Contemporary Taiwanese Cuisine (Guest Post)

by Sarah on March 21, 2010

Picture by Neil Sun

I know how it feels like to be a Hollywood star, walking down the red carpet to the Academy awards, lights flashing in my eyes.  No, I am not a famous actress but I certainly felt like one at the entrance to the Tea house in Beijing, surrounded by paparazzi, snapping photos of me from artistic angles while I tried to swallow my giggles, waiting for them to clear the way.  Why was I garnering so much attention? I was the mother of three boys, three boys with long eyelashes. In a country where most families have only one (short lashed) child, preferably male, three foreign male brothers were a spectacle, a traveling circus act.

China

In another incident, the boys were spotted by a group of school girls who began squealing and clambering for their cell phones and cameras while others posed with them in the backdrop of one of the most famous historical site in China, the Forbidden City. It was surreal and disconcerting, repeating itself at the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs and almost everywhere we went, giving my husband an inflated ego with the thumbs up he was given from passing Chinese men.

What made the visit especially memorable, however were our friends from Taiwan, Jennifer and Neil and their son Dinjin who introduced us to China in a way we never would through an organized tour. It just so happened that they were good friends with the Taiwanese cultural ambassador to China and they took us to the most amazing restaurants around the city where we ate everything from dim sum, Peking duck, hot pot, black chicken and the best croissant I have ever eaten (really).  Jennifer is a truly global woman, having visited many countries throughout the world including Dubai, Europe, Thailand and Israel and when she asked me why I don’t diversify my blog with recipes outside my comfort zone I thought she would be the perfect person to help me do that. She surprised me with not one but four different recipes and found out that food blogging is not as easy as it looks.

*Take note: Some of the recipes are not kosher or halal but substitutions are given.

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After I stopped working in the office, my time is taken up mostly with my two year old girl, naughty yet always filled with energy and a 7 year old boy.  Besides chasing after my little girl, I love to cook and although I am not a professional chef my son says I make super yummy dishes.

When Sarah asked me for a Taiwanese food post in her blog, I thought it would be just photographs on top of my ordinary cooking.  “No big deal” I thought but then I found out this was far from the truth.  When photography joins my cooking, I realize I cannot cook properly because I have to run between the food, cutting board, stove and my camera.  When the food was finally ready, my son asked me why we don’t start eating dinner.  “I need record what we are going to eat”, I said.  “Every meal, from now on?” he asked. It is indeed quite a lot of work, but it’s worth it if it adds variety to Sarah’s intercultural food site.

taiwanese cuisine

I won’t call my cooking traditional Taiwanese cuisine but they are the most popular homemade dishes here in Taipei. They are also very easy to make, using fresh local produce easy to obtain.  For those who have never cooked Chinese food, my dishes are a good start.

Stir-fried King Trumpet Mushroom

King trumpet mushroom

Stir-fried king trumpet mushrooms is one of my son’s favorite dishes which he adds to his rice.  Even if this is the only dish on the table, he will be happy to finish it all.

Ingredients:

3 large king trumpet mushrooms, cleaned and then shredded into strips by hand.(these mushrooms have a special texture/flavor difficult to substitute with other mushrooms)

200 gram ground pork, beef or chicken (This is only for adding meaty flavor to the dish.  You can adjust the amount according to your preference. )

5 gloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoon of vegetable oil

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 tablespoon black pepper

1/3 cup beef stock (can be substituted with other available seasonings)

2 tablespoon light soy sauce

King trumpet mushrooms

Shredded King Trumpet Mushroom

Heat vegetable oil in the pan with medium heat then add ground meat.  Stir fry until cooked through. Add garlic and continue to stir fry. Add mushrooms.  Mix them with ingredients in the pan. Pour in beef stock. When the mushroom becomes soft, add in salt and black pepper to taste.

Onions with Eggs

eggs and onions

My kids don’t like onions very much but they will eat it if I prepare it in the following way.

Ingredients:

2 onions cut into thin strips

4 eggs, scrambled

3 teaspoons of vegetable oil

2 teaspoons light soy sauce (Japanese fish soy sauce, which is lighter and sweeter than thai fish sauce works great)

1 pinch of sugar (optional)

1 pinch of salt (to taste)

Heat vegetable oil in the pan.

Fry onions with medium low heat until soft (or the way you like them).  Add a bit of water if the onions get too dry. Pour eggs into the onions and mix well.

Add soy sauce, sugar and salt to taste.  Turn off heat when the eggs are still soft and tender.

Steamed Pork Rib Chops with Fermented Black Beans

Pork with fermented beans

Ingredients:

800 gram pork rib or chicken thighs chopped in bite sized pieces (Turkey is too lean for this dish)

1 tablespoon of fermented black beans

1 slice of ginger, crushed or finely chopped.

3 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped.

1 small pinch of salt, white pepper, chili powder (can be fresh one if you like more heat), and 5 spice powder.

2 tablespoons of oyster sauce (or soy sauce)

2 tablespoons cooking wine (rice wine or white wine if that is not available)

1 tablespoon of starch (I didn’t add it this time)

Pork with fermented beans

Clean the meat with water then put it in a ziplock bag.

marinating in ziplock bag

Add the rest of ingredients in the bag, and put the bag in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Pour everything from the bag into a steamer.

Steam for 1 1/2 hours. (If you like the rib to be less soft, 1 hour will do)

Sprinkle some green onions and chili before serving.

Steamed Baby Cabbage

steamed baby cabbage

Now people in Taiwan tend to eat healthier.  Instead of heavy oil and sauces, many families prepare their leafy vegetables, such as cabbage and spinach, in the following way. Baby cabbages are fist size and are crunchier than regular cabbages available in the US or Israel.

baby cabbage

Ingredients:

4 baby cabbages (fist sized or 1 regular sized cabbage)

2 clove of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon oyster sauce (optional)

2 tablespoon thick soy sauce (if you don’t have this, oyster sauce can be substituted)

2 tablespoon of olive oil

A pinch of salt to taste (optional)

Steam the cabbage for about 4 minutes (or cook in boiling water)

Mix rest of ingredients in a bowl.

Drain the water from the steamed cabbage and mix well with all the ingredients in the bowl. Serve warm.

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In Tel Aviv there in an Asian food store called East & West, located in the Carmel Shuk which has a wide selection of Asian products such as oyster, fish and soy sauces, some of which are kosher. There is also a branch in Jerusalem and Haifa. Telephone: 03-5167925. Thanks to  Irene Sharon Hodes and Shira Abel for telling me about this store. The pictures were photographed by Jennifer Chen and Neil Sun.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Yael the Finn March 21, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Lovely posting again,and very interesting;I especially liked the steamed cabbage recipe. That Asian shop in Shuq HaCarmel is nice, although the selection of things there is not as good as you would see in Asian shops in Europe,for example,but they keep improving all the time.

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Yael March 22, 2010 at 12:29 am

Wow, what a lovely post. I think we’ll try some of the recipes, we love Chinese cuisine form all sorts. I’ll ask Rotem and Juan-Ya for some of the more exotic stuff, they are flying to Hong-Kong this Saturday. Have a great day!

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Avital March 22, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Interesting looking mushrooooooms sista!!!hahaha

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Sarah March 24, 2010 at 10:34 am

Avital (or lil sis), please refrain from such comments or I will take you off the forum!

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Silver March 22, 2010 at 6:07 pm

I can’t believe you are becoming a professional cooking mom. I still remember the gathering time back in Wichita, I did most of the cooking! But hey, I am so proud of you. The dishes look so delicious the way you presented it. I can’t wait to accept your invitation to dine in your home. (hmm.. is there one?)

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Esther March 22, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Excellent post. I love Chinese cuisine but so far I’ve not have much success recreating the delicious taste in my own kitchen.
I look forward to incorporating these dishes in my family’s menu.

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Irene Sharon Hodes March 24, 2010 at 1:55 am

Beautiful food! Lovely photos! And I love personal travel stories. I’m amazed at the treatment you received in China. Thanks for a great post.

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Sarah March 24, 2010 at 10:22 am

traveling with kids is completely different than going alone. People are much more open and friendly, which is how I felt in Thailand. They would always give us special treatment, rushing us to the head of every line we had to wait on.
Traveling with Jennifer and Neil was a very special experience, although they don’t live in Beijing, they could give us insight into the culture and of course it was so useful they spoke Mandarin, otherwise we would have been lost.

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Sammy Benjamin March 24, 2010 at 2:31 am

Sarah,
So how come you are always talking about some kind of exotic food and wanting to learn to cook it? I think you must eat a lot of different foods too, and yet you seem to have found the secret to not put on those extra pounds like many cannot keep off even after tryinghard.

You have the same Fishman high stress metabolism that can consume all calories immaterial of the numbers and content. ;))

Hope all is well in the holy land and with family, local and extended.
Regards to all,
Sammy.

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