Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Japanese Ramen, Udon, Tonkatsu in Tainan, Taiwan 台湾日式料理

I should not be dining in air-conditioned food courts and instead, should be out there trawling through the streets of Taiwan for street-food. However, convenience turns evil when I am just steps away from department store - Shinkong Mitsukoshi (新光三越). Moreover, unlike Taipei which is well-connected and served by the Metro, Tainan does not have a rapid transit system. To move around, you either have to take the bus or a cab; or maybe drive, ride a scooter or walk. However, I would say it even takes experience to walk along the streets in Tainan, because many times, there might be no pedestrian pavement or sidewalks, and you might find yourself running into scooters along the road and randomly-parked cars along the pavement.

That gave me more excuses to walk next door, to the mall, out of convenience; and I had three first experience(s) with chain-restaurants/eateries within the mall.

My bowl of Shiromaru Motoaji 白丸元味, al-dente noodles in less-sodium broth @Ippudo Ramen

First was Ippudo Ramen (一风堂)at this branch location at Tainan Place/Tainan Fun Center (台南新天地/小西门) adjacent to - Shinkong Mitsukoshi Tainan Place. I seem to be hooked on their Shiromaru Motoaji 白丸元味  - the most basic of classic Hakata-style ramen in the store - finding myself with this same order on multiple visits, different days.  The Shiromaru Motoaji is delicious and deeply-flavored. It is also the most budget-friendly yet most classic bowl of ramen in the store. I also like that the store caters to different customers with options of sodium level (standard or less sodium) in the broth; and options of varying texture of noodles (ranging from al-dente to soft texture).

Besides Ippudo Ramen, I have also tried Inaka Udon (稻禾乌龙面)that has 25 years of hand-made udon noodles tradition. Without fail, I go for most basic and classic which is udon noodles in bonito-infused broth (柴鱼上汤).

Basic classic udon noodles @Inaka Udon, with side-dish vegetable salad @Inaka Udon

It is satisfying and soothing to enjoy this 100NT bowl of udon served with seaweed, and green onions. Frankly I do prefer this bowl of udon noodles to the ramen noodles at Ippudo as the former is lighter-tasting yet still delicious. Even my hubs. who does not enjoy udon that much (as he said "udon always taste sour") gave a thumbs-up for the udon at Inaka Udon.

As it is a self-served eatery, you only find staff behind the noodle-cooking counter. Let me draw a similarity to Ikea. You take a tray, take the side-dishes (a variety of vegetable sides, and fried food Tempura items) you want, order your choice of noodles from the counter, then pay at the cashier. After that, you find a place to sit down to slurp down the noodles, then return the tray of plates/bowls at a small window on the way out from the eatery.

Inaka Udon, also located at the basement of Tainan Place/Tainan Fun Center; and opposite the Ippudo Ramen store.

Saboten (勝博殿) is a large Tonkatsu chain so I was initially hesitant about dining here, the branch at Shinkong Mitsukoshi Tainan Place. But, you always have to try once, right? Or you never know. Good or bad, at least for once. In addition, I also read a few fairly good reviews about it. Yes, Saboten is not exceptionally out-of-ordinary good Tonkatsu but at least a decent dinner, is a fair statement. The set-meal of the classic tonkatsu comes with rice, miso soup, complemented (and complimented) in between with shredded razor-thin almost-thread-like cabbage, sweetened black soybeans and pickled daikon that you can fill up as your heart desires, then ends with dessert.

You also make your own sauce-dip by grinding the sesame seeds then add a base molasses-like sauce that I have read, is made from onions, carrots, tomatoes, apples and over ten different spices to bring out the best sauce-dip flavor.

For other interesting food discoveries in Tainan, you may like to read about Traditional Taiwanese cuisine at A-Sha, K-Lin Handmade Buns, Milkfish and Milkfish Belly Porridge and Tainan Snacks.

Till my next trip to Tainan, Taiwan!

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