made the 2013 Top Ten Spiciest list. That caused a lot of attention in Malaysia and really got popular quickly. So what’s in the frame? It’s the package from the noodles I reviewed. I save the packaging from every instant I review and thought they’d like it and they did!
Next we toured the factory. Look at all the boxes of noodles! They were ready to be shipped all over.
Here’s where they put the noodles and sachet into packs and box them up. I couldn’t take any more pics inside. Trade secrets are a big thing in the instant noodle industry, where there is such extreme secrecy. We got to see the room where they make the paste – what a smell! Wonderful! I can say it’s a really fascinating place – also extremely clean.
Here we are in front of one of the MyKuali delivery trucks!
Next stop: Old Town White Coffee in Auto City. These are quite common here – never one too far away. Kind of like Starbucks – but then again they do have Starbucks here in Malaysia everywhere as well!
A comfy little place.
Okay so on the left is the white coffee, on the right black coffee. They’re very sweet and the white has milk, the black no milk. It’s also iced which was nice in the heat of the day.
We had a couple things here – nasi lemak, toast with a sweet spread inside and these – little curry pockets which were really tasty.
Back on the road to our next destination. Took a lot of pictures along the way – here’s a couple enjoying breakfast.
Colorful menus abound as well as the constant sound of motorbikes.
Next stop was Hot Bowl Nyonya Delights. There are many ethnic groups in Malaysia and two of them are Malay and Mandarin. Nyonya cuisine is a fusion of the two.
This is it folks – serious white curry noodles here! All sorts of ways to have it – with fish ball, congealed duck blood, cockles, squid, tofu puff – in any combination you like!
We started by trying a boiled chicken dish and well as a pork leg soup (not pictured).
Here’s the white curry mee – such excellent stuff!
Love how the broth looks once the paste is stirred in. Ome of the reasons I was invited to Penang was to taste the real-deal local fare and compare it to MyKuali’s products. The MyKuali is spot on – really quite amazing.
Off to another place to try new food! No, not McDonald’s – although this palatial McDonald’s was quite fascinating to see on the way!
You grab a plate and pick a few varieties of these different fish cakes. Then they slice them up, add some different things and you get…
This amazing concoction. I am now a huge fan of this stuff – a sweet and spicy sauce with all sorts of chewy goodness!
Here’s a plate of mi goreng!
This is a plate of mi rebus. While mi goreng doesn’t have a sauce or broth, mi regus does. It translates to ‘wet noodles.’
Traveling to our next tasting! Here’s a pic of the streetcorner shop. Lots of these carlsberg beer signs everywhere – never had heard of it until I came here. By the way – kopi means coffee.
I didn’t catch the name of this place. We tried the chendul.
Chendul is a shave ice dessert with lots of different topping options.
Coconut milk, shaved ice and red bean with other toppings.
It is so great here – Thomas just keeps running to different vendors all day and bringing back foods – ‘try this!’ he would say. This is a Cantonese dry noodle dish. Those little green sliced chillies at the top are chilli paddi, dumpling to the left too.
This is Oyster Omelette. I’ve never been a big fan of oysters, and if I’m just eating an oyster, I’m still not. However, with the egg and that sauce it was just perfect.
Here we have Asam Laksa. I was told some people like it, some don’t. I’m one of the folks who like it – a lot. The broth is almost like a tomato kind of thing, but it’s flavored with sardine, tamarind paste, shrimp paste and chilli paddi as well. They were surprised how I really liked those little spicy chillies in there.
Finally, a neat little confection. I don’t remember exactly what it was called. It was like a really light taffy with crumbled peanut all over it. really good.
Next stop was Fort Cornwallis. Malaysia has a lot of British things going on as the British had a stake there for quite a while. The fort was built by the British East India Company way way back.
It originally had a moat around it and has lots of cannons! Very neat place.
Coconut tree! Wow – never have seen one of these up close before!
Back to our room at the Eastin hotel for some rest before going out for dinner.
We came to a big food court area – tons of hawkers!
Here’s a hawker preparing food – smelled really good!
An eggplant dish with a couple Chinese Long Bean skewers.
Cockles – slightly chewy and really flavorful.
Can’t remember exactly what this one was – once the Tiger beer started flowing and the toasting began, it started to become a jumble! . I’m bummed as I didn’t get a picture of one of my favorites from the whole trip – stingray! It was barbecued and has this curry coating which was just excellent – slightly crunchy and very moist fishmeat.
Look at this enormous prawn! Prawns are everywhere in Penang and of all sizes.
Something from the days of British influence – Chicken Chop. Basically, it’s a breaded chicken breast with a brown sauce. French fries! Whoa!
Tom Yum soup.
Everyone here is so passionate about their opinions on food – here’s our new friend Jackie teaching us about differences in Penang foods.
This place was just a paradise of different foods!
One of the many tables we all laid waste to during our Penang tour!
The last tastes of the evening. This is Hokkien Prawn Mee. It’s adorned with pork and tofu and fishballs. Just wonderful. We also tried some drinks – I tried a barley beverage which was really good. After this we went back to our hotel. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever tried so many different foods in one day before! Wow!
Thomas insisted we find a place to have some Hokkien Prawn Mee before the dn of the evening, so we hunted and found this one.
From September 29th to October 4th, my wife Kit and I were treated to a visit to Malaysia by the kind folks at Sky Thomas Food Industries Sdn Bhd, makers of MyKuali Penang White Curry Noodles. The purpose of the trip was not to promote for them, but to show us the foods of Penang. Here is the first day of the trip!
We left our place in Lynnwood, Washington to go to Seattle Tacoma Int’l airport around 9pm. Our flight didn’t leave until 2am, but we had to get there, check our bags, go through security, etc. We ended up with a bit of time to kill so we explored a bit and waited.
On the plane (actually, we followed George Carlin’s advice and got IN the plane). The carrier was EVA airlines. We have two transfers – one to Singapore and then to Penang. The flight was going to be over 12 hours – a lot of sitting, but since we’d been up at around 8am, we figured we’d sleep quite a bit. Adrenaline from the excitement made that a little tough though.
We got two meals on the flight – the first was pretty quick after departure.
The meals were actually pretty good – this one was chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies with a little bun, butter, small salad, fresh fruit and a little cake.
Let me introduce you to my little friend – the remote. That screen with the map was a touchscreen and this remote worked it as well. What was a trip was it doubled as a phone you could use to make in-flight calls.
After flying by Alaska, the Sea of Okhotsk (a place I found fascinating by name as a child) and over Japan, we were in Taiwan!
I felt like Frodo (or was it Samwise) from Lord Of The Rings when he said ‘this is the farthest I ever been from the Shire. One thing that was weird was that during the flight, we crossed the dateline. Taipei is 15 hours ahead of our timezone. It got dark here around 7pm, and we were ahead of the sun for the whole flight, so we had around 18 hours of darkness – really messes with your brain.
Here I am in Taipei! They have lots of these HeySong Sarsparilla vending machines there – which is my son’s favorite drink!
So $50USD is about 1000NTD, so a soda is a buck.
My wife Kit was so stoked – she’s a Hello Kitty aficionado and they have a big Hello Kitty store there – as well as a gate that is Hello Kitty themed for the Hello Kitty plane. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to fly on one of those, but this was pretty awesome! We next boarded another EVA flight for Singapore.
Here’s the only pic I took in Singapore. It was a very busy airport and we found we had to go to this place, then that place and spent a good amount of time speedwalking on travelators – that’s what the horizontal conveyor belt walkways are called. We’d planned on doing a little shopping here, but literally bolted through everything in perfect time to be a minute or so early for boarding. Then we got on a SilkAir flight to Penang.
We have arrived in Penang! Wow!
We emptied out of the arrival hall into this area with all these guys with signs – most of them were taxi drivers waiting to take people to their final destinations. Many were for big tech companies like Western Digital, Intel, and more. Our first impression of Penang was all about heat and humidity – like walking into a bathroom where someone just took a shower – steamy! We got a hold of our hosts Annie and Thomas and soon we were off for a first meal in Penang!
The first place we went to was Dragon-I at Gurney Plaza. They serve ‘Shanghainese’ delights of all kinds! The first thing we tried were boiled peanuts – pretty neat little appetizer. Then we watched the chef hand pull noodles and make us bowls of soup! Kit had pork dumpling soup and I had spicy braised beef – excellent! We also tried a noodle soup that was augmented with Century Egg – an aged egg that’s been marinated in different ingredients. It was good! I regret not taking lots of pictures here – it was excellent!
We next got to spend an hour or so to rest before dinner after checking into our room at the Eastin Penang hotel. This is the view out the window. We next went to a resort where I did a quick interview with a local magazine and photoshoot. Then off to dinner!
Dinner was at the new Sri Ananda on Macallister. It was a big and busy place. so hot and humid outside and we hadn’t acclimated to the climate so we all ate inside. One thing to know is that in Penang, most restaurants seem to be outside or very open.
We dined with Annie and Thomas who are brother and sister and both work at Sky thomas Foods as well as their parents (the masters of curry)! This place has wonderful Indian food! Here is their Fish Head Curry.
Cheese curry on the left and I believe lamb shank curry on the right.
You don’t use a dish here; you get a huge piece of banana leaf like a placemat and eat everything off of it! Plus, you get to use your hands a lot – was fun and very colorful.
Ladyfingers in sauce.
Can’t remember exactly what this was – but everything was wonderful. Another dish (not pictured) was a thin and chewy flatbread that was pulled and served with a really nice masala.
As we left, we were bid farewell by this little elephant statue. Our long, long day was over – I think we’d been up for 35+ hours, and it was time to hit the sack and rest up for tomorrow.