To Taiwan and Back

The crappy thing about traveling and taking pictures are that there’s a crapload of pictures that you end up with, unless you’re one of those diligent people who can label and organize stuff while traveling. Well, I didn’t, and I ended up with a ton of pictures of food, and very little memory of what I actually ate. The following are some of the stuff that I actually remember, and hence are literally the “memorable meals” of this trip:

 

Papaya milk from a fruit stand in Taiwan. It’s beauty is a product of simplicity and restraint that is lost when you throw in a bunch of other fruits and vegetables and call it a “smoothie.”

papaya milk

 

 

Grilled pope’s nose from a yakitori place in Taipei. The wonderful thing about Taiwan bbq skewers places are that they have the pope’s nose on the menu. It’s the triangle tail thing that hangs above the chicken’s ass when you buy it whole. So what you see in the picture is about 8 chickens worth. If you think the thigh’s juicy and decadently fatty, you should try this part of the chicken.

Pope's nose: the triangle tail thing on chickens

 

 

A pot of crawfish in a Beijing department store food court. I just wandered in a department store, I don’t recall the name, and I knew I needed to order this dish when I saw another customer eating it. In the course of my meal, about three other groups of people stopped by to look at what I was eating, and ended up ordering the same thing.

The dish tasted wonderful with a large amount of sichuan peppercorns and dried hot peppers. My hands were bruised and cut halfway through, but I kept tearing in, leaving empty crawfish shells as I went.

Pot full of crawfish

 

 

BBQ duck from Yat Lok in Hong Kong. This joint and their duck has been thoroughly explored by other people. I just want to mention the helplessness you feel when you find out that they charge you for tissues (which I know now is customary in Hong Kong) midway through eating your BBQ duck. The sauce clings to your beard like nothing else.

BBQ from Yat Lok

 

 

Oyster noodle soup at a food stand in Chiayi. Rich but refreshing with a splash of black vinegar. The joy you feel when you fish out a bit of pig offal or a small bit of oyster.

06-DSC_5329 Oyster soup noodles

 

 

Scallion pancakes near the Yilan night market. Juggling the pancake between your hands to keep you from burning, and taking bites in between because with the crunchiness and the smell of cooked green onions, waiting it to cool down is not an option.

Scallion pancakes Damn good scallion pancakes

 

 

Stinky tofu soup, in a place near Taipei known for their stinky tofu. It’s quite stinky. Smells and taste like sewage, and I still cannot figure out why I enjoy that taste so much.

Tofu soup

 

 

Ma-la hotpot style stewed stuff (oden) from Family Mart. Who knew that MSG laden, artificial flavoring laced (probably) ma-la tasted so good. I wish convenience store food in North America tasted this good. Gas stations serving good food (such as Oklahoma Joe’s in KC, or fried chicken from Quick Pack Food Mart in Seattle) shouldn’t be the exception, it should be the norm.

Ma-la stew from 7-11.

 

So that was the wonderful trip where I got to eat food that I didn’t make myself. Now I am back in Vancouver, to my mundane existence where most of the food I eat was tossed by my hands in my wok.

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Filed under Eating out, Fish, Food, Travel

Saury three ways

Saury are wonderful. A Korean grocery store nearby were selling 10 for $8, which meant that I was able to escape from my seafood deprived state, and that I needed to keep eating saucy for several meals. This did not pose a large problem for me, since I love blue fish and their intensely fishy flavor. If white fleshed fish were coffee made by drip systems, blues are the less refined yet robust and strong french press coffee. Blue fish are not for everyone, but people who like it, love it.

Day 1, Grilled saury

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Wash, dry, salt on both sides, let sit for 30 min, create shallow incisions on both sides (as you might when baking a baguette), and broil on high, with the fish sitting at least 6 inches apart from the heating element. Common garnishes are grated daikon (highly recommended) and citrus (sudachi, if you can get your hands on it).  You can gut the fish if you want, but enjoying the bitter, rich taste of the fish offals are considered to be a marker of mature taste.

Day 2, Stewed.

Lay sliced ginger in the bottom of a pressure cooker, pour some sake, sugar, soy sauce, and a bit of water. Cook under pressure for 15 min. Or, stew for a while in a regular pot. The pressure cookers thoroughly softens the bones, making the fish much easier to eat.

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One added bonus is that you can add stewed saury on top of soba noodle in dashi based soup, and the soup gets enriched with saury fishiness.

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Day 3, saury onion pasta with garlic, garlicky toasted breadcrumbs, and italian parsley

Saury, breadcrumbs, garlic, onions, and italian parsley

 

The whole thing tastes like a large mass of saury and garlic. Wondefully tasty, but horrible for your breath. Sauté breadcrumbs with garlic until a bit browned. Sauté garlic, add filleted saury, fry in couple tablespoons of oil. When the thing’s crisp, throw in pasta water, toss with pasta, cram everything into a dish, and sprinkle some italian parsley on top. Filleting saury may be tedious, but this dish is well worth it.

 

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Filed under Fish, Japanese, Japanese noodles, pasta, Uncategorized, Western stuff

Flying To Taiwan

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The way to get the most out of your in-flight meal is: out of the two choices, choose the less appealing options (cheaper ingredients, less innovative quality, or sounds just plain weird).

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Although this has proven successful many times for myself, I cannot get other people to try this.

This is perhaps due to people’s fear of choosing the less appealing option and actually receiving an unappealing dish.

The irony of the situation is that whatever you choose for your inflight meal, whatever investment you have for your choice, the difference in quality is marginal.

This quality, this critical “choice” during the flying experience that proves to be have little substantial difference makes me feel that I have learned a life lesson every time.

 

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Filed under Food, Travel, Uncategorized, Western stuff

Today’s food: squid leg kara-age

Squid leg kara-age

One of the best izakaya style dishes. Low cost, low class, and delicious.

With recent discussions of mouth impregnations by eating raw squid and antibiotic resistant viruses from Korean squid, there may be some fear towards this trending ingredient. But rest assured, separating the legs from the innards will eliminate the possibility of insemination, and deep-frying will hopefully kill off most bacteria. In addition, this dish does not suffer too much from over-cooking, if you are paranoid and tend to cook the shit out of your food.

To make, just marinate in a soy sauce, sugar, sake (or mirin), and ginger mixture for 20 minutes or so. Drain, and toss in cornstarch and flour mixture (50-50 is fine). Let it rest, and meanwhile, heat up oil to about 180c or 360f. Fry until golden. I like double frying, so I throw it in until the batter solidifies, take it out, wait for the oil to heat up again, and throw it in until the color becomes right.

Serve with a wedge of lemon.

 

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Filed under Fried food, Japanese

Today’s food: Gazpacho sômen

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Sômen are Japanese wheat vermicelli, eaten cold (in a bowl of cold water to prevent sticking) with a dipping sauce made out of bonito and kelp broth with soy sauce and mirin.

This version subs out the dipping sauce with Asian gazpacho, with bread, tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, stale bread (all tossed with salt and soy sauce infused with kelp and dried shitake mushrooms) and a bit of sesame oil. The infused soy sauce can be subbed with some menmi.

Toppings (usually julienned omelette, grated ginger, scallions, and myôga herb) are the best part of sômen. This one comes with minced parsley and a poached egg.

Sômen works best, but vermicelli pasta or ramen noodles will work too.

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Filed under Japanese, Japanese noodles, Western stuff

Today’s food: penne with kabocha sauce

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Kabocha roasted with butter in  400f oven until soft, puree with soy sauce, sake, a bit of sugar.

Boil penne, sautee oyster mushrooms, pour in kabocha puree, toss everything together, and serve with a dusting of parmesan.

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Filed under pasta, Western stuff

Today’s food: stir-fried udon (yaki-udon)

Years of living alone has made me develop the uncanny ability of cooking while nursing a heavy hangover.

Yaki-udon

Fry sliced onions, bok choy, and pork slices. Add butter, grated garlic, soy sauce. Garnish with bonito flakes.

The most popular version is seasoned only with soy sauce. But my hangover demanded a bit more grease and substance. Hence, the garlic and butter. I recommend adding those two things.

 

I also cannot get the Luke Haines album title out of my head.

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Filed under Food, Japanese, Japanese noodles, udon