Journals

The Taiwanese street food spirit: Shallot oil

Sit down in a Taiwanese noodle shop, and in less than three minutes the shop owner can bring you a great bowl of noodles. The flavor is well balanced: salty, sweet, and spicy, with aromatic herbs.
 
Shallot oil is the essential spirit of this delicious Taiwanese noodle soup, which is fast and easy to make. Shallot oil is an influential flavor in Taiwanese food.
 
Shallot oil is used on sticky rice, noodle soup, taro rice noodle soup, fish ball soup, warm green vegetables, and so on. Shallot oil is the secret that lets street noodle shops and stands serve a tasty and aromatic dish within three minutes.
 
Shallot oil isn’t difficult to make, but it takes time and it’s very easy to overcook. We need to use low heat to cook away the shallots’ moisture, and bring out their aroma. We need to be patient, because the finely chopped shallots can easily burn.
 
Shallot oil is not only used in the restaurant business, it’s a very common ingredient for Taiwanese family cooking, too.

Teaching the teacher

Last week, the American master chef Kevin Storm visited our kitchen. He was not here to advise or teach us – he was here to learn how to make local-style dumplings. In particular, he wanted to study vegetarian dumplings with me, so he can make them for his vegan daughter.

Kevin is the assistant manager of the American Culinary Federation. He instructs students from throughout the USA, and leads them to take part in culinary competitions around the world. Kevin is also the executive chef at the Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.

美國廚藝大師 J. Kevin Storm 先生教您如何成為廚藝高手

2018 世界年輕廚師菁英賽」於今天九月七日在基隆經國學院登場,來自全球二十二國的冠軍選手將在這一展身手

Riches to rags to happiness

I’ve been shopping at WuXing street market for nearly twenty years. I go there in the morning for the freshest ingredients, and to have breakfast or snacks. But I also go to hear people’s life stories. In fact, the stories are the thing that interest me most. I could say the storytellers have become my life teachers.

This is a true story about my friend who sells fruit and vegetables from a street stand in the market – cucumber, tomatoes, peaches, guava and so on.

Many of the fresh food vendors finish selling at around midday, although other shops and eating places stay open until the evening. One summer weekend, I didn’t go to the market until 2pm. I went passed a woman who specializes in selling vegetables from the northeast coast of Taiwan. She always greets to me as she hasn’t seen me a long while, so she always makes me feel like an old friend.

Thai herbal yoga

I tried Thai herbal yoga class in Thailand, in a town called Hua Hin. Before I went to the class, I was guessing the yoga teacher, Tikki, was going to teach us how to cook with Thai herbs to help balance our body and mind. I had some doubts about this, but I turned out to be wrong.

As soon as I entered Tikki’s yoga class, I was immersed in the fragrance of Thai herbs. Tiki had filled up the slow cooker with a bunch of Thai herbs: lemon grass, old ginger, galanga, kaffir lime leaves, chopped kaffir lime, camphor and so on. For a second, I thought she was cooking a pot of Thai tom yum soup, and it did smell like that. I thought, this is so cool! I am going to do yoga with the steaming fragrance from this pot of Thai herbs. And there is no air conditioning during this yoga class, it will be hot!

Making fast miso soup in the morning

Recently, I found I am sometimes a little too sensitive to coffee in the early morning. Too much caffeine too early seems to be a shock for my stomach, and can cause stomach irritation for me.

 

When I stayed in Kyoto this autumn, I learned the Japanese habit of waking up to have a nice cup of miso soup first thing, instead of coffee. Maybe it's a way of gently restarting your deeply relaxed body after a night of resting.

 

In Taiqi-influenced cooking and eating, we think it's better to start the day with a warm drink. Miso soup is a fermented lactobacillus drink. It improves the digestion, absorption of nutrients, and warms the body. Drinking miso soup is a good start to the morning, and like Taiqi, I think it balances the yin and yang energy of the body

 

Guanyin in Long Shan temple

Many people wonder if Long Shan temple in Taipei is a Daoist or a Buddhist temple. Because they can see many statues and paintings of Daoist Gods inside, but they can see also Buddhist Gods. Meanwhile, the architecture and decor of the Longsan temple is clearly looks like Daoist style.

However, the main God in Long Shan temple is Guanyin, and Guanyin is a Buddhist Bodhisattva. Guanyin Bodhisattva is a symbol of people or gods who practice "Guanyin dharma". Guanyin means to observe our inner voice, to look into our mind, to listen to the words which we don't express outwardly.

Guanyin is also called the Bodhisattva of compassion, Guanyin dharma is a widely spread teaching in Taiwan, and even in Asia. When people have difficulties in their lives, they often pray for Guanyin Bodhisattva's help.

Cloud above Kyoto

This autumn, I had an opportunity to rent a small old style Japanese house in Kyoto. It was so much better than staying in a hotel room. But there were two mysteries in the house. I didn't have anyone to explain them for me, because I didn't meet the landlord during my stay at all – everything was handled online.

When we arrived, I noticed there was a special corner in the living room and bedroom, some paintings hanging up on the wall, and right in front of the paintings stood a small wooden table with a vase. I couldn't understand why, in a small wooden house, with only limited space, why the owner of the house would still make a space for those things?

First Bai Bai in LongSan temple

When you enter a Taiwanese temple like LongSan temple, you will see people offering incense to the Gods. There is incense burning right in front of each God's image or statue. People hold the incensee and pray, then put the incense in the incense burners.

In Taiwanese temples, have you noticed that at the first incense burner, there is no God sitting in front of it? But you still see people holding the incense and praying, and still offering the incense in the burner.

Mazu Temple beer garden

During our Dihua Street tour, we usually have a lunch at the Mazu temple beer garden, particularly if it is not raining. You can see a few photos of my guests there on this page. We order a few hot stir-fried dishes and bottles of beer from the simple seafood restaurants on the street around the temple. The staff are all friendly, but it's a casual atmosphere so there are no waiters telling us where to sit. We simply find an empty table and then go to the restauraunts to order. We share the experience with the local people under the banyan trees, eating and drinking in the middle of the temple courtyard. 

Although it looks like a simple place, the food is delicious here. The street restaurants that provide the food specialize in old-style Taipei cuisine.

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