Saturday, May 07, 2011

Tea in Asia: Day 3 - Taiwan

This is the third part of my trip to Asia.

Breakfast was essentially the same as the previous morning; Bacon-wrapped asparagus spears, hot dogs, baby corn and mushrooms. My bacon was under-done. *Sad face*

Instead of toast, we received a basket of three steamed Chinese buns. There was a meat bun (shown above), mantou (plain bun), and nai huang bao (sweet custard filling). They tasted fine.

Our group went down to watch a cooking demonstration after breakfast. I couldn’t wait!

The chef cooked some dishes and talked a bit about Chinese cuisine. The main point was that the dishes should be balanced like the yin yang. Chinese chefs think about balancing not only the flavour, but also the colours and the cooling or heating effect is has on the body. I won’t be elaborating on that, mainly because I don’t know much about it.

Anyway, he showed us how to cook a few dishes and then we had to make it ourselves. I’ll include the recipes that we were given but there are a few things missing. Please bear with me.

The hot and spicy soup was okay. I found that there were too many things in the soup. It needed more water/broth.

Hot and Spicy Soup


Carrot, julienne                                             50g
Bamboo shoot, julienned                           50g
Tofu, julienned                                              50g
Cooked pork loin, julienned                      50g
Preserved mustard greens                          50g
Spicy bean curd                                             40g
Wood ear mushrooms, julienned            30g
Cilantro                                                           20g
Rice vinegar                                                40ml
Water or broth                                          2 cups
Cornstarch                                                     25g
Salt and Pepper                                     To taste

  1. Boil the water or broth and then add the carrots, bamboo shoots, tofu, pork loin, mustard greens, spicy bean curd and wood ear mushrooms. Turn down the heat and simmer.
  2. Create a slurry with the cornstarch and water. Add to the slurry to the soup.
  3.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve the soup with the cilantro as a garnish.

The rice wine braised chicken with sesame oil was tasty. I was hoping that the chef would make Taiwan’s famous three-cup chicken (made with a cup each of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil), but I guess it would’ve taken too long to cook.

Rice Wine Braised Chicken with Sesame Oil


Chicken                        Half
Ginger, sliced              100g
Sesame oil                    50g
Rice wine                      Half a bottle
Salt                                 15g
Sugar                              30g
Water                             2 cups

  1. Cut the chicken into small pieces. Heat the wok/pot, sauté the ginger in the sesame oil. Cook until the chicken pieces are half-done.
  2. Add the water, salt, sugar and half of the rice wine into the wok/pot. Simmer until the chicken is fully cooked.
  3. Finish the chicken with the rest of the rice wine. Serve with steamed rice.

The stewed cucumber and mushrooms was okay. Who am I kidding – I don’t remember what it tasted like. Here’s the recipe…

Stewed Sponge Cucumber with Enoki Mushrooms


Sponge cucumber                              500g
Carrot, julienned                                  30g
Enoki mushrooms                               50g
Sugar                                                     100g
Water/broth                                  1½ cups
Cornstarch                                             10g
Salt and pepper                             To taste
Oil                                                 For frying

  1. Peel the sponge cucumber and cut them diagonally into 5cm pieces. It looks nicer that way.
  2. Deep-fry the cucumbers until half-done and then set aside.
  3. In a wok/pot, boil the water (or broth), add the enoki mushrooms, carrot and sugar. Turn the wok/pot down to a simmer after a minute.
  4. Add the deep-fried cucumbers. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and some water. Add the slurry to the wok/pot to thicken. Serve. 

Sweet and sour pork. Really? I guess they made this to please the not-so-adventurous members of the group. It was decent, though I prefer to order the sizzling plate of beef at restaurants. Now that’s something I’d love to learn to make.

Sweet and Sour Pork


Pork loin, strips                     600g
Green bell pepper                     50g
Yellow bell pepper                   50g
Sugar                                         100g
Rice vinegar                            50ml
Ketchup                                       50g
Cornstarch                                 20g
Flour                                          100g
Water                                         1 cup
Egg white                   From an egg
Oil                                     For frying

  1. Mix the pork strips with the egg white and dredge the pork strips with the flour.
  2. Deep-fry the pork loin until fully cooked. Set aside.
  3. Cut the bell peppers into 2cm diagonal pieces. Blanche the peppers in the oil and then set aside.
  4. Add the water, sugar, ketchup and vinegar to a wok/pot. Bring the contents to a simmer before thickening the sauce with the cornstarch slurry.
  5. Add the bell peppers and pork. Serve with steamed rice.

The final dish the chef prepared was a plate of stir-fried glass noodles with pumpkin. I really liked how light this dish tasted. It was quite fresh tasting and not greasy at all.

Stir-Fried Glass Noodle with Pumpkin


Pumpkin, julienned                                    300g
Carrot, julienned                                            50g
Pork loin, julienned                                    100g
Shiitake mushrooms, julienned                40g
Celery, julienned                                         300g
Glass noodles                                               200g
Bean sprouts                                                 100g
Sugar                                                                 20g
Sesame oil                                                     30ml
Water                                                           ½ cup
Oyster sauce                                                 30ml
Light soy sauce                                            20ml
Salt and Pepper                                       To taste

  1. Soak the glass noodles in hot water for at least half an hour and then strain.
  2.  Julienne the pumpkin, carrots, celery, shiitake mushrooms (if you’re using dried shiitake mushrooms, soak the mushrooms overnight), and pork loin.
  3. Heat wok/pan to medium-high and stir-fry the pork loin in the sesame oil. Once the pork has fully cooked, add the carrots, celery, and water.
  4. Season with oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and salt and pepper. Add the bean sprouts and serve.

After the cooking demonstration, our group went into another kitchen where some Kaohsiung Hospitality College* (KHC) cooking students had been waiting for us. Our group had split up into smaller groups and, with the help of the KHC students, we remade the same dishes for lunch. There was some miscommunication within our group, which resulted in our dishes looking and tasting differently than what the chef had made for us earlier. I’m so glad I took the pictures of the chef’s dishes before we went to cook lunch.
*As mentioned in the previous post, the KHC has since been awarded the university title. It is currently called the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism

That night, our group went to volunteer at some church-run after school program. Our large group split up again and headed to three separate places. My group and I went to the ‘burbs of Donggang Township.

Our group prepared games and songs for the kids. We did the typical tourist visit to the less fortunate, but it was so much more than that. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I felt like we connected to the kids – despite the language barriers. SS and one little girl bonded so much that the little girl didn’t even want to leave SS’s hip.

Dinner came around and the women that ran the program quickly whipped up a humbling meal. It didn’t feel right to take pictures of the food. Hey, look at the tourist that looks like one of us… she’s taking pictures of our food to show all her friends how poor we are! I didn’t want them to take it badly, so I didn’t take any photos of the food. There was a pot of egg drop soup, steamed rice, fried rice, and processed chicken fingers. It was sad how these kids were eating processed foods, while people like Adam Richman was (and still is) eating excessively for pure entertainment.

As the day came to an end, we watched - with tears in our eyes, as the children were picked up by their guardians. We boarded our air-conditioned bus and headed back to the KHC. The bus ride was silent.


Read about:
Day one: Arriving in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Day two: Bike tour around Cijin District
Day four: Yangmingshang National Park and Din Tai Fung

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