Friday, June 12, 2015


Hello, Internet friends! It's been a while since I've posted on Vagabond (since winter, to be exact) and this one will be short and sweet. I've spent a speedy month back home in Taipei after completing my first year in college and had a chance for some much-needed city exploring.

Since March, I've transitioned into a full-time vegetarian. How does a sometime-food blogger and self-proclaimed gastrophile decide to — gasp — give up meat for good? For me, it's mostly for moral and environmental reasons, but I like to think that I'm also doing my body some good along the way.

I think when it comes to something like vegetarianism, it's the intent of your actions that matters. You don't have to punish yourself if you're not perfect 100% of the time; for instance, I remember taking baby steps and only having veggie meals twice a week in the beginning. If you want more information on vegetarianism/veganism, I highly recommend the following books and films:

The China Study by Thomas Campbell and T. Colin Campbell
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism by Melanie Joy

Earthlings (link here)
Food, Inc. 
Hungry for Change

Anyways, back to the feature presentation. When I first got back to Taipei and was trying to find restaurants catering to my newfound plant-based diet, I found Herban Kitchen & Bar (二本). Not many restaurants in Taipei are vegan friendly, so I applaud Herban for having so many options on their menu and helping fuel a much needed conversation about sustainable eating and living.

Warm Mushroom Salad with Grilled Tofu — Herban absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one: crunchy tofu, garlicky mushrooms, and a tangy vinaigrette. Highly recommend.  

The "Hulk" (spirulina, avocado, cashew milk, and maple syrup) — Eh, I think I've had better green juices/smoothies in my life. I wasn't particularly keen on the odd maple aftertaste. I wanted to eat a completely vegan meal that day so I opted for cashew milk instead of cow's milk for an additional charge. 

Spicy Thai Pasta (garlic, cilantro, cashews, and Thai tomato chili sauce). Two words: SUPER. SPICY. But also a nice fusion of flavors from two completely different geographical regions. 

Thanks for reading until the end! I'll be returning back to the States for my (whelp) sophomore year of college, and I'll be working (my first paid job!) and taking classes for the rest of the summer. If you would like to contact me, or have any questions, please feel free to email me at:

Would you ever try going vegan or becoming a vegetarian? 

No. 27, Alley 101, Zhongxiao East Road, Section 4, Daan District, Taipei
Phone: (02) 8773-7033
Hours: 12:00 pm-11:00 pm

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

RAW by André Chiang

While a lot has changed in the past year (the most having been my move halfway around the world for my first semester of college), my passion for blogging has yet to falter. If you're a longtime reader, my sincerest thanks for sticking around. If you're new and happened to stumble upon Vagabond while searching for this restaurant, welcome. Have a look around and hopefully my compendium of posts from over the years can still help you out in some way. (If you would like to know about the future of Vagabond, I will be writing a post in the coming days)

My first semester of college has taught me that quote-on-quote "college food" is built on the principle of convenience. It has to be fast, easy to eat in narrow blocks of time between classes, and tends to contain a carb-to-every-other-ingredient ratio of epic proportions to null. I've been too guilty of midnight pad thai runs and (almost) daily doses of fried chicken strips.

Coming home to Taipei has allowed for a much needed change of pace, especially with what I've been eating. As I am finishing off the final days of my (month long!) winter vacation, I've been indulging in the gastronomical gems that my city has to offer. I capped off this month of self-gratification with a trip to Raw, the brainchild of André Chiang of Michelin-star famed Restaurant Andre.

*Side note: I've retired my old Canon EOS 600D which I was previously using for the photos on Vagabond. Photos from this post were taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5. 

Raw, which opened late last year, is Chiang's second overseas restaurant. It aims to offer "bistronomy" cuisine while simultaneously paying homage to the owner's cultural roots with a "new interpretation of Taiwanese flavors." His cooking is a playful marriage of techniques; molecular gastronomy paired with traditional French cuisine mixed with a streak of Asian flair. In a June 2013 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Chiang describes the thought process behind his cooking:
A lot of restaurants from young chefs get very technical into food. That scares me. I feel pain when you see beautiful produce turned to powder... I am obsessed with depth of saltiness. I enjoy putting dishes together and finding the balance of saltiness by using not salt, but fish sauce, soy sauce, seawater, seaweed, cured anchovies. You have different depths of saltiness from different ingredients.
The interior of the restaurant pulled from various natural elements: the fluidity of the abstract wood tables and bar worked against a wall of industrial pipes that were converted into light fixtures. The open kitchen is a nice touch as well. Service was excellent, but some dishes, however, were served too quickly, leaving little time between finishing a course and beginning the next one.

Raw serves a set menu, which means that there is no choice between dishes. Each course was described with three of its main ingredients; for instance, the first course (below) was made with asparagus, broccoli and burnt miso. 

First courseAsparagus, broccoli and burnt miso - A starter that consisted of a steamed stalk of asparagus paired with a broccoli cream and dollops of miso paste. I really enjoyed the contrast between the smooth broccoli puree and crunchy toppings. 

We added an order of bread, which came paired with a mixture of butter, mixed seeds and chocolate shavings. It wasn't too sweet, and the portion was relatively large (enough for 3-4 people to have a couple slices each). 

Second course: Tomato, shiso leaf and plum - A mixture of thinly heirloom tomatoes topped with sour plum jelly and shiso leaf sorbet. Because I don't eat sashimi (call me stubborn but I never have and probably never will), my second course was replaced with this salad. The dishes at Raw really play with textures, which was exemplified best here. 

Second courseKampachi, citrus and daikon - Everyone else in my party had this as a second course. The waitress explained that the gelatinous green globules were sago pearls soaked in celery juice. 

Third courseAjo blanco, cauliflower and squid - Milk frozen with liquid nitrogen with cauliflower and grilled squid. I tasted hints of almond in this dish, which lent it an overly sweet component. I personally do not like foods that mix hot and cold (or sweet and savory, for that matter), so this dish did not sit very well with me. 

Fourth coursePaella, prawns and piquillos - This dish is a clear demonstration of Chiang's creativity. It's a modern interpretation on the classic Spanish paella. I loved the prawns that were battered and fried with rice and were then paired with a saffron sauce and crunchy puffed rice pieces and edamame. The fiery red piquillo pepper sauce gave the dish a nice element of spice.

Fifth courseAbalone, seaweed and okra - A seafood risotto with a piece of abalone and colored with seaweed and okra. The risotto had a sticky texture that mimicked that of okra, and the seaweed added a touch of brine that wasn't overly salty. 

Sixth course: XO sauce, short rib and baguette - A slice of short rib accompanied with a garlic mash, XO sauce reduction and crispy bread slices. The meat was tender and yielded easily to the knife, but the garlic mash had an almost sickly and overpowering flavor from the garlic. 

Seventh course: Chocolate, mochi and burnt butter - This dessert reminded me like a bowl of a melted s'mores. The 40% milk chocolate had the consistency of a thick paste, and the blocks of baked mochi had a texture more akin to a marshmallow. The sweetness, however, was a bit cloying. 
Overall, I had a great dining experience at Raw. I was reflecting on my meal as I was writing this blog post and I quickly likened it to exploring a museum. Patrons go to a museum to absorb new ideas and to be educated on the history of art. The contents of a museum are oftentimes unrestrained and wild, but are always thought-provoking and often leave you with questions as you exit the exhibition halls. At Raw,  I was taught the importance of keeping your cultural roots as Chiang did with his menu. I tried new food combinations that I had never thought of before, and I left dinner pondering how food could still amaze me and leave me intrigued after all these years. 

No.301, Le Qun 3rd Road, Taipei City, Taiwan
Phone: (02)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Szechuan Cuisine: Kaifun (開飯)

I have this unabashed addiction with spicy food. Yes, I'm that friend. The one who complains that such-and-such dish isn't spicy enough, reaching for the Sriracha/Tabasco/you-name-it chili oil and dousing my food to my heart's content. 

Needless to say, I've been hooked on Szechuan cuisine for a while now. For those of you who don't know what Szechuan food encompasses, here's a little geography/culinary primer for you: The Szechuan province is located in southwestern China, and the food from this region is characteristically spicy. We're talking copious amounts of chili peppers (most notably the piercing Szechuan pepper) and garlic. 

While Taipei has it's fair share of traditional Szechuan restaurants, my favorite is Kaifun (開飯). This restaurant puts a newer spin on the traditional fare, while still sticking to its culinary identity (read: very, very spicy food). Here are photos from a recent trip to Kaifun's QSquare branch. 

Starting off the meal with a shot of plum vinegar, which is meant to be a palate cleanser. Waitstaff will supply bottomless refills, giving you something to refresh your mouth with after all the numbingly spicy foods that you'll (undoubtedly) order.  

We opted for the three-person meal set (NTD$1350), which divides into a reasonable NTD$450/person. The meal comes with many of Kaifun's more popular dishes, as well as unlimited white rice and beverages for each person. 

(L-R): Mapo tofu, spicy pork and bamboo shoots (one of my favorites), stir-fried string beans, and sliced beef with offal and chili sauce. 

The mapo tofu in all of it's glory. Made with a base of fermented black beans, minced beef, and spicy chili sauce, this dish is the consummate accompaniment to white rice. Taste aside, this dish is very spicy (don't say I didn't warn you!). These people don't kid around when it comes to the heat in their food.

We ordered the sugar cane jasmine tea and the roselle tea. I particularly enjoyed the roselle tea, which is brewed from a flower similar to a hibiscus. Simultaneously sweet and salty, the garnish of the sugared roselle also added a hint of salt. 

Kaifun (開飯)

QSquare (京站廣場) Branch (next to Jason's Marketplace) 
Address: B3, No. 1, Chengde Road, Section 1, Datong District, Taipei
Phone: (02) 2556-5788
Hours: 11:30-3:00 PM, 5:30 PM-9:30PM

Hankyu Department Store (板急百貨)
Address: 7F, No. 8, Zhongxiao East Road, Section 5, Daan District, Taipei
Phone: (02) 2758-5358

Bistro 98 Branch:
Address: 7F, No. 98, Zhongxiao East Road, Section 4, Daan District, Taipei
Phone: (02) 8771-6238

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Rediscovering Tianmu │ Good Cho's (好丘)

In my time living in Taipei (six years!), I have managed to explore many parts of the city. I've come out with my favorites (and some of my not-so-favorites), but there has been one area of the city that I haven't seemed to explore yet.

Ironically enough, this area is the one I spend most of my time in. I go to school there. Most of my friends live there. I too live embarrassingly close by, yet I've never taken the effort to go out and explore.

If you know anything about Tianmu, you'll know that it's famously an area filled with foreigners. It's a huge hub for the expatriate community, and two of the city's largest international schools (Taipei American and Japanese Schools) are both located in the vicinity.

While I do spend much of my time here, I've noticed that I know very little about it. My time in Tianmu had previously revolved around going to the movie theater at Mitsukoshi, or eating (a rather overpriced) lunch at Chili's.

This three-part series, Rediscovering Tianmu, will be dedicated to my search for the perfect spots in the community. I could think of no better way to start the series off than to introduce the new Tianmu branch of my favorite bagel joint, Good Cho's. (Read my previous article on the XinYi store here).

Good Cho's is located on Tian Yu Street, a little ways off from Zhong Shan North Road. It's a two-story building (Diamond Tony's old location) that features a mix of quirky antiques (in love with the electric rocking horse in the front!) and rustic elements (think lots of wood, rusted metals, mismatched chairs, etc.) 

A wooden hideaway, as seen from the third floor attic
The second floor gives way to a spacious and airy store, boasting homeware, clothing, and stationary from both Taiwanese artisans and a few foreign brands as well.

Love the idea of this cooking set from Slow Cooking (慢食堂). I've been eyeing up this box, which contains twine, salt, sugar, wooden utensils, and other kitchen necessities. It's a nice gesture as a hostess gift, or a just a reminder for yourself to get in the kitchen. 

An appteizer of baked bagel rusks with an assortment of toppings: pineapple salsa (slightly sweet and acidic), tomato jam (surprisingly sweet), and curried lentils (by far my favorite, reminded me slightly of an Indian dal soup, but in a paste form)

A creamy corn soup, served with a scone. The scone was a bit dry, but the soup was velvety and sweet, not overly salted like the brackish fate some corn soups fall pitfall to. 

Good Cho's is famous for their bagel selection (my favorite is their sweet black sesame). This is their bagel sandwich with Taiwanese-style pork and Chinese broccoli (芥蘭) . It's a unique fusion of food cultures that works, and I definitely do recommend this one. 

I opted for something lighter and ordered their pan-seared chicken salad. Lo and behold, this salad was pretty filling, thanks to the addition of apples and, of course, the star protein. Interestingly enough, the salad had a nice amount of red beets, which added an almost caramel-like flavor.

We finished off our meal with Good Cho's carrot cake. Hands down one of the best carrot cakes I've had in Taipei. It's more of a cupcake sized dessert, but the dollop of lime-infused cream cheese makes it extremely rich and filling. The top of the cake is slightly crumbly, with almost a graham cracker-like texture. 

Have you tried Good Cho's? What is your favorite dish? Any other favorite spots in Tianmu?

Good Cho's (好丘)
No. 2, Alley 38-16, Tian Yu Street, Shilin District, Taipei (Near the Zhong Shan N. Road Sec 6 roundabout/flea market square) 

Phone: (02) 2873-5889
Hours: Tues-Sunday, 11:00 AM-10:00 PM

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival

There's always that one week in the middle of October when the weather starts to become significantly cooler and the wind just slightly more frigid. When I think of fall, I think of a lot of things: Twinings Apple Cinnamon and Raisin tea, worn-in sweaters, my birthday, and, of course, film festival season.

The Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival is an annual event hosted by the Golden Horse film committee. It culminates with the Golden Horse Awards, the Taiwanese equivalent of the Academy Awards. Films are shown at four different venues across Taipei City and at various times throughout the month of November.

Many of my current film favorites have been ones that I've seen at the TGFF in the past (Never Let Me Go, Main dans la main, etc). Every year I add a few more to my library, and will find time to watch them again.

Tickets are sold through the 7-11 iBon system (the green kiosks found in each 7-11 store), and come at a variety of prices.

If you're like me and consider yourself a cinephile, you can understand when I tell you that I buy the "Super Ticket" package each year. It's an eight ticket deal that costs NT$1499 and can get you into any movie of your choosing. Since the festival gets more and more popular each year, I tend to go for this package since you can choose which movies you want to watch before individual tickets (NT$230) go on sale. You also save a bit when you buy the eight-ticket package.

Here are some of the movies that I'll be watching this year.

1. Short Term 12: This film first caught my eye after picking up positive buzz during the South by Southwest Film Festival. It stars former pop star Brie Larson as a supervisor of a home for children with no caretakers.

2. The Spectacular Now: Labeled as a "coming-of-age story," this film tells the story of a "hedonistic" high school senior, and the changes he encounters after he starts to date "nice girl" Aimee. This film was written by the same folks who did 2009's 500 Days of Summer (which is, by the way, one of my favorite rom-coms of all time), so I was instantly intrigued.

3. The Fifth Estate: Benedict Cumberbatch. Is there any other reason not to watch this film? That being said, this movie revolves around the real-life editor in chief of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and the news storm surrounding him in the past year.

4. Full Metal Jacket: After watching both Lolita and The Shining, I have been on a quest to watch all of director Stanley Kubrick's films before the end of the year. While I still have a lot to go, I'm excited to watch this film about US Marine recruits during the Vietnam War.

What films will you be watching this year? Tell me what you think of them down below!

Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival
Official Website:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Where I've Been...

A recent combination of college applications and school work has deluged me and my hopes of posting more on the blog. While I know that I have not been the most faithful blogger, I hope that this post will give you a bit of insight into what I've been doing during the past two months or so. 

With the end of my first semester of senior year fast approaching (I can see the light!) I hope that Vagabond in Taiwan will be a much more active site and forum, and that I will once again be able to do what I love, which is to share and exchange ideas with my readers.

For those who are new to the site....welcome! And for those who are veteran readers, thank you for sticking with me. You can always find me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

1. Browsing the new Eslite Spectrum store. When I first heard that Eslite would be expanding its already successful family of book and department stores, I was elated. I can't wait to visit the basement movie theater. The new VVG Action restaurant-cum-cafe seems like the ideal afternoon rest spot. 

2. Revisiting old favorites (above, VVG Thinking): While I'm always keen to trying new things, I have recently been going back to a few of my old haunts. Recently, I returned to Huashan's VVG Thinking to try a few new menu items, including this lemonade slush. Read about a day I spent at Huashan Cultural Park, as well as VVG Thinking, here.

3. Reading what I love: For my AP English Literature class, I'm proud to say that I've already finished five books in two months. That being said, I have been neglecting a precarious stack of "leisure reading" books that have been collecting dust in the corner of my room. I ordered Monocle magazine's Guide to Better Living off of, and I've been hooked ever since. Want a convenient way to order books online? Read my post about here.

4. Eating breakfast for dinner: When I was younger, I would eat country fried steak for dinner at my local Denny's. As of late, I've been quite obsessed with 1Bite2Go's corned beef hash (above), which is served with a cinnamon roll in a L'Crueset skillet. Read my post about the restaurant here.
5. Finishing my last year of soccer: Many of you may not know that I'm extremely passionate about soccer. Sure, I may seem like the bookish/nerdy type, but when it comes to sport, I'm definitely dedicated. We ended our soccer season on a high, taking home the silver medal in a pan-Asian soccer tournament. Since I will be graduating this year, it pains me to know that my chances to play competitive soccer in the future are quite slim.

What have you been up to in the month of October? Are there any places that you think I should visit?