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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