Cherry Tomato Kitchen Diary

This spring, I was lucky enough to find cherry radishes at the local street market. Cherry radish isn’t a common ingredient in traditional cooking here, so it’s unusual to find it in Taiwanese markets. I was inspired to use it to enhance a traditional recipe.

This recipe is based on a Taiwanese cabbage salad dish, but with a choice of two different dressings. So you can enjoy a very Taiwanese flavor, or an Italian flavor.










Taiwanese sweet and sour pickled ginger

During Taiwan’s hot and humid summer, it’s very common to see Taiwanese people add a few pieces of pickled ginger to their food. In this season, Taiwanese people believe that pickled ginger is appetizing, and it’s also good for the stomach if your stomach tends to feel bloated.

I learned how to make sweet and sour picked ginger from a very experienced Taiwanese chef. She said there’s no exact recipe – the amount of sugar and rice vinegar you add is up to you, so how sweet or acid you want it depends on your taste. Some people like it sweeter; Some prefer to add more vinegar.

Iron Plate Sweet and Sour Tofu

Sweet and sour sauce ingredients

4 tablespoons vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Freshly chopped chili, 1 teaspoon (optional, depending on your preference)
Freshly chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon
Freshly chopped ginger, 1 teaspoon

Note: Prepare the sweet and sour sauce in advance because you will use it during cooking. For this recipe, you need about 6 tablespoons of this sauce. If you make more than that, you can keep the rest of the sauce in a closed container in the fridge for later use.

Cooking ingredients

Cooking oil, 3 tablespoons
Hard tofu about 270g, cut into triangular shapes
Mushrooms about 50g, 0.5cm, sliced
Bell pepper about 50g, 1cm sliced
Green onion, chopped


1. Prepare a flat pan for cooking – for example, a frying pan. Place it on the stove top and add a few tablespoons of cooking oil to the pan. Adjust the stove to medium heat.

You Can Make Fast Food, Taiwan Style

The tiniest food stand or street restaurant can serve delicious, fresh food only minutes after you order, but when you try to cook in your own kitchen, it can take hours of work. Why? It's mainly because those professional chefs know how to keep things simple. Obviously, they have skill and experience, but the most important trick they've learned for amazing food is to use fast, simple techniques and minimal ingredients. They create fascinating flavors just by combining a few seasonings like white pepper, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, chili green, and coriander. Even if you don’t have as much skill or experience as these chefs, you can still benefit from these simple cooking ideas that are commonly seen throughout Taiwan and China.

How I Teach Cooking

The most important thing I can teach people is to not follow recipes – only sometimes use them as a basic guide. If they insist on following recipes, then I can't really help them much, but they can find ten million recipes on the internet for free.

That's because, in my experience, those people who rely on recipes never get good at cooking. They sometimes have good luck with a particular recipe. But as soon as there's a small change in the quality of ingredients or the cooking environment, then their recipe stops producing such good results. But they don't understand why, so they don't know what they have to change to make it work. (Also it's hard for them to be versatile or creative because they don't know how to safely adjust the recipe for different numbers of guests or a different kitchen or to add different ingredients. They just guess and hope).

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.

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.


Kevin said that Taiwan is famous for dumplings, so he wanted to take this opportunity to learn how to make dumplings well.


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.

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