Sunday, August 29, 2010

Taiwan: Epic Breakfasts Build Character

Waking up the next morning, we needed, of course, to follow up with a ginormous breakfast. I've waxed poetic about the subject before, but for the record let me just state that there ain't no breakfast like a Taiwan breakfast. Period.

Take for instance, this purple sticky rice roll.


You can have a number of yummy fillers, but here we have a Chinese churro, some pickled vegetables, and dried pork floss (just trust me on that last one - it's great).

This is freshly made cao bing. They are flaky pastries with black and white toasted sesame seeds.

You can eat them with Chinese churros inside for full effect, like so.


One of my all time favorites is man tou, which are a very basic steamed bun that has a fluffy and light consistency. I love the taro ones, which are normally purple in hue and have a sweet taro paste inside.

Ahh and then there is the venerable institution that is soy milk. There is the sweet variety, which can be served hot or cold. But more amazing is savory soy milk, which comes in a variety of ways but is always piping hot. Below, it is mixed with Chinese churros (are you noticing a pattern here?) and vegetables/condiments to create an almost tofu like porridge.

And THIS. My oh my, is this good. It's like a scallion pancake but more bread-like and with toasted sesame seeds and abundant amounts of black pepper. IT IS SOOO GOOD.

While all of the above is street food, not everyone eats out for breakfast everyday. Many people might have a simple and light bowl of congee. My grandmother prefers homemade turnip cakes, which are pan fried until crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.
Mmm...turnip cakes.

Most of this food is not that easy to find stateside unless you go to somewhere like Flushing (which is essentially a microcosm of China in the middle of Queens, New York). So next time you are in Queens or watching the U.S. Open in Flushing, you could perhaps show a picture of one of these breakfast delights to some random Chinese person off the street, and they can point and guide you to breakfast nirvana. You can thank me later.

Taiwan: Night Markets Bring Bliss

At MyLu, one of our first company "policies" was officially declaring August a month of stepping back and reflecting, using space and time to reflect on lessons learned and their implications for future decisions. As such, I decided there could be no better place to reflect than in Taiwan and China -- my food mecca.

First stop: the tiny but oh so delicious island of Taiwan. I have blogged about it before, but once could never be enough for what I consider a major contender for Culinary Capital of Asia.

Last year I visited with my dad and his side of the family, and this year with my mom. For both sides, food is an unending source of delight, entertainment and obsession. It is unclear where my fatkid genes come from exactly, but likely it is due to the unique combining of both gene pools. Case in point: below is a photo of my mother as a child. She is the one in the front. Notice what she is doing that others are not.


The first thing we did when we landed was go to one of Taipei's many night markets. My wonderful Aunt Xiao Ling brought us to the best dumplings my mother and I have ever tasted. Wrapped ever so lightly in paper thin dough, these little bundles of joy exploded with delicate flavors without over-whelming the taste buds.

They had meat with either chives or cabbage. That's really all you need in a good dumpling.

Next up, stinky tofu! This house didn't deep fry their stinky tofu, and made it in more of a Shanghainese style with Thai basil and shitake mushrooms in a hot and spicy broth.

After that we had to have some dericious oh-ah-jien (egg omelets with oyster and tapioca flour) and took home some shaved ice dessert home for later.
These are different kinds of jelly. On the bottom right is grass jelly, my favorite dessert for the summer because of it's cooling properties, wonderfully herbal, bitter taste and jello-like consistency. It's actually made of real grass!

Eating all this helped us overcome our first night of jet lag by inducing severe food coma and restful sleep and dreams of doing it all over again the next day...