A Taste of Taiwan

Hello there!

So, alas, I’m not doing too well on my whole trying to post more than once a week thing, am I? I always feel weird apologizing for something like failing to blog, since in the grand scheme of, y’know, the world, it’s really quite inconsequential and I don’t want to imply that I think my blog posts bring such high value to your lives that I need to apologize when I don’t get them up but… basically, this is still my ridiculously long-winded way of saying sorry. Heh.

I’ve been super busy with work, as always seems to be the case now, but — as is also the case — I’m not exactly complaining. After all, I really can’t complain when my job involves getting to do things like…

Craft lollipop spiders and ghosts at the Tysons Harvest Festival, or…

Get my inner Ghost on and take a spin on the pottery wheel at one my of Elite Events, or…

Noshing at deliciousness at my events — this was at my Elite Event at Zoe’s Kitchen on Wednesday, mmmm!

But, of course, an overflowing event schedule, coupled with prepping for my trip to Paradise (also known as Harry Potter World) next week, coupled with trying to keep up with the outrageous number of TV shows I choose to follow (HAVEN’T WATCHED LAST NIGHT’S VAMPIRE DIARIES YET NO SPOILERS!!!!!), it does keep me unfortunately tied up.

But! I’m here now! At least for a few minutes. And I have an amazing new discovery to share with you, to boot.

Longtime readers of this blog might remember that I am actually a global child. Not in the pretentious, “citizen of the world” kind of way, but in the “my dad is in the State Dept and we moved ever 3 – 4 years” kind of way. So while, yes, I do consider Northern Virginia home, I did most of my growing up in places like Poland, Taiwan, and Canada.

Taiwan in particular housed a lot of my formative years. I did grades 9 – 11 there, and since it’s also what I consider to be the most culturally different from my life here, I often find myself missing it most. I haven’t been back since 2004! Oh lord. That was 10 years ago. TIME, MAN.

A-hem, anyway. One of the things I miss most about Taiwan is the food. I mean, dude. THE FOOD. I didn’t even fully appreciate it while I was living there (we never do, do we?) because I was probably too preoccupied with school and friends and boys — all extremely unimportant things in comparison to THE FOOD. On the streets of Taipei is where I took my first sip of zhen zhu nai cha (bubble milk tea), where I slurped up my first xiao long bao (soup dumpling), and where I greedily downed my first bowl of niu rou mien (beef noodle soup).

Last, but most definitely not least, it’s also where I first encountered the incredible street food known as Taiwanese popcorn chicken.

Bits of battered chicken, deep-fried with basil and doused in a salt-pepper blend so that it’s just the right amount of flavorful and spicy, and then often eaten out of a bag with a long toothpick. One taste — no, one smell! — and I’m 15 again, standing in the Shi Lin Night Market, gazing into a stall full to the rafters with bedazzled, bejeweled Asian hair clips.

This food, this delicious delicacy, I was sure it was all but lost on me. After all, Northern Virginia has more than it’s fare share of awesome Vietnamese and Korean restaurants, but there are really only a handful of Chinese places to boast about. And most of them are Hong Kong-style.

But behold.

Turns out all I needed to was cross the state line by just a few meager miles, and I’d be home again.

Jumbo Jumbo Cafe has two locations in Rockville, MD, just a relative stone’s throw from where I live in VA, and. Is. Awesome. I don’t know why it took me so long to visit this place, since I’d heard about it quite a while ago. It’s the kind of thing I’m kicking myself over having put off for so long.

This is the real deal, folks. It’s so legit that the sign on the outside of the building doesn’t even say “Jumbo Jumbo”. It says “Asia Taste” or “Bubble Tea Express” depending on which location you visit. I know. Weird. But, hey, what’s a hidden gem if it’s not actually hidden? And now that I have visited both locations (and verified that the deliciousness is oh-so-real), I’ve decided to share this valuable secret with you.

It is the most authentic Taiwanese food that I’ve had the pleasure of eating in a long, long time. Definitely the best in the DMV area that I’ve found so far. Not only do they have Taiwanese popcorn chicken, but they also have the aforementioned niu rou mien…

They have beef with tomato (seriously delicious stuff, guys)…

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No lie.

They don’t serve xiao long bao, alas, but Bob’s Shanghai is only like a mile away, so no worries, hehe.

So while I may not be around to blog as much as I’d like in these parts, rest assured that I’ll always come back to tell you tales of my latest food discoveries. This week it’s Taiwanese popcorn chicken, and next week it’ll be chocolate frogs and Butterbeer again (wheeeeee!), and who knows what it’ll be the week after that! 😉