Taiwanese Food Odyssey Day 6: The Sashimi Kingdom and the Golden Honey Hog

5 09 2009

I promise these Taiwan posts will be faster in coming (and shorter) from now on. But then again, there are only 2 days left.

Picture 125The big news on day 6 was that I had the best sashimi I’ve ever had in my life.  And the biggest pieces of maguro and albacore that I’ve ever seen.

Picture 127

It’s a little hard to tell from this picture, but this piece of maguro is thick as a filet mignon.  This is the magical sashimi kingdom of Pao Chuan (Ran-Ai Rd. Sec.2 #93, Taipei).  Pao Chuan means “treasure boat.”  That’s what you call truth in advertising.

And this boat is filled with much more than sashimi. This pork with melon in white sauce looks simple, and it is. In fact, the sauce is reminiscent of moo goo gai pan.

Picture 132But it’s the best moo goo gai pan you’ve ever had. The sauce is thinner than the goopy stuff you get in America, yet richer in taste, full of broth. And the melon is an incredible counterpoint to the lean pork: juicy and full of verdant coolness.

And then there were these giant pieces, cakes really, of age dofu–soft tofu Japanese style, breaded and fried, topped with dried bonito shavings and green onion, in a puddle of soy and mirin (sweet rice wine).

Picture 134It was unbelievable–the tofu as soft as a melted marhmallow, the bonito as smoky and flavorful as bacon, not fishy at all.

Picture 137Then there was this salad, with giant pieces of bamboo, smoked shark, onion, tomato, red bell pepper, and 2 kinds of seaweed, in a light vinaigrette.

Picture 133You haven’t had bamboo till you’ve had it fresh–it has a young, plaintive taste, not the sharp tang of the canned stuff.

Lunch was an embarrassment of riches. But dinner was a humilation of riches. I ate like a sultan, and almost died like one.

My in-laws took me to a little seaside town called Wen Li. We went to my father-in-law’s favorite place in town, a little family sit-down place near the fish market called Shao Yu Chen, or “Little Fisherman Village.” Before you go in, you take a little time to get acquainted with your dinner and pick the most promising candidates from the holding tanks. It’s like speed-dating for your mouth.

影像0016Obviously, seafood is their specialty, and the seafood was indeed special: huge tuna hand rolls (on the house!),

影像0005grilled wild-caught abalone,

影像0007steamed anh diao (red lion fish) with green onion, carrot, and ginger,

影像0013the requisite clams san bei,

影像0010a delicious mottled pink crab I’d never seen,

影像0015

and lobster tail.

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But I liked the veggies and meat even more.  For example, the most amazing kimchi I have ever tasted.
影像0002What was most amazing about it was that I don’t like kimchi.  It usually has a harsh, chemical flavor, like salted lye soap.  But this kimchi was different–sweet and sour, not astringent or salty. And the cabbage was still crunchy, not wilted and soggy like it usually is. I didn’t even know that the Taiwanese did kimchi!

All this for 3 people. You would think we’d be stuffed by now. And we were. But we still had to work on this succulent smoked pork leg.

影像0012The flavorful, toothsome skin was beautifully caramelized with a honey and sesame glaze, which kept all the moisture in the pink, tender meat. It went surprisingly well with a squirt of lime, which brightened the deep flavor of the blood-rich leg meat.

This pork leg really did me in. I couldn’t stop eating it. I ate until my back hurt. But to quote Marilyn Monroe, beauty is pain.

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