The Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island Hardcover – Illustrated, 24 March 2015
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About the Author
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup from The Food of Taiwan
Makes 6 to 8 servings
It’s widely believed that this hallmark of Taiwanese cuisine was created within the military villages set up to accommodate the influx of mainlanders at the middle of the twentieth century. There is nowhere else a noodle soup quite like it, although the dish has conspicuous influences from Sichuan province—chili bean sauce and Sichuan peppercorns. Some call it Taiwan’s 'national dish,' while others argue that Danzai Noodle Soup (see page 138) is more representative of older, more traditional Taiwanese cuisine. Regardless, its deeply savory, delicious broth has made it a popular favorite on the island, and amongst visitors, too.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, add as much of the beef as will fit on the bottom of the pan without too much overlap (you will need to work in batches). Cook, flipping with tongs, until both sides are gently browned, 5 to 6 minutes total. Repeat with the remaining beef, adding more oil as needed. Transfer the meat to a dish and set aside.
Heat another tablespoon of the oil in the same pot until just hot. Add the ginger, garlic, scallions, chilies, and tomato. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant and the vegetables are softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the sugar and cook until dissolved and the mixture is bubbling. Return the beef to the pan and stir in the chili bean sauce.
Stir in the rice wine and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot to release any browned bits. Let boil for a minute, then add the light and dark soy sauces, the water, peppercorns, five-spice powder, and star anise. Bring just to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer. Skim the scum that rises to the top of the pot with a slotted spoon. Cover and cook at a low simmer for at least 2 hours, preferably 3 hours.
For the Noodles and Serving
Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Divide among individual serving bowls. Ladle the soup into each bowl with chunks of the beef, top with scallions and the blanched green vegetables, if using, and serve.
- 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
- 2 pounds beef stew meat, preferably boneless shank, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 6 thick slices peeled fresh ginger
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 whole scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
- 2 to 3 small fresh red chilies
- 1 large plum tomato, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon chili bean sauce
- 1 cup rice wine
- 1/2 cup light soy sauce
- 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
- 2 1/2 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
- 2 star anise
- 2 pounds Asian wheat noodles (any width)
- 1 whole scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 8 small heads gently blanched baby bok choy, or substitute with spinach, sweet potato leaves, or other leafy green vegetable (optional)
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Sweet-and-Sour Tomato-Based Sauce
Pan-Fried Leek Buns with Dried Shrimp
Oyster Omelet (O Ah Jian)
Sauteed Water Spinach with Fermented Tofu
Noodles with Minced Pork & Fermented Bean Sauce (Zha Jiang Mian)
Sweet Potato Congee
Pork Meat Sauce over Rice (Lu Rou Fan)
Pineapple Tarts (Feng Li Su)
Although most of the recipes turned out decently, as other reviewers have pointed out, we found that we had to tweak several of the recipes - either the proportions were off or the recipe called for too much of one ingredient or that some important info was omitted. For example - in the Pork Meat Sauce over Rice recipe, it called for 1 cup of light soy sauce & 1/2 cup dark soy sauce. By following the recipe exactly, we were left with a soupy pork meat sauce that was dark & very salty. If we have to make it again, we would reduce the light soy sauce to 3/4 cup & omit the dark soy sauce. For the Oyster Pancake recipe, four oysters was not enough per pancake. Also, the pancake became too top-heavy with all those additional vegetables & was impossible to flip over without breaking it. The Pineapple Tart recipe was the worst - it called for a lot of butter (more so than in any other pineapple tart recipe that we've seen). The author also neglected to mention that pineapple tart needed to be made using molds - this is very important, as the mold is what shapes the pineapple tart (like how one cannot bake a pie without using a pie baking dish). If no mold is used, the tart would spread since it is very high in butter content. The one recipe that turned out decently without any tweaking was the Basil Clams.
The plus? We enjoyed the format of this book, as author Cathy Erway wrote it more like a history book/tour book combined with a cookbook. My wife enjoyed reminiscing about the Taiwan from her childhood. She even learned some Taiwan history along the way - things that either she had forgotten or didn't learn about. The photos by Pete Lee were breathtaking - they really captured the essence & uniqueness of Taiwan, from the beautiful landscape to the mouth-watering food to the people of Taiwan.
The minus? We would say a lot of the recipes need more testing and cross-referencing. Cooking is an art & it is often passed down from one generation to another, especially in a country like Taiwan, where ancestors came from various regions of China, & there are Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, & aboriginal influences. So it is understandable that these recipes from Cathy's family may be different from other Taiwanese families' recipes. However, the basic recipes should still be similar to & not differ too much from other Taiwanese families' recipes.
The take-away message is that we enjoyed this cookbook, but for many of the recipes, before cooking, we would recommend having a back-up recipe on hand, just for comparison & to make sure that the recipe in this book isn't too different from other similar ones.