June 26, 2016

The Great One's Taiwan tour day 4: firin' up the cheese

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So... we've finally reached our last (proper) meal in Taiwan on this trip.  The Great One and I were only able to catch up with our friend J for (literally) a few minutes in Bangkok a few months ago.  Since we haven't spent enough quality time with him in a while, I told him that the Great One was coming to Taipei for her first visit since the Dark Ages.  The next thing I knew, he went through the trouble of rearranging his schedule so that he could be in town to take us to one of the restaurant he owns.

STAY has become our family's favorite restaurant in the last couple of years, and it's the place where we go to celebrate birthdays and my parents' anniversary - which we last did 2 months ago.  Since our last visit, STAY has welcomed their new Executive Chef Pierrick Maire, so we would have the privilege of previewing some of his new dishes.

Raw mackerel with parsley and hibiscus jelly - there was a dab of parsley purée along with some shiso (紫蘇) leaves and shiso flowers on top of the mackerel.  The sauce on the side was tomato confit, but it tasted a little like ponzu (ポン酢) reduction.  More acidity came in the form of the roll of hibiscus jelly, coated in sesame seeds.  Pretty refreshing, and the acidity kinda whets the appetite.

June 25, 2016

The Great One's Taiwan tour day 3: cooking lessons from mom

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The day is TODAY.  The main event for the Great One's trip to Taiwan.  Not a dinner at some world-class fancy schmancy restaurant with Michelin stars or on the list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants.  Nope.  Today we'll be staying in all day at chez moi, and she'll finally have a chance to eat mom's cooking.

First up on the day was mom's gigantic lion's head (獅子頭).  These meatballs are found in Shanghainese restaurants all over, but no commercial restaurant would make it this size.  Instead, they prefer little round ones that can be taken by diners with a couple of bites.

Despite the fact that she uses lean ground pork, mom's lion's heads are always very, very soft and juicy.  Her secret ingredient is onions - lots of it.  They are diced very finely and mixed into the pork.  The meatballs are coated with a little bit of corn starch water just before going into the wok - to protect them and to help hold them together as they brown.

The browned meatballs are then steamed for a while, then cooked in the clay pot with plenty of Chinese cabbage layered both below and above them.  This cooks the liquid out of the onion, creating holes inside the meatballs and makes for a loose and tender texture.

June 24, 2016

The Great One's Taiwan tour day 2: the oldest virgin (mud crab)

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With only a short break after our long and filling lunch, it was time to eat again.  HaoKouFu and I wanted to bring the Great One to a place serving quintessential Taiwanese cuisine, and Ming Fu Seafood (明福台菜海鮮) seemed like such a place.  For some reason, this small hole-in-the-wall is a popular destination for locals to take overseas visitors.

I had been joking with the gang about ordering some of the restaurant's specialties... including their Buddha jumps over the wall (佛跳墻) with chicken testicles, or their beef brisket and bull penis soup (牛腩牛鞭湯).  I don't eat testicles, penises, or sperm, but I know that the Great One would.  I was, therefore, a little disappointed she said ixnay to the penis soup...

Marinated dry tofu with dried fish (小魚豆干) - pretty standard fare for Taiwanese restaurants.  I love the chewy texture of the fish, and the occasional kick from the chili peppers.

Marinated cucumber (腌黃瓜) - the flavors were surprisingly mild, which meant it was just nice and refreshing.

The Great One's Taiwan tour day 2: the RAW beef tongue

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After a very early breakfast at the very touristy breakfast spot Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿), we lunched at the other Taiwanese entry to Asia's 50 Best Restaurants - RAW.  I wasn't planning on coming back here so soon, but what the Great One wants, the Great One gets.

We didn't sit at the Chef's Table today, so there was no need to pay the premium.  The restaurant has, however, removed the shorter lunch menu... so now everyone has to take the long, 9-course menu even for lunch.  This would turn out to be a lot of food...

June 23, 2016

The Great One's Taiwan tour day 1: must.visit.the.must

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So... after a quiet dinner at home with the Parental Units on my Gregorian calendar birthday, I would go out for a celebratory birthday dinner of sorts on my lunar calendar birthday - which happened to fall on the very next day this year.  For this occasion, I would be joined by a couple of special guests...

According to the Great One, it has probably been more than a decade since she stepped foot in Taiwan - outside of Taoyuan International Airport, that is.  She had been asking me to take her around Taiwan for a few years, and she's finally decided to grace my homeland with her presence.  Since she's flying into Taoyuan anyway, we decided to start her tour in Taichung with a meal at the highest-ranked restaurant from Taiwan on the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list - Le Moût.

It's been almost 5 years since my first and only visit to the restaurant, and I found it a little wanting back then.  HaoKouFu told me that she thought the cuisine has improved over the last few years, so I was looking forward to checking it out...


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