Sunday, 19 October 2014

Taiwan Day 3

My cousins and I separated on day 3 as they headed to Qingjing farm and I stayed behind. The reason why I stayed behind is because I originally book a needle felting class on day 4 and was going to join them at the farm until we realized it would be impossible to return to Taipei in time. So I ended up staying behind and my instructor rescheduled the class to day 3 so I can schedule a cooking class on day 4. YAY! Classes during vacation! FUN!
Guess which one is mine!

So a little background in needle felting. You use a needle that has little hooks/nicks on it. So what you do is gather a ball of wool and stab it with the needle. The nicks in the needle grabs the fibers in the wool and create knots so it stays in the form you wish it to be. It is pretty popular is Asia and I think it is catching up in North America. Though I think it's been around for a while but has only caught popularity recently.

I heard about it a couple of years ago and have been trying to learn how to do it. I got kits shipped from Japan and tried to watch videos on Youtube to learn it. But I just still suck at it so when I planned my trip to Taipei I knew I had to schedule in a class. It was about $60 CAD if I remember correctly and lasted 6 hours despite scheduling for only 3 hours. This was the cheapest class I could find. Most of the ones I am found are around the $120 CAD range but it teaches all of the basics of felting. I chose the bunny as I really like how cute it is and the reduction in price was a pleasant surprise. The instructor was very nice, she communicated with me prior to and after the class.This is kind of pricey for a single class but given how I was not able to find an instructor who is not teaching in a group setting in Cow town, it is well worth it.

Prior to embarking on my trip, I asked my friend to order my tons of felting kits of Taobao. The kits were adorable and they were really cheap. Though with cheaper prices, quality is not great. I bought over 10 packs for around $20 CAD, a good deal to me.

 During my spare time before and after my friend's wedding, I just been playing with the kits. The first I made was this cute little pink bunny key chain for the bride. It took about an hour to make and it turned out pretty cute. Though it is really simple as it is just a ball with two ears.

The second I made is a tiger. This is the one where my lack of skills in needle felting shows. The  white is supposed to blend into the yellow but you can clearly see a line. This was something I learned to fix during the class.

During my exploring trip to the mall across from my hotel in Tianjin, I also picked up another two sets of felting projects. One is a bunny and the other is that of a bear. I chose to make another bunny.. I have no idea why since I already have two more sets of bunnies. Oh well. One can never have enough bunnies. Hahaha. It was a great time to waste away my time. I spent all morning and night working on these felted bunnies and it was wonderful. I felt like I had developed good skills on felting since I was able to make a mushroom, banana, and carrot without instructions. But I was proven wrong during my class. Oh well. It was still fun making these and it made me excited for the class.

 Prior to the class, I picked out this bunny in a maid's outfit. The instructor made a sample one to try it out and make sure I like the pattern. This looks great and I was really excited and hoped I could make the same cute bunny.

The instructor had spools of wool instead of a kit. She taught me how to grab enough wool to form the shape of the head. How to poke it a few time so it would stay in a ball form and how to slowly poke it into shape. She also explain quite a bit about how the needles work and how you can shape the wool and how you can tell when the wool is felted. I learned a lot from her regarding how to needle felt.

Doesn't that look like she has a tuft of hair?
Now my bunny looked pretty great when it was only the head, ears and body. If you look closely, you can see there is not too much flyaway fibers. This is because we used good quality wool where it knots together well and need less pokes to form a shape. If you were to use the synthetic fibers, it does not knot well and it takes quite a few more pokes before it holds together.

When I added the arms and legs, the bunny started to look wonky. She has gigantic arms and tiny legs, Hehehe. I also gave her huge nose and mouth instead of dainty nose and mouth. I gave her a nickname of Big Nose. She is still cute but off looking. Hehehe.

 After my class, I returned to Ximending and bought tons of food for dinner since I had not eat since the morning. I grabbed these sushi rolls that has things like kimchi and deep fried chicken in it. Sometimes I love how the Taiwanese people has adopted habits from Japan. With onigiri, which is essentially a rice ball wrapped in dry seaweed. In Japan, they designed a wrapper where there is a layer of plastic between the rice and seaweed that is only pulled off when you are ready to eat the onigiri. This is so the seaweed stays crispy when you are eating the rice ball. The Taiwanese people has adopted this method, you can even see it in the onigiris sold at convenience stores. They even do this with the sushi rolls I purchased. I really appreciated the little gesture since warm rice would have soften the seaweed long before I reached the hostel.

The sushi roll is so good! It is more Korean style so the rice is plain white short grain rice and not vinegar rice. The chicken is crunchy and mesh well with the kimchi pieces in the sushi.

I also picked up duck gizzard, beef tripe, duck wings and tofu from a famous meat shop along the way back to the hostel. It had a long line of people waiting despite having a handful of ladies working behind the counter at all times. I can see why it is famous!! The innards and wings are well marinated and are not overly salty. I couldn't stop eating the gizzard and wings. Though I did wish I had a bit of hot sauce to dip the tripe in. (I love spicy food, I have a problem.. ) My favourite dish is definitely the tofu. It is a firm tofu that is cooked in a similar sauce as the innards. It just looks like a chunk of firm tofu from the outside. But when you pick up a piece of it, it looks more like a piece of sponge with tons of fine air pockets. The tofu feels very firm, kind of like a stress ball. It is firm but has some bounce to it. When you bite into it.. It is so airy and spongy, it was so delicious.

For dessert, I had a Pon de Ring donut from Mister Donut and a creme brulee ice cream from Haagen-Dazs. The donut is a specialty to Mister Donut so you definitely don't see those in North America often, if at all. I chose the green tea covered green tea Pon de Ring donut since there was not much choice left and I just wanted try the donut.

The green tea topping, which I am assuming to be green tea chocolate. It has a nice light green tea flavour but have a grainy and greasy texture. It makes me wonder if it is mocklate instead of real chocolate. The actual donut also has a light green tea flavour. Unlike the donuts in North America, it is of a chewier dough. The donut held on a little as I was pulling it apart.  I actually quite like it. The chewier dough reminds me of mochi, and I love mochi so it is an automatic win in my books. The mild sweetness is a bonus! I wish our donuts are not so sweet sometimes. I can't stand the glazed timbits sometimes due to its sweetness.

My other dessert was the creme brulee ice cream from 7-11 and it was a delicious way to end the night. It is a vanilla ice cream with toffee bites and bitter caramel in the center. The ice cream, I am presuming to be vanilla, is supposed to be the custard. The toffee bites (I am assuming it is toffee bites) represents the layer of crunchy caramel on top. The ice cream and the toffee  bites are quite sweet together. I was ready to give up on the ice cream until I dug into the center. It  has a pool of bitter caramel. I could not understand why the caramel was present until I had it with the ice cream. The bitterness balanced out the sweetness quite well and I end up liking the ice cream. Wonder if I can find it in cowtown.


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