Sunday, January 29, 2012

Taipei | Oriental Cuisine 東方饌 黔天下

Oriental Cuisine 東方饌 黔天下
No. 27, Lane 46, Dazhi Street, Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan
(02) 8509-2310

Price: $$
Recommendation: 4 Stars

Under the great Chinese food categories, there lie eight different major cuisines, including the slightly sweet Shanghainese and notoriously spicy Szechwanese. Most of us are familiar with those; however, little is known (at least for me) about Guizhou food 貴州菜, which emphasizes the mixed taste of sour and spicy and prides itself as the 9th category of Chinese food. Since Vickie and I were craving for some serious spicy food, we decided to be adventurous and went to the highly acclaimed Guizhou restaurant, Oriental Cuisine 東方饌 黔天下.

Before opening Oriental Cuisine 東方饌, Chef Yeh was the executive chef of a celebrated Italian restaurant for more than 15 years. In the spring of 2008, his entrepreneurial dream prompted him to journey to China's Guizhou Province to master and bring back the mysterious Guizhou cuisine to Taiwan. Chef Yeh was both a great cook and an awesome server. For every dish he brought out, he carefully explained the origin and ingredients. While it was nice to learn about the food, it was really painful listening to him because the food looked incredibly delicious and I was literally drooling all over the place and hoping he would finish soon!

Oriental Cuisine 東方饌 黔天下

Though Oriental Cuisine is often featured in big name magazines and media, there were still quite a few empty tables in the restaurant.

traditional Guizhou decorations

Red Oil Green Bean Liangfen 紅油綠豆涼粉
Green Bean Jello with Chili Oil

To begin our meal, we ordered two small traditional dishes. I especially enjoyed the Rice Noodle with Hot and Sour Chili Oil 紅油酸辣米線. The perfect balance between hot and sour as well as the manyfold flavors of ethnic spices made it a delightful appetizer.

Don't be fooled by the amount of hot peppers. They weren't that spicy at all!

Rice Noodle with Hot and Sour Chili Oil 紅油酸辣米線

While I savored the tasty and tender beef briskets, the eggplants in the casserole were simply amazing. The thick and heavy sauce justly complemented the soft textured eggplant. I devoured the pot in no time and left almost none for my friend...

Hot Pepper & Eggplant Beef Casserole 泡椒香茄筋肉煲

Miao Pan Fried Chicken 苗寨干鍋雞

A traditional delicacy, Miao Pan Fried Chicken 苗寨干鍋雞 is typically only served when the Miao people worship deities or celebrate weddings. The juicy and tender chicken absorbed the complex flavors of different chilies and spices and was surrounded by slices of potatoes. The slightly fried potatoes tasted like thick baked chips. It was a very interesting dish and also a Chef Yeh's signature!

Miao Pan Fried Chicken 苗寨干鍋雞

Each of the colorful Guizhou Wu Xing ("Five Elements") Dumpling has a different meaning and represents the "five elements" 五行: gold, wood, water, fire, and earth! Not only were the dumplings incredibly delicious, they were also fun and playful because every piece was made with different ingredients.

Gold 金: The yellow dumpling wrappers were dyed with the bright color of carrots and folded with corn and other vegetable fillings.

Wood 木: Using fresh Taiwanese spinach and seaweed, the green dumplings were glowing like a beautiful jade. Chef Yeh mixed the fillings with pickled cabbages, which were naturally fermented following traditional Guizhou techniques.

Water 水: The white dumplings were pretty standard and tasted like regular jiaozi. The chef should probably dye the wrappers blue, but what natural ingredients are blue?!

Fire 火: The red skin of the fire dumplings were created with hungqu 紅麴 (red fermentation starter), and the filling contained a red shrimp. It was my favorite of all!

Earth 土: The dark brown earth dumplings, with many precious Chinese herbs, were the most special of all. Chef Yeh created the wrappers with Eucommia 杜仲 and fillings including goji berries 枸杞, pork kidney 豬腰, and more. A piece of this healthy dumpling will bring you enormous energy and nutrition!

Guizhou "Wu Xing" Dumplings 貴州養生行運餃

5 dishes for two (with unlimited rice) - we definitely ordered way more than our stomachs could handle...

Oriental Cuisine 東方饌 黔天下

Monday, January 16, 2012

Taipei | Ah Shui Shi Pigs Feet 阿水獅豬腳大王

Ah Shui Shi Pigs Feet 阿水獅豬腳大王
No. 235-1, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei, Taiwan
(02) 2752-1997  (WTF!!)

Price: $
Recommendation: Stars

For more than 40 years, Ah Shui Shi Pigs Feet 阿水獅豬腳 is probably the most established pigs feet eateries in Taiwan. With the highest quality ingredients, Chef and owner Ah Shui Shi insisted following traditional recipe and techniques to prepare his pigs feet. The restaurant's popular pigs feet was even featured at the wedding banquet of the former Taiwan President Chen's daughter.

Ah Shui Shi 阿水獅豬腳大王

Pigs Feet 豬腳

Pigs feet are braised in traditional ceramic pots that can evenly heat the pigs feet as well as keep the cooking temperature at the perfect constant. The special luzhi 滷汁 ("master stock") has not been changed in years, and the sauce stains frighteningly covered all around the pots. Jon and I thought it was quite insane, but as the elders said, "the older [the luzhi], the more aromatic 愈老愈香," just like wine, which tastes better as it ages......

Braising Ceramic Pots 滷鍋

Lou Wei (Braising) Station 滷味
Tofu, Egg, Minced Pork, and etc. 滷豆腐, 滷蛋, 肉燥, and etc.

Pigs Feet 可口豬腳

The delicious pigs feet were delicate and soft. Without a knife, I could easily separate the meat with my chopsticks. My favorite part was the fatty skin, which was extremely tender but also chewy. Both the texture and aroma were excellent, but I wish the sauce was a bit heavier.

Pigs Feet 可口豬腳

Braised pigs feet would not be complete without a bowl of vermicelli with luzhi. Taiwanese believed that eating pigs feet vermicelli can bring good luck to life! It is also a common tradition to serve pigs feet vermicelli for birthday celebrations.

Vermicelli with Lu Zhi ("Master Stock") 滷汁麵線

As side dishes, the braised pork knuckle tendon and tofu were surprisingly good. I was totally amazed by the taste of the tendon and the texture of the tofu. Both of them are well-flavored and fully absorbed the essence of the luzhi. No extra sauce or seasonings were needed.

Pork Knuckle Tendon 可口蹄筋

Braised Tofu 滷豆腐

Ah Shui Shi also operates a pretty successful delivery and e-commerce business. Below are pigs feet waiting to be packaged.

for delivery 宅配

locals who look like tourists!

also in various locations in Taichung, Taiwan

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Taipei | Boon Keng Chicken 文慶雞

Boon Keng Chicken 文慶雞
No. 219-1, Section 3, Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei, Taiwan
(02) 2731-5522

Price: $
Recommendation: 4 Stars

As the first international outpost of the widely popular Boon Tong Kee 文東記 in Singapore, Taipei's Boon Keng Chicken prides itself as the best Hainanese Chicken Rice restaurant in Taiwan and has a slogan of "Either go to Singapore or come here"! Catering to Taiwanese people's different eating preferences, the cocky diner chose to use free range chickens in Taiwan, which gives a more tender and chewy composition than the regular fatty chickens used in Singapore.

Boon Keng Chicken 文慶雞

"Either go to Singapore or come here"
"要嘛新加坡, 要嘛來這裡"

The walls of the tiny restaurants are covered with autographs and endorsements by numerous celebrities in Taiwan.

autographs and endorsements by celebrities

Hainanese Chicken!

We ordered a couple signature appetizers, recommended by our waitress.

Sauteed Pork Liver & Braised Pork 香煎粉肝 & 胭脂肉

Hainanese Chicken (half chicken) 海南雞 (半隻)

Here comes the golden Hainanese Chicken that we've been waiting for. Just looking at the glowing chicken made my mouth water. With a dip of Singaporean hot sauce, the tender and delicious chicken is both sweet-scented and slightly spicy.

Hainanese Chicken 海南雞

As good as the Hainanese Chicken gets, in my opinion, the spotlight of this famous Chinese dish is on the Hainanese chicken rice. The reason why Hainanese chicken rice is so tasty is because that the rice is boiled with Chicken soup stock instead of plain water. Each grain of the brown and fragrant rice is filled with the essence of chicken soup.

Hainanese Chicken Rice 海南雞飯

Shortly after, the waitress brought each of us a dish of mysterious black sauce and instruct us to pour it on the rice. It is the traditional way of serving Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore, and it is said that the sauce will bring out the tastiness of the rice. Surprisingly, it did, and I don't know why!

special black soy sauce 黑抽

Angela photoshopped a dreamy picture of us. lovin' it!

photo credit: Angela

also in various locations in Singapore (Boon Tong Kee)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Taipei | Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House 春水堂 人文茶館

Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House 春水堂 人文茶館
No. 200, Section 2, Zhongcheng Road, Taipei, Taiwan (Shin Kong Department Store Building B 3F)
台北市士林區忠誠路二段200號 (新光三越B棟 3F)

Price: $ (but really expensive for bubble tea)
Recommendation: 5 Stars

Known as the first tea house to ever invent the internationally renowned boba milk tea 珍珠奶茶 (Yes, bubble tea is a Taiwanese creation!), Chun Shui Tang offers not only a wide selection of the best quality teas but also various Taiwanese snacks. It's a great spot for a chill afternoon hang out with friends!

Chun Shui Tang 春水堂

Chun Shui Tang's signature lou wei 招牌滷味 is a must order besides their bubble tea. Lou wei is a classic Taiwanese snack made by simmering savory ingredients into a soy-based sauce with spices. Our plate had tofu 豆干 and black pudding 米血, which were soaked in a stew-like secret recipe sauce. Once I had a bite, I couldn't put my chopsticks down and stop eating this!

Signature Lou Wei 招牌綜合滷味
Tofu & Black Pudding 豆干 & 米血

"Pearl" Shumai 珍珠燒賣
meatballs covered with rice

It was Jennifer's first time trying chicken gizzards. Props to her!

Braised Chicken Gizzard 雞胗

Spicy Noodles with X.O. Sauce 頂級X.O.醬辣拌麵

Normally, bubble tea shops makes their tea from tea bags or, even worse, tea powders. The drinks are very sweet and unfresh, and they often taste like packaged beverages. At Chun Shui Tang, the awesome tea house carries many of the best teas in the market and carefully brew each drink from tea leafs as customers make their orders.

Ever since a waiter recommended Tieguanyin Milk Tea 鐵觀音奶茶, it has become my favorite choice of bubble tea. Tieguanyin is a premium variety of Chinese Oolong tea and is locally grown in Taiwan. Because tea drinks are freshly brewed, my Tieguanyin milk tea came last among all of our orders. Just like artisan coffee shops, on top is a beautiful layer of milk foam. Immediately after a sip of the tea, a strong aromatic Oolong sweetness filled my mouth and ended with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It was excellent!

The pearls (boba) came in a separate cup. According to the waiter, it is so that I will have the same amount of tea as those who didn't order pearls. It's all about the Fairness!

Tieguanyin Milk Tea with Pearls 鐵觀音奶茶加珍珠

Pearls 珍珠

Last time I saw Melissa was when we were babies! Okay, maybe I am exaggerating but it's been a while - since elementary school!


also in various locations in Taiwan

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taipei | Hamamatsuya 濱松屋

Hamamatsuya 濱松屋
No. 12, Lane 119, Linsen North Road, Taipei, Taiwan
台北市林森北路119巷22號 (七條通)
(02) 2567-5705

Price: $$
Recommendation: 4.5 Stars

Taipei's infamous "Linsen North Road" is known for its "fun" and scandalous entertainment establishments as well as many of the most traditional Japanese restaurants in Taiwan. Situated in the historical Seventh Lane Alley 七條通, Hamamatsuya is one of Taipei's "Big 4 Eel Houses"! Their acclaimed made-to-order (or kill-to-order) Unagi (Eel) Rice Three Way 現殺鰻魚三吃 never fails to charm and satisfy Taipei-ers's picky taste!

Hamamatsuya's dark wood exterior and mini standalone shop sign complements with other Japanese homestyle restaurants in the area. Strolling along Seventh Lane Alley 七條通, I felt as if I was in an old shopping street in Japan.

Hamamatsuya's unagi rice differentiates from others by offering live and grill-to-order eels. While it may be a bit pricier, the money is totally worth it. Since our eels are freshly prepared, the wait can be up to 45 minutes, so we ordered a couple small dishes to eat while we patiently waited!

Tamago 玉子燒

When our waitress brought us the visually appetizing Tamago (Japanese omelette), I could still see hot steams coming off the glowing golden tamago. With a tiny dip of soy sauce and ground radish, the simple and comfortable taste of egg will make you wanting for more.

Fried Chicken 唐揚炸雞

You can't really go wrong with Japanese fried chicken! The seasoned chicken cutlets were both juicy and tender.

Fried Tofu 炸豆腐

Salad 和風沙拉

Fresh Unagi Rice Three Way 現殺鰻魚三吃

Finally, the highlight of the meal was the Fresh Unagi Rice Three Way, which came with a bowl of fresh unagi rice, hot spring egg, a plate of seasonings, seaweed soup stock, and a side of pickles and kimchi. The waitress carefully explained the three (or actually four) different ways of chowing down the ungai rice. I wasn't really listening, because I was really hungry by then and can't wait to devour the entire ungai bowl!

Fresh Eel Three Way

Covered by a thin layer of natural eel fat, the grilled unagi was literally glowing. At the same time, the excellent smell of unagi sauce mesmerized everyone at the table.

close up!

Followed what the waitress had told us, I split my unagi bowl equally into four sections. Each portion will be eaten in a slightly different way.

1. Original: First, obviously, I want to try the original taste of the eel without any decorations or seasonings - a way to really enjoy the freshness of the unagi.

original 原味

2. With Garnishes: Sprinkle a generous amount of sesame seeds, green scallion, and dried seaweed to add multiple textures and flavors to the simple dish.

with garnishes of Seaweed, Sesame, and Scallion 海苔, 芝麻, 青蔥

3. Chazuke Style: Chazuke is a traditional Japanese home cooking dish by pouring green tea, soup stock, or hot water over cooked rice with savory toppings. For the Unagi Rice Three Way, Hamamatsuya prepared a fragrant seaweed soup stock as the base. I also mixed a pinch of wasabi into the small bowl. Surprisingly, I was absolutely blown away by this plain-looking dish! The smooth seaweed soup and the strong sensation of wasabi brought a complex and hypnotizing taste that I had never experience before.

Chazuke: seaweed soup stock, wasabi 鰻魚芥末茶泡飯

4. With Hot Spring Egg: At last, I place the watery hot spring egg (half cooked egg) on top of my last piece of unagi and stirred them together. It was divine. I really can't decide whether this or the chazuke style was my favorite.

with hot spring egg 溫泉蛋

nom nom!

Hamamatsuya introduced new ways of enjoying the simple and popular eel bowl and allowed my palate to experience different sensations. The restaurant's Fresh Unagi Rice Three Way was both amusingly fun and absolutely delicious. One order might not completely satisfy my cravings; next time I will order two!

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