Soup Dumplings

Posted by on Sep 12, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 0 comments

On Yong Kong Street in Taipei, Din Tai Fung’s original restaurant can be found popping out steamer after steamer of their specialty all day long – soup dumplings. Although a bit pricier than what you might find at other stores, this place is still worth a visit for the Taiwan tourist. With stores located all around the world, this shop is not only well known but they know how to attract the tourists. A small gift shop selling various accessories with their mascot is right in front of the shop, giving the people waiting on line plenty to do until they’re seated – not to mention possibly emptying their wallets before even eating. Inside, the restaurant is surprisingly big and of course, packed. The middle of the floor is occupied by the kitchen. Glass panels make it so that all curious customers can peek in on the busy chefs and attempt to invade their personal space. Or at least try to win a staring contest while making sure nothing’s slipped into the dumplings. I kid. Seeing as how all the other tables are busily gorging themselves on various assortments of soup dumplings, we decided that a steamer per person (ten dumplings each) should be more than enough. First off, the vegetable soup dumpling. Let me just say that I have no idea why we ordered this. Sure, it wasn’t all that bad. The inside was stuffed full of finely chopped veggies. The skin itself wasn’t too thick and didn’t fall apart once you poked it either. But where’s the soup? And that’s just it. There wasn’t any. So, I’d like to throw in my two cents and suggest that this thing just be called a dumpling without the misleading ‘soup’ attached. Even though the first steamer left me a bit disappointed, I was quickly put at ease when the second steamer arrived. Now these were the real deal. Though it broke my heart to do so, I poked one open just so that you lovely readers could get a better look at it in all its delicious glory. Lightly seasoned meat, skin that was nice and thin – the little knot at the top didn’t even taste too doughy – and most importantly, the soup. One poke said it all when the precious little spoonful of meat broth spilled out. Things were looking up and the last steamer didn’t disappoint either. What do I like more than an original soup dumpling? Soup dumpling that has tender bits and pieces of shrimp in it, that’s what. When the container came, I was feeling a bit skeptical since I saw that these dumplings had been shaped the same way as the vegetable ones. These fears were soon put to rest. Do you see that? That’s not bits and pieces of shrimp. That’s a whole entire shrimp hiding in my dumpling! Not to mention it’s still got a decent amount of juice lurking inside it too. Now how could I not get excited by this? Compared to the original, these were lacking in the soup department, but what they were missing I felt was completely made up for by the shrimp. All in all, the place really isn’t that bad and I was pretty satisfied at the end of the meal. Full actually. With the prices though, I probably wouldn’t go back too often despite their fame. If anything, this is a one time thing just for curiosity’s sake. By the way, for the tourists under the age of twenty, you’re viable to apply for a Youth Travel Card. If you pull...

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Breakfast = Milk + Fish?

Posted by on Aug 4, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 3 comments

That’s right. It’s not cereal that’ll be joining the milk this morning, in fact there isn’t any milk at all! Instead, let me introduce you to the chanos…or what’s widely known as the milkfish. A delicious fish that lives in tropical and subtropical ocean regions, the milkfish is a staple of Taiwan ‘s aquaculture industry.When cooked, the fish’s eye becomes cloudy and turns a milky white – thus its name. So, now that I’m done boring you half to death, how about getting to the actual food? Ah, I see that got your attention (and if it didn’t then it did in my own personal world so shush). Down a small side street in Kaohsiung, this humble little restaurant doesn’t even have a banner at the front. Instead, it relies solely on its own longstanding reputation and that’s what keeps the regulars (and newcomers) coming for more. After admiring all the cooking being done up front – and learning that rice cookers are apparently great for cooking milkfish in  broths for long periods of time – we settled down in the back of the little store…right in front of the air conditioner. Ahh~ Bliss. Actually I take it back. Feeling nice and cool isn’t nearly as blissful as it would be after eating. A problem quickly solved when our orders were delivered to the table after a mere few minutes. Milkfish is served in a number of ways. In a broth, as a soup, over rice, baked, fried, what have you. It just so happens that we chose the soup, the rice, and broiled please! along with a side dish of its very own innards cooked up to a squiggly charred perfection. Yum. So first, the fish broiled in meat sauce. With thin strips of ginger on both the fish and the soy sauce as garnish, the fish itself had managed to soak up every drop of flavor that the sauce provided. Soft and tender, ‘juicy’ couldn’t give it justice. Personally, I think that the soy sauce on the side wasn’t even needed. On to the intimidating looking plate of black stuff…it was like an explosion of flavor in my mouth. A rather concentrated taste of liver was the most prominent flavor. If anything, you don’t even realize that it’s not just fish liver that you’re eating but its intestines as well. For the carb fans, this would be great over rice. Unlike the previous two dishes, the milkfish in soup was very lightly flavored and you’re able to truly sample the taste of the fish itself. Note that while you may see a few fins here and there, they only use the stomach portion of the fish (no head and tail) so that you’re able to enjoy the meatiest part of the fish. Pretty considerate of them eh? It also means less bones to pick out while eating. The fish itself was actually pretty fatty but it isn’t the kind where you take a bite and gag from the oily blob (such as eating a piece of fatty meat – steak anyone?), instead it’s very light and flavorful and I imagine that that is why people pop little fish oil pills on a daily basis. As in, good fats not bad fats. In fact, I’m guessing it might be due to all that fat that the fish itself is so soft and tender. Oh and how was the fish over rice? I didn’t try it personally but from the way the others scarfed it down…I’m guessing pretty good if not acceptable. ~ AJ ~ Photographs taken and provided...

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Seafood Galore

Posted by on Aug 2, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 4 comments

As some attentive readers may have noticed, S.S. Munchies shall be categorizing Taiwan related topics underneath the category of “Eating like an Emperor – in Taiwan”. Now, why so long? It’s certainly a mouthful isn’t it? We decided to dub our Taiwan ramblings due to an old proverbial saying of: Chī fan, Huangdi da. That is to say that eating is similar to that of being an Emperor, the act of it is so important that no one is allowed to bother you. Fancy that! Next time I’m busy and I don’t want to be bothered all I have to say is “I’m eating!” and silence shall follow…or not, but wishful thinking never hurts. Speaking of eating, or feasting rather, like an Emperor – that was exactly what we did on our trip to Tainan, Taiwan. Stepping gingerly through the sliding doors of A-Sha, a restaurant specializing in the traditional foods from Southern Taiwan, we were treated to several dishes of delectable seafood. Seafood’s always been a favorite of mine (along with several other food groups) but a family favorite that we view as a Lunar New Year treat would have to be Wu Yú Zi, or fish roe. For some, this condensed piece of fish roe may be overwhelmingly salty but eating a few pieces of fresh radish washes it down to a nice salty tang. For those who favor a bit of spice in their life, slices of fresh scallion or even garlic is yet another option to try. Mm-mm! That does look scrumptious, now doesn’t it Jas? Ah, I see that she’s busily eying her food and committing it to memory before it disappears into her bowels. Poor thing. But the fish roe (delicious as it was) was only the beginning of our meal. Followed with abalone and these interesting little shrimpy crab balls. For those of you who have never had abalone before, it’s a rather large clam that’s sliced and served with mayonnaise. The fishy smell and taste can be a bit intimidating to some but the texture itself is tender and chewy like…well, clam! The shrimp/crab balls were quite interesting. Fried just enough so that its thin outer layer is crisp, but the inside is soft with the slight surprise of a crunch from water chestnuts here and there. Afterwards, a plate of assorted foods (from sausage to chicken, all the way to veggies to tofu) with shrimp. Not just any shrimp! Shrimp with curly feet. Yes, that’s right. Curly. Almost as if they’re dancing for joy…straight into my mouth that is. Anyway, drooling aside, what really stood out within this meal blew everything else away. The crab sticky rice, the steamed fish, the stir-fried peppers and scallops…the winner of the meal was…this little sucker. Ooh yea, just look at it staring so venomously at’cha. Pretty intimidating huh? Not so much when its body’s a mere bony patch. Served in a ginger broth, much like a soup, these little critters were just swimming around in there until fished up by us. A light finish to the meal, the fish sat nicely in the stomach along with the refreshing ginger broth. Soft and tender, the meat easily falls off its bone with a little nudge of encouragement from my spoon and chopsticks. Apparently the Flying Mud Fish like to jump onto the shore’s rocks and sun themselves for a while – which also happens to make them rather easy to catch. All in all, a delightful afternoon spent with family…some of whom I’ve never met until just then! If any of you readers have...

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