Dinner at Sinohouse

It’s 4AM Vienna time, so why not blog about food at this hour? I love Chinese food; it’s really good comfort food, but it also reminds me of celebrations. I usually haunt the same few places for some good old eat-all-you-can buffet, but last Saturday, I wanted to try something else. Some place with good reviews and recommendations, a great ambience (none of the stress of trying to eat all you can), and nice location. So off to Sinohouse we went.

Sinohouse
Our aperitifs – the Sinohouse Mojito for me, Campari Orange for Julie – and free appetizers!

Sinohouse
Baked fish with sweet chili sauce on mangoes ❤

Sinohouse
The Chef’s Mix Dim Sum selection. Except for the Siu Mai, I don’t know what the others are called, but everything was good!

Sinohouse
I love their lamps!

Sinohouse
The star of the meal: the Singapore style pepper crab. This is a must- try!

Sinohouse

Sinohouse
I gave Vicky some temporary tattoos. She wanted to have one on her back, like Tante Ody. Some role model, I am.

Sinohouse

Sinohouse
Mochi! Different from the Japanese mochi I’m used to, this has coconut in different tastes and textures.

Sinohouse
My favorite among the desserts we tried: sticky rice with mango. So simple, but so heavenly.

Sinohouse
Green pancakes with toasted and candied coconut shreds and coconut cream on the side.

Sinohouse
My dates.

Sinohouse
Himmelpfortgasse 27
A-1010 Wien

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Try New Things Tuesday: Taipei edition

TNT Tuesday - Taipei

I think the easiest, and probably best way to try new things is to try a new dish. The receptionist at the hotel I stayed at in Taipei, Ambience Hotel, suggested I take the subway to Dongmen to have the best dimsum in the city. I’ve read a lot of travel tips about the best dim sum being served at Din Tai Fung, but I also read about its really long queues and it being a tourist trap, so a great alternative was very welcome. I quickly looked it up online and read a great review with some photos, and off I went to Dongmen. Only problem? I didn’t know what the great dim sum place was called. I got off at Dongmen, asked one of the employees at the subway station where Dongmen dim sum was. She only understood Dongmen and pointed at the station sign. Then I remembered the magic word one of the only few words I knew in Chinese: xiao long bao. She immediately got it, pointed me to the right exit and told me it was 10 steps (or maybe 10 meters) away. I was so glad I read the online review with the photos because I wouldn’t have  recognized the restaurant’s entrance, which only had Chinese characters on it.

I had to wait for a few minutes to get a table at Kao-Chi . I was given a menu with an overwhelming array of choices. I wanted to order two kinds of dim sum, but the waitress told me that one order was really big, so I asked her which one was the best. A few minutes later, this arrived:

TNT Tuesday - Taipei

Ten pieces of hot and steamy pork dim sum. As I bit into the first one, hot soup spilled out. Startling for a newbie like me, but sooo good. I thought ten pieces would be too many, but they were just so good, I ate all ten. After that, I kept thinking that I could never eat fast food dim sum ever again. I’d go back to Taipei just for the xiao long bao. Sigh.

TNT Tuesday - Taipei

I didn’t get to try the Taiwanese hotdog at the night market, so I was really happy that one of the food stalls at the airport served it. Known locally as Da Chang Bao Xiao Chang, it is pork sausage wrapped in a sticky rice sausage. It reminded me of the Filipino longganisa, but bigger, handier, and (sorry) better. I couldn’t have ended my Taipei trip better.

Brunch in Cologne: Fromme

Located along Breite Straße (take U-Bahn line 3 to Appellhofplatz) Fromme is a café and patisserie that serves breakfast all day long. Fromme has been in Cologne on Breite Straße since 1893. If you can get past drooling about all the cakes and pies by the entrance, you’ll find a dining area further inside. If it’s warm out, you can grab a table outside – there are blankets placed on the chairs in case it gets cold.

I ordered the Schlemmer Frühstück with a slice each of black bread, white bread and a croissant, cold cuts, cheese, butter, jam, a boiled egg, sweet cream cheese and a glass of fresh orange juice with pulp – all for only € 5.95. You can upsize it to a portion for two for € 9.95. I added a cup of peppermint tea, which cost me € 2.40.

With a day of sightseeing and/or strolling along the shopping streets of Cologne, I’d say a brunch at Fromme is perfect to start things off. Not convinced? Check out this eyecandy:

Brunch in Cologne

Brunch in Cologne

Brunch in Cologne

Brunch in Cologne

Brunch in Cologne

Fromme
Opening Hours
Monday to Friday: 8:30 – 19:00
Saturday: 8:30 – 18:30
Sunday: 10:30 – 18:00

Taipei: visiting Longshan Temple & Snake Alley

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

The heavy, non-stop rains in Taipei in mid-December limited to my itinerary to two sites, preferably indoors, per day, plus any more I had time and energy for. I also didn’t force myself to see all major tourist attractions. This might have been a very lazy approach to experience the city, but with a huge umbrella (nicely provided by the hotel. The small, cute umbrellas wouldn’t help), wet boots, dampened spirits, I really didn’t want to stress out too much about having to see everything. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have been too relaxed because I ended up shopping quite a few times. Oh well.

Of course I had to visit a temple. Longshan Temple is not the biggest temple, but it apparently is one of the most beautiful in the city. I went at around 6 PM so I could witness the offerings. I expected people meditating and doing tai chi. When I arrived, the crowd was just starting to gather. With the smell of incense, the sight of the colorful offerings of flowers and fruits, the jam-packed people in close quarters, it was sensory overload. There were a lot of people and a lot of sounds, yet it was very peaceful. I walked around taking it all in, wondering what they were praying for, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. It was, after all, their sacred space and I was a just a visitor.

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Outside the temple, I met a monk named Yuan Hong (not sure if I spelled it correctly). He was standing near one of the exits. Not wanting to impose, I asked him if I may give him a donation – a strange question, I know. He said yes, and when I asked if I could take a photo of him, he agreed.

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Walking a little further, I reached the Hua Xi Night Market, also known as Snake Alley, as some stalls cook and serve snake meat. It was still a bit early and some stalls weren’t even open yet, so I decided to get a foot and back massage at one of the massage parlors at the market. For 50 minutes, I paid only around €5! They made me change into shorts so I could put my feet into a tub with hot water and some kind of salt. While my feet were soaking, I was given a back massage; I could feel a lot of tension on my back. After the back massage, my feet were next. The masseuse couldn’t understand English, so whenever it hurt, I just made gestures and winced in pain, and she’d understand.

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

After a relaxing 50 minutes, I decided to look around the market to see all my food options. I stopped at a stall that had what I was looking for, but didn’t know what it was called. There were tables but I sat in front of the cook and pointed at my order. When I asked him what it was, he took out his cellphone. Because I thought he was going to get his calculator to show me how much it was (as happened quite often), I tried to gesture, “no, not yet” but it turned out to be his smartphone and the Google Translate app. Ha! With it, he told me it was a Taiwanese Hamburger. I heard another woman order the same, calling it Gua Pao. I loved the combination of the soft bun, the salty meat and the cilantro, but the sweet sauce was a bit too sweet for me.

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

To wash the taste of the sauce off, I bought bubble tea. Before this trip, I didn’t know it was invented in Taiwan! I ordered taro-flavored milk tea. We have a few bubble tea stands in Vienna, but aside from the chewy tapioca, I didn’t really like the flavors they were serving. The bubble tea in Taipei was different, a little tastier, creamier, sweeter. It made me really happy. Really – I was walking around sipping the cup with a grin on my face.

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Happy and satisfied with my food choices, I just walked around to see the other food stalls. A lot of them sold grilled sausages. There were colorful sweet things, like jelly balls.

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

I stopped in front of a stall with terraria of huge snakes in front, a dining area at the back. Just as I got there, a man sitting on a high chair looked at me sternly, shook his head, and wiggled his index finger. I think he was forbidding me to take pictures. Although I wasn’t planning to anyway, the man scared me and I walked on.

Taipei: Longshan & Hua Xi

Sweet treat in Edinburgh

If you’re in Edinburgh and have a sweet tooth, I highly recommend a visit to the Fudge House located along the Royal Mile. After hours and hours of walking, the fudge served there is a well-deserved treat.

Fudge House

With so many fantastic flavors offered, it was hard to choose which to try.  The variants ranged from chocolate fudge like classic hazelnut and chocolate pecan swirl to special flavors like lemon merengue pie and peppermint. After a lot of thinking, I went for butterscotch, pistachio & white chocolate, and chai latte. I immediately devoured the butterscotch fudge – when it melts in your mouth, it turns into a rich, creamy, and sweet treat. So good. I saved the other two flavors for the next day, which I think made them even better. Day-old fudge is really good. Among the three, I’d have to say that the chai latte was my favorite. It’s such an unexpected flavor and the sweetness of the fudge and the spice of the chai latte is a great combination.

Fudge House

We stayed a few minutes in the store to watch part of the fudge-making process. Noting that it would be hard to resist all the deliciousness in the store we asked the fudge maker if he ate fudge every day. He said he has to taste it, it’s part of the job.  Lucky. He would, however, resist the temptation to feast on it all day, every day. I’m not sure if I would.

Fudge House Fudge House

The Fudge House
197 Canongate
Edinburgh

twitter: @FudgeHouseEdin

TNT Travel Edinburgh

Aside from the city’s beauty (even when it rained!), Edinburgh is memorable to me because I got to TNT, or Try New Things there! 🙂

While I do enjoy appreciate alcohol, I have never tried Scotch Whisky. Thanks to Mad Men, the drink looked sophisticated in my eyes and made me fantasize about offering Scotch to anyone who would visit me in my office. What better place to try Scotch than its origin? After hiking to the Edinburgh Castle, I went on a Scotch Whisky Experience to know more about the whisky making process, the regions where Scotch is made, and to taste-test.

The Barrel Ride is similar to theme park rides, but instead of little dolls singing “It’s a Small World”, there’s a ghost that takes you through the entire process of Scotch Whisky production.

TNT Travel Edinburgh

After the tour, a Scotch expert introduces the different aromas and the different regions where Scotch comes from. To determine which aroma you prefer, there are scratch-and-sniff cards. From the regions of Highlands (there can only be one!), Lowland, Islay and Speyside, I chose the Lowland because of its fruity, fresh and citrusy aroma.

TNT Travel Edinburgh

I chose wrongly. Haha. While citrusy is perfect for my mojitos, caipirinhas and gin fizzes, I didn’t quite like it in my Scotch. As it is the most light-bodied Scotch, it is usually preferred by beginners though. Maybe I should have gone with the Highlands with its sweetness with a touch of smoke. Oh well, that leaves more room for experimentation in finding my Scotch. When that day comes, you’ll see me swirling Scotch in a nice little low glass and sipping it slowly before I offer you a drink.

TNT Travel Edinburgh

My favorite part of the tour was seeing the world’s largest collection of Scotch Whisky. The collection belongs to Mr. Claive Vidiz, who started collecting in the 1970s and has amassed almost 3,400 bottles!

The bottles range from the old…

TNT Travel Edinburgh

the royal …

TNT Travel Edinburgh

and the quirky. Yes, that’s Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster!

TNT Travel Edinburgh

Okay now this is was my absolutely my favorite new thing I got to try in Edinburgh. Sometimes I still daydream about it.

The deep-fried Mars bar.

OMG. Look at it. It doesn’t look as pretty or special as other sweets like cupcakes and macarons, but it’s heaven.

TNT Travel Edinburgh

Deep-fried in batter, the Mars bar is warm and gooey. When you bite in, the chocolate, caramel and nougat melt together and swirl in your mouth. It’s the best. This is coming from someone who doesn’t even prefer regular Mars bars over, say, Milky Way or Twix. I ❤ you, deep-fried Mars bar.

TNT Travel Edinburgh

where the magic began

Elephant House Edinburgh

During our trip to Edinburgh in Scotland in October, my friend Elki and I scored with the location of our hotel. Hotel du Vin is charming, cozy, and near everything. Admittedly, it wasn’t easy lugging our suitcases uphill, but it was worth it. We were a little creeped out to find out that it was also near the cemetery where we took a Haunted Graveyard Tour. While walking around to acquaint ourselves with the area, we passed a coffee shop named The Elephant House with a sign saying it’s Harry Potter’s birthplace and wondered what that could be about. Hours later, I remembered that J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter in a coffee shop in Scotland. (When I was still a student, my friends and I would ask each other trivia questions about Harry and J.K. – such geeks!) We figured it must be a really popular tourist spot, so when we passed by it at night and there was no queue, we took advantage and went in. All tables were taken, but luckily there were some free seats at the bar.

Elephant House Edinburgh

The café has a certain enchanting and comfortable vibe – a personality that lacks in the run-of-the-mill coffee chains that we see so often nowadays. No baristas shouting your name (or made-up coffee house names) across the room, and no fancy synonyms for small, medium, large. I really loved Elephant House’s assortment of teas. I ordered tea and Malteser cake made of Maltesers, caramel and shortbread. If I could, I would only eat Malteser-everything. So good. Perfect for ending a cold, rainy evening.

Elephant House Edinburgh

Unfortunately, I did not get any magical, best-selling idea for a book while there, but I did get to sneak a pic of me pretending to think while having tea.

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Elephant House Edinburgh

The Elephant House
21 George IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 1EN
Tel. 0131-220-5355
Fax. 0131-220-4272
contact@elephanthouse.biz

Eats in Stockholm

Sweden is famous for some of my childhood favorites, like Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, Roxette, ABBA, Ace of Base, and some of my current faves, like Robyn, H&M, COS, and Alexander Skarsgård.

Another one of my favorites, IKEA, introduced me to Swedish Meatballs way before I have ever been to Sweden. Simple, but delicious and filling, accompanied by a refillable drink, this meal made all my trips to IKEA to stock up on Tindra candles even more enticing. Of course, my trip to Stockholm wouldn’t have been complete without having Swedish Meatballs in Sweden.

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A closer look.

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Yum. It was perfect after hours of walking in Drottningholm. I ordered this at the restaurant just outside of the Drottningholm Palace. The tartness of the redcurrants mixed very well with the creamy sauce. I would have preferred mashed potatoes, but maybe that wouldn’t be too traditional.

On to the next lunch: grilled salmon with potatoes at the Nordic Museum restaurant. This was my favorite meal. The skin was just crispy enough and the fish meat was soft and juicy. So, so good.

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On to the sweet stuff! Before entering the Nobel Museum, we saw this interesting sign.

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If it’s claimed to be world famous, you’ve got to try, right? So after an inspiring, but also heartbreaking tour of the museum, we went to its Bistro Nobel to try the Nobel Ice Cream. The sweet treat is vanilla and blackcurrant ice cream topped with whipped cream, berries and an Alfred Nobel chocolate coin. The vanilla flavor tasted so real, and you could even see specs of vanilla bean in the ice cream. The blackcurrant ice cream was just the right combination of sweet and sour. It was a perfect afternoon pick-me-up! While at the Bistro Nobel, we noticed people turning over chairs a lot. Turns out that signatures of Nobel Laureates that have visited the museum were under the chairs!

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In Skansen, we had cheesecake at the Tre Byttor Taverne. I liked it, but it wasn’t too special – light, not too sweet, a bit on the dry side.

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I may never get a Nobel Prize, but now I know what the table setting at the Nobel Banquet looks like:

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At Midsummer Eve, the dinner table would usually look like this:

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Nobel Museum
Nobelmuseet Stortorget 2, Gamla Stan
Summer opening hours: June 3–August 31, every day 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Winter opening hours: Tuesdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Wednesday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Mondays closed.