Friday, August 5, 2011

Sumptuous meals in Taiwan

I suppose one always learns new ways of cooking the oldest vegetable dish when one has been dabbling with a new culture. The eggplant dish served at the Academia Sinica canteen is one. It is plain garlic, soya eggplant. We had it twice a day. For breakfast and lunch! But the novelty of preparing such a dish with soya made an impression on me. Just garlic, eggplants, oil and and seasoned with salt, soya sauce and a pinch of sugar. That's the ingredients list!

Cut eggplants into cubes. Salt them. Heat the oil. Add a handful of chopped garlic and add the eggplants. Cook them for 5 minutes and coat the garlic flavoured oil. Add the soya sauce, salt and sugar. Mix in thoroughly. Add a few tablespoons of water, cover and cook for another 10 minutes. The eggplants should be soft by this time and dry. Taste to adjust seasoning. That's it!
I found many vegetables cooked this way. Long green beans were also commonly prepared this way in the Academia cafeteria buffet.

Before we left our hosts to us took a Hakka place. Hakka cuisine uses lots of pickled elements. Salt baked duck and pork belly in pickled vegetables were two memorable dishes. The stir fries are probably the only ones which I can hope to recreate at home.

At a marina fish market we ate right off the tables set next to the stalls. Our hosts did all the arranging so we tried all sorts of things. Like the deep sea fish which tasted just like jelly. Super fresh sashimi. Mussels made the Taiwanese way. It was the biggest fish market I have seen. And they contained fish and its sea brethren in every form. Fresh ones on ice and in tanks, processed into dry fish and prawn and finally in tinned and packed form. We picked a huge jar of a variety of sakura denbu. Perfect for sprinkling on rice and noddles or mixing into soup.

Another sumptuous meal coming to an end. I adored the items we had at a tea house in Shinyi on the way back from Pingxi. The village was called Pingli. The herb rice was my favourite at that meal. I shall certainly be trying to recreate it. And a gorgeous whole fish steamed to perfection.

Lunching at Pingxi. In Taiwan meals go on and on. Not all the items come to the table together, so you never know when the nth one will be followed by n+1! We over-ate every time! A case in point was the lunch at the one shown above, where it started with 3 dishes and multiplied to 10 at the end! Most of our meals were at very unassuming places where the concept of "digging in" is followed strictly. I was told that only fancy restaurants give side plates; everywhere else its customary to use lots of tissue papers to put all your leftovers on the side nested in tissues. I went through huge quantities of tissue papers at every meal!

1 comment:

  1. Seems like you had a great culinary tour of Taiwan. Enjoyed reading about it.


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