Tag: authentic taiwanese snack

Hakka Style Mochi

My first memories and experiences of making mochi were in my junior year of college, with my best friend Jeska. You see, Jeska has an unfortunately long list of foods that upset her stomach, including an essential ingredient of most Western desserts: eggs. This meant that most of the baked goods that I made were, well, anti-Jeska food..

Fortunately, she brought with her to our new apartment a handwritten recipe for making mochi from scratch, given to her by her mom (Thanks, Auntie!) Shortly after, we commenced on a mochi-making experiment. About an hour later, we were covered with cornstarch, ouch-ing from the hot mochi mixture, but very happy with the results. We now had chewy, Jeska-friendly dessert that we made all by ourselves.

Maybe it was the fear of the thought of wrestling that hot dough, or the influence of my husband’s aversion to having food-coated fingers….But sadly, I only made mochi a few times on my own after that, despite my love for all things chewy and QQ.

While perusing Taiwanese cooking shows on YouTube, I found a recipe for hakka-style mochi. We tend to think of mochi as having a filling (red bean paste comes to mind first), but this hakka style mochi is made by showering the mochi bits with coating; usually peanut or black sesame.

This may not have the red bean paste filling, but the peanut and black sesame are no-fuss and simple to prepare. A pair of chopsticks is highly recommended for this recipe, as it helps shape the mochi and keep your hands dough-free.

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Nuts about Peanut Candy

If you like nuts, this post is for you. If you like candy is that is just sweet enough to be dessert, but not so sweet that it makes your teeth hurt, this is also for you!

Meet peanut candy, Taiwan’s brilliantly concocted combination of peanuts and sugar! It tastes like peanuts with a unique sweetness and crunch, and is highly addicting..

The only special ingredient you’ll need is maltose, which is a very gooey liquid that you will have to wrestle out of the jar. My preferred method is to use a chopstick (or knife?) and dig into the maltose. Then, twirl the chopstick around and around until you have the right amount. The colder your measuring cup, the less likely the maltose is to get all gooey in it. Another option is to spray the measuring cup lightly with oil first.

mai ya tang
Find maltose in the section of the Asian grocery store where they sell types of sugar: I found this near the palm sugar, I think

Peanut candy is so delicious on its own, but it’s even tastier in hua sheng juan bing qi lin (花生卷冰淇淋), which is an ice cream burrito, if you will- a thin flour-based wrapped, stuffed with Taiwan-style ice cream (more similar to sorbet), shavings of this peanut candy, and cilantro (!? It’s really good! Trust me.)

My goal is to someday make this hua sheng juan bing qi lin, but the first step is to make a great peanut candy, which I feel I have done!

As with any recipe, but especially those involving caramelizing sugar(s), please read the entire recipe all the way so that you can have your mise en place.

First batch ever! 600 grams of peanuts

The Move

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)

Garlic Chives/Pork/Shrimp/Dumplings

Spicy Pepper Stir-Fry (Make it as a side for your dinner tonight. I will be making it to go with our steamed fish!)

Homestyle Tofu

Sweet Red Bean Soup with YuanZi

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken (yan2su1ji1 鹽酥雞)

yan su ji taiwanese popcorn chicken

When my sister and I were younger, my mom would sometimes take us out for smoothies/drinks or tapioca milk tea, more affectionately known as boba nai cha, or “bubble” tea (east coasters only) at a small Taiwanese boba place. This little cafe had tasty and fairly-priced drinks and an assortment of Taiwanese fried snacks. We would go mostly for an after-school snack, and get a drink each, and oftentimes, yan2su1ji1. They were tiny little nuggets of chicken that was first seasoned well then lightly battered and fried. The chicken would come in a small paper bag, along with flash fried Thai basil (fried chicken and basil go hand in hand) and small skewers for us to use to transfer the fried goodies to our mouths.

 Sometimes I would be too full from crispy crunchy chicken and my drink (usually green or red bean slushy with boba) to have a full dinner. Woops!

We were at a friends’ house for dinner tonight, and since they were going to show us pictures of their Taiwan trips and make us 牛肉麵 (Beef Noodle Soup), we thought that Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken would be a nice addition to the Taiwan-themed night.

What is Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken? It’s fried little pieces of chicken, that is first marinated in all sorts of aromatic and yummy stuff…Then it’s coated with sweet potato starch to yield a crunchy outside that has crackly bits due to the little bits of sweet potato starch. After it comes out of the oil, you add more seasonings such as white pepper and 5 spice powders, and cayenne pepper powder..! It’s spicy, it’s savory, crunchy, and goes so well with the bits of fried Thai basil. I don’t drink alcohol, but if I did, I imagine it would be great with some beer, too!

Ingredient Spotlight: Sweet potato starch is often used in Taiwanese deep frying..fried chicken, fried pork chops, fried..stuff. Yay!

sweet potato starch (coarse)

Look for chunks of un-powdered sweet potato starch; those small chunks give the chicken crust its speckly/spotted appearance. The word below the Net Wt is ‘cu’ which means coarse. Get the coarse one!

Now for the recipe:
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Lu Rou Fan / Rou Zao Fan

There are so many names for this recipe…
I knew it as rou zao fan growing up, but when I went to Taiwan, everyone called it lu rou fan. At one hotel we stayed at, they kept it in a slow cooker in the buffet line. Pork seems to taste better in Taiwan..
Rou Zao Fan is definitely a street snack you would find at a Taiwanese vendor, like this (though this isn’t where I got mine):

From my trip in 2011:

lu rou fan

You can’t tell the size of it here, but for 30-35 yuan (~1 USD), it is more of a light dinner portion (at least for me). BTW, that’s pickled radish- a nice addition to offset the fattiness/richness of it. I guess you can eat however much of it as you want, but I decided to add some “healthier” components and make a meal out of it.

I made this back in college, with diced shiitake mushrooms, and a side of shanghainese bok choy, during my Cafe 1010 days!

lu rou fan

Taiwanese Minced Meat Rice
lu rou fan / rou zao fan
3-4 servings

-1 lb of ground pork, OR 1/2 lb ground pork and 1/2 lb pork belly, sliced into chubby matchsticks*, or you can decide whatever ratio you want. All pork belly makes for a VERY oily dish.
-1 cup of sliced fresh shallots + 1/4 cup canola oil (or neutral oil), OR 1/2 cup of fried shallots – make sure you get fried shallots, and not fried onions!
-2 Tbsp Shaoxing or rice wine
-1.5 tsp brown or white sugar
-1/4 tsp white pepper
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-pinches of salt (optional)
-3 cups of water +/- some
-5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in room temp water for 15 min if possible (optional)
-2-3 medium boiled eggs, peeled (boiled enough just so that you can peel them without the white collapsing on you) (optional)

1. Cook the meat, then add the shallots, then the rice wine. Keep stirring, then add sugar, white pepper, soy sauce, and mushrooms.

2. Add 3 cups of water, or enough to barely cover mushrooms and meat. If you didn’t have time to soak your mushrooms, then add 1/2 cup of water more. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 30-35 minutes, or longer, depending on the cut of meat. The meat should be very tender. If the sauce has evaporated too much, add some more water.

3. Check the flavor- it should be a tinge of sweet, but mostly soy saucey and shallotey taste. Some soy sauces are saltier than others…mine is more mild, so I added a pinch of salt and a little more soy sauce.

4. When the meat is tender, add the eggs and cook for 5 minutes. If you like your eggs with more flavor, add them in during the simmer. I added them in later to avoid the infamous green ring

5. Serve with rice!

*it is much more luscious and buttery with the pork belly, obviously, but also more expensive and labor intensive because cutting of meat (gasp!) is required.
-If you are using fresh shallots, fry them in 1/4 cup canola oil first, until they are a deep golden brown. Drain and save the oil for some other use.
-A good accompaniment is any green vegetable stir fried in garlic and a little bit of salt.
-Should you have leftovers that you don’t know what to do with or don’t want to freeze, this tastes excellent over blanched vegetables, preferably leafy and flat so the leaves can soak up the sauce: (Chinese A 菜 or romaine lettuce come to mind)
-Don’t like hardboiled eggs? Want to avoid the extra step of boiling and peeling? Top the rice with a fried egg (I saw this offered on the menu in Taiwan…it seems like everything can be topped with a fried egg these days)
-The proper sweetener (at least what my mom always used) for this dish is actually rock sugar, comes in large chunks in a box. I don’t always have rock sugar on hand, and I’m not always willing to take the time to break the large chunks into more manageable pieces. But, if you really want to use rock sugar, use a chunk the size of half a ping pong ball.
-If you want to stretch your rou zao, consider adding some firm tofu or pork chops during the braise time. They soak up the sauce, too!

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