Favorite Taiwanese Dishes

Although our IELP students come from all over the world, food unites us all. We all enjoy  tasting new dishes and learning about the favorite foods of our friends and family. Last week, we spoke to Ting-Wei and Jo-Tzu, Taiwanese STEP students who both love Taiwanese food. Ting-Wei’s family even owns a traditional restaurant in Taiwan! To learn more about their favorite dishes, continue reading below:

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Lu Rou Fan (Braised Pork Rice, 滷肉饭)

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When asked what their favorite Taiwanese dish was, Ting-Wei and Jo-Tzu immediately named braised pork rice. This dish is an important icon of Taiwanese folk life, and is consumed all around Taiwan. However, different areas have slight variations in their dish, such Southern Taiwan using pork with less fat, and Northern Taiwan favoring a greasier version, sometimes with sticky rice mixed in.

Oil Rice (Youfan, 油飯)

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Jo-Tzu loves youfan, or Taiwanese “oil” rice. She told us she has fond memories associated with this dish because it is traditionally served to celebrate the birth of a child. However, you can find this dish at New Year’s meals, temple celebrations, and all around Taiwan! You can even order some at the Taichung train station (pictured below), if you are hungry while traveling. Although most variations include rice, pork, and oil, there are differences in the dish depending on the area and the family cooking it.

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Stinky Tofu (Chòudòufu, 臭豆腐)

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Ting-Wei told us stinky tofu is a traditional dish available throughout Taiwan through stands that sell stinky tofu to locals and tourists (pictured below). According to folk stories, stinky tofu was invented by accident during the Qing dynasty by a man named Wang Zhi-He. Today, stinky tofu is often fried and served with sauce and sour pickled vegetables. Barbecued stinky tofu, where the tofu is cooked with meat sauce, is recommended to people trying stinky tofu for the first time, and is thought to have been invented in Taipei’s Shenkeng District.

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Beef Noodle Soup (牛肉麵)

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Beef noodle soup is a favorite of Ting-Wei, Jo-Tzu, and IELP staff. This classic dish usually uses brisket or shank only, although some restaurants offer a more expensive version with meat and tendon. Although beef noodle soup is common in both China and Taiwan, it is considered a national dish in Taiwan. It is so loved in Taiwan that Taipei holds a Beef Noodle Festival every year, where various chefs and restaurants compete for the “Best Beef Noodle in Taiwan” award.

Tánghúlu (糖葫芦)

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Jo-Tzu’s favorite dessert is a traditional Chinese dessert that is loved throughout Taiwan. Jo-Tzu even said that she found tánghúlu at the Seattle International District-Chinatown Night Market! This snack is usually made with red or yellow hawthorn berries dipped in sugar hard candy. Although hawthorn berries are traditional, other kinds of berries and nuts are sometimes skewered and dipped in the candy. The tangy taste of hawthorn berries go well with the sweet candy coating, which is probably why this food has been loved in China and Taiwan for over 800 years.

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After the interview, we asked Seattle locals about their favorite Taiwanese restaurant in the Seattle area. If you are in Seattle and would like to try Taiwanese food, or you are from Taiwan and missing food from home, check out these places:

  1. Looking for Chai Taiwanese Kitchen
  2. Facing East
  3. Din Tai Fung
  4. Dough Zone Dumpling House (Chinese, Sichuanese, and Taiwanese food)

Thank you to Ting-Wei and Jo-Tzu for telling us about their favorite dishes! This post and our conversations with students don’t even scratch the surface of Taiwan’s culinary history. We encourage you to explore different cultures, foods, and restaurants in Seattle, and to find your own favorite dishes!

 

Photo Credits: Business Insider, Bear Naked Food, i.epoch.times.com, Smart Traveler, Wikipedia, Eater

Favorite Japanese Dishes

Our IELP students come from all over the world, and our STEP 3 session has a large percentage of Japanese participants. Although I have tried basic types of (American=ized) sushi, edamame, and poke bowls, I wanted to learn more about the traditional cuisine. On our field trip to Seattle Center last Tuesday, I asked the students to share some of their favorites, and did some research to find out more about these dishes and their origins.

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Monjayaki

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Sakura Yamashita describes her favorite dish she calls “Monja” as a “hot plate mixed with vegetable and meat.”

Monjayaki is very popular in the Kantō region, and is one of Tokyo’s most famous dishes. Although often compared to okonomayaki, a similar dish made in the Kansai region, it is a lot wetter and cooks flat on one side, whereas okonomiyaki is drier, firmer and thicker. The ingredients also differ. Monja is created by frying the dry ingredients (usually some variation of cabbage, noodles, cod roe, mochi, and flour) in a circle, and filling said circle with a liquid batter after a few minutes. The result? A delicious savory pancake with the consistency of melted cheese!

Tonkatsu

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“I’m from Fukuoka so I like Tonkatsu” -Kazuhiro Fujiyama

Often simply called “katsu” in the States, this classic Japanese dish uses pork fillet or loin that is dipped in salt, pepper, flour, and beaten egg before being deep fried in a coat of “panko” or bread crumbs. It is usually served with cabbage or tsukemono (Japanese preserved vegetables), rice, and miso soup. In Korea, tonkatsu is known as don-gaseu (돈가스) or don-kkaseu (돈까스), which derived from a transliteration of the Japanese word. There are many variations of this dish, and tonkatsu is also popular as a sandwich filling (katsu sando) or served on Japanese curry (katsu karē).

Yamanashi Fruit

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Moemi Okamura explains that “peaces and grapes are the most famous in Yamanashi.”

Japan’s Yamanashi prefecture is dubbed the “kingdom of fruit,” and rightfully so! The reason lies in Yamanashi’s weather– low annual precipitation and extreme differences in heat and cold help to create sweet, juicy fruit year round. Not only is Yamanashi the biggest producer of peaches and grapes in Japan, but there are fruit picking facilities year-round boasting multiple varieties of cherries, plums, pears, strawberries, blueberries, and apples. People from all around the world flock to Yamanashi to admire their expansive orchards and to pick fresh, delicious produce.

Unagi

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 “My mom buys the eel in the supermarket but will make it at home.” -Chisa Tomono

Unagi is a cult summertime favorite among Japanese, but can cost up to 30 American dollars served in a restaurant. For this reason, many have incentive to make this delicacy at home. This calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron-rich treat is known to help combat the scorching summer heat. One student adds that July 25th is the designated “unagi day!” Intrigued, I did some research and discovered that the name of the period for eating Unagi is called ‘Doyo-no Ushi-no hi’. “Doyo” is an 18 day period between summer and autumn, mid July to early August, and is the hottest time of the year in Japan. “Ushi no hi” can be directly translated to Ox day, originating from the traditional Japanese calendar that uses the Chinese Zodiac system. Legend has it that a struggling eel restaurant owner during the Edo period began advertising unagi on the day of Ox, because both Ushi (Ox in Japanese) and Unagi begin with the letter ‘u’. This play on words worked well as a promotion, and eventually developed into a Japanese folklore that if you eat unagi on the day of ox, you will regain power!

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Obviously, this blog post does not scratch the surface of Japan’s rich culinary heritage. Other favorites frequently mentioned include sushi, nikujaga (boiled meat and potato), nattō (fermented soybeans), shabu-shabu (meat and vegetable hot pot), udon (thick wheat flour noodle), soba (thin buckwheat flour noodle), and wagashi (sweet snack often served with tea). However, I hope that this post could provide some insight into traditional Japanese cuisine and inspire you to try something new!

 

Visit Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill, located just south of the University District where the University of Washington’s Seattle campus is located is a neighborhood full of culture! It has many great places to eat, relax, and encounter new things! See below for some suggestions for where to visit, eat, and have fun!

Volunteer Park

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This sculpture is called “Black Sun”

Also home to the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park is a great place to have a picnic and enjoy the outdoors. It has a water tower build over 100 years ago in 1906! You can walk up to the top and see a great view of Seattle. Volunteer Park is is where you can find the Volunteer Park Conservatory, which is open Tuesday thru Sunday from 10am-4pm. Tickets for the conservatory are FREE every FIRST Thursday and Saturday of each month. See more here.

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This is the Volunteer Park Conservatory

Elliott Bay Book Company

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The interior of the Elliott Bay Book Company

Founded in 1973, the Elliott Bay Book Company was originally located in Pioneer Square until it moved to it’s current location in Capitol Hill! It is a great local bookstore that everyone should visit!

Check out the events they have this month here!

Hello Robin

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Hello Robin serves local ice cream from Molly Moon’s

Hello Robin is a bakery which bakes cookies fresh each day, with flavors such as Chocolate Chip, Birthday Cake, Mackles’more, and more! They specialize in ice cream sandwiches made from these cookies, with Molly Moon’s ice cream sandwiched between two cookies! You can visit their website here.

Tacos Chukis

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Tacos Chukis is great! If you can find it.

Tacos Chukis is an excellent taqueria (a mexican restaurant which specializes in tacos) however it can be difficult to find. The prices though are on the lower end of many restaurants which are located in Capitol Hill! This taqueria is located upstairs in the Broadway Alley.

Dick’s

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This drive has several locations throughout Seattle

Dick’s is located on Broadway, like many other restaurants in Capitol Hill. It was founded in Seattle in the 1950s, as part of a fast food boom that was sweeping across the country. It is one of Seattle’s favorite traditional burger joints! It is important to note that this restaurant only accepts cash as payment. You can visit their website here.

Century Ballroom

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The Century Ballroom hosts all sorts of dancing!

Established in 1997, Century Ballroom promotes social dancing of all kinds! They host many events such as Bachata dancing, with a drop in lesson before. They also offer classes. Please note that many classes and events are only offered to those 21 and up.

Learn more here.

Dancing Feet

On Broadway, a major street in Capitol Hill where you can find a lot of places to eat there is an interesting art installment. The Broadway Dance Steps are bronze shoes in the ground, numbered to allow people to easily dance the rumba for instance without ever having to do it before! Read more about the history of the art installation here!

 

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The steps are numbered so you can dance!

Next time you’re in Capitol Hill make sure to check these out!