February 16, 2010

There's no escape from stinky tofu...

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My last dinner in Taipei during Lunar New Year, and I'm spending it with my Rice Ball (飯糰) eating crew in Taipei.  Once again we gathered on the Tianmu (天母) side of town, and chose a restaurant inside a department store as we know it would be open for business.  The venue?  Shanghai Shanghai (紅豆食府)...again...  Why is it I always end up here somehow?

The minute we sat down, we were surrounded by the smell (I hesitate to use the words aroma, scent, perfume...) of stinky tofu (臭豆腐).  It's one of the few things in this world I don't eat, which is odd since I loooove strong cheese and durian...

I didn't want to do the ordering as I wanted to have dishes that I don't normally have, so here's what we ended up having...

Stir-fried Matsuzaka pork with bird's-nest fern (山蘇松板肉) - I seriously doubt that the restaurant uses actual Matsuzaka pork (松阪ポーク) from Japan.  The term is widely abused by Taiwanese restaurants to denote pork that has the same type of marbled fat as the famous Matsuzaka beef.  Anyway...the pork was decent but the fern was crunchy and yummy as expected.

Small sponge gourd buns (絲瓜蝦仁小籠包) - these xiaolongbao are not too bad... lots of texture inside and the juice comes from the gourd instead of the the usual pork filling.

Scallion pancake (蔥油餅) - these were pretty damn good, by restaurant standards.  I like them flat and thin, and these did the job for me.  Unfortunately I only got to have one slice since a certain someone decided to have three... How I long for grandma's wonderful pancakes...the really thin and crispy ones that Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had tasted when grandma used to visit my uncle at Harvard.  But I will never get to taste them again...

Steamed vegetable and meat dumpling (菜肉蒸餃) - these were OK.

Stir-fried rice cake with minced pork and leafy mustard (雪菜肉絲年糕) - these were a little bland, actually...and the rice cakes not quite soft enough.

Claypot stinky tofu (砂鍋臭豆腐) - interesting to see this translated into Japanese as チョートーフ...  Anyway, after years of not eating this stuff - I've only had it once or twice - I finally gave it another try.  Well... it is like I tell others about durian... it smells less when you're actually eating it.  This was spicy with some minced pork and preserved veggies.  I took a couple of bites, but still not a fan.

Gold carp and shredded radish soup (蘿蔔絲鯽魚湯) - a classic Shanghainese soup putting two very cheap ingredients together.  The fish itself was not so good... the gold carp  is a freshwater fish and can have a pretty strong taste of the river mud, and these were definitely very "muddy".  The surprise was that both of them carried lots of eggs inside, so we ended up eating the golden eggs.  The soup was kinda light in terms of flavor, and could have used a bit more white pepper and rice wine.  The version at Shanghai Garden (紫玉蘭) in Hong Kong was much better.

They ran out of taro for dessert, so we had to make do with only the lotus root steamed with sweet osmanthus (桂花糖藕).  I've loved this dessert since I was a child.  That sweet, sticky syrup covering the lotus root and the glutinous rice filling is just awesome.

Business was good.  The table next to us cleared out, and another group of people promptly sat down for another turn.  And guess what...they ordered the stinky tofu, too!  So I had to smell it again while I was having dessert.  Sigh...

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