I often find it amazing how universal sausage is. It seems like every culture has its own version of tube meat, like all humans have some sort of collective conscience that led us to grind up meat and stuff it inside of an intestine. And while you might think that Taiwanese sausage would basically be the same as Chinese Sausage, you would be wrong.
You may recall that a few years back I paid a visit to Shanghai and had some of their stinky tofu (aka chou doufu in Mandarin). At that time it was pretty much the only variety of stinky tofu I really knew of because I had spent a year living in that city. Stinky tofu, however, seems to come in as many flavors as bread or pasta, with Taiwan claiming one of its own.
When I found out that a Taiwanese fried chicken place had opened next door to my office, I knew I had to stop by, especially because I would soon be paying a visit to Taiwan. It’s called Hot Star, and for some reason it specializes in flattening the fried chicken to make it look massive. I don’t know if this is meant to make it taste or look better, but I was ready to find out.
When your Taiwanese friend invites you to grab some Taiwanese food, it is wise to listen. Yes, even when that Taiwanese food is all the way in goddamn Allison Park. So we took a long journey out to the suburbs to see what Chow’s had to offer. We found the place sadly empty, but at least it wasn’t full of white people.
Community hot pot like that offered at Hunan Bar is a great thing. Yet, sometimes it’s nice to just have your own stuff to eat. That’s where I Tea Cafe in Shadyside comes in handy, offering personalized hot pot, but unfortunately lacking in the all-you-can-eat aspect. They also try to make up for it with some bubble tea and tasty appetizers.
How do you know if an ethnic restaurant is authentic? You look inside and see if people resembling that ethnicity are inside. Or, better yet, you let one of them take you there. At least that’s how it went down for me when a Taiwanese friend of mine invited me to Rose Tea Cafe in Squirrel Hill (supposedly the Oakland location isn’t as good) to get some Taiwanese food. Rose Tea Cafe isn’t just some tea house, it’s a full-on restaurant with almost too many options to choose. So we turned to my friend to figure out what to get.
If you’re a longtime reader, you may recall a post from a few years ago highlighting the illustrious Chinese street food called Chou Doufu. Literally translating to “stinky tofu,” this dish can be smelled from blocks away and the smell is the antithesis of fragrant. For a long time, I thought this dish was relegated to Asia, until I read about a place in Gardena called Yami Teahouse that claimed to have that stinky bean curd. To my delight, it wasn’t far from my office and I might my way there to perk up my olfactory memory.
Once upon a time, some great people brought me to a place called Din Tai Fung. Although I was living in Shanghai at the time, I had no idea what to expect on this first visit to Xintiandi and my first introduction to Xiaolongbao (way before it was cool). Luckily, they taught me how to bite in without scalding the insides of my mouth, and I quickly fell in love. More than six years later, I finally made in back to Din Tai Fung, but this time it was in Arcadia, California. Despite the obvious distance between Arcadia and Shanghai, much of Arcadia looks like it was pulled directly out of China. The Din Tai Fung, though, looked little like its counterpart across the Pacific.