Before I talk about food, I have a warning to give. If you haven't watched Lost but think now would be a good time to catch up since it's in its last season and every episode is on Hulu, I say NO, DON'T DO THIS, or your blog posting schedule will be reduced to once per week, and you may spent a few nights staying up until 3 a.m. watching back-to-back episodes, and since you're going to bed right after watching the show you might have some weird dreams involving being stranded on an island and being tortured by crazy people and things like that.
Admittedly, I like that I finally understand what my Lost-watching friends have been talking about all these years, but it comes at a price. I'm pretty much sleepy all the time, and considering it's nearly 1:30 a.m., I'm going to try to blaze through this entry so I can go to bed before 3 a.m. The food porn is the most engaging part anyway, right? That "prose" stuff just gets in the way.
But before you waggle your finger at me (as much as I deserve it), let me just say that I didn't watch any Lost this weekend; I just happened to be busy during pretty much all my waking hours. Not that I was doing anything crazy—ye know, mostly eating. I just finished season 4 of Lost and I don't want to watch any more episodes until I pump out more posts. BLOG FIRST, LOST LATER.
OKAY I CAN DO THIS...here's a post about a meal I ate three weeks ago.
When I lived in Taipei from 1996 to 1998, I was an ignorant, America-loving tweenage lump of chubb who ignored the local Taiwanese cuisine, instead opting to grab seemingly half of my sustenance at the McDonald's around the corner from my apartment where no Chinese-speaking skills were needed. I almost always ordered the same thing—a McChicken Sandwich Value Meal and a Filet-O-Fish sandwich (don't ask me how I managed to eat that much food; maybe the intense humidity made me sweat out the calories)—but I could've eaten so much better! If only I knew! If onlyyyy! Oh how I rattle my fists in anger.
Thankfully, living in New York City affords me the opportunity to grasp at the meager strings that connect me to my heritage through the magic of food. So, with the help of my friend and former Taipei American School classmate Jamie and four of her friends, I got to stuff myself at The Island of Taiwan Restaurant in Brooklyn (upon Danny's recommendation) with some dishes I probably never ate in Taiwan.
Oyster pancake ($5.99): It's more of an omelet than a pancake, except the omelet is made of egg mixed with some starch instead of just straight-up egg, then stuffed with oysters. Lots of oysters. You'll get a squishy briny nub in every bite. If you like oysters and omelets, this dish is for you; if you're like me and sort of indifferent to oysters, this isn't going to change your mind. (Should I add "never having developed a taste for oysters" onto the list of reasons for why I fail at being Taiwanese?)
Fried oysters ($7.99): Of course, everything tastes good fried. This is so far my favorite oyster preparation: lightly battered (in panko, I'd guess) and dunked in hot oil. It's mostly tender oyster with just a bit of crunch. I don't like it when fried oysters are covered in a thick batter.
Spicy beef noodle soup ($5.99): Beef noodle soup is one of the few dishes I remember eating sort of frequently in Taipei. It made me happy, except when I got too many pieces of tendon in my bowl. I'm not sure I even knew it was tendon; I just called it "the clear, jiggly bits I don't like." (UPDATE: I like tendon now, depending on how it's prepared.) As this bowl wasn't full of clear, jiggly bits, I was quite happy with it.
Salted crispy chicken ($6.99): DING DING-A-LING, this was my favorite dish of the meal. Because I like fried things, especially the chicken-based ones. By this point, I don't really remember why I liked it so much, but methinks it must have fulfilled the "salted" and "crispy" parts of its name. And the fried garlic bits didn't hurt.
Crispy pig intestine ($6.99): The texture was pleasant—a little chewy with a thin layer of crispiness—but it had a twinge of that not-so-pleasant feral flavor that reminded you, "Yup, that's some bowels you're eating there." The green onion in the center of the intestine helped mute the flavor though. Maybe. I liked eating it once; not sure I'd have to eat it again.
Cumin lamb ($12.99): Tender, gamy lamb chunks with cumin. It's a good combo.
Sauteed snow pea shoots with garlic ($9.99): Because we needed a vegetable and pea shoots are the best. For a good pea shoots primer, read Chichi's post about how to cook them. I love pea shoots because they're tender with just a bit of crunch (assuming you don't cook them to death) and have this fresh, slightly sweet flavor that reminds me of...well, peas. Although they taste great with garlic—a common preparation in Chinese restaurants—as Chichi says in her post, they're so flavorful they don't need garlic.
Three Cup Chicken ($10.99): The "Three Cup" name comes from the three cups of sauce the chicken is cooked with: soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. The result is moist, flavorful chicken nubs further enhanced by being cooked with basil. Although this is a popular dish in Taiwan, I don't remember ever eating it. (Maybe I should ask my mom.)
Grilled Taiwanese sausage ($4.99): Your regular sweet and fatty Chinese pork sausage (or as I like to call it, "MY FAVORITE SAUSAGE, OH MAN, this is the best"). Good stuff, although not something you have to order in a restaurant.
[Note: It's now 2:45 a.m. This means it's sleepy time and that I'll have to proofread this later.]
[Note: And I'm back! It's 11:45 p.m. Jebus. Although I know going to bed at 2 a.m. and later isn't healthy, I don't know how people can get to bed so much earlier. To give you an idea of my day, I woke up at 9 a.m., left for work at 9:30 a.m., stayed at work until around 7:10 p.m., went to dinner with some coworkers, got home a little after 10 p.m., checked email and twitter, wrote some emails, checked a few work-related items, took a shower and brushed my teeth, checked more email and surfed the Internet a bit, and finally, HERE I AM to resume blogging. On the bright side, I will probably go to bed before 2 a.m. tonight.]
We were all set on having baobing (romanized as "bow bin" on the menu), aka shaved ice topped with various sweet goos, for dessert. But they didn't have it. Not sure if that meant they didn't have ice or their shaver wasn't working, but that was just one of a few dishes we tried to order that was unavailable (I forget what the others were). We had been looking forward to it for the whole meal. :( ! I guess I'd call in advance next time to see if they have it; I'd hate to trek out there just to find out they didn't have any ice to shave.
So aside from the lack of dessert, we had a great meal. I intend on going back sometime with a new set of eaters. Nicholas will make sure that I get the stinky tofu.
I have an unofficial photography project called "Take Photos of Those Weird Kiddie Rides Featuring Limbless Long-Necked Creatures with Clown Noses." (Someday I hope to meet the person who came up with the original design and ask, "Why? Whyyyy?") This is the latest one found outside a convenience store near the restaurant. Here are previous findings:
If you know of others in the city I should photograph, let me know!
6817 8th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11220 (map)