Permanent Revolution of Tea

January 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

On Saturday night, after the hustle and bustle of the Shida Night Market, we went to a tea shop close to the Zhongxiao-Dunhua MRT station. I was taken aback by the very modern, funky decor. I don’t know why I expected a more traditional place. It’s not called the Permanent Revolution of Tea for nothing.

Our group had the enclosed lounge area to ourselves.

As soon as we sat down, the waiter brought over three little cups of dried tea leaves and asked us to choose one which he would then place in the burner. We chose the Oolong tea, because he said it the aroma is very calming, and it was close to our bedtime.

The menu was in Chinese. Now that I think back, we didn’t request English menus, so they might actually have some.

Again, we told the group to order what they thought was fitting for us, so they ordered a variation of Green Tea for me and a pot of Taiwanese Oolong for A.

We were both very pleased with our teas. They were smooth and rich in flavour. They were also very cleansing and fresh.

We also had a plate of sweet treats to share with our teas.

I ate most of the Sesame sweets 🙂 I love sesame seeds. I have even been adding black sesame seeds to my cereal in the mornings recently.

I strongly recommend anyone in Taipei City to visit this tea shop and experience a modern twist on a Taiwanese tradition. Visit the website at  http://www.wretch.cc/blog/prottea if you can read Chinese 🙂

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Shida Night Market

January 9, 2011 § 5 Comments

Yesterday saw a night out on the town with A’s colleagues. I decided before we stepped out that I would experiment with Taiwanese speciality foods, because it’s not everyday that we have a group of Taiwanese friends guiding us through the market and explaining to stall owners that we do not consume certain animal products.

The Shida Night Market is positioned close to my Chinese school, yet we had not been there previously. Taipei has many night markets, which often stay open until the early hours of the morning. As soon as we walked out of the MRT station, we were in the midst of crowds of youth, many of whom probably attend the National Taiwan Normal (don’t ask) University close by. Our group of 7 managed to keep together through this:

The market hosts a range of stalls and stores. There are many xiaochi (small eat) stalls, jewellery stores, fresh fruit and fruit juice stalls, clothing stores and even a stationery store. Our first stop was a famous Crepe stall. This was not the conventional type of French crêpe that I am more familiar with, but a more firm “crêpe” which is rolled into a cone and stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings of your choice.  The menu was in Chinese, so we asked his colleagues to order what they felt was fitting for first-timers. We were presented with this a few minutes later:

It was HUGE! This picture does not to justice to the size of this monstrosity. The fruits inside were really fresh and juicy. The ice-cream was so-so and the crêpe was not very crêpe like, but is tasted pleasant nonetheless. The fresh cream was slightly sweetened and it went very well with the crêpe and fruits. I was happy we got to sample this baby.

I was not as happy to sample one of these poor excuses for food:

I mentioned to one fo the girls that I had not tasted Stinky Tofu as yet. She immediately rounded up the troops and directed us into a little alley leading to a busy restaurant. My suspicion that the horrid smell on the road of our hotel a few weeks back was in fact the Stinky Tofu, was confirmed. Once the fried tofu arrived, the girls casually picked up their chopsticks and began to dig in, one by one. I followed suit soon afterwards. If they swallowed one after the other with such ease, it couldn’t be so bad, right? WRONG! I broke my block in half and bit into it. The texture was similar to halloumi – not bad at all. It was also crunchy on the outside because it was deep-fried. It was fine, until I started to taste the smell (if that makes any sense). It’s almost as though the stinkyness of the Tofu comes into the taste at some stage while you’re chewing it – hard to explain. A managed to snap a picture of my expression while I was biting on it. I did not know that my face could look that ugly. No, I will not share. At least I didn’t almost throw up, like he did. Luckily his colleagues mistook his almost throwing up for almost crying. I don’t know which is worse.

We ventured back into the market after the tofu experience. I bought some hand cream which costed much less than it would in a regular chain store. The girls mentioned that if you buy products in a store (no matter the size), they are generally originals, but we should be wary of what the street vendors sell.

Once our stomachs had settled from the half-a-tofu we each consumed, we braved ourselves through the doors of another little restaurant. This time, we sampled a stew of mixed vegetables, which is supposed to be similar to Hot Pot (another Chinese speciality). I think A‘s colleagues were set out to feed us something more appetising than the ‘Tofu. This dish did not disappoint.

It is pretty much made up of a hot water with spices and herbs, into which fresh vegetables are dipped. Very simple, yet very delicious. The vegetables were mostly local favourites, such as a variety of mushrooms and baicai (Chinese cabbage). Even though it was hen la (very spicy), I probably ate more than anyone else on our table. The restaurant did not serve any cold drinks, so we went to the 7/11 down the block and got some drinks to sooth our taste buds. I had a papaya milk drink . It was perfect.

 

 After much deliberation about where to visit next, we settled to go to a tea emporium close to our home. I will write about that in my next post.

How to get to Shida Night Market: Take the MRT to the Taipower Station stop and then just follow the crowd. You will find it 🙂 If you’re still battling, walk down Luosifu Road in the direction of Guting MRT station and turn left onto Shida Road.

Savoury Rice

January 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

A cooked chicken curry last weekend and (as always), there was cooked white rice left over. I refuse to throw perfectly good food away. I usually freeze the rice until the next time we have a rice dish, but my freezer in the new apartment is tiny. So this is what I came up with:

Lilla Snigel’s Leftover Savoury Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 tspn of chopped garlic
  • 1/2 a white onion
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1/2 tspn white pepper
  • sprinkle of any herbs you have
  • 2 tspns lemon juice
  • 1 chopped up green pepper
  • 1/2 chopped tomato
  • About 2 cups of leftover rice (I had basmati)
  • A dollop of tomato sauce
  • A dollop of Nandos sauce (Yes, I brought some in my bag from Sweden)
  • Some chopped up fresh coriander

Method

  • Braise the garlic and onion in a frying pan – wait for the onion to soften
  • Add the tomato, green pepper, spices and lemon juice – allow the green pepper to soften
  • Add the rice, sauces and coriander
  • Mix well

It was haochi (delicious in Chinese). You could probably serve it as a side dish with some meat/chicken/fish.

Sweet Lemon Juice

January 2, 2011 § 3 Comments

My lovely neighbour brought over a plastic bag full of citrus limetta (sweet lemons) earlier in the week. At the time I thought they were lemons because they were yellowish-green in colour. I was wondering what I would do with them because I already had a full bottle of lemon juice in fridge. When I was cooking on Friday, I decided to use some fresh lemon in my marinade and sampled some juice before I added it in – luckily so, as it turned out to be very sweet. I should have noticed because the fruits were now a darker shade of yellow, almost leaning towards orange. My friend just clarified that these are actually sweet lemons (and not oranges as I had thought). They typically grow in South East Asia and the Meditteranean regions. I don’t think we get any in South Africa.

I have no electric or manual juicer because our container hasn’t arrived from Sweden yet. I was really craving fresh juice and I didn’t want to waste the fruits, so I squeezed them by hand. That was some serious commitment to vitamin C. My hands were so sore afterwards, but it was well worth it. The juice was so incredibly sweet and delicious that if I bought it, I would have thought it was sweetened.

Gayageum Concert

December 31, 2010 § 2 Comments

My fellow Chinese classmate, An Narae, is also a Gayageum artist in South Korea. She is currently in Taipei with a group of Korean artists, performing and teaching students at the local University. She invited us to her solo gayageum concert at the university. The gayageum is a traditional Korean 12 string instrument. An concentrates her work on the “sanjo gayageum”. Sanjo literally means scattered melodies. With the sanjo gayageum, the strings are placed closer together and the instrument is typically of a shorter length,to enable the artist to have better control over it. Mind you, it is not short at all.

Almost full length gayageum

 

Close up gayageum

So many aspects of the this concert amazed me. An played the instrument for a full 70 minutes, without any break. This requires such intense concentration and upper body strength. The instrument is fairly long and she had to constantly stretch in both directions when pulling at the strings. She also placed the instrument across her lap,over crossed legs. This means that she did not change her sitting position or even move the lower part of her body for the full 70 minutes. Her outfit was so simple, yet so beautiful.

I absolutely loved the little shoes and matching pointy socks. I doubt they will look as good on my much bigger feet.

An belongs to a group called Yeoul in Seoul. There are many videos of this group on YouTube. I particularly liked this one:

I hope you learnt something new today. I most certainly did!

2 Years Later

December 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

Yesterday was my second wedding anniversary. When I reflect on these 2 years, I am reminded of how wonderful the time we spent together has been. Sure, like with any other relationship, it takes a lot of effort and there are bound to be some rough patches, but at the end of it all, it is so worth it. Marriage has been wonderful to me (praise be to God). I am now snacking on what was part of my anniversary present:

Swiss fruitty chocolate. It is absolutely divine – rich and creamy, but also fruity and tangy. I am in heaven!

A tour away from Rome -Day 3

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Day 3 in Italy was also the most enjoyable. We were fetched from our hotel at 7am for a 13 hour tour of Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. It was beautiful. The coastal area was breathtaking. I was in awe for so much of the drive and I even managed to stay awake for a lot of the journey, despite my urge to sleep in a moving car.

We passed by Naples and got a wonderful view of Mount Vesuvius.Our first stop was the ancient city of Pompeii, where we were guided through the ruins of the city. Our tour guide was fabulous. He was full of humour and very proud of his Roman heritage. He always maintained that the Romans were both practical and looked after their communities. They were most definately practical. Walking through what was left of Pompeii, we were able to see how they had two-way lanes, pedastrian crossings, cats-eyes on their roads and alleys, shopping centres, bakeries, swimming pools and saunas. They also had fresh running water. It amazed me to see that despite our level of progress as a human race, the Romans 2000 years ago were not very far from where we are today. In fact, there are certain communities in my home country South Africa who still don’t have access to clean, flowing water and decent sanitation. The funniest part of our tour in Pompeii was when we went into a then brothel. There were paintings depicting the services they offered – hilarious! Here are some of the pictures I took in Pompeii.

Mount Vesuvius - the volcano is still active today

The white stones served as reflectors for carriages travelling at night

 

An oven - looks just like the pizza ovens we still find today

On offer at a brothel *ahem*

A tap with running water

We then went on to drive along the Amalfi coast until we eventually stopped in Positano for lunch and some time at the beach. Positano was so serene and the air so fresh. There are quaint little stores along the coast and narrow pathways. Lunch was delicious; authentic,simple Italian pasta served with garlic, chilli and olive oil. It was the first time I walked on a pebble beach. I managed to collect some colourful gemstones. The water was brrr, freezing, but I couldn’t resist wetting my feet (and jeans). Here are some pictures from the drive to Positano – which involved a long windy roads and picture-perfect views, and the time spent in Positano.

Wow!

I cannot describe how incredible this was

Positano

From Positano we proceeded towards the town of Amalfi. This was our last stop along the coast – and luckily so, because it started to storm just a few minutes after we reached Amalfi.

I love the contrast of the green and blue in this picture

Amalfi in the evening

It stormed all the way home, but our tour guide did not seem perturbed by the weather. He kept driving around the bends at high speed. His passengers on the other hand, were praying softly, as there was hard rock on the one side of the road and a dip leading to the ocean on the other side. Thankfully, we made it! 🙂 I definately recommend a tour to see the ruins of Pompeii and the Amalfi coast for anyone travelling to Italy. You will not be disappointed.