Posted by on Sep 4, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 1 comment

On our last day visiting family in Ilan, we stopped by San Xing (Three Stars – literal translation) for dinner at Tian Mama (Mom’s farm) restaurant. Even though it was rather late, resulting in deserted streets and empty storefronts, the workers were more than happy to serve us – the last customers of the day.

Out of the entire meal, there were three dishes in particular that I feel deserves mention. Not that everything else wasn’t delicious, but just that these few were a bit more…special shall we say?

First up, is something that falls in as an appetizer and is rather common. Scallion pancakes and meat buns.

Some of you are probably wondering right now what’s so special about plain old scallion pancakes and a couple of meat buns. Don’t shake your head in denial, I know because I was thinking the same thing when they set the plate down.

Piping hot, these pancakes were crisp and flaky with plenty of scallion in every bite. However, these weren’t just dense pieces of flattened dough. Instead, you could see several thin layers making up the entire piece. Thus the delicious crunch and flakiness.

The meat buns were best when hot (like practically every other food out there) and may need to be juggled around a bit before eating. Soft dough that didn’t stick to your teeth and still had it’s own chewy texture, you find that after biting into it the juice from the meat within hits your tongue first. The ‘juices’ aren’t too oily and is flavorful enough that you almost don’t mind a bit of tongue-burning in the process. This tells you that not a lot of fatty meat was used for the filling, and with a nice amount of veggies it was good enough to warrant a ‘mmm’ and greasy thumbs-up.

The downside to the ‘appetizer’ is that it almost left you too full to finish the rest of dinner. Almost, but not quite! Next up is this succulent dish of squid. What makes this dish special? Besides the fact that it was the only cold platter in the entire meal, this dish is spicy and sweet.

Chunks of pear and peaches are hidden beneath the squid and make for a pleasant surprise to the taste buds. Light and refreshing, this cold platter made use of the season’s fresh fruits and turned a simple dish of squid to something new and delicious.

Last but not least, pears make yet another appearance in traditional herbal chicken soup. I’ve always loved herbal chicken soup, the flavors of Asian herbs mixed together with chicken broth? Always a nice way to end the meal.

This time, there was an additional flavor added to the mix. The light fragrant sweetness of pears. Truth be told, I thought they were radishes at first glance (same with the squid dish) but one bite told me I was wrong. Added to the soup at the end, the pears were cooked but not to the point that they had lost their own flavor.

All in all, a satisfying meal that showed me alternative ways to incorporate fruits into ‘traditional’ dishes. Not surprisingly, we found out from our grand uncle later on that the restaurant is famous for their scallion and pears. Hrm…no wonder! =]

~ AJ ~

Photographs taken and provided by Jasmine Hwang.
For complete selection of photographs, please refer to the photo gallery: Tian Mama [9/4/10]

One Comment

  1. Sep-4-2010

    Weird….pears in soup….what a odd combo. But i wonder how they make all those layers in those pancakes…b.c. i cant ever get the layers ;( not to mention it probably required lots of oil!

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