Ice Monster 冰館

icemonsterFor the past 7 years in a row I’ve been traveling to Taiwan, one of my must-stop eateries is Ice Monster. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago (??) that Ice Monster moved from the crowded 永康街 Yongkang Street–best known for being the flagship location of infamous dumpling house 鼎泰豐 Ding Tai Fung–to a larger and more spacious location on 忠孝東路四段 Zhongxiao East Road, 4th Section.

The move was due in large part to the divorce of the couple who started the shop together. Both of them now own competing mango shaved ice stores: one still in the old location on Yongkang Street and the other in the new location on Zhongxiao East Road.

icemonster1I hate to say it, but the division has resulted in a dip in quality of the mango shaved ice. The popularity of Ice Monster has continued to skyrocket over the years, resulting in 1-2 hour waits just to get a seat in the Zhongxiao location. CNN has even done a piece on it (they’re #5 on the slide)!

Ice Monster used to be this tiny booth on the corner of the street with no more than 2 counters, and at most 15 stools. People flocked to it then, but my mom and I never had to wait more than 20 minutes for some space to open up. It was this old Ice Monster that we both had the most amazing mango shaved ice of our lives.

The key to amazing mango shaved ice is really the quality of the mangoes. Taiwan’s most popular type of mango is the 愛文芒果 [ai wen man guo], or Aiwen mango. They have beautiful skin painted like the sunset and this delicate, tender, honey-colored flesh that bursts with sweet mango juice when you bite into it.

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The old Ice Monster shaved ice that jump-started my addiction to mangoes.

Ice Monster uses high-quality 愛文, chops them up, pours the chunks over a light bed of snow, drizzles about a teaspoon of sweetened condensed milk, and serves you this delectable concoction with a scoop of creamy mango gelato on top of it all. Like 75% mango, 25% ice/condensed milk/gelato. It’s glorious.

Recently, Ice Monster has tweaked the recipe. Now the ice is shaved into thin, sheet-like layers and there is significantly fewer mango chunks. There is now also the addition of this strange almond tofu thing, which is simply not the same mango shaved ice I’ve always looked forward to eating.

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The new Ice Monster with fancy new seating.

Moreover, the service is a lot slower now. The last two times I went to Ice Monster, I felt like our server had completely forgotten about us. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the major increase in price though. A serving of mango shaved ice at the old Ice Monster on Yongkang Street used to be about 100-120 NTD (~$3-4), and now it is more than double that price.

Overall, still pretty solid mango shaved ice, but a little too expensive for my tastes and too long of a wait to get a table. But if it’s a humid 95-degrees out and you’re a walking waterfall of sweat, it’s worth checking out. 🙂 To find Ice Monster, this address will come in handy:

Ice Monster
Taipei City, Daan District, Zhongxiao Rd. Section 4, Number 297
台北市大安區忠孝東路四段297號

Nürnberg: Spaghetti Eis

Day 6, 2009: I discover Spaghetti Eis

This was quite common to see for the time we were in Germany.

This was quite common to see for the time we were in Germany.

It was Monday, which is the worst day of the week because typically for me it indicates the start of something academically productive. Yet I actually found the prospect of attending my Gastschwester’s (host sister’s) classes exciting. First period was with Clara’s Englisch class; it was probably too early still, as I don’t remember a single thing about it.

2nd period was Greek–what an awesome class. I learned how to write my name and about the development of Greek and Latin languages. Particularly interesting to me was the word “Kairos” καιρός: an ancient Greek word that means the right or opportune moment. It’s a rhetorical device that’s understood as knowing what to say at the right moment.

During break time, we all met at the Schwarze Box (black box) with Herr Reindl, who would be chaperoning our trip to München the next day. We were given loads of maps and tour brochures, as well as our second allowance of the program so far. There were only two of us ones who had to wait for our Gastgeschwister (host siblings) to finish their classes after the meeting, so we played a few rounds of foosball. I was terrible.

My Gastvater (host father) told me he’d make Pfilzgoulasch (mushroom goulash) for me for lunch. Buuuuuut…I really wanted to explore the city after school. While I felt guilty, I still told Clara to go home first without me and to tell Gastvater. Seven of us went sightseeing in the old town, but split up in groups of 2-3 for lunch. Cory and I ate at a Döner place. No vegetarian food. Ended up getting Panda Express. Should’ve stuck with the Pfilzgoulasch.

IMG_2072We all then met up at a department store chain called Karstadt, which was insanely expensive. Since none of us were particularly interested in window shopping, we set off to discover the wonder that is Spaghetti Eis (spaghetti ice cream). Cost me €6, but what the hell–it was delicious. Spaghetti Eis is ice cream put through a noodle maker so it looks like spaghetti. Then some sort of berry jam or reduction is poured over it, along with chopped nuts, white chocolate chips, and an unhealthy serving of whipped cream. A waffle cookie tops off the masterpiece. One of the guys suggested visiting a Barockgarten (baroque-styled garden); it was nice. Well-manicured, small, and private. The most fun part about the garden was playing with this marbled, black and orange kitty making its rounds through the hedges. It must have been funny to see a group of 7 teenagers coddling and taking pictures of a cat. The second Barockgarten we visited was large in comparison and behind a Biergarten (!! the most mind-boggling idea I had come across at that age and time). People just sit outside and…drink beer?? What? The coolest part of the garden was this giant clock that the hedges formed.

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Our last tourist stop of the day was Johannis Friedhof (cemetery), to visit Albrecht Dürer’s grave. Dürer was one of the Renaissance men of his day, literally during the Northern Renaissance.  His most famous portrait is a self-portrait of him at age 28. That aside, German cemeteries are really beautiful. They’re unusually, colorfully decorated with flowers (by American standards). One of my friends and I rode the S-Bahn back to the Hauptbahnhof (central train station) together. I discovered there how byzantine the Fahrplan (timetable) is. Luckily, I double-checked with the conductor the direction of the train I thought was heading towards Roßtal to find that it was going to Dresden. Oh. Good catch. Took the train home alone for the first time; I felt so independent!

IMG_2097 And I still got my Pfilzgoulasch at the end of the day. Die beste Gastvater in der Welt. 🙂