May 25, 2013

Taiwanese birthday feast

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Today was a big day for the Ox, as he upgraded himself to a higher handle.  To help him celebrate this milestone, he very kindly invited a group of us over to Taipei for a weekend of festivities, culminating in dinner tonight.  The boys of MNSC, along with our respective attending other halves, had our own little "Vosne-Romanée" table in a private room at the Grand Formosa Regent.  Dinner tonight would come from the kitchen of Silks House (晶華軒).

I arrived to discover that half of the appetizer combination (雙福滿漢) had already been laid out on the table, and we were encouraged to start digging in at any time.  These included:

Marinated mixed vegetables (涼拌老虎菜)

Shredded salted duck with black pepper (黑胡椒鴨賞) - this is a specialty from Yilan (宜蘭) and I love it.

Steamed pork liver Yilan-style (宜蘭粉肝) - traditionally steamed and then chilled before serving.  This was drier and saltier than what I'd normally prefer.  My standard is still the one from Lu Sang (呂桑食堂).

Smoked shark (沙魚煙) - yes, boys and girls, this really is made from shark meat… and smoked to cover up the often pungent flavors.

Steamed bamboo shoots (金沙綠竹筍) - chilled after steaming, to be dipped in sweet mayo the Taiwanese way.

Two-flavor beauty's legs (雙味美人腿) - this was actually water bamboo (茭白筍), which were served with some diced chili peppers.

Steamed free-range chicken (富貴放山雞) - one of my favorite dishes in Taiwan.  The chicken here just have lots of flavor, and chilling the chicken after steaming produces a layer of chicken stock jelly between the skin and the meat.  Not your ordinary 白斬雞 found in other Chinese cuisines.  Yum!

Stir-fried manila clams (炒海瓜子) - with basil (九層塔), garlic and chili.

Pan-fried stuffed intestines (大腸煎) - normally this would be pan-fried glutinous rice sausage (糯米腸), which is rice stuffed inside sausage casing.  But I didn't see any sausage casing, and instead these were just blobs of glutinous rice balls which had been pan-fried.

Stir-fried morning glory in shacha sauce (沙茶炒空心菜) - don't think I've ever had this done with shacha sauce (沙茶醬) before…

Deep-fried chicken roll (台式雞捲) - very classic Taiwanese… Yum.

Steamed cabbage with manjack berries (樹子蒸高麗菜) - Taiwanese cabbage are among the sweetest around, and one of my favorite veggies since I was a kid.

Deep-fried shrimp (鹽酥蝦) - absolutely delicious.  So crunchy that I ate the head, shell and the whole shebang.

By the time we were done with the appetizers, I'm sure most of us were at least half full…

Steamed blue crab (清蒸處女蟳) - actually I think these were mud crabs, but in any case Taiwanese love the "virgin" crabs before they had a chance to mate, and these are valued for their roe.

Chrysanthemum bean curd soup (芙蓉菊花盅, 老母雞燉湯) - the chicken soup was alright, but the block of tofu (豆腐) was sliced up to resemble a blooming flower.

Fried isinglass with garlic sprout (蒜苗炒烏魚膘) - ummm… this ain't isinglass, which is a gelatin derived from fish bladder…  And while 魚膘 usually refer to fish bladders, when Taiwanese talk about 烏魚膘, they are actually talking about the milt or sperm sacs of mullets.  Most of the MNSC boys did not find this very appetizing, in spite of the garlic scopes.

Oyster omelet / luffa omelet (蚵仔煎 / 絲瓜煎) - FAIL.  While the night market / street food versions of oyster omelet these days are full of starch, I would expect that a 5-star hotel would come up with a version using less starch and more egg.  Too heavy and unappetizing.  Oh and I thought there was simply too little loofah (絲瓜) in the other type of omelet…

Fried kidney with sesame oil (麻油炒腰花) - yup, us Taiwanese do love our offal and anything high in cholesterol… These were thin slices of pig's kidneys cooked with rice wine (米酒) and sesame oil.

Steam pork legs and noodle with soy sauce (福祿壽喜長壽麵) - WOW!  This was awesome!  The braised pig trotter was so tender, and unusually it was also smoked to provide that extra level of flavor.  I was a little sad that I only had one piece of this…  A damn good version of the classic pig trotter vermicelli (豬腳麵線).

Taiwanese style shaved ice (海派剉冰) - during dinner Lady Rayas had talked about going to get shaved ice, but apparently our host had made sure that we didn't need to go elsewhere for it.  O.M.G.  I'm gonna channel Luke Skywalker and say… "Look at the size of that thing!"

We had a huge platter for each table, and on top of the pile of shaved ice were toppings like grass jelly (仙草), aiyu jelly (愛玉), yellow jelly (粉粿), boba balls (波霸粉圓), sweet potato balls (地瓜圓), taro balls (芋圓), peanuts, mung beans, red beans, watermelon, guava, kiwi and wax apple (蓮霧).  On the side were brown sugar syrup, condensed milk, passion fruit syrup, mango sauce and sour plum sauce.  Totally awesome!

I dunno about the others, but I was TOTALLY stuffed… especially after the shaved ice!

There is, of course, plenty of wine when an MNSC member throws a bash.  We had quite a few for the evening:

2005 Philipponnat Grand Blanc - not bad.  Better than the rosé.

Charles Heidsieck Rosé

2009 Albert Grivault Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières - oaky and flinty.  Sweeter on the palate.

2006 Roulot Meursault Les Meix Chavaux - wow!  As I said last weekend in Singapore, I will drink anything from Jean-Marc Roulot!  Big, toasty nose, mineral and flinty.  Acidity is higher here, but it's a little ripe and sweet at the same time.

2006 Hudelot-Noellat Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru Les Murgers - forest and black fruits.

1999 Geantet-Pansiot Charmes Chambertin - dried herbs and black fruits.  Softer, more elegant.

How interesting for the Ox to serve us classic Taiwanese fare in a 5-star hotel setting!  Congratulations, my friend, and many happy returns!

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