February 15, 2024

A feast for Juve

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It's our last night in Taiwan on this trip as we wind down our lunar new year break, and it just happens that Juve Fan has decided to come to town for a short break. When he initially asked me for recommendations of where to eat in my hometown, the criteria were "local food no bullshit". Well... most of the decent Taiwanese places which have been around don't do any bullshit - food is straightforward and honest. After discussing with Little Rabbit and taking into consideration that our friend would be landing just hours before dinner, we eventually settled on Maoyuan Restaurant (茂園餐廳), an old favorite from my days working in Taipei.

I also extended an invitation to Scubagolfer, whose writing I've been following for more than a decade. This would be the first time for us to actually meet in person. So exciting!

Little Rabbit got us booked into a private room, but I gotta say it's kinda small and claustrophobic... I do understand, though, that it's the first day back in operation after lunar new year for many restaurants, so we just have to live with it. I was happy that I didn't have to do the ordering tonight, although it's pretty much the usual stuff...

Buddha jumps over the wall (佛跳牆) - had to do this since it's still lunar new year. Glad they don't do it with chicken testicles like that other famous place... 

Steamed chicken (白斬雞) - obligatory order. Foursheets was pretty happy as she loves Taiwanese chicken.

Deep-fried cuttlefish balls (花枝丸) - pretty nice with big chunks of cuttlefish inside.

Steamed pig's liver (粉肝) - another staple in Taiwanese cuisine, although I don't like this type of pig's liver with the darker colors and denser texture. I had totally forgotten that Juve Fan had told me "no innards"...

Stir-fried white water snowflake (炒水蓮) - I love this vegetable and decided we should get our visitors to try it. It IS available in Hong Kong at certain supermarkets, but of course pricing is relatively high. I was happy that this was served with pickled manjack fruits (破布子), which meant another new experience for the visitors.

Pork fried rice (肉絲炒飯) - Taiwanese fried rice is different from ones in Hong Kong, starting from the rice itself. Visitors were happy.

Braised pig trotters and intestines (滷豬腳拼大腸) - I absolutely love both of these, especially the trotters and all that collagen. Unfortunately, our visitors once again didn't touch the innards...

Stir-fried loofah (炒絲瓜) - one of my favorite vegetables since childhood, and I do think loofah from Taiwan is more tasty.

Stir-fried oysters in black bean sauce (豆豉蚵) - haven't had oysters done this way in a while, as it's often served with minced garlic or deep-fried.

Steamed coral grouper with salted winter melon (鹹冬瓜蒸紅條) - the wild coral grouper was steamed and served with some winter melon that had been salted and preserved. This is, again, something very Taiwanese and (hopefully) interesting for the visitors. While the fish was fine, it tasted just a little "fishy" to me...

As someone just celebrated her birthday last week, Little Rabbit and I talked about bringing in a Taiwanese style cake. I didn't think the black sugar sponge cake () I picked up on the street would be interesting enough so I didn't bring it. Thankfully Little Rabbit from this savory sponge cake (蔥花鹹蛋糕) from Cake King (佳樂). The sponge cake came with bits of diced spring onion, and the filling in the middle was pork floss (肉鬆) and not cream. Pretty interesting!

I told Juve Fan that we'd bring some Italian wines along, but we didn't have enough time to go through all the bottles.

2002 Bruno Paillard Nec Plus Ultra, dégorgée en Septembre 2014 - the nose was nice and caramelized as one would expect, and was also a little savory and mineral on the nose. Lovely complexity.

2015 Domaine Ganevat Les Gryphées Vieilles Vignes - showing a really big nose of toast, like a strong punch in the face. Good acidity on the palate but with a nice level of ripeness for balance. Jean-François showing why he's got so many fans.

2021 Quintarelli Bianco Secco - very easy to drink, with sweet vanilla, some minerality like pear, and a light sweetness. As my cousin would say, this was lolly water.

2000 Antinori Solaia - drank almost 2½ hours after decanting. Nice ripe fruits, some smoke and grilled meats. Drinking well.

1998 Kinmen Distillery First Quality Kao Liang (民國87年金門特級高粱) - this bottle of 白金龍 was... interesting for me. More interesting than Maotai at least. Nice aromatics that didn't feel artificial. Such a rare treat from a friend.

Really happy to have arrange this dinner tonight and gotten the chance to show Juve Fan some "no bullshit" Taiwanese dishes. And really happy to have finally met Scubagolfer.

As the night was still young, we decided to take our visitors to the nearby Liaoning Street Night Market (遼寧街夜市). Unfortunately many of the stalls were still closed as it's just the sixth day of the lunar new year, so we moved to the Linjiang Street Tourist Night Market (臨江街觀光夜市). I'm most familiar with this market, so Little Rabit and I took the group to stalls like Red Flower Sausage (紅花紅桂香腸), J and G Fried Chicken (繼光香香雞), Shijia Baobao (石家割包), and Hu's Rice Noodle Soup (通化街胡記米粉湯). Definitely a fun way to end the evening!

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