Category Archives: Food

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

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: 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

Today’s food: Pork kheema curry

Korma curry

Minced onions, garlic, and ginger. Sauté. Sauté ground pork. Throw in turmeric, paprika, and hot pepper powder. Diced tomatoes, until they lose shape. Water, boil, garam masala. Throw it on rice.

The sushi rice in the bowl is a throwaway of the lack of authenticity in my dish.

I sometimes add a bit of soy sauce, to match the gravy with the rice. My dirty soy-sauce covered secret. And it’s not the only one.

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Deep fried tofu, Agedashi tofu

Tofu is not a substitute for meat.

Tofu is not a meat substitute.

It pisses me off when an Asian restaurant offers a dish in “chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, or tofu.” It would probably piss me off if I went to a restaurant in Japan and they offered the option to sub beef for chicken or pork in my sliders. Or tofu in my chili.

Tofu dishes can be vegetarian. But a large part of tofu dishes contain meat or fish products in one way or another to add some flavor to the rather bland soy bean cake.

So please don’t think of tofu as a meat substitute for vegans and vegetarian. And please don’t think that this dish can be arranged to make vegetarian versions of buffalo fried tofu, or whatever it is.

However, stubbornness has never been one of my traits, so let me know if there’s a dish that uses tofu as a meat substitute in a western context, and manages to pull it off.

Home made deep fried tofu with grated ginger and scallions

 

Agedashi dofu is usually bought in a supermarket fried and ready to eat. It’s more of a side dish that people can just open, dump in a bowl, and throw on the table as an afterthought than a main dish. However, frying the tofu yourself right before the meal makes the dish worthy as a main dish.

Making it is actually extremely simple. Heat up the oil fairly high, about 350 degrees, and throw in the tofu that’s been thoroughly dried on the outside. Have the heat around medium or medium high, and wait until the exterior is browned and crispy. The lower the heat and longer the frying time, the thicker the browned, crispy part becomes.

Throw on scallions, bonito flakes, or anything that you want. My favorite is kimchi and dried anchovy infused soy sauce. I guess that already goes against any notion of authenticity.

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Filed under Food, Fried food, Japanese

Macaroni gratin, the only casserole in Japanese cuisine

Writing about lasagna made me nostalgic of macaroni gratin, which was a staple in our house. However, we never made it from scratch. We bought frozen versions that came in aluminum dishes, and chucked them into the toaster oven for a quick dinner. Although frozen dinners have a bad reputation in the US, Japanese frozen food ranges from “not bad” to “orgasmic night snack.” Interesting thing about Japan is, it’s hard to find genuinely disgusting food that people have aversions to. For example, convenience store foods lack the stigmatization and also the layer of stale oil that are usually associated with US gas station/convenience store food. I remember my friend’s expression when I casually bought a burger from a gas station in the middle of nowhere in Kansas. The burger had developed a look that reminded me of the tortoise in the desert fable from Blade Runner, from the long days of basking in the rays of the food warming contraption.

Anyway, I sometimes crave the frozen gratin from the frozen food aisle, but lack the means to acquire them. I tried making it a couple of times, using as a reference mac and cheese recipes from the US. However, these attempts left me with a mound of squishy yet dry overcooked macaroni. Despite these failures, I never thought of reassessing my sauce to noodle ratio and kept cranking out these macaroni sponges. Once I scanned Japanese gratin recipes, I realized my mistake.

Penne Chicken gratin

 

So the right ratio was about 1/4 pound of noodles (I used penne in this one) for about 2 cups of béchamel sauce, which made enough for my 6 cup pyrex dish. I think it was my 6 cup one. Or maybe the 3 cup. I’m not too sure. Anyway, it fed two people easily, despite the small amount of noodles that went in to the dish. Using this noodle-to-sauce ratio resulted in a gratin that was just like the ones I ate in Japan, creamy, yet not too heavy.

As with the lasagna, I just soaked the penne in water for about an hour, instead of boiling them.

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Filed under Food, Japanese noodles, pasta

Lasagna, and making regular lasagna noodles no-boil

Lasagna, and making regular lasagna noodles no-boil

The loveliness of a conventional béchamel and bolognese doused lasagna. I did a little testing, and instead of boiling lasagna noodle sheets or using no-boil sheets, I soaked the pasta in cold tap water for over an hour, and stuck it in a lasagna. The result were pasta that were fully cooked but retained some texture. This technique could probably be used for most casserole applications.

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December 18, 2013 · 10:23 pm