Since my cousin lives in Taichung, my dad scheduled a dinner for us so we could meet up. My cousin, Eric, suggested Wein Restaurant and Lounge because it’s one of the more special restaurants in the area and they have a set menu that’s easy to order from. The restaurant is known for Peking duck so we ordered the peking duck for four. The duck accoutrements were presented in two large compartmentalized plates:
The duck is prepared at your table and also presented with two different types of wraps: the traditional version and the middle eastern version (pita):
You’re supposed to eat the duck in either wrap with any combination of the sides:
Next, the waiter brought the rest of the duck with a plate that resembled a painter’s palette (under the Parmesan):
Here’s the palette that’s filled with different types of sauces for dipping the duck:
They painted the sauces onto a plate:
Next, there were homemade rice cakes sauteed with cilantro:
There was also a mapo tofu that was made tableside (they poured soymilk into a clay pot, then covered it and after about 10 minutes, it solidified enough for them to pour the mapo sauce onto it and scoop it up to plate).
For dessert, they take you downstairs to the bar area for fresh fruit:
My mom, Ken, me, and my cousin, Eric, after dinner:
The meal was really good and it was really nice to catch up with Eric. My mom hasn’t seen him since he was a kid and said she was pleasantly surprised with how mature and funny he is now. Next time he comes to New York, I’ll have to take him to the Peking Duck House in New York and compare!
My uncle took us to a restaurant that he visits a lot for dumplings and beef noodle soup; the owner makes almost everything from scratch and also has cool artwork that she sells hanging from the walls. Ken was excited to eat dumplings and beef noodle soup, I was in the mood for some cold dishes but also enjoyed everything that was brought out.
We started with some cold dishes: smoked duck and intestines:
My mom really liked the flavor of the intestines but I thought the flavor was a little too heavy (although that’s probably a good thing considering you’re eating intestines).
Shredded potatoes with vinegar:
The shredded potatoes were so good that we had to order a large plate because I finished the small plate on my own. My mom makes a similar dish where she blanches the potatoes and mixes it with vinegar and jalapenos for a crunchy and and flavorful cold side dish.
An asian cole slaw:
And veggies mixed with kobocha squash:
The hot dishes came out soon after we finished all of the cold dishes, including fried eggplant:
Lots of dumplings:
And beef noodle soup:
We also had a pickled soup with glass noodles and tofu that was very delicious:
The owner allowed us to stay past closing since my uncle is friends with her and definitely gave us great service (and tons of food!). We all enjoyed our meal there and left very happy.
After our fun day around Sun Moon Lake, my uncle picked us up from the hotel for soup dumplings. One of my favorite restaurants in Taiwan is Din Tai Fung. Well, Jao Jan Feng is very similar to Din Tai Fung and some of the chefs from the original restaurant left the location in Taipei to open Jao Jan Feng in Taichung. The menu is the same and the branding is very similar:
They also have an open kitchen just like Din Tai Fung so people can watch the chefs create the soup dumplings:
We ordered the pork dumplings topped with shrimp:
The pork soup dumplings:
And for dessert, we ordered Ken’s favorite, steam buns filled with black sesame:
The food at Jao Jan Feng was good but not as good as Din Tai Fung. We went around 8pm and it was very quiet in the restaurant (people eat much earlier in Taiwan because they go to the night markets after dinner for more snacks!) There have been a lot of copycats opening up because Din Tai Fung is such a successful restaurant; it reminds me of Peter Luger’s and all of the restaurants that have started because of their success!
· March 30, 2015
My dad planned a busy itinerary for us while we were in Taiwan, so after our trip to Taroko National Park, we headed on a tour to Sun Moon Lake near Taichung. Since tourism has spiked in Taiwan, multiple travel agencies have started popping up so tourists can easily explore the country. My dad signed us up for three days of tours in Taichung so we could explore the area and also visit my uncle and my cousin. We arrived in Taichung by train (from Taipei) and met up with the tour guide (also named Grace), who took us to Sun Moon Lake.
Sun Moon Lake got its name from the unique terrains that look like sun on one side and crescent moon on the other. The tour guide arranged for us to bike around the lake; since my mom doesn’t ride a bike, Ken offered to get a tandem bike so she could enjoy the view:
They open the lake for swimmers once a year around the mid-Autumn festival and swimmers have the opportunity to swim 3000 meters during the festival.
It was a little overcast on our visit day, but still beautiful. This is Lalu Island, which is mostly gone due to water levels and an earthquake:
If you’re visiting Sun Moon Lake, you should also take a gondola ride to enjoy the views:
The ride is about 20 minutes and it was foggy on the day of our visit, but cool to see different parts of Sun Moon Lake:
We spent the afternoon eating Taiwanese food and drinking tea from the Sun Moon Lake area. The tour guide did a really good job telling us about the area (and spoke in both Chinese and English) and dropped us off at our hotel so we could have dinner later that evening!
After our fun day in Hualien, we spent the next day with my dad’s colleague, who lives in Hualien and knows the area very well. She took us to Taroko National Park (and drove the entire way since the roads have lots of twists and turns and I get carsick very easily).
The morning was a little wet but it didn’t deter us from exploring the park. Here’s a photo I took of the park from the visitors center:
We hiked a bit and found ourselves walking up the stairs to see a resort inside the park. The stairs seemed never-ending and while we were climbing the stairs, I saw a sign to be careful of random insects and snaked (gross!):
After walking around the visitor’s center and watching a movie about the aboriginals that used to inhabit the park, we drove along the Yanzikou (Swallow Grotto) Trail and stopped a few times to take photos:
The area is known as Swallow’s grotto because the holes are where the swallows lay eggs and rest:
The small holes in the marble are caused by the river and erosion from the water. There aren’t a lot of guard rails along the walking trails and it can get quite dangerous. I asked my dad if there were a lot of suicides in the area and he said no, simply because by the time you get up there, you’re enjoying the scenery so much that you decide not to kill yourself (good reasoning, I wonder if it’s true). The view from where we were hiking:
Me and my dad:
We hiked for quite some time and managed to see the Eternal Spring Shrine, we walked across a suspension footbridge, and waterfalls:
It was a fun day and quite a lot of exercise – we even went and hiked to the Water Sheet Cave and to get there, we had to walk through dark tunnels (a few of them) before we got to the cave. It was scary walking through complete darkness but a fun experience. Most people go with a tour group because it’s difficult to drive around the area, but if you don’t want to do a tour, you can hire a taxi driver to take you to the national park and show you around.
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