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Jan 31, 2013 11:16 AM

Layover: Taipei

I was looking for a thread o nthis but I couldn't believe I that I couldn't find one!
Anyway, anyone see this episode? Thoughts/

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  1. I, too, want strippers at my funeral procession.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      It almost seems, um, too little too late.

    2. It was amusing to see him wax poetic over DTF.

      1. Lived in Taipei for eight years, and although I'm not familiar with the stripper-at-the-funeral fad (would have been nice to have gotten a shot of one such show, if for no other reason than to substantiate the claim that this was truly widespread), everything else about it was perfect.

        Bourdain captured this wonderful city more perfectly than anyone else on TV has. Kudos.

        1. Someone asked me about my opinion on this very recently.

          A few things:

          - The episode was designed in mind for a layover, quick visit. It's a good reference for those who never visited Taipei, and want a little more than just the touristy spots (unfortunately Bourdain hit the biggest one of all, Din Tai Fung). In short I think he covered the basics quite well.

          - The Layover crew, including his guide who was with him, China Matt, visited 世界豆漿大王 (World Soymilk King) in Yongho. They ate there, and talked to the staff and owners. I know because I joined WSK's FB page and they posted the photos of their visit the day of last year. Yet this coverage got cut out entirely in the episode. It's the same thing when Bourdain visited one of the best beef tripe/innards specialist food stall vendor in Macau, there are pictures of it on the travel channel website, but got yanked out of the final cut in favor of gambling and plain cheung fun snack. Too bad!

          - The footage of him eating "on a bus" was a total waste. Modern Toilet should not even have been given any coverage, though I understand the shock and awe value.

          - The mention of Zhongshan district as a Japantown is accurate. It's more like an extension of Japan, rather than a Japantown, because the food and service quality is ridiculously high and great, even better than top Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong (save the Michelin star ones). Alas this will probably be another day and another time.

          - The coverage of Keelung Night Market is quite accurate. There are virtually 200 ish food stalls, some off a main strip, but if you stay on the main strip itself you too can't go wrong. Everyone has their "must eat list" and it varies from person to person. The oyster omlette is good, but the one at Ningxia Road Night Market in Taipei (which surprisingly he didn't go to) is way better as it focuses on 1950s era Taipei receipes and well preserved. It was a solid choice for him not to be at Shihlin which is super touristy now.

          - The very first thing that Tony ate at Keelung was exactly the same item I had during my first visit in 2005. He called it pot sticker soup...which is partly accurate and false at the same time. I went to the one on the left side of the temple, I think he went to the right. It's called Ding Bien Dzuo 鼎邊趖, and was brought over by Fujianese immigrants. It is damn delicious and you won't find anything else like it elsewhere. With that said, the stall where I ate it, called Wu's, has a few branches in Taipei city, including the food court of Taipei 101 :-o (but I hear it's not as good as flagship). But this is a must eat for first visit at Keelung

          - The deep fried sandwich with mayo, ham, tomato, etc at Keelung, is dubbed "nutritious sandwich" in Chinese, and is actually really really good. One bite sausage is also awesome. Pig feet is actually a signature item, either clear stewed soup, or hung shao...both are amazing, too bad he didn't eat that.

          - The Hakka Taiwanese coverage was minimal.

          - The beef noodle soup restaurant where he had the clear broth noodles 金春財, is at least 100 years old, and is first and foremost and beef and beef parts specialist restaurant. It's not the best place for clear broth beef noodles, but it's a good place if you want a mix of noodles and beef tripe soup. "Beef Mama" at Ningxia Road Night Market, does something similar except it's more beef innards (lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, tripe etc) and sacha beef stir fried noodles. On the travel channel website of recommendations, Yong Kang beef noodles is listed. While that restaurant is 50++ years old, I have to say it's not very good overall when comparing to the other places that do "hung shao" way better.

          - hot spring spa coverage was interesting. Though he or his Americanized expat guides could have picked Wulai as a backdrop and get to sample wild boar, mountain veg, river shrimp, fresh bamboo shoots from the mountain (aborigine cuisine). Then again he did eat a leafy green that looked like wild mountain veg somewhere in the footage.

          - Din Tai Fung is probably a must visit for a first timer coming to Taipei, but after that the city has way too much goodness to offer, and time should not be wasted in line at the flagship store fighting for tables with tourists from Hong Kong, China, and SE Asia.

          - shaved ice? That's so yesterday...should have gotten shaved snow.

          - no coverage of betelnut girls...

          16 Replies
          1. re: K K

            So can I say I was kind of disappointed?

            Obviously, the show is geared as an overview for first timers in Taipei, but....

            - Yes, beef noodle soup rec needed to happen but clear style? Red or hong shao style is the most iconic style in TW. I went to Yong Kang beef noodles in Dec and it was all right, nothing amazing. For an institution, they should have gone to the one on Tao Yuan St (where they do sell both red and clear).

            - Hardly any Hakka, but I get this a Taipei show.

            - Keelung market was covered properly although I think if I were to only have 48 hours in Taipei, I wouldn't travel all the way to Keelung. I would do one of the nightmarkets in the city proper. Shi Da market is good and not quite so tourist hellish as Shilin. Raohe is okay, has more junky shopping than food stalls these days. I went to Ningxia this Dec and it was in the words of my cabbie, "Food Heaven."

            - The chick who took him to the bus fast fry, shrimping, beef noodles, and was always talking while in a hot spring tub annoyed the HELL out of me. She did not seem knowledgable at all about the Taipei food scene. All those scenes with her were a waste and as an aside, I've gone shrimping several times and grilled and ate up some rather tasty shrimp and to live to tell the tale. Shrimping is perhaps too "Tai/台" for them to get, I guess.

            - Zhongshan district... they should have gone to an izakaya or sushi place.

            - DTF was necessary though they could have shot a more close-up or talked about the 18 folds or whatever. Just shots of Bourdain saying yum over and over again was meh.

            - I don't know anyone who lives in Taipei who has even heard of Modern Toilet. But somehow, all the Western toursim pieces have it.

            - When he was at Taipei 101, they could have gone to Shin Ye for a contemproary take on traditional Taiwanese cuisine (which also would then get your Hakka) and also your 101 view.

            Overall, I felt like it gave more of a negative impression of the city than I would have cared for... like the incessant talk how ugly the buildings are, how much he hates stinky tofu, and not showing how much night life - hell, go to a damn hostess bar- (which Bourdain enjoys) there is instead of taking him to a bus to have fast fry.

            1. re: vliang

              vliang you would have kicked total ass if you replaced the gal as Bourdain's guide and host! ;-) Somehow their selection of info seeking guides totally slipped through the cracks on this one. For the Hong Kong No Reservations episode he got really lucky and found a guy who really knew his stuff (Josh Tse) and was a major travelhead and food lover and historian at heart. I am astounded that he couldn't find a top local blogger who also is fluent in English to be his guide. I think this was also why Macau No Reservations was a wasted episode.

              A few other comments:

              DN innovación, they are the premiere Spanish "molecular" restaurant in Taipei and the only one where they do fusion of Taiwanese with molecular and Spanish. Yes they had a really fancy "night market" themed menu, including fusion style/molecular style stinky tofu (including stinky tofu bread), beef noodle soup (where the noodle looked like a pasta) and more. Maybe not as shocking as Bo Innovation for Hong Kong but certainly visually impressive. I know CHer Peech dislikes this place and thinks the molecular is poor, but for Taipei and from a fusion standpoint, it's definitely interesting. Certainly there could be better food at L'atelier de Joel Robuchon at Bellavita, that could also be mentioned too. Or the eatery at Bellavita that also offers chocolate XLB and the high end scallops XLB. Or the other place that offers kim chi or oolong green tea XLB (Jing Din Fung I think was the name)?

              Speaking of DTF flagship Taipei...why the hell did Bourdain not order the black truffle XLB?! It's an least only Taiwan has it. And no mention of their stewed black chicken soup which is freakin amazing!

              At Rao He Night Market, he did eat at what I agree to be the best stall, the pork pepper bun 饒河街元祖胡椒餅 (as it is my top favorite). For some reason I thought the pork pepper bun there tasted even better than a DTF Xiao long bao. This is supposed to be a Fuzhou specialty, not that I know if it actually exists over there in China. The pork filling is uber juicy, lots of white pepper in the marination (and thus very spicy) and ample scallions inside. The tandoori like fire roast makes the exterior roasty, toasty, a Aussie meat pie crust that's not burnt, great in a different way. So damn good just thinking about it. Too bad Tony didn't make much comments on it or had the camera zoom in. So another wasted scene of him eating, then moving on elsewhere.

              I think the travel channel guide mentioned Tonghua Street night market, that's also slightly less touristy.

              I agree, any solid authentic Japanese izakaya, high end kappo ryoryi/sushi, or even a personal BBQ joint like Gan bei bar or Hutong would have been better than the toilet, or the bus.

              I also feel the seafood coverage at Keelung was just scratching the surface....Taiwan has a gazillion types of exotic and excellent local seafood, and he spends footage eating fugly looking uni and talking about upping chances of getting fellated? Scheisse. While the local tuna, salmon, raw shrimp (several varieties) and even swordfish (which is very famous at Keelung) for sashimi are very tasty and high quality/affordable, the local "9 hole" abalone, clams, various kinds of fish are excellent for steaming or stir fry, and couple that with stir fry dishes like egg tofu bitter melon (Okinawa style), smoked goose, this is even better than that TW style izakaya experience he had....and down that stuff either with beer, or a honey aloe canned drink 蘆薈露 which is a very typical non alcoholic beverage to have with this kind of setting.

              Typo, the beef specialist restaurant where Tony ate is 金春發 (Jin Tsuan Fah)

              1. re: K K

                i accidently stumbled onto that hu jiao bing place at rao he by accident bc my friend lives over there so we just went to go mess around and eat there and that thing is really really good. i was surprised tony didn't have a bigger reaction to that thing, it was one of the best things ive had at a night market in a long time

                i guess he didnt cover fruit well in taiwan either, the fruit there is amazing

                1. re: K K

                  Aw, thanks, KK...

                  I totally agree with you on the Keelung seafood bit. Honestly, tons of seafood joints in Taipei that have their seafood from Keelung every morning. And they do fast fry too... there another two birds with one stone!

                  1. re: vliang

                    I agree Lau and vliang on the fruit. But it's not important enough for him to talk about it, since it's a layover. Also the international community isn't going to be fawning over strawberries from Miaoli irrigated with milk....or Lien Wu from Pintung, or the small seedy oranges that are juicy and delicious, or the dragon fruits, starfruits. The best coverage of fruit from the show was mango cubes on shaved ice. Oh well.

                    Do a youtube search for "Eddie Huang Fresh Off The Boat", he does two webisodes on Taiwan and in one he eats at Din Tai Fung with his dad (freakin hilarious), and another episode he went to WSK king and ordered a tableload of breakfast food. So he basically did better than Bourdain on those in terms of entertainment value and being informative, and added his uncensored humor to them. This guy is my new hero.

                    1. re: K K

                      He should have done a segment on "pulled tea" ... for the visual, if nothing else.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Pulled tea, like teh tarik in Singapore/Malaysia?

                        They have that at some night markets in TW (or maybe the crossover fad has faded), but done as a gimmick. The best part is that they put the drinks into mini pouches that look like garbage bags, poke a hole with a straw. And on top of that the flavors range from HK milk tea, HK lemon tea, and TW milk tea (and Okinawa brown/black sugar milk tea, haha).

                      2. re: K K

                        haha yah i enjoyed his thing more than the layover/ the comicon thing was pretty funny and his commentary on that toilet place is kind of funny too

                        i know it doesn't sound like much for a TV show, but i mean my gf was like holy crap when she tried some good lian wu and was like i think i could eat this every single day for the rest of my list and be happy with it (i agree and basically do when im there)

                        1. re: K K

                          Some of those fruit stands in night markets are awesome and would have provided some great visuals with all the fruits prepared and cut arranged on blocks of ice. Could have even segued into all the juices and teas available everywhere on the island, too.

                          A shame they cut out the WSK segment. I would have preferred if they had cut the shrimp fishing segment instead. It was so awkward and so obvious that he did not want to be there.

                          1. re: huaqiao

                            One thing I want to point out is that pre-cut and boxes/container'd fruits at night markets do not enjoy the same rate of being sold as some of the more popular cooked food snack items, and thus present a potential hygiene issue, particularly on hot days when they have a faster rate of expiration.

                            Usually a vendor may spray water on it to make it look lively, but there have been past reports locally of some artificial chemical substance to keep the fruit look more vibrant.

                            The safest way to enjoy fruit is to go to a local neighborhood market (where they also sell meat or fish), pick out whole fruit, wash, and cut it up yourself. If you are really lucky you might find some farmers markets in pockets of Taipei (like in the USA) where they tout organic, but those are rare. While I understand the convenience to have it at night markets, I would be very wary, even down to the containers of whole strawberries.

                            But I must say that mixed fresh fruit with brewed Taiwanese tea (iced drink) is freakin awesome. Sometimes they throw upwards of 5 fruits in there, and some of them are just common local fruits (and a few are imported, like Washington apples, but even those taste better than what I can get in California for some reason, perhaps the good ones get exported, like Tianjin ya-li/duck pears?)

                            1. re: K K

                              oh i dont go to the ones where it's pre-cut, i always look for the stalls where they cut it up when you order, i find those usually taste better. all of the fruit stalls are certainly not of the same standard

                  2. re: K K

                    Great recap and commentary. Thanks, as always.

                    I wished he would have visited some bakeries, like Magic Garden or Crown & Fancy

                    1. re: K K

                      haha im going to have to disagree with you on shaved ice, its so much better than shaved snow! haha im jk coverage of either is fine although i really do think shaved ice is like 100x better

                      i totally agree about modern toilet, this is the 3rd time ive seen that on a travel show about taipei seriously wth

                      vliang - i dont think it gave that negative opinion about it, i mean taipei is a really ugly city. my gf hated taipei when we stopped by for a couple of nights but i didnt really get to show her nearly enough and after she watched the show she was like hmm that looks better than when we went and i convinced her that we need to go back

                      1. re: Lau

                        I don't disagree that Taipei isn't beautiful like SF or Vancouver. I just think saying it once is enough. But I lost count after the fourth mention of ugly. Plus, it's not like Ho Chi Mihn, Bangkok, Chongqing, etc are examples of urban architectural loveliness, but I don't see him harping on how ugly they are.

                        1. re: vliang

                          yah i hear u he definitely says it alot.

                          i dont know, its almost like trying to mentally prepare someone who hasn't been there that don't judge a book by its cover kind of thing bc alot of people will do that, i think my gf did that to a certain degree.

                          but whatever taipei is awesome, i love it, def one of my favorite cities in the world

                    2. I really liked the show, having zero familiarity with Taipei. I really wanted the clear beef noodle soup and those dumplings that contain soup. Oh and that hour-long shampoo looked divine!

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: charlesbois

                        I think you are the target audience for the show, not some of the veteran posters who have visited extensively or grew up in that part of the world.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Is that a bad thing?

                          Oh and that meatball dumpling was pretty interesting. Are any of these things available anywhere in the Midwest, I wonder?

                          1. re: charlesbois

                            Oh, no, not at all.

                            I'm just saying that there are alot of people complaining about how certain parts of Taiwan were omitted, or not highlighted enough, and I think their point of view is a bit skewed since they know Taiwan so well already.

                            I think Layover is sort of designed for the person who is new to a place and has X hours to spend there and wants to hit a bit of the highlights (not all, just some of the highlights).

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Oh, cool, I gotcha now. Yeah, if he did a layover show in Detroit I'd probably snort with derision at all the stuff left out/glossed over.

                              1. re: charlesbois

                                Yeah, if he did a layover show in Detroit I'd probably snort with derision at all the stuff left out/glossed over.



                            2. re: charlesbois

                              not at all, you'd probably really enjoy it. its good to learn about this stuff bc now you know you want to go there

                              btw that scalp shampoo massage is awesome, i always get that done