Tuesday, August 19, 2008

7-Eleven in Taiwan

In my previous post I named 7-Eleven as the last place where I would want to buy anything (particularly food). For me 7-Eleven is the store of last resort - it's a place that I would visit only when every other store is closed.

However, according to my Taiwanese friends (which includes my Taiwanese wife), in Taiwan 7-Eleven is the first place they would go to for their shopping and food needs. 7-Eleven is hugely popular in Taiwan, and during my visit to Taiwan I found out why:

The stores are very clean and well-lit, with attractive interior decor and pleasant background music. They offer very fresh and tasty food items like bento (boxed lunches), sandwiches, noodles, pastries and desserts. They also have a multitude of really cute and fun toys for kids, which is why kids in Taiwan get excited at the idea of visiting 7-Eleven! In contrast, when was the last time you saw an American kid go ga-ga over 7-Eleven?

It's all in the way the 7-Eleven stores are managed and marketed over there.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cafe Won Kee

There are places where I go to eat not because I like the food, but simply out of convenience. 7-Eleven is a prime example - although I think their sandwiches are appalling, when my IT job causes me to stagger out of the office at 3am feeling ravenously hungry, it's off to 7-Eleven I go. On such occasions, I wistfully wonder if good food and convenience are mutually exclusive. Fortunately, there are places where one can have both - Cafe Won Kee Chinese restaurant in Milpitas is such a place.

I find Won Kee to be very convenient because their service is really fast and they don't take an afternoon break between lunch and dinnertime. It's one of my favorite places to go for a quick lunch after 3pm, when most other restaurants are closed. On top of the convenience, the food is quite good too. I usually go for one of the rice plates - which are large, tasty, and served steaming hot (usually arriving within a few minutes after I order). Among my favorites are:

Beef with tender greens:

Beef with egg:

My wife likes the spicy beef noodles:

My wife and I were intrigued when we saw that they offered snake soup, so we decided to give it a try:

The snake kinda tastes like chicken, although it was hard to really taste the snake meat since the soup contained too much ginger, which overpowered the flavor of all the other ingredients.

I'm also a big fan of their roasted duck. I brought one of these birds to a potluck and it got rave reviews.

It's also fun to meet the aquatic life that lurk in the fish tanks at Won Kee, like this handsome fellow:

Won Kee on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Occasional Burger

Just because I'm an Asian Food Fanatic, doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good, juicy burger and fries every now and then. I particularly like Red Robin's "Royal Red Robin" burger which has bacon, eggs, cheese, and lettuce - everything a growing boy (like me?) needs. It's like a hearty breakfast on a bun, and makes for a nice brunch.

As I gorged myself on my huge burger, my wife enjoyed her grilled chicken platter, which was pretty good too.

Red Robin on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pho 909

I first tried this place years ago and was very impressed with their pho bo (beef noodle soup). At that time, I was thoroughly fixated on pho so I never tried the dish that this place is really famous for - which is banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe). Well, my wife and I recently decided that it was time to correct this gross omission.

For starters, we got a huge plate of lettuce and mint leaves, along with a side of fish sauce.

The main dishes quickly followed. We ordered 2 banh xeo - one pork and one chicken.

Since this was our first banh xeo experience, we didn't know the proper procedure for eating banh xeo. So we asked our waiter, who patiently instructed us to wrap the banh xeo contents in the lettuce and mint leaves and dip it in fish sauce. He was probably thinking what morons we were, but was kind enough not to show it ;-)

We actually didn't need to ask, since practically everyone who comes to this place orders banh xeo. All we really needed to do was just observe the people around us, but we just had to make sure... ;-)

Our favorite part of the banh xeo was the light, crispy, golden crust - which was a pleasure to bite into. As for the filling, we found the chicken to be rather dry and bland. The pork was about the same, although slightly more flavorful. The bean sprouts and shrimp were quite fresh, but seemed to share the same blandness as the other ingredients.

After using the leaves to wrap the ingredients, the fish sauce really helped to liven up the whole ensemble. Plus it was kinda fun eating with our hands ;-)

Although this place is quite popular and attracts a LOT of Vietnamese customers, all of whom order the banh xeo, we decided the banh xeo wasn't for us, but that maybe we'd come back for the pho.

Pho 909 on Urbanspoon