Friday, 22 June 2012

Restaurant Review -- Dragon Boat zongzi (Shimen)

Dragon Boat Festival starts tomorrow, and with it (or indeed before), starts the mass consumption of zongzi (粽子; sticky-rice tamales).

Also traditional around this time are health warnings from government health departments against over-indulgence in these high-calorie, fat-and-salt laden items.

Finding non-meat versions can be quite tricky (though many vegetarian restaurants produce them at this time of year). The most famous zongzi manufacturer in northern Taiwan, the Liu Family (劉家) in Shimen District (石門) of New Taipei City, for example, has no meat-free zongzi despite producing around a dozen different flavours.

One hundred meters past Liu's there is a vegetarian outlet, however, which has been in operation for more than two decades.Previously NT$20 for each bamboo-leaf-wrapped snack, the price had risen to NT$25 by NOMM's visit last week.

To NOMM's taste, they are not that exciting (zongzi are judged by the quality of their fillings), but at least vegetarians can join in the culinary part of this weekend's activities.

Text copyright Jiyue Publications 2012

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Restaurant Review -- Buxiban zone (part II)

Following last week's review, Shad reports that there are a number of cheap vegetarian eats at No. 72, Zhongxiao West Road Sec. 1. And she is correct.

There are four restaurants on this single block: two selling a variety of dumplings, one selling rice, noodle and soup dishes, and one with a vegetarian buffet.

NOMM chose this last one, and enjoyed a nice meal even though it was almost closing time. NT$75 bought a mixed plate of vegetables and the house-special of "lion head" (獅子頭; a kind of meatball), with a bowl of rice and bottomless soup.

Text and photos copyright Jiyue Publications
(apologies, Blogspot is still not uploading photos)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

News Brief -- Disney bans junk food except in its parks

Walt Disney Co, said Tuesday it would ban junk-food advertising on its TV channels and Web sites from 2015 to help fight obesity among US children, Taipei Times reports today, c/o AFP (full article here).

“The nutrition guidelines are aligned to federal standards, promote fruit and vegetable consumption, and call for limiting calories and reducing saturated fat, sodium and sugar,” it said.

Disney also said it would roll out a “Mickey Check” check-mark icon this year to identify nutritious food and menu items at its retail shops and theme parks.
[In other words, it does not ONLY sell nutritious foods at its venues.]

Seventeen percent of US children are obese, a figure that has tripled in 30 years, according to a report last month from the Institute of Medicine.

However, others expressed skepticism.
“Kids aren’t obese because they are watching fast-food commercials on the Disney Channel,” wrote a Virginia resident. “They are obese because instead of being active, they are sitting in front of a TV ... How about creating TV shows that challenge kids to be active while watching?”

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

News Brief -- staff/camera in kitchen expose food recycling (Kaohsiung)

The well known Big Cow Beef Noodles (大牛牛肉麵) located on Zhongzheng Road (中正路) in Kaohsiung City has been exposed as recycling customers’ leftovers and selling them to other customers, the Broadcasting Corporation of China reported yesterday (full Chinese-language article here)

That restaurant has now closed its doors before the city’s Department of Health could investigate and impose fines, but another restaurant of the same name located on Kaohsiung’s Siwei Road (四維路), although completely unconnected, claims its business has fallen by between 10 percent and 20 percent.

Translation copyright Jiyue Publications 2012

Monday, 4 June 2012

Restaurant Review -- Buxiban Zone (Taipei)

Many Taipei students get out of school and go straight to cram schools for several hours trying to fill what should be an already full head with more information, and in the process further destroying any chance of a wholesome childhood with a balance of learning and play.

Often students have time just to grab a bite between classes, as do teachers, and with mostly snack food available, this is rarely vegetarian and is rarely nutritious. 

So it is good that 5 years ago the Vegi Garden (植善蔬食多國料理) opened on Kaifeng Street offering meals in Eastern and Western styles that are “pure veg, low sugar, low salt, low oil”. 

The menu sounds exotic, ranging from Japanese wild mushroom hand-made noodles (NT$180) and Thai sweet and sour hot pot (NT$260), to Spanish golden stewed rice (NT$190) and pumpkin mushroom baked penne pasta (NT$210). For an additional NT$80, all become set meals with a soup, side dish and drink.

NOMM found the soup good, and the side dish (soft white tofu) excellent. The main dishes of Italian wild mushroom rice (NT$190) and Thai coconut milk curry hot pot (NT$260) were disappointing, however. The latter’s soup was so weak it was unidentifiable as having been made with either curry or coconut milk. 

Address: No.47, Kaifeng St. Sec. 1 (開封街一段47)
Telephone: 02-23118198
Hours: 11:00~14:00 & 17:00~21:00
NOMM processed food index: 1 (low)

Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2012

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Restaurant Review – “Gravy Rice” (Zhongli)

Zhongli (中壢) in Taoyuan County is a center of Hakka culture. This tends to be a very meat-based cuisine, so NOMM expected some difficulty in finding lunch on a recent unplanned visit, especially as we rolled into town at almost .

Short of time, we headed out toward the northwest on another purpose, and were happy to come across several vegetarian stores (albeit some already closed) in the Minzu Road (民族路) area. Perhaps there is a Buddhist hospital or similar nearby.

The Su Xiang Mian Zhi Jia (素香麵之家; “home of fragrant vegetarian noodles”, but no English name), slightly up Guangdong Road (廣東路) to the left (south) and hence technically over the township boundary into Pingzhen (平鎮) was still open but about to close, so we ordered “whatever is quickest to prepare”.

This turned out to be hui-fan (; NT$60), usually given in dictionaries as “rice in gravy” but better thought of as rice topped with vegetables in a wet sauce: thicker than “soupy noodles” (湯麵) but runnier than “dry noodles”(乾麵), and, of course, made using rice not noodles.

In any case, it is not an NOMM favorite and would not have been our first choice, but it was tasty enough, and the owner was chatty about moving back to her hometown to open the restaurant 4 years ago after spending much of her life commuting each day to Banciao (板橋) in Taipei County.

SuXiangMianZhiJia has a wide range of rice and noodle dishes, as well as dumplings, vegetables and marinated side dishes.

No.3 Guangdong Road
, Pingzhen City, Taoyuan County
Tel: 03-4013888
Opening Hours: ~, ~, Mon~Sat

Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2012

Monday, 21 May 2012

Restaurant Review - contemplation (Keelung)

The Buddha Light Mountain organization (佛光山), founded and still run by a monk who still Master Hsing Yun (星雲大師), has temples and religious branches throughout Taiwan, many of which have restaurants called Dishuifang (滴水坊).

Despite operating a cooking school at its Kaohsiung headquarters, there is no standard fare: the menu varies from restaurant to restaurant. A few months ago NOMM ate at the Yonghe (永和) outlet and cannot recommend it, today we ate in Keelung, and although overpriced (NT$110 for a bowl of noodles that might cost half that normally), the food was tasty enough and the environment quiet.

For those with a political mindset: KMT supporters will be happy as Hsing Yun is one of there own, DPP opposition supporters might want to stay clear, as he supports President Ma, wants the Dalai Lama to kowtow to Beijing, and once said that there are no Taiwanese, only Chinese.

Address: No. 270, Xin Er Rd. (信二路) Keelung
Tel: 02-24231141
Hours: 11:00~20:00, closed Tuesdays
NOMM fake meat/processed food index: 5 (moderate)

text and photos copyright Jiyue Publications 2012

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Restaurant Review: Cheap, cheerful and healthy (Puli, Nantou County)

One good thing about getting away from big cities is that prices can come tumbling down; one bad thing is that so too can quality.

This is not the case at TianCi Vegetarian (天慈素食; “Heaven’s Compassion” [no English]) in Puli Township (埔里), gateway to the mountains of Nantou. NOMM stopped there at the start of the famous Wuling (武陵) bike route last year, and two of us feasted for a total of NT$140 before the climb to Taiwan’s highest road at 3250 m.

Perhaps prices have gone up, but last year they included:
fried rice/noodles – NT$20~25
dumplings (水餃) -- NT$3.5 each
soups -- NT$20
leafy greens -- NT$20
marinated tofu, &c. -- NT$10~20

and with Dragon Boat Festival not too far away, they have zongzi at NT$20

Address: 262 Nanchang St (南昌街)
Tel: 049-2996312
NOMM fake meat/processed food index: 5 (moderate)

Text © Jiyue Publications 2012
Apologies no photos

Monday, 14 May 2012

News Brief: Woman fights back against misleading advertisement

When the Mother's Day cake with 30 whole strawberries on top (as seen in advertisement) arrived with mere bits of strawberries instead, Ms. Zhou got a bellyful of anger, reports FTV today (Chinese-language article here).

The manufacturer claims it is still strawberry cake, the Consumer Protection Commission (行政院消費者保護會) is so far siding with Ms. Zhou.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Restaurant Reivew: Buddhist hospital B1 (Xindian)

Last year NOMM tried to order a vegetarian meal in Mr. Brown coffee shop in the Muzha district of Taipei City. "Tried" because while there was one item on the menu, when questioned in detail the staff admitted that the "free" soup was made with a meat stock.

Visiting the Taipei Tzu Chi General Hospital last week--which by coincidence is just a couple of kilometers west of the above-mentioned store--we were surprised to find a completely free vegetarian Mr. Brown coffee outlet.

In fact, the hospital basement is a set out as a food court, and since the hospital is run by the Buddhist Tzu Chi foundation, all outlets meet the organization's vegetarian criteria. There are around half a dozen restaurants, ranging from Taiwanese rice, noodle, and snack meals to Western sandwich bars, and even a Family Mart convenience store, selling only the meat-free section of its food and drink range.

Address: No.289, Jianguo Rd., Xindian District, New Taipei City, Taiwan

text copyright Jiyue Publications
apologies that photographs are temporarily unavailable

Friday, 4 May 2012

News Brief: Food wasted in Taiwan

Statistics compiled by the Environmental Protection Administration show that Taiwanese in 2010 wasted 2.75 million tonnes of food, the equivalent of 20 years of -consumption by 260,000 low-income households, DPP legislator Lin Chia-lung was quoted in an article about establishing a food bank in today's Taipei Times (full article here).

Another interesting fact (assuming true) from the article is that:
US Department of Agriculture statistics show that more than 46 million Americans, or about 15 percent of the US population, lived on assistance provided by food banks last year, Lin said.

News Brief: 'Nuclear' fruit and vegetable origins re-labelled

A Tokyo vegetable and fruit wholesaler has been caught relabelling produce originating in the nuclear meltdown zone of Fukushima Prefecture by putting "Made in Yamagata" stickers, reports ANN News (Japanese-language article here), courtesy of an English translation by EZSKF (here).

Monday, 30 April 2012

Restaurant Review -- Mushroom Noodles (Danshui)

To survive in the restaurant business with only one item on the menu is awesome; to persuade the author of this column to eat mianxian (麵線; a.k.a. "thin, slimy noodles") is barely less impressive.

These two feats have been achieved for 12 and 2 years respectively by Su Xianggu Mianxian (素香菇麵線; “Vegetarian Mushroom Noodles”) on Zhongshan N. Road, a short distance north of the Qingshui Zushi Temple (清水祖師廟) in Danshui (淡水).
One product; three prices: small NT$30, medium NT$40, large NT$50.

What more is there to say?

Well, only one. Last year the restaurant’s founder sold up, and the new owner, while continuing to sell the noodles, has added half a dozen other dishes to the menu. These include yam-flavored tofu and mung bean noodles (山藥阿給), which NOMM will return to sample soon.  

Address: No. 251, Zhongshan North Road Sec. 1, Danshui District, New Taipei City (台北縣淡水鎮中山北路一段251)
Telephone: 0935620261
Hours: Tues~Sun; 06:00~14:00 (plus Mondays if 1st or 15th of lunar calendar month)
 NOMM fake-meat/processed-food index: 2 (low)

Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2012
[photos temporarily unavailable]

Friday, 27 April 2012

News Brief: $39 food to cost $49

[apologies for failing to track food news lately]

Among all the recent stories of food price hikes comes one in today's Liberty Times (Chinese-language article here) saying that food items in Daiso stores (大創百貨)--where everything costs a flat rate of NT$39--will now be priced at NT$49.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Restaurant Review:-- Pizza and good view, Taipei City

So Wild Free Pizza and Cheese outlet in the back alleys near NTU at Gongguan (公館) has just four seats—which cannot be reserved—so most customers end up eating take-away pizzas in the tiny park opposite.

For a more conducive atmosphere, diners can try the Ximen (西門) branch.

So Wild specializes in small (8-inch) pizzas with somewhat unusual flavours. These include apple/cinnamon, banana/almond and ginger superman, as well as more regular mushroom/asparagus, rosemary/potato and Korean kimchi all at NT$169. Drinks cost NT$25~60.
Don’t expect fine dining, but the upstairs open-air views across a more trendy part of this fashion-conscious area of Taipei City is enjoyable if one is already in this neighbourhood.

Address: No.1, Lane 50, Xining S. Road, Wanhua District, Taipei City
Hours: 12:00~22:00

Monday, 16 April 2012

Restaurant Review:-- Noodles from a noodle maker (Taipei)

Many items sold in restaurants are bought in rather than made on site, and this is particularly true when it comes to noodles.

One exception is ZhongYuan Su Mian Shi (中原 素麵食; "Central Plains Vegetarian Noodle Foods" [no English name]), located on Qingdao Road that runs parallel to Zhongxiao East Road.

Only open on weekday lunchtimes and with only eight items on its menu, ZhongYuan has the confidence of a specialist provider.

These eight noodle dishes range from NT$35 to NT$60 per bowl, and include "dry" noodles such as sesame paste and "mixed" paste, as well as "soupy" noodles such as hongshao (紅燒; soy flavoured) noodles.

"Dry noodles" come with a free bowl of soup, and side dishes such as the cucumbers and tofu eaten by NOMM cost NT$25. Dumplings are available if the boss has time to cook them.

 Text and photos copyright Jiyue Publications

Sunday, 15 April 2012

If President Ma has his way

,,, expect to see a lot more signs like this ("not US beef")
because Ma called on the country to allow imports of tainted US meat and then for customers to boycott it on a person by person basis

Monday, 9 April 2012

Restaurant Review:-- tea farm restaurant, Pinglin (New Taipei City)

 Pinglin (坪林) makes a nice destination for a half-day cycle from Taipei.

Those with extra energy can explore the hilly tea fields that surround the riverside township, or head on over to Yilan County to the southeast.

Those without can refuel for the return trip at Wenshan Cha Yuan (文山茶園; "Wenshan Tea Garden" [no English]), which offers a range of vegetarian noodle and rice dishes (NT$25-45), greens (NT$50), tofus (NT$30-50) and, of course, tea..
 NOMM had  tea seed-oil thread noodles (茶油麵線), greens and tofu, which certainly hit the spot after the 1,000+ K cal cycle from the city.

As the only person in the restaurant on a weekday afternoon, i was then treated to a free pot of baozhong tea (包種茶). Perfect.

 Wenshan is at 169 ShuiLiuJiao (水柳腳), which is near the 37.5-kilometre marker on the Taipei-Yilan road (北宜路), which is just before the 7-Eleven as one enters the town from the Taipei side.

Copyright Jiyue Publications

Sunday, 8 April 2012

News Brief: maximum levels for aluminium-containing foodstuffs should be set -- Consumers' Foundation

Food products using raising agents were found to contain excessively high levels of aluminium, the Consumers’ Foundation said Friday, the Taipei Times reports yesterday (full article here).

Two-thirds of 24 samples of doughnuts, fried dough sticks (油條), steamed buns (饅頭), kelp and silk noodles (粉絲) tested by the foundation in February were found to contain high levels of aluminium, which, it claimed, could affect memory.

Unlike the FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives and European Food Safety Authority both set maximum levels for such products, Taiwan has no legal limits on raising agents added to processed food, the CF said, making it difficult for consumers to know how much aluminium they have consumed.

Many of the food products tested had probably used alum (aluminium potassium sulphate) as raising agents to make the texture of the food more appealing.
 Excessive intake of aluminium has a suspected correlation with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as raising concerns about its effects on children’s growth and development, and on people with weaker metabolic function.

That some of the samples tested did not contain aluminium food additives, proves that these products can be produced without the substance, the CF said.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Restaurant Review:-- Biandang (lunchbox), Taipei City

 Before very long in Taiwan, you'll probably be asked to do overtime. Out goes your social engagement, your home-cooked dinner, or glass-of-wine-with-movie-and-feet-up evening.

More pertinently, your boss will probably hint that the case is so pressing, you cannot even pop out of the office to grab some food. "Don't worry," (s)he'll say, "I'm getting bian-dang (便當; lunchboxes) for everyone." You say that you're vegetarian, but (s)he saw this coming: "Don't worry, they do vegetarian bian-dang."

So you're landed with a so-called vegetarian lunchbox produced by a meat-selling establishment. Even if you dare eat it, it's probably almost inedible and barely nourishing.

UNLESS of course, you are one step ahead of your boss, an whipping out a business card you say "That's ok, please pick me up a bian-dang from here."

One such place is ChongHui Vegetarain ( 崇慧素食; no English name) at 54 Anju Steet (安居街) near Liuzhangli MRT (Tel: 02-27398323).

In sells lunchboxes at midday and evenings, as well as hotpots in the evenings.
Diners can choose either white or "purple" rice, three side vegetables (out of more than a dozen -- NOMM had peas in pods, tofu and bamboo shoots), and a "main" dish of fake meat (NOMM had fish).

All choices are NT$50, and the restaurant will send to your office for orders of NT$500 or more.

Text and photos copyright Jiyue.Publications 2012

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

News Brief: Popcorn might not be all bad

Popcorn could prevent diseases and prolong life, Taiwan media report today (Chinese-language article here) picking up on a recent news in the United States (English-language article here).

US researchers claim that popcorn has higher concentrations of polyphenols--substances that might  protect against harmful chemical reactions in the body--than fruits and vegetables, and is a good source of fibre.

They acknowledge, however, that scientists don't know much about how such antioxidants work, and that the way they are normally consumed--cooked in oil with butter and salt added--means they are high in calories, fat and sodium. Nor do they contain the many other nutrients human bodies need, such as the vitamins common in fruit and vegetables.

News Brief: Tibetan Buddhist looks forward to Taichung snacks

When the 88-year-old Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche (堪布卡塔仁波切) arrives in Taiwan this week to teach Tibetan Buddhism, his interpreter will be a female lama Lodro Lhamo, formerly known to her Taichung family as Li Pei-guang (李佩光). When asked what she was looking forward to on her first visit to her homeland for many years, Li said what she missed most about Taiwan was its xiao-chi (小吃), the Central News Agency reports today (full Chinese-language article here).

Literally meaning “small eats”, the term xiaochi covers anything from snacks to light meals, including just about everything sold at night markets. Li, who originally followed the teaching of Taiwan’s Master Sheng-yen (聖嚴法師) before becoming a monastic of the esoteric Tibetan tradition, said she particularly looked forward to eating the “sun cakes” (太陽餅) of her native city.

Translation © Jiyue Publications 2012

Monday, 26 March 2012

Restaurant Review -- simple, healthy food from a slice of paradise (Taitung)

Guanshan (關山), a small town in the East Rift Valley, has tree-lined streets, wooden houses and few buildings over two storeys high. On the spring morning of NOMM’s visit it had a sleepy feel, and with the exception of trucks rushing down Highway 9, convenience stores on several corners and some very attractive murals, gave the impression of having changed little over the last half century or more.

One small change is that the town has a new railway station, and although located just a hundred meters from the old one, it means that the JinCi Vegetarian (晉慈素食; no English name) restaurant at 6 Zhongshan Road (中山路) is no longer a natural stopping off place for commuters returning home but, rather, takes some seeking out.

Having found it, we enjoyed a tranquil meal of sesame-sauce noodles (NT$45), wonton soup (NT$45), dangkui herbal noodles (NT$45), steamed leafy greens (NT$30), shuijiao dumplings (NT$35), and a side of various tofu items (NT$50). At around NT$250 for three people, it was pretty economical too.

Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2012

News Brief: Plasticizers rear their ugly heads

Ten food items out of 322 recently tested by the Taipei City Government’s Department of Health (台北市政府衛生局) tested positive for excessive levels of plasticizers, TVBS reports today (full Chinese-language article here).

The items included drinks, probiotics (益生菌) and flavored pastes and sauces. Worst culprit was Chengtai (誠泰) brand mushroom sauce (香菇拌醬) from Xiluo (西螺) in Yunlin (雲林), which contained a diisononyl phthalate (DINP) level of 1944ppm, more than 200 times the permitted level of 9ppm.

The company responded that the DOH tests had been conducted on old stock with a form of packaging subsequently replaced, but which had not been completely removed from shop shelves. It agreed to allow the public to return purchases for a full refund.

Other products falling foul included a toon-flavored sauce (香椿醬) with DINP level of 1545.6 ppm and pineapple paste (鳳梨醬) at 16.9 ppm.

Translation © Jiyue Publications 2012

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Restaurant Review -- Chishang rice 'railway lunchbox' (Taitung)

Railway lunchboxes are popular in various locations around Taiwan. Well known examples include Fulong in New Taipei City and Alishan in Chiayi County.

Chishang in Taitung County in the country's southeast lies in the East Rift Valley, a well watered area with mild climate ideal for the production of rice, so it is perhaps not surprising that rice based meals were sold from station platforms to passengers passing on trains running between Taitung and Hualien.

Visitors to the township can choose from various restaurants within a few hundred meters of the railway station. With decommissioned trains now equipped with dining tables and exhibits about both rice production and railway history, one of the most popular is Chishang Fanbao (池上飯包) on Highway 9, the main road connecting the dozen or so towns of the rift valley.

A vegetarian lunchbox is available here, but workers acknowledge it is not only "dan-nai su" (蛋奶素; ovo-lacto vegetarian) but also "guo-bian su" (鍋邊素; "pot-edge vegetarian", meaning it is cooked in the same pots as meat products).

They will happily telephone a nearby fully vegetarian establishment and, for NT$70, a lunchbox will be delivered in about ten minutes, which can be consumed with meat-eating friends at this atmospheric restaurant.

NOMM found the local rice to be delicious, but the ratio of fake meat to fresh vegetables was too high.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Restaurant Review -- Wenzhou "big dumplings" (Taipei)

The English word “dumpling” is used to cover a wide range of local foodstuffs, from sticky rice zongzi (粽子) and rice-flour tangyuan (湯圓), to a variety of ravioli-like stuffed pastry jiaozi (餃子) guotie (鍋貼; “pot-stickers”) and hundun (餛飩鍋; “wonton”). 

Perhaps because of Taiwan’s historic ties to Zhejiang Province (浙江; Chiang Kai-shek and many of his coterie came from there), that “Wenzhou big wonton” (温州大餛飩) are exceedingly popular here, with, in Taipei alone, dozens of small mom-and-pop stores selling them . To date, NOMM has only found one that sells a vegetarian version.

Located amongst half-a-dozen wonton-specialist restaurants on Taoyuan Street (桃源街), “Champion Veg-&-Meat Wonton” (冠軍菜肉餛飩; no English sign) at number 9 is unique in offering mushroom-flavoured vegetarian wonton (香菇素食餛飩; NT$80). 
As the owner warns, however, unless taken home for cooking (NT$100 for 10), these will only be “pot-side vegetarian” as they are cooked in the same water as meat dumplings. 
 to be completed

Monday, 5 March 2012

Restaurant Review:-- Night market snacks, Taipei City


Visiting Ningxia night market (寧夏夜市; off Minsheng Rd. west of Chengde Rd.) used to be like a trip back to Táng dynasty China.

Considering that a steady stream of motorbikes and occasional car attempted to navigate this semi-blocked-off street, this is hard to explain, but really, that was my impression. 

Then the vendors, or their rent-taking district council, got greedy, and seeing the hoardes of evening diners making their way to the more famous nigh markets of Shilin to the north, Raohe to the east and Shida to the south, Ningxia rebranded itself as the Ningxia Environmental Protection Toursit Night Market, repositioning itself firmly in the 21st century. Oh well, such is the price of progress.

The choice of foods is typical of these other night markets, and similarly narrow for vegetarians, but at least some meat-free fare is on offer while all around are gorging on pigs’ feet, ducks’ necks, ox entrails and goodness knows what else. The baked potato stall has some vegetarian but not vegan toppings, but at Stall No.86 there is an entirely vegetarian outlet.

That both the “dry noodles” and “boiled leafy greens” ordered by NOMM contained fake meat suggest it too is targeting a traditional taste.
The noodles were fresh (light and chewy), which implies a good turnover, and indeed there did seem a steady stream of visitors to the dozen or so seats crammed in behind the cooking wagon.

At night markets such as this it is typical for groups of diners to each buy their favoured dishes at divergent stalls and then congregate at an agreed location. Since it is best not to take meat dishes into a vegetarian area, many, like NOMM, buy to go”, which means eating out of plastic bags.

Open ca. 6pm till late.

Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2012

News Brief: official resigns over H5N2 "cover-up"

Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine director Hsu Tien-lai (許天來) resigned yesterday amid allegations he covered up a bird flu outbreak, a day after authorities announced they had culled thousands of chickens, Taipei Times reports today (full article here).

The piece also carries some more details carried yesterday by the Chinese-language papers about a possible cover-up (see NOMM here).
"According to Kevin H. J. Lee (李惠仁), a freelance journalist who spent more than six years investigating avian influenza in Taiwan and directed a documentary entitled A Secret That Can’t Be Exposed (不能戳的秘密), the council concealed the truth about the virus."

“In the process of my investigation, I discovered the situation is very different to what the council tells us. I discovered that the council has lied about the whole thing since 2004,” Lee said.

Additional reporting by Shad for NOMM:

According to Lee's documentary (see here: youtube),  Hsu Tien-lai has a habit of resigning to "take blame" only to be reinstated and promoted. Fourteen years ago he stepped down from his position as section chief to take responsibility during the foot-and-mouth epidermic. Interestingly, his co-resignee on that occasion, Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄), had risen as high as COA minister until the recent cabinet reshuffle and was, therefore, in charge of the council when Lee sent in his three dead chickens.

Lee claims Hsu sent back his chicken without testing it. When Hsu was questioned about this by local media yesterday, he said that as a public servant he was forbidden from receiving gifts from members of the public.

Perhaps for his role in undermining world animal quarantine and health regulations, thereby extending Taiwan's exports by two months or more, and protecting the income of Taiwan's poultry farmers, Hsu will be rewarded himself by appointment to COA minister in the not too distant future.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

News Brief: new bird flu cases discovered and covered up

Almost 60,000 poultry in Changhua and Tainan were slaughtered late last week following an outbreak of bird flu, the Taipei Times reports today (full article here).

According to the Council of Agriculture (農委會; COA), it first appeared at a farm in Changhua in late December and is Taiwan’s first outbreak of the H5N2 avian influenza strain. 

If it turns out that the virus is highly pathogenic, Taiwan could be listed as an infected region and its exports of poultry products banned.

Poultry meat is one of the country’s top poultry product exports, with a value of between NT$360 million and NT$370 million per year, said Hsu Kuei-sen (許桂森), director of the council’s husbandry division, the Times reports.

What the Times did not say, but was covered by many Chinese-language papers, including its sister paper the Liberty Times, was that there was evidence of high pathogenicity as early as December, and the COA not only covered it up but also failed to report this to the international agency responsible.

Documentary director Li Hui-ren (李惠仁) is said to be behind the discovery. Alerted by the rise in egg prices late last year he became suspicious, and tracked down large numbers of dead birds. Three he sent to the COA and the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (防檢局), and one he had tested. According to  Li, it was at this time in December that the COA should have alerted the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Friday, 2 March 2012

News Brief: Breakfast stores are dirty, unhealthy and not nutritious

Hygiene and nutrition experts sent to survey fast-food breakfast stores in the Taipei area found shocking circumstances, the Common Health Magazine (康健雜誌) reports in the cover story of its March edition (full Chinese-language article here). 

Claiming that 80 percent of the population buys breakfast from these “lane mouth” breakfast stores (巷口早餐店) [NOMM: In Taipei perhaps, but for Taiwan as a whole this figure seems very high], CH magazine checked up on the nation’s five biggest chain franchises: 

Mei&Mei (瑞麟美而美), My Warm Day (麥味登), Good Morning Beautiful and Breakfast (早安美芝城), Glin MeRMe (巨林美而美), and Hongya Hamburger 弘爺漢堡). 

It assessed them for environmental hygiene (環境衛生), food safety (食品安全), and nutritional balance (營養均衡). 

On the first count: they found 0 percent of staff washing their hands between touching money and touching food; on the second: products in two-thirds of stores showed high levels of germs; and on the third: the food was too oily, too few vegetables were available, and the drinks were too sweet.

My Warm Day did the best [NOMM: perhaps “least awfully” is more accurate].

CHM’s found the nine main shortcomings to be:

1. Staff not washing or disinfecting hands after handling money and touching food. (100%)
2. Staff not washing or disinfecting hands after touching fridges then touching toast or hamburger buns.100%
3. Food handlers not wearing mouth masks or hats. (87%)
4. Serious accumulations of dirt and/or dust on ceilings, walls and/or pipes. (67%)
5. Contact with foodstuffs after using cleaning cloths. (60%)
6. Staff wearing rings, bracelets and/or other jewelry. (47%)
7. Trash not cleared from table surfaces and floors. (47%)
8. Sauce bottles not capped. (47%)
9. Mixing of raw and cooked foods, increasing the risk of cross contamination. (40%)

Translation © Jiyue Publications 2012

Monday, 27 February 2012

Restaurant Review: Cherry Blossom and Shell Temple (Sanzhi, New Taipei City)


Cherry blossom season has arrived, and various flower-lined roads in Taiwan's lower mountains will receive most of their entire year's visitors in the next few weeks. Often a short distance from urban areas, many of these routes date from the 1895-1945 occupation of the island by the sakura-loving Japanese.

Usually located on narrow, winding lanes, these cherry blossom routes (櫻花道) are ideal for bicycles (except that people in cars stop suddenly and fling their doors open to get out and take photos).

Last week, NOMM went with the Bean Power (戰豆力) vegetarian cycle team (along with the primarily omnivorous Yufeng 禦風 group) to Qingshan Road (青山路) in the hills above Sanzhi (三芝) in New Taipei City.

One additional treat of this particular cherry blossom ride is Dingshan Temple (頂山寺), better known as Shell Temple (貝殼廟). Just about every square-inch of wall, pillar, ceiling and censer is covered with shells, coral or other marine life. All the usual decorations are present--dragons, qilin, yin-yang symbol, &c.--but executed in shells and with aquatic themes. The dragons, for example, have fish tails.

And one additional treat of the Shell Temple, are the soup, noodles and warming ginger tea (薑母茶) provided for visitors, all vegetarian (素食) of course. None will win a culinary award, but on cold winter days in the mountains the ginger concoction certainly hits the spot, and the noodles provide cyclists with extra calories for the 30km ride back to Taipei.

Address: 69 Erpingding, Sanzhi District, New Taipei City (新北市三芝區二坪頂69號)

Text and photos copyright Jiyue Publications

Saturday, 25 February 2012

News Brief: artificial meat (from last month!)

oops, missed this one ...

Race to serve up artificial chicken for a $1m prize

The Guardian

A small group of people will meet in Washington later this year for what they hope will be a lunch to change the world. The meal should consist of fried chicken and nothing else, but while it may look like chicken, have the texture of chicken and even taste like chicken, it will never have lived or breathed.

Five years ago Peta, the world's largest animal welfare group, gave scientists until 30 June 2012 to prove they could make "cultured", or laboratory meat, in commercial quantities. The first scientist to show that artificial chicken can be grown in quantity and be indistinguishable from "real" chicken flesh will be awarded $1m.
... Leading the race to show that it is possible is Mark Post, head of the department of vascular physiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Post ... has claimed he will produce a synthetic beefburger this year.Post cannot win the Peta prize because he is working with beef, not chicken, but he has successfully grown strips of meat a few centimetres long. But his work is slow and it is proving hard to grow the meat any thicker or in large quantities.

Another group of scientists, at Utrecht university in the Netherlands, is experimenting with stem cells harvested from embryos. ... I think it is a decade away and we need research money," said Bernard Roelen, professor of veterinary science.

Coming from a different direction is US scientist Vladimir Mironov, ... now working with a Brazilian meat company. Mironov works with tissue engineering and has taken embryonic muscle cells from turkeys, bathed them in a bovine serum and successfully grown muscle tissue, but only in very small quantities.

...  the prize of being able to one day grow hundreds of tonnes of meat from stem cells is potentially vast, say animal welfare groups and food manufacturers. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation expects world consumption of meat to double between 2000 and 2050,

... Cultured meat has the added advantage of requiring far less energy and space to grow. Analysis by scientists from Oxford and Amsterdam last year showed the process could be engineered to use only 1% of the land and 4% of the water compared with conventional meat.

... For vegetarians, the prize is less animal suffering. "More than 40bn chickens, fish, pigs and cows are killed every year for food in the US alone, in horrific ways. In vitro meat would spare animals from this suffering," said Peta.

News Brief: Singapore to lift restrictions on Taiwanese foodstuffs

The Singaporean Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has decided to lift safety measures on certain Taiwanese products and return to normalized trade, the Taipei Representative Office in Singapore announced yesterday, the Taipei Times reports today (full article here).

After the plasticizer food scare in May last year, Singapore enacted measures compelling five major foodstuff imports from Taiwan (sports drinks, juice products, tea products, jams and syrup products, and foodstuffs in the form of capsules, pills or powders) to be labeled with the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ (MOEA) Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection’s special proof of examination.

The plasticizer scare refers to the use of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, and other -plasticizers, -chemical substances used to increase pliability in plastic materials and which have been found to be endocrine disruptors, in food additives such as clouding agents.

The office said that after assuring the AVA that the plasticizer issue has been taken care of in Taiwan and urging it to consider lifting the extra safety measures on Taiwanese imports, the authority had agreed to a general lift of the measures starting on March 1.

News Brief: Eating shark fin could cause brain damage

People who like to eat shark fin should be careful, and not just because environmental groups want to stop consumption of this delicacy. Researchers in the United States have discovered the neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (甲氨基-丙氨酸; BMAA) in shark fin, which could cause brain damage or lead to Alzheimer’s disease (阿茲海默症), ETTV (東森新聞) reports today (full Chinese-language article here, and related English-language article here).
Concentrations of BMAA  found ranged from 144 to 1,838 nanograms per milligram, which were noted to be similar with the levels found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Translation © Jiyue Publications 2012

News Brief: Pardonez Moi!--Will McDonald’s persuade you with its “McBaguette”?

In order to make headway into lucrative fast-food markets around the world, McDonald’s is happy to incorporate local tastes into its menus. The latest such initiative comes in France, where for six weeks starting April 18, hamburgers made using “French bread” will be offered by the US franchise’s 1,228 outlets to see if they will increase the chain’s customer base, NOWnews reports today (full Chinese-language article here).

These are reported to include the “McBaguette”(4.5 Euros; ca. NT$180), which will also use local Charolais beef in its patty, Emmenthal cheese and French mustard.

According to research by the Bread Observatory, French people consume bread with almost every meal and annually eat an average of 55kg of French bread. French research organization Credoc says that 98 percent of citizens eat bread every day, mostly French bread.

McDonald’s already has locally customized menus in 14 European countries. In Finland, for example, it sells the Rye McFeast, in Spain it makes gazpacho (cold tomato-based raw vegetable soup), and in Italy it has products made in conjunction with a 3-star Michelin restaurant. 

Translation © Jiyue Publications 2012