Monday, December 17, 2007

Bell shaped Japanese pancakes - 小林煎饼钓钟烧, Kobayashi cookies

The abundance of Japanese cuisine in Taiwan as a result of Taiwan being a Japanese colony between the period 1895 ~ 1945. I just had a nice seafood hotpot dinner yesterday. None of that spicy Szechuan-influenced nature. Instead, it was Japanese-inspired. I'm not very sure of the official word to use for such cuisine. Somehow, I thought it may be termed seafood nabe (just that I often associate Japanese nabe with paper hotpot) so...I might be wrong since this one uses no paper in the pot. Alright, pictures tell a thousand words. Once I get the pictures posted, I'm sure my smart readers can give me the correct name to that. Just like how Dhanggit from Dhanggits kitchen told me the name for grilling meat that way is known as yakiniku in Japan. Thanks, Dhanggit.

Ok, how about these pancakes? These bell-shaped Japanese pancakes that are made on the spot can make any passer-by drool instantly. I am not exaggerating. The aroma of butter, cream, custard, vanilla...under heat of the waffle iron...naturally makes one generates saliva (is that a reflex action? I don't know) in the mouth. Who could resist that fresh hot-from-the-waffle-iron fragrance ? It made the queue for these pancakes longer and longer. These 钓钟烧 (pronounced diao zhong shao) thus named because they resemble a hanging dangling bell. I would LOVE to know the English/Japanese name for these pancakes, but I don't :( . I guess Imagawayaki should be the general term for these Japanese pancake/soft waffles. The Japanese pancake that made Imagawayaki famous has got to be Dorayaki, or 铜锣烧 (pronounced tong luo shao) more common to you and me. And you should have guessed that Dorayaki was thus named because of Doraemon - a cultural icon of Japan (who says it's Hello Kitty?), and Japanese manga.

Deviating from the usual red bean paste typically used to fill these pancakes, we have a buttery cream custard smell-like-vanilla filling. Best when eaten immediately! But according to some sources, if the pancakes are allowed to turn cold or if you fridge them, these pancakes can become cold sweet treats like ice-cream. I still like them when they are freshly made. The warm fillings will almost flow smoothly when you bite on that soft fluffy pancake. When warm or cooler, these pancakes do offer different textures to your taste buds, depending on which you prefer.

Ok, those or most of you who can bake, maybe you can try making these at home :P

Don't you think even the packaging is so cute, as always, in Japanese packaging?

小林煎饼钓钟烧, Kobayashi cookies and pancakes
Several locations in Taiwan

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Grilled meat at 原烧 (Yuan Shao)

What is beneath this rectangular metal plate ? First, let me try translating what's written on the metal plate - showcasing the good quality of meat, by tasting its natural flavors. close, as precise as I can get in translating what it means, I hope.

Lifting up this metal plate is a charcoal grill. A grill for some DIY BBQ. Either in hotpots or at BBQ grill, it's really typical to see razor-thin meat slices (beef, pork). And as what the above "mission statement" promises, no heavily seasoned meat in this eatery. Well, at least, when you are served those meat slices for grill (via DIY), these razor-thin meat slices are just unseasoned meat slices. While you grill those meat slices, you have the option to dash some salt on it. Sauces and condiments are by the side and an option. You can dip the perfectly grilled meat in those sauces, if you wish.

Or just taste and enjoy the burst of natural juice and sweetness in those grilled meat slices. -good quality meat that stands the test of minimal seasonings.

Different cuts of pork and beef that you BBQ on the grill right in front of you

At 原烧 (pronounced yuan shao), even the ice-cream dessert takes much pride. They even "carve" out their eatery name in Chinese character on that plate of plain vanilla ice-cream with powdered dusting sugar aside. What's interesting - can you see those long sticks behind the vanilla scoop ? Those are deep-fried spaghetti sticks. What a clever way to deviate from the usual biscuit rolls that are tyically served with ice-cream.

They have many locations (Taipei, Kaoshiung, Hsinchu) around Taiwan. Check them out if you do visit Taiwan.

Few days ago, I ate this.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Chinese food around the world

Getting closer to Asia means you get more variety of Chinese food. Not that I've not had Chinese food in the Bay Area. In fact, there is a wide variety (authentic and not-so-authentic) that you can choose from in the Bay Area due to the influence of Asian immigrants to the West Coast, and to the food culture in America. From the generic Chinese cuisine to regional Chinese such as Sichuan/Szechuan, Shanghai; Vietmanese cuisine; Thai food; Japanese and Korean food; Hong Kong Cantonese including dim sum; and even closer to home Southeast Asia cuisine - you find most (not all) of it in the Bay Area, where I was staying.

Of course, there is no such high concentration of hotpots, steamboats eateries in the Bay Area compared to Taiwan. Alright, maybe it's just the season to eat hotpots in Taiwan currently. Even the supermarkets here are stocked up with so much hotpot and steamboat ingredients during their mild winter season. At home or out in the reataurants and local eateries, hotpots/ steamboats are sure to keep your stomachs warm for a while, bringing you the coziness and warmth from the inside to the outside.

Tender BBQ chicken steak/chop served with noodles, and a runny egg on a sizzling hotplate

While visiting Taiwan earlier in October and November to reccee the place before our temporary move, we did not forget to immerse ourselves in their food culture. A variety of choices as well, from street food in their night markets to local eateries serving hotplates like chicken chop/beef steak with noodles(above). Of course, we stayed in a hotel then, so some hotel food as well since it's so convenient. These are a few representations that make my mark in terms of taste, presentation and that little creativity which surprises me.

Sugar cane chicken with a light almond crust
@Hotel ONE, Taichung, Taiwan

Steamed beancurd/tofu with seafood, served in a bamboo steamer
@Evergreen Laurel Hotel, Taichung, Taiwan

We ordered this steamed beancurd dish everytime we visited the restaurant located right within the hotel we are staying in. It is absolutely delicious. The mixture of shrimps, mushrooms, scallops cooked in a oyster-based sauce of tiny shredded bits of dried scallops, topped over that smooth and silky tofu. You can try making this at home based on the picture. :P Well, that oyster based sauce is just what I decoded it to be. There might be something additional going into it.

Boiled Amaranth with White Fish (Whitebait)
@Evergreen Laurel Hotel, Taichung, Taiwan

I was trying to find some information about this tiny white fish over the internet and there's not much luck. Can anyone tell me? I do remember eating these tiny fishes fried with egg back in Singapore. Are they Whitebait? I think in Taiwan, they call it by another name 吻仔魚 (some kind of larval fish??), and I'm not sure if they are the same variety. Any other familiar names you can give me regarding this fish? Just look at the huge pile (or heaps) of tiny fishes in this's actually very light and tasty.

Does eating out inspire how you cook and plate your dish at home? It does for me, sometimes.