Friday, April 24, 2015

Taiwan Eats Part IV of V: Luodong, Yilan and Jiaoxi

After Hualien, we took the TRA (台鐵) to Yilan, then transferred to get to Jiaoxi. This was a mistake..we should have just taken it all the way to Jiaoxi where we were staying at Ataya Xiang Bed and Breakfast (which is more of a guest house, or 名宿), but I didn't research well enough for that part. Oh well! It wasn't too bad to get off one train, then get back on another one ;)

We got to Ataya Xiang in the afternoon, and after dropping our luggage off and having some iced tea and fruit (provided by Ah Tu @ Ataya), we went to Luodong Night Market to find some grub. 

A note on Yilan before we start: Yilan is known for their amazingly scallions, better known as san xing cong, or 三星葱, and these things are spicy! Have you ever teared up while eating scallions? You may very well experience that for the first time when you go to Yilan, like I did! Anyway, due to the freshness and availability of these san xing cong, be on the lookout for scallions in all the food here. Our strategy was to get as many scallion-filled foods as possible. 
Luodong Night Market
Intersection of 公園路 and 民生路  (Gongyuan Rd and Minsheng Rd)- 5 minutes from the Luodong train station

General comments: This rates as one of my top 3 favorite night markets out of the 7 we visited during our time in Taiwan. 

We liked everything we got, and loved most things! 

Mini 肉圓- 6 types of protein, wrapped with a rice flour dough. These are steamed and served with a brown sauce. The fillings we got were shrimp, pork, and squid (I think). We couldn't distinguish too clearly between the different fillings..

 Aborigine mountain pork sausages and skewers of scallions in bacon- The sausages were really hearty, not too sweet, and had the lovely grilled taste. As at all sausage vendors, these were accompanied with pungent garlic cloves (have a friend hold the sausages, while you peel the garlic). There were also grilled skewers of san xing cong wrapped in mountain pork bacon, .then lightly brushed with a sauce. AMAZING. The scallions were so spicy and delicious, and made my eyes water! These skewers were far superior to these same types of skewers that we had elsewhere. Good produce makes a huge difference.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Beyond Salt and Pepper

Hello everyone! Sorry for the delay in posting; life has been getting in the way of me sitting down to write posts. I actually have hefty backlog of posts to work on....

This week has been pretty packed, with Mr. ABC Chef (my husband, Tim) coming back from PyCon in Montreal, celebrating his birthday with two birthday dinners (one where I made Korean food for him and 4 of his buddies!), and going to Hopkins Alumni weekend, which was mostly an excuse to hang out with my best friend :)

The best friend and I ate out every meal, except Sunday breakfast, which we made together- dou jiang and fan tuan, which are staples of Taiwanese breakfast. Stay tuned for a fan tuan (deep fried dough aka you tiao, dried pork, and salted and slightly sweet radish bits- all wrapped up in sticky rice, almost like a sushi roll!) recipe to come.

Then on the way home, Megabus was delayed a whole hour, so I spent over an hour in line, doing nothing but trying to get the intermittent WiFi to idly browse Instagram and Facebook, while fighting the cold breeze.

Anyway, now we are back to our regular schedule!

I would regularly ask, "媽媽(mama), how do you make this?" when we just ate something really tasty at a restaurant. Or, my mom would shake her head and discreetly mutter to my sister and me that the restaurant was taking shortcuts because x and y dish should not be made this way, but that way instead.

媽媽 always said that the Chinese "salt and pepper"seasoning should just be toasted salt, and Sichuan peppercorns, ground up. Nothing else. When we got salt and pepper pork chops (because they were always the least expensive and you would get more than if you ordered squid or shrimp), I would look forward to the deep fried pork pieces that were laced with this addicting seasoning, and when the meat was gone, I would use my chopsticks skills to hunt for abandoned pieces of scallions and jalapenos, and mix it with the restaurant white rice in my bowl. I wondered why no one else would eat these pieces of salty goodness that were left behind, but was also glad that my sister and I had these morsels all to ourselves.

I've been wanting to post a recipe for salt and pepper shrimp that would do justice to its name. When you make the salt and peppercorn powder, prepare to be blown away by the mysteriously addicting aroma that is created by the marriage of two simple spices!

Chinese language tip: 椒 = jiao, which is the second word for the word pepper (胡椒)
鹽 = yan, which means salt (To pronounce, think more of yen than yan)

salt and pepper shrimp

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Giveaway Update

Sorry this is late!

Thank you for the 5 brave souls who participated in the giveaway! Thanks for sharing your favorite spices and tips for adding them to dishes. I'll keep in mind these spices as I pick future blog topics.

I assigned each commenter a number (in the order that their comment appeared) and used the random number generator at to get them to generate a number between 1 and 5.

And the winner is.........................Ruth Ann! She will be receiving 1 oz of Sichuan peppercorns, as promised (I already got her address for shipping).

Thanks for reading :)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Forever ingrained in my tastebud memory..

I feel like San Gabriel Valley, with its streets dotted with Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish, and maybe English signs, is not like most of the rest of America. In addition to having good Mexican and Chinese food whenever we wanted, we also had a good deal of Marie Callender's pies.

A few months out of the year, Marie Callender's would have pie sales where all the pies were a flat price, and during strawberry season we would stock up with strawberry pies for a special price, too. In retrospect, the bright red syrup that accompanied those pies probably had tons of food coloring in it. I have good memories of seeing the signature Marie Callender pie box in the fridge, and whenever we had some pie, I would have a slice for breakfast! :)

Our family had its favorites that we got all the time- lemon cream cheese and Kahlua, as we affectionately called it. I learned, much later on, that Kahlua was the name of the liqueur that gave it its flavor. The Kahlua pie, with its chocolate cookie crust and elusive filling, got me every time, and it was definitely my favorite! I remember often eating it layer by layer.

I would start with my least favorite part- the sour cream topping, then I would scrape at the cheesecake part to reveal the naked crunchy chocolate cookie crust for last. Sometimes, someone would make an imperfect slice that would leave some crust behind- jackpot.

The sour cream fudge drizzle topping was only okay to me at the time, but thinking back, its semi-tartness made it perfect to accompany the remaining cheesecake below it.

Recently, my sister called me up and asked if I had a good recipe for Kahlua. Not having tried to make it since my college days, where I only made the cheesecake part (who needs sour cream, anyway? Just kidding!), I told her I wasn't sure but started hypothesizing about what re-create our childhood taste memories. We decided that we'd make it together when I visited her!

So, the first pie was a joint effort by the Tsui sisters, which was a bunch of fun! We worked side by side, each taking over a different task, and tasting and making judgment calls as we went along (I took notes on the recipe).

We didn't have sour cream, so we used Greek yogurt. I think it is just as good with the Greek yogurt, if not better, but you can decide..After two versions, I am quite happy with the recipe. y.

Even if you have never had the sweet experience of eating a slice of Marie Callender Kahlua Pie, I guarantee you will be a fan of it once you taste this. So. Make some pie and eat it, too.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spices: ABC Chef's First Giveaway!

Okay, let's do something fun and see who reads my blog......
My spices drawer is a crazy crazy mess! Tim is currently in Montreal, so I figured I would do some spice drawer organizing (because that's what all wives do when their husbands are at work conferences, right...?)

I'm giving away 1 ounce of Sichuan peppercorns, so you can make tasty dishes like Mapo Tofu and Beef Noodle Soup to your heart's content.