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My Top Five Places to Eat Spicy Food in Asia

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No. 5: Indian Kitchen, Gubei District, Shanghai

The Gubei District in Shanghai, the first area where Western expatriates settled in (reopened) Shanghai in 1994, is where a lot of us round-eyes hang out. A great variety of European eateries are located there, and there is good, safe walking areas as well. The Hongqiao Pearl Market is nearby. A good friend of mine, who lives in the western part of Shanghai, and his lovely wife picked me up at my hotel one evening and said, “How about Indian food?” Well, they didn’t have to twist my arm twice. We had Vegetable Samosa, Palak Pakora, Dal, Raita, Aloo Ghobi Masala, Chicken Vindaloo, Lamb Biryani, spiced onions, mounds of Naan Bread, and tapioca pudding for dessert. And there was some other stuff too; maybe a Tikka of some sort? I forget.

No. 4: Linjiang Street Night Market, Taipei

Near Taipei 101 and the International Convention Center is a quaint little street market, the Linjiang Street Night Market. There are many such night markets dotted all over Taipei, but this one is somehow special. It’s the closest to the glitzy, Westernized part of Taipei, and yet still retains its original ambience. It doesn’t have the chaotic sense of the Shilin Market, which is larger. It doesn’t have the all-student crowd you find in the Shida or Gonguan Night Markets, near National Taiwan University. It’s truly “local” with a sense more of a muted carnival than a market. You get the sense that the shop people live just around the corner (they do) and just come out in the early evening and begin to cook, sell and mingle. I bought many tasty snacks from the hawker carts, most of which I liked. Personally, the Squid Stew was a bit much for me. The small, sweet Taiwanese Sausages were great, and lots of other fried stuff went down well with a chilled local beer, Warsteiner. (Okay, I know Warsteiner’s not local; but hey, I think the bottle was refilled locally.) By the time I had eaten my way from Keelung Street to Dunhua, I was so stuffed I had to stick out an arm to see if I was walking or rolling.

No. 3: Din Tai Fung, Xintiandi, Shanghai

The Xintiandi area of Shanghai has seen a massive rebuilding and upgrading in the past two decades. Originally built by Westerners in the mid-1800’s, the architecture reflects a fusion of Western and Chinese styles. When the West fell out of favor and abandoned Shanghai, the area became residential. In the years prior to World War Two, the area saw artists mingling with disaffected communists, including Mao. After the war, the area fell into disrepair.

When China acknowledged the west again in the 1980’s, the area began to be rebuilt and turned into an up-scale area popular with Western tourists and expatriates. Many food shops opened there. One of the most recent, and a favorite of mine, is Din Tai Fung. This shop sells Shanghai-style dumplings, or xiaolongbao. The dumplings are a bit larger than the usual dim sum dumplings, and the sealing folds are always turned to the bottom. The filling is hot soup with all kinds of goodies in it. Rookie diners often put a too-hot dumpling in their mouth and bite down, spewing boiling soup across the table, their shirt, and occasionally a few innocent bystanders. After that object lesson, however, things usually go smoothly. There are a variety of dipping sauces available. I like the different soy-based ones, especially those with chiles in them. Who says mild dishes have to stay mild?

If you want to visit Din Tai Fung, go early or be prepared for a very long wait. There are many of these stores in Asia (two in Shanghai; others in Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Jakarta; even one in Los Angeles now), and they all have big crowds at lunch and dinner.

No. 2: The Hawker Stands, Gurney Square, Penang

Not really a restaurant, this area is a delightful place to spend an evening with friends. Gurney Square in George Town, the only city on the island of Penang in Malaysia, is one of two famous hawker food areas on the island. It’s a clear favorite with me, because the Gurney Plaza mall is right there as well. Between eating and shopping I can spend way too many hours there! I also stay at the Evergreen Laurel Hotel which is a ten minute walk away, but there are a lot of great places to stay in Penang; it’s a resort island! And while you’re there, take a driving tour to the top of the island and eat some fresh fruit.

And now: for the place you’ve all been hungry for– (Get it? Hungry?? I crack me up…)

No. 1: That Little Place That Looks Like a Falling-Down Greenhouse, Zhu Zi Hu (Bamboo Lake), near Taipei

Okay, that’s not quite helpful, you’re thinking. Actually, it is. Bamboo Lake is a magical place in the springtime, with calla lilies everywhere. It’s near the top of Yang-Ming Shan in a national park, but only an hour from Taipei. Or rather, it’s an hour by bus up to the Visitor’s Center. After that you have to hop a small tour bus and ride a while, then get off and walk. And walk. And Walk! But the views were well worth it, and the food was tremendous.

As you walk into the village at Zhu Zi Hu, there are many sellers of fruits, vegetables and flowers. The place takes on a carnival atmosphere, and cars can barely squeeze through. Every store has a huckster who will even take you by the arm and steer you into their shop. Don’t panic, it’s not a kidnapping! (They could tell by the way I was dressed that they’d do better ransoming a homeless person.) You get to taste a lot of stuff, and when you begin to walk out, the prices amazing drop by at least half. I bought a little fruit for the long walk back, in case we couldn’t find a bus or something.

About the restaurant: I never saw a name. The tables and chairs inside were lawn furniture. The roof and walls were sheet plastic, so the place really is a converted hothouse. The restrooms were frightful. The menu was one small piece of paper, in Chinese, dog-eared and barely readable. Just my kind of place! There were several more eateries that looked just like it, strewn around the hillside like a young giant’s lost toys. My guides picked this one through some random process, or maybe they liked the color of the hand-painted flowers on the entry.

I snagged a table and benches near a “window” so we could look out over the lake and the mountain while we ate. I don’t know any of the dish names, as the two ladies who were my tour guides did all the ordering; in Taiwanese, so even my limited Mandarin was out of play. We had a fish soup and several stir-fry plates, and some sticky buns. And hot tea. And sliced chiles, although the waitress looked a me oddly when she placed them next to my elbow. I don’t know what the ladies told her about me, and I was too polite to ask.

It was cold that day! The soup came on its own little gas heater, an ingenious little device, lightweight and sturdy with a tiny propane cylinder for fuel. Worked great! And we could warm our hands that way too.

There’s only one advantage to eating at Bamboo Lake: It’s all downhill from there to the bus stop, and eventually back into Taipei…

Enjoy the Heat!


Technorati : , , , , , , , , , , ,

DryingA.gif

No. 5: Indian Kitchen, Gubei District, Shanghai

The Gubei District in Shanghai, the first area where Western expatriates settled in (reopened) Shanghai in 1994, is where a lot of us round-eyes hang out. A great variety of European eateries are located there, and there is good, safe walking areas as well. The Hongqiao Pearl Market is nearby. A good friend of mine, who lives in the western part of Shanghai, and his lovely wife picked me up at my hotel one evening and said, “How about Indian food?” Well, they didn’t have to twist my arm twice. We had Vegetable Samosa, Palak Pakora, Dal, Raita, Aloo Ghobi Masala, Chicken Vindaloo, Lamb Biryani, spiced onions, mounds of Naan Bread, and tapioca pudding for dessert. And there was some other stuff too; maybe a Tikka of some sort? I forget.

No. 4: Linjiang Street Night Market, Taipei

Near Taipei 101 and the International Convention Center is a quaint little street market, the Linjiang Street Night Market. There are many such night markets dotted all over Taipei, but this one is somehow special. It’s the closest to the glitzy, Westernized part of Taipei, and yet still retains its original ambience. It doesn’t have the chaotic sense of the Shilin Market, which is larger. It doesn’t have the all-student crowd you find in the Shida or Gongguan Night Markets, near National Taiwan University. It’s truly “local” with a sense more of a muted carnival than a market. You get the sense that the shop people live just around the corner (they do) and just come out in the early evening and begin to cook, sell and mingle. I bought many tasty snacks from the hawker carts, most of which I liked. Personally, the Squid Stew was a bit much for me. The small, sweet Taiwanese Sausages were great, and lots of other fried stuff went down well with a chilled local beer, Warsteiner. (Okay, I know Warsteiner’s not local; but hey, I think the bottle was refilled locally.) By the time I had eaten my way from Keelung Street to Dunhua, I was so stuffed I had to stick out an arm to see if I was walking or rolling.

No. 3: Din Tai Fung, Xintiandi, Shanghai

The Xintiandi area of Shanghai has seen a massive rebuilding and upgrading in the past two decades. Originally built by Westerners in the mid-1800’s, the architecture reflects a fusion of Western and Chinese styles. When the West fell out of favor and abandoned Shanghai, the area became residential. In the years prior to World War Two, the area saw artists mingling with disaffected communists, including Mao. After the war, the area fell into disrepair.

When China acknowledged the west again in the 1980’s, the area began to be rebuilt and turned into an up-scale area popular with Western tourists and expatriates. Many food shops opened there. One of the most recent, and a favorite of mine, is Din Tai Fung. This shop sells Shanghai-style dumplings, or xiaolongbao. The dumplings are a bit larger than the usual dim sum dumplings, and the sealing folds are always turned to the bottom. The filling is hot soup with all kinds of goodies in it. Rookie diners often put a too-hot dumpling in their mouth and bite down, spewing boiling soup across the table, their shirt, and occasionally a few innocent bystanders. After that object lesson, however, things usually go smoothly. There are a variety of dipping sauces available. I like the different soy-based ones, especially those with chiles in them. Who says mild dishes have to stay mild?

If you want to visit Din Tai Fung, go early or be prepared for a very long wait. There are many of these stores in Asia (two in Shanghai; others in Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Jakarta; even one in Los Angeles now), and they all have big crowds at lunch and dinner.

No. 2: The Hawker Stands, Gurney Square, Penang

Not really a restaurant, this area is a delightful place to spend an evening with friends. Gurney Square in George Town, the only city on the island of Penang in Malaysia, is one of two famous hawker food areas on the island. It’s a clear favorite with me, because the Gurney Plaza mall is right there as well. Between eating and shopping I can spend way too many hours there! I also stay at the Evergreen Laurel Hotel which is a ten minute walk away, but there are a lot of great places to stay in Penang; it’s a resort island! And while you’re there, take a driving tour to the top of the island and eat some fresh fruit.

And now: for the place you’ve all been hungry for– (Get it? Hungry?? I crack me up…)

No. 1: That Little Place That Looks Like a Falling-Down Greenhouse, Zhu Zi Hu (Bamboo Lake), near Taipei

Okay, that’s not quite helpful, you’re thinking. Actually, it is. Bamboo Lake is a magical place in the springtime, with calla lilies everywhere. It’s near the top of Yang-Ming Shan in a national park, but only an hour from Taipei. Or rather, it’s an hour by bus up to the Visitor’s Center. After that you have to hop a small tour bus and ride a while, then get off and walk. And walk. And Walk! But the views were well worth it, and the food was tremendous.

As you walk into the village at Zhu Zi Hu, there are many sellers of fruits, vegetables and flowers. The place takes on a carnival atmosphere, and cars can barely squeeze through. Every store has a huckster who will even take you by the arm and steer you into their shop. Don’t panic, it’s not a kidnapping! (They could tell by the way I was dressed that they’d do better ransoming a homeless person.) You get to taste a lot of stuff, and when you begin to walk out, the prices amazing drop by at least half. I bought a little fruit for the long walk back, in case we couldn’t find a bus or something.

About the restaurant: I never saw a name. The tables and chairs inside were lawn furniture. The roof and walls were sheet plastic, so the place really is a converted hothouse. The restrooms were frightful. The menu was one small piece of paper, in Chinese, dog-eared and barely readable. Just my kind of place! There were several more eateries that looked just like it, strewn around the hillside like a young giant’s lost toys. My guides picked this one through some random process, or maybe they liked the color of the hand-painted flowers on the entry.

I snagged a table and benches near a “window” so we could look out over the lake and the mountain while we ate. I don’t know any of the dish names, as the two ladies who were my tour guides did all the ordering; in Taiwanese, so even my limited Mandarin was out of play. We had a fish soup and several stir-fry plates, and some sticky buns. And hot tea. And sliced chiles, although the waitress looked a me oddly when she placed them next to my elbow. I don’t know what the ladies told her about me, and I was too polite to ask.

It was cold that day! The soup came on its own little gas heater, an ingenious little device, lightweight and sturdy with a tiny propane cylinder for fuel. Worked great! And we could warm our hands that way too.

There’s only one advantage to eating at Bamboo Lake: It’s all downhill from there to the bus stop, and eventually back into Taipei…

Enjoy the Heat!


Technorati : , , , , , , , , , , ,

DryingA.gif

No. 5: Indian Kitchen, Gubei District, Shanghai

The Gubei District in Shanghai, the first area where Western expatriates settled in (reopened) Shanghai in 1994, is where a lot of us round-eyes hang out. A great variety of European eateries are located there, and there is good, safe walking areas as well. The Hongqiao Pearl Market is nearby. A good friend of mine, who lives in the western part of Shanghai, and his lovely wife picked me up at my hotel one evening and said, “How about Indian food?” Well, they didn’t have to twist my arm twice. We had Vegetable Samosa, Palak Pakora, Dal, Raita, Aloo Ghobi Masala, Chicken Vindaloo, Lamb Biryani, spiced onions, mounds of Naan Bread, and tapioca pudding for dessert. And there was some other stuff too; maybe a Tikka of some sort? I forget.

No. 4: Linjiang Street Night Market, Taipei

Near Taipei 101 and the International Convention Center is a quaint little street market, the Linjiang Street Night Market. There are many such night markets dotted all over Taipei, but this one is somehow special. It’s the closest to the glitzy, Westernized part of Taipei, and yet still retains its original ambience. It doesn’t have the chaotic sense of the Shilin Market, which is larger. It doesn’t have the all-student crowd you find in the Shida or Gonguan Night Markets, near National Taiwan University. It’s truly “local” with a sense more of a muted carnival than a market. You get the sense that the shop people live just around the corner (they do) and just come out in the early evening and begin to cook, sell and mingle. I bought many tasty snacks from the hawker carts, most of which I liked. Personally, the Squid Stew was a bit much for me. The small, sweet Taiwanese Sausages were great, and lots of other fried stuff went down well with a chilled local beer, Warsteiner. (Okay, I know Warsteiner’s not local; but hey, I think the bottle was refilled locally.) By the time I had eaten my way from Keelung Street to Dunhua, I was so stuffed I had to stick out an arm to see if I was walking or rolling.

No. 3: Din Tai Fung, Xintiandi, Shanghai

The Xintiandi area of Shanghai has seen a massive rebuilding and upgrading in the past two decades. Originally built by Westerners in the mid-1800’s, the architecture reflects a fusion of Western and Chinese styles. When the West fell out of favor and abandoned Shanghai, the area became residential. In the years prior to World War Two, the area saw artists mingling with disaffected communists, including Mao. After the war, the area fell into disrepair.

When China acknowledged the west again in the 1980’s, the area began to be rebuilt and turned into an up-scale area popular with Western tourists and expatriates. Many food shops opened there. One of the most recent, and a favorite of mine, is Din Tai Fung. This shop sells Shanghai-style dumplings, or xiaolongbao. The dumplings are a bit larger than the usual dim sum dumplings, and the sealing folds are always turned to the bottom. The filling is hot soup with all kinds of goodies in it. Rookie diners often put a too-hot dumpling in their mouth and bite down, spewing boiling soup across the table, their shirt, and occasionally a few innocent bystanders. After that object lesson, however, things usually go smoothly. There are a variety of dipping sauces available. I like the different soy-based ones, especially those with chiles in them. Who says mild dishes have to stay mild?

If you want to visit Din Tai Fung, go early or be prepared for a very long wait. There are many of these stores in Asia (two in Shanghai; others in Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Jakarta; even one in Los Angeles now), and they all have big crowds at lunch and dinner.

No. 2: The Hawker Stands, Gurney Square, Penang

Not really a restaurant, this area is a delightful place to spend an evening with friends. Gurney Square in George Town, the only city on the island of Penang in Malaysia, is one of two famous hawker food areas on the island. It’s a clear favorite with me, because the Gurney Plaza mall is right there as well. Between eating and shopping I can spend way too many hours there! I also stay at the Evergreen Laurel Hotel which is a ten minute walk away, but there are a lot of great places to stay in Penang; it’s a resort island! And while you’re there, take a driving tour to the top of the island and eat some fresh fruit.

And now: for the place you’ve all been hungry for– (Get it? Hungry?? I crack me up…)

No. 1: That Little Place That Looks Like a Falling-Down Greenhouse, Zhu Zi Hu (Bamboo Lake), near Taipei

Okay, that’s not quite helpful, you’re thinking. Actually, it is. Bamboo Lake is a magical place in the springtime, with calla lilies everywhere. It’s near the top of Yang-Ming Shan in a national park, but only an hour from Taipei. Or rather, it’s an hour by bus up to the Visitor’s Center. After that you have to hop a small tour bus and ride a while, then get off and walk. And walk. And Walk! But the views were well worth it, and the food was tremendous.

As you walk into the village at Zhu Zi Hu, there are many sellers of fruits, vegetables and flowers. The place takes on a carnival atmosphere, and cars can barely squeeze through. Every store has a huckster who will even take you by the arm and steer you into their shop. Don’t panic, it’s not a kidnapping! (They could tell by the way I was dressed that they’d do better ransoming a homeless person.) You get to taste a lot of stuff, and when you begin to walk out, the prices amazing drop by at least half. I bought a little fruit for the long walk back, in case we couldn’t find a bus or something.

About the restaurant: I never saw a name. The tables and chairs inside were lawn furniture. The roof and walls were sheet plastic, so the place really is a converted hothouse. The restrooms were frightful. The menu was one small piece of paper, in Chinese, dog-eared and barely readable. Just my kind of place! There were several more eateries that looked just like it, strewn around the hillside like a young giant’s lost toys. My guides picked this one through some random process, or maybe they liked the color of the hand-painted flowers on the entry.

I snagged a table and benches near a “window” so we could look out over the lake and the mountain while we ate. I don’t know any of the dish names, as the two ladies who were my tour guides did all the ordering; in Taiwanese, so even my limited Mandarin was out of play. We had a fish soup and several stir-fry plates, and some sticky buns. And hot tea. And sliced chiles, although the waitress looked a me oddly when she placed them next to my elbow. I don’t know what the ladies told her about me, and I was too polite to ask.

It was cold that day! The soup came on its own little gas heater, an ingenious little device, lightweight and sturdy with a tiny propane cylinder for fuel. Worked great! And we could warm our hands that way too.

There’s only one advantage to eating at Bamboo Lake: It’s all downhill from there to the bus stop, and eventually back into Taipei…

Enjoy the Heat!


Technorati : , , , , , , , , , , ,

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