Monday, October 26, 2009

Home Cookin'

Home-cooked meal at my father's college pal's home in Taiwan. Let me tell ya, his wife, kids, and Indonesian housekeeper are all damned fine cooks. Additionally, I will once again showcase my inability to grasp the core concepts of Hanyu Pinyin.

Roger says, "Lu rou fan" aka braised/stewed pork + rice

"Lu rou" rice is fairly common in Taiwan and you can easily find it being sold by a restaurant, street, box-lunch, or night market vendor. There are many variations depending on the cook, but the basic ingredients are soy sauce base, sugar, star anise, black cardamom?, shallots, and other spices. The stewing/braising doesn't take long at all and folks usually throw in a couple of eggs to boil along with the pork. Really really good stuff. Sweet, savory, deep, rich, meaty, and complex. If a kid doesn't have an appetite, garnishing his/her bowl of rice with some lu rou will usually guarantee an empty rice bowl within eight minutes. Hell, the same goes for me too.

Eggplant with Thai basil and garlic

Fairly basic and common in Taiwanese cuisine. My parents used to make it all the time when I was a kid. Tangy with the bold flavor of Thai basil.

Pork broth with daikon radish and five kinds of meatballs

This is a more "upscale" version of "gong wan" soup that you see from vendors which usually only feature "gong wan" or pork meatball. In addition to having a thicker broth, this variation has five different kinds of hand-made meatballs(pork and fish). Taste and texture are miles apart from pre-packaged ones found at the market. Everything just tasted fresher and meatier. Texture was also a tad bit fluffier as well.

"Chawanmushi" with lump crab meat, shitake mushrooms, and stuff

This was their own unique creation. I think one could call it a Taiwanese influenced Chawanmushi. Loads of lump crab meat went into this dish. Friggin' awesome. Taste was vaguely similar to a good bowl of mian xian.

Some sort of white fish with a tangy glaze

Grilled orange chicken

A bazillion times better than the unholy fried abomination we see at Panda Express. I have always hated that goopy overpowering sauce and soggy-yet-crunchy texture of fast-food orange chicken. Personal preference. Besides, grilling > frying both for your waistline and tastebuds.

Fried shrimp paste and roasted nuts

Beer food for the guys. M!ne is a new line of beer from Taiwan Beer. How does it compare to a regular can of Taiwan Beer? Well it's like the difference between a Miller Light and Miller Genuine Draft. Both are shitty, but the higher tier product is less so.

Yes, I am a beer snob.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

EVA Air Fall 2009 Pacific "Mercy of the Chef" Tasting Menu

A few weeks ago I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to dine with EVA Air's cute dark-haired, doe-eyed sky-maidens who served me a phenomenal four course tasting menu. Let's have a look.

First Course:

Smoked Salmon - bamboo shoots, lettuce, sesame-chili oil

Ah would you look at that salmon! Rubbery consistency coupled with the unmistakable aroma of a B777's steamer brought tears to my eyes. Such joy. Such grace! It was as if God him/herself had smoked this transcendent piece of flesh. Sublime. The appetizer is finished with fibrous and chewy bamboo generously doused with a sesame-chili oil, thus lending it a delicate nutty flavor and slick mouthfeel. Impeccable.

Second Course:

Fried pork chops - spaghetti noodles, caramelized onions, bacon

A Kurobuta pork chop is lightly breaded and fried to a stiff sinewy block before the chef tosses it in a rich sauce of caramelized onions, bacon, and butter. Mushy noodles accompany this culinary masterpiece and surprise your mouth with occasional crunchy ends--a texture contrast clearly demonstrating the chef's innovation and boldness. But, the craziness doesn't end here! The entire dish is then steamed to lock in the beautiful bouquet that is the B777's steamer. Leave your traditional standards and expectations at home when dining with EVA Air! It is no wonder that they have become the forefront of haute cuisine.

Third Course:

Organic Apples and Oranges

The very best organically grown seasonal fruits are flown in from all over the world by EVA Air's Evergreen Group weekly. There are tasters/shoppers stationed in every EVA Air branch office who are constantly looking for fresh quality produce grown by small organic family-run farms in their region. EVA Air is deeply committed to supporting the slow food movement.

Fourth Course:

Castella - Manuka honey, sweet organic Azuki bean

Healthy living and eating is a big theme at EVA Air and thus their interpretation of Nagasaki's famed Castella sponge cakes uses Manuka honey from New Zealand, which is well known for its healing properties. This delicate creation is spotted throughout with sweet organic beans, again demonstrating EVA Air's inventive approach towards food. After extensive tastings and experience with Castellas over the years, I honestly feel that the EVA Air pastry chef has created something that will be unrivaled for years to come. Its texture is unparalleled for its ultra-fine cake body creates a perfect harmony of pillowy springiness Its taste words cannot describe, for it can only be experienced in order to comprehend. A dazzling end to a glorious meal.

Dining with EVA Air is a showcase of unrestrained luxury and decadence. Attention is paid to every minuscule detail. For example, the individual climate-controlled air is circulated through filters that remove airborne antigens including H1N1. Plush down pillows and small 1500 thread count blankets (I used mine as a napkin) are complimentary and a perfect addition to EVA's sensual reclining chairs that seemingly embrace your body. Even more impressively, your meal is served upon placing an order!

As if this wasn't enough already, lights will automatically dim when an onset of food coma sets in. EVA Air does not care whether or not a customer decides to nap after a big meal. In fact, they encourage it. Diners will often wake to a beautiful smiling young lass offering various refreshments and cookies. Of course, one is most welcome to continue napping after consuming said refreshments and cookies. Moreover, the view is unbeatable. Table 55K, among others, offers sweeping panoramic views of the ocean AND city skyline. Even the Five Diamond rated Addison Del Mar would be hard pressed to top the level of comfort and service provided by EVA Air's staff. I definitely look forward to a repeat visit, although I am quite curious as to how EVA Air's chief rival China Airlines compares.

Somewhere over the Pacific