Restaurant review: Yi Yuan Restaurant, Peking Food in Taipei

October 31, 2009


After all the wonderful “island food”, I felt like something northern Chinese and therefore had suggested this type of cuisine to my friends, Jim, Chimei, and Tzu-Chin.

They choose the restaurant: Yi Yuan Restaurant it was called located in the The Westin Taipei Hotel in Taipei.

Its chef, Jordan Yang, is well known for its traditional Peking roast duck and his many new “incarnations” of other northern Chinese dishes. Yi Yuan roast duck is the signature dish of the restaurant and a must-eat.


Peking roast duck


The Chef doing his magic

During my years in Beijing, I had had the famous Chinese dish many times. Almost every visitor wanted to taste it at one time or the other with the result that in the end I often did not feel like roast duck at all. But now things are different. Living in Thailand exposes you to excellent duck dishes but the Beijing roast duck is very special.

To serve roast duck and carve it properly is a skill one has to be trained for. One also needs a very sharp knife. The very first bits were just the skin. Unfortunately, I have no clear picture of it but they were meant to be dipped in caster sugar and mustard (see the second picture below).


Beautiful duck meat


Caster sugar and mustard


More duck meat


The proper serve of duck ready wrapped


The “empty” duck, stripped off all its treasures

After the duck we had various side dishes, some with seafood, others of a more traditional northern China style and the banquet ended with a soup of course. All the food was just wonderful. We indulged in a most interesting conversation about food and the universe which leads nowhere, as we all know, but gives so much pleasure to the mind.

Thanks folks for taking me there.




We did not have any alcohol with our meal but sipped on green tea which was very refreshing. However, at the end of the hall stood a sideboard filled with various treasures and a mostly high percentage alcohol content. But nothing beats an original “gaoliang” made from sorghum as a digestive.


The whole range of Chinese liquors

If Taiwan is on your travel list and your taste buds long for a very special treat, drop in at the Yi Yuan Restaurant in Taipei, and indulge in roast duck and other “Pekinese” foods.

Yi Yuan Restaurant at the Westin Hotel

3 区南京东路 133 号台北 104
+886 2-8770-6565

A pesto pasta with Alsatian Riesling

October 25, 2009

My homecoming was celebrated with a dinner featuring one of my favorite pasta dishes: a pasta al pesto. But it did not stop there. The basilico for the pesto sauce was grown on our terrace. Freshly harvested the leaves were processed with pine nuts and the best olive oil we could get hold of in Bangkok. The pictures below shows the different stages of the pesto-making process.


Basilico leaves


Healthy leaves of home grown Basilico


Pesto in the making


The fresh pesto sauce

I tell you this pasta was worth killing for. What ‘profumo’, goodness me, it filled our kitchen, the living room and transcended to the terrace where it filled my nostrils long before the dish arrived. We treasured every bite.

If you think that in the 1760s French cultural supremacy was so dominant that Italian cooking was considered totally inferior even by Italians. Local cooking had to have the coda, “”perfected in Paris” to be taken seriously. Today, every second top restaurant in Bangkok and indeed in all cosmopolitan world cities is Italian. That’s just amazing!


Linguine with pesto

We celebrated the reunion with a French Riesling from Alsace, a ‘2006 Les Princes Abbes, Domaines Schlumberger, Riesling’. The price was a bit on the high end for us. TBH 1,600, about 32 Euro (or US $ 48), from our local super market is quite some money. That it sells for about US $ 20 in California somehow consoled me. We thought that life is just too short to waste it with drinking cheap wine and the occasion warranted something special, and special this Alsatian Riesling was.


This wine is just a wonderful specimen of Alsatian Riesling and it went very well with the pesto pasta. The fresh and fruity wine with aromas of citrus, lime and lemon and some floral notes, opened our taste buds wide. The wine has character and shows its typical Alsatian traits with some refined and not overpowering petrol notes. Alcohol is 12%, and just right. The finish is pleasantly vibrant but not overly long.


Fifty five

October 24, 2009


Back street near Houhai, Beijing

I was very luck to spend my 55th birthday with a good old friend in Beijing, China. He took me to a Hakka (“Kejiaren”) restaurant near Houhai where we had a jolly good meal and a jolly good time.

My Chinese name (Zhou Min-de) was given to me in 1983 by a Taiwanese farmer, Mr. Zhou, who was also Hakka (in Linlo Xian, near Pintung in Southern Taiwan).

We enjoyed the food and each others company. It was a mild August night, and the world seemed to be at peace. It was a double 5 festival for me, so to say. That must mean luck, prosperity and long, long life!


After the feast

PS: We had beers, of course, what else? It just came naturally.

Rioja in Taiwan

October 22, 2009


After teaching a full day I am usually exhausted and somehow empty. the best way to spend the evening is with a glass of wine. Jim and I, we marched into the wine shop just across the ICLPST in Taoyuan and shopped for some wine.

I choose a ‘2006 Tempranillo Beronia Rioja’ from Spain. What a nice wine this was; an “umpf” wine, as we call it in Australia. Dark red in colour, full of wild fruit, plum, and berry flavours, this wine is of a more traditional character, heavy and intense, but with balanced acidity and spicy notes from the oak it is matured in, and good mid-palate weight.


We had no wine glasses but drank it from large, thick tea glasses. That’s the reason why I have no picture to show the beautiful colour of the wine. The ‘2006 Tempranillo Beronia Rioja’ sells for about US $ 13 in the USA, we got it for the equivalent of about US $ 21 in Taoyuan, not bad for such a wine.

Street food paradise

October 20, 2009


A mobile sausage-cooking facility on a bicycle

In most Asian places, street food is an essential part of everyday life. That’s also the case in Taipei. Unfortunately, I did not rise to the occasion and took only a few photos when I should have taken many many more. I promise, I will rise to the occasion next time.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, when my friends Chimei, Tzu-Chin and Jim were strolling with me through the streets near “Taida”, one of the famous universities in Taipei.


Various kinds of filled waffle (hong dou bian)


Red bean, chocolate and cream are the fillings


Chimei, Jim and Tzu-Chin in the street food paradise

Drifting in Taipei

October 18, 2009

Saturday, I had lunch with an old friend which was very pleasant and the Chinese food was excellent. After that I went for a long walk around the city. In 1983 when I did my field research here in Taiwan I came to Taipei from time to time for meetings and discussions and got to know the place a little. So I wandered around on my old tracks thoroughly enjoying the beautiful mild autumn weather.


The modern art museum in the Peace park


Fortune telling services are available


Street scene


Trees and people in the Peace park


The charming Starbucks

After a while, I was looking for a quiet place to have coffee, not an easy undertaking on a Saturday afternoon when the city is buzzing with people. The first Starbucks was completely full, crowded and noisy. But I was lucky and found a charming place, also a Starbucks. I watched the customers come in, order drinks and food, relax and leave the place. Lots of students were surfing the net and/or doing work on their laptops. Some seemed to do homework and assignments. I was utterly at peace with the world.


A look into the future

I had not much time since I wanted to meet friends later in the day and therefore went to “Taida”, one of the islands universities. I used the subway which was excellent and very easy to navigate. I had a pleasant trip. I could not resist to take the above photo. Somehow it felt like a window to the future. The running banner in the train informing the innocent traveler about the “don’t’s” included among others ‘betel nut chewing’ which was very common 26 years ago when I first visited the island.

I did not drink any wine that day. More about my adventures later.
Greetings from Taiwan; it’s a great place to visit.


October 16, 2009


Today I feel that I deserve something nice. I am a bit exhausted. Not even a glass of wine could excite me but a flower might bestow on me peace of mind.

I took this photo on my terrace in Bangkok. I have water lilies in different colours. Tomorrow I will go out and check out the wine shop opposite the centre were I am teaching right now.

Cheers from Taoyuan.

Moufflon leg and Loch Riesling

October 15, 2009


When I am at home in Trier, Mosel my mother cooks for me. This time Heinz had shot a young moufflon (a kind of wild sheep) in Schoden. He prepared a leg of the lamb and we had it the traditional way. It was simmering on low heat for ages. The meat was tender and had a fine gamy taste.

This feast was accompanied by a wine from the same place, a ‘2008 Schodener Herrenberg “Stier” by Weinhof Herrenberg and the Loch family in Schoden. This Riesling shows that it was made by hand. It has a fine character, is minerally and fruity with good acidity and length, a perfect Saar wine to be enjoyed right away or cellared for a couple of years.

Nothing could be more perfect, I thought. The moufflons might have roamed the very location of the Herrenberg, the vineyard where the Loch Riesling was produced. I consumed the fruits of the land, the forests of Schoden and the dedicated vintners from the Saar. I am glad my mum is such a good cook. Cheers


It’s vintage time at the Saar right now. Why not go on an outing and drive along the romantic Saar river, visit wineries and enjoy rustic German food?

Claudia and Manfred Loch
Weinhof Herrenberg
D-54441 Schoden/Saar
Tel.: +49-6581-1258
Fax: +49-6581-995438

2008 Loch Riesling

October 10, 2009


When I opened the first bottle produced by Weinhof Herrenberg, a ‘2008 Loch Riesling’, a was quite surprised when I found a it to be closed with a metal cap.


This was the first time in my life that I was confronted with such a kind of enclosure. In the process of getting to the wine unwrapping some of the plastic, I first thought it would be a glass stopper. But then I discovered the metal cap. Whow, all my traditional gear, my corkscrews, were useless and could be pushed aside and I searched for a beer bottle opener.


The above picture shows all the elements of the metal cap including the plastic covering it.

The Loch Riesling is a clean wine typical for the Saar. Aromas of tropical fruit, fully ripened, were displayed. The wine was fresh, a little spicy, with good structure and a medium finish. I had it without food, just like that, on a beautiful autumn afternoon. The golden colour of the wine reflecting the golden autumn sun. I recommend you try it.

Claudia and Manfred Loch
Weinhof Herrenberg
D-54441 Schoden/Saar
Tel.: +49-6581-1258
Fax: +49-6581-995438

Weinhof Herrenberg – Loch Riesling, Schoden, Saar

October 8, 2009

My friend Heinz was kind enough to help me out. He dropped by the Weinhof Herrenberg in Schoden, Saar, on his way back from the hunt and bought three bottles of Loch Riesling. I had planned to visit the Loch family winery for some time but never managed to get there. There was always something else when visiting Trier, my hometown nearby, a birthday, a visit, a train to catch etc.

Heinz brought back the box shown below and three different Loch Riesling wines, all of the 2008 vintage. Regular visitors of my blog know that I am a Riesling lover, especially if they were grown along the Saar, my favorite provenance of German Riesling wines.


The treasures from Weinhof Herrenberg and the two brochures

The three wines were a ‘2008 LochRiesling’ (8.90 Euro/bottle), a blend of Riesling grapes from various vineyards, a ‘2008 Schodener Herrenberg “Stier”‘ (12.90) and a ‘2008 Schodener Herrenberg “Stoveler”‘ (13.90), both wines from my favorite ‘terroir’, a very steep vineyard called “Herrenberg” bordering a forest and enticing large groups of wild pigs and deer to visit and taste the sweet grapes during vintage time. I had walked the vineyard and heard about the Loch wines but never tried a single drop. It was high time to change that.


2008 Loch Riesling wines from Schoden, Saar

I also love the brochure with the “whole” (the “Loch” in German) explaining the philosophy of Claudia and Manfred Loch, the proprietors and vintners of the boutique winery “Weinhof Herrenberg”, which is the basis for their wine-making. In short, the Loch’s aim for authenticity, uniqueness, they reject designer wines but quest for a unique character and truthfulness.

The brochure is a very unusual one, telling people why to keep their hands off LochRiesling wines and what the weaknesses of the wines are: for instance that their wines are unknown, consumer hostile, old fashioned, egoistic, lawless, dangerous and limited (in numbers of bottles!). I like this brochure.


The “Loch” brochure with a whole in it

The wine list also includes wines from locations in Ockfen and Wiltingen, two famous Saar wine villages. The “Beerenauslese” wines are not available any longer. The Loch’s also produce a dry, sparkling wine. All wines are reasonably priced.


The current wine list

You might wonder what they taste like? Well, I will tell you more about this at a later blog entry. But if you are near Schoden or in the vicinity of the Saar, please visit the Loch family vineyard at Weinhof Herrenberg. If you cannot visit in person, visit the website which is very informative.

Claudia and Manfred Loch
Weinhof Herrenberg
D-54441 Schoden/Saar
Tel.: +49-6581-1258
Fax: +49-6581-995438