Mr. ABC Chef jokes that it’s Me(i)-Gan cai, and it has easily become one of his favorite things to eat, braised with pork. What IS mei gan cai ( 梅乾菜）? Before, I only knew that mei gan cai was some vegetable that was salted and then dried, but didn’t know much else, so I decided to do a little research..
So, this is what I learned- mustard greens are salted, (xue cai or xue li hong), fermented, (fu cai), then dried (mei gan cai). All these products are made from the humble mustard green and some salt..AMAZING. Check out some videos of the process- this and this were what I found.
Please eat me!
Raise your hand if you like sushi or sticky rice. If you have a hand up, I can bet that you’d love fan tuan* (飯糰）. Eh? What’s that?
Fan tuan is a breakfast food that is at its simplest, constructed of large air-pocketed deep fried dough (you tiao) and fluffy fried pork bits (less appetizingly named pork floss or pork sung) that are wrapped up in a big bundle of sticky rice. Those are the mere basics, and often times it will also include salted radishes and pickled mustard greens, or whatever the chef deems as additional savory toppings. Fan tuan is most commonly savory, especially the ones I had in Taiwan, though my mom would always tell me that it also came in a sweet version: sticky rice, you tiao, crushed peanuts, and sugar.
I am a sucker for sticky rice in all its forms: nian gao, tang yuan, yuan zi, etc etc, so it is no surprise that I love fan tuan, which involves a good deal of sticky rice.
I have fond memories of fan tuan in Taiwan- my first visit to Taiwan in 2005 was a high school graduation gift from my grandma. We were walking by a park, and there was a vendor hanging out there. I ordered a fan tuan and tea for breakfast (that had me stuffed for several hours afterwards!)
Not fan tuan that I made, but a Taiwan-made fan tuan from my 2011 trip
Due to some unfortunate circumstances, we moved yet again! I am thankful for friends and co-workers who graciously gave up their Saturday morning to help us.
Those of you who have had to move know that it’s a pain in a butt to pack everything, and also know that the number of boxes representing the kitchen area seems to always outdo boxes from any other room. I am trying to pare down the ‘stuff’ I have…do I keep my shaved ice maker? The Taiwanese in me screams yes! And, after our trip to Taiwan (less than 72 hours to go!!), I am sure I will be re-inspired to make shaved ice.
Does anyone want a stovetop waffle iron? It’s a gift from my mom, but after 2 waffle sessions, I realized that I didn’t have the patience to make waffles over the stovetop and have to babysit them. (Sorry, Mama!) I am looking for a good home for them, so inquire within. Obviously, you must be able to pick it up from me..no deliveries 😉
Before the move to our current place, I went through a sad period of about 1-2 weeks where I didn’t feel much like cooking or baking. It’s hard to feel inspired to create when you can’t feel like the place you are living in is your home, for me, at least. It’s also hard when lots of your kitchen stuff is still packed away in boxes! By the time I snapped out of it and realized that I had to resume my routine for my sanity’s sake, it was just about time to move again..
I am thankful to be living in our new place, where we really like it. We have just gotten settled, and almost all the boxes have been unpacked or moved to closets. I am excited to cook!……when we return from Taiwan. We’re leaving on Saturday….sooo excited! We will be back in 2 weeks.
We bought a Costco-sized pack of AA batteries for my camera in preparation for our trip. We plan to take pictures of everything we eat, and maybe pictures of some scenery and people here and there 😉
I’m excited for many things in Taiwan, but I can’t deny that the food is one of the top things I’m excited for. Taiwanese people really know how to make great snacks, sweets, and food of all sorts! I can only pray that I can learn to re-create a few of the delicious morsels we will feast on in one of Asia’s best places 🙂
In the mean time, here are some Taiwanese/Chinese recipes to transport you to Taiwan while I am gone!
Lu Rou Fan (The most popular recipe on this site, believe it or not!)
Yan Su Ji (Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken)
Jiu Cai He Zi (Chinese Leek Boxes)
Spicy Pepper Stir-Fry (Make it as a side for your dinner tonight. I will be making it to go with our steamed fish!)
Sweet Red Bean Soup with YuanZi
Beef noodle soup probably doesn’t need any introduction. I believe it was the Taiwanese who made it famous, but it is made in different ways: hong shao, ‘red braised’ with a soy saucey color, and also qing dun, which is a clear broth (no soy sauce) with a lighter taste. I’ve also had beef noodle soup where the stock has been cooked with tomatoes, too!
My mom sent me this recipe as the best beef noodle soup recipe she has tried, and I made some small adjustments to it. I’m not really sure if one would consider this Sichuan or Taiwanese, because I think beef noodle soup was made famous by the Taiwanese, but there are Sichuanese components in it, like the fermented soybean paste….We are going to Taiwan at the end of the month, and I am so excited to try all the different ways that beef noodle soup is made!
Edit: So according to this site, they think that the origins of niu rou mian started with Chinese soldiers who fled to Taiwan in 1949. They made a beef soup with the spicy bean paste (that definitely originates from the Sichuan province) and soy sauce, and served it with noodles. So, I think I can confidently call this Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup. Yay!
With homemade wheat noodles and short rib! And bokchoy and cilantro from the garden 😀
Our apartment smells like smoke. It’s okay, though- don’t call the fire department! I’ve made 3 batches of smoked chicken in the past 3 days. Smoking chicken in a wok + no vent leads to me swinging the broom in front of the beeping fire alarm, and Tim wielding a folder to fan the smoke in large vertical strokes in the kitchen.
Growing up, I remember two tasty chicken preparations that made their way into restaurants as appetizers or side dishes: smoked chicken and drunken chicken. Both chickens were always served bone, with neat and clean cuts across the chicken, no doubt made by a sharp cleaver. I tried my hand at making drunken and smoked chicken, but the drunken one didn’t turn out that well, and its failure was overshadowed by the promise of delicious smoked chicken.
This recipe is adapted from this Taiwanese lady who kind of reminds me of a younger version of my grandma. To me, she is adorable, just like the jolly Taiwanese chef who showed me how to make those yummy braised eggs with long hots. Some of her tips didn’t work for me, but it could be due to differences in chicken types and overall set-up. I’ll post what worked for me.
The chicken was so tender that the leg fell apart when I took it out!