Taipei Air Station - 1966 - - - " What you have in the end are memories"......... Photo Courtesy of Richard Reesh.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer Suppings - UPDATED

More thoughts from Joe Brooks

Seems like the hot weather is here to stay for awhile, so we might as well figure on getting some good out of it, if such a thing is possible.  How about good things to eat that the hot weather brings out in Taiwan.

Everyone knows about ice cream, so there's not much use of going into that, is there?  But there are lots of other really yummy edibles. One gadget they make out of soybean and it comes out looking like a white milk custard.  They call it "to fu niao" and serve it in heaping bowls-full,  like well soured cream, over which they drip fruit preserved in sugar syrup, or sometimes honey reduced with water and vanilla beans to a thin syrup consistence.  Never found anyone who didn't like it, and most people call for one or two extra bowls.  Costs too much though -- about fifty cents Taiwan per dish.

Ever see these heaping bowls-full of scraped ice-snow ?  Try one sometime without fear or prejudice because the ice in Taiwan is edible.  The juice they put over it is pure pineapple syrup and altogether, the thing is out of this world.  One or two, tucked away on a scorching hot day makes the whole world seem a better place to live. 

Of course, some people think about regular food.  This is the perfect day to order "ping pan" -- a widely assorted selection of cold meats and a few pickled vegetables tastefully arranged on a plate.  Another dish of cucumbers, tomatoes, bits of "to fa ju" -- the pickled bean curd cheese, all marinated in fruit vinegar, soy sauce and ginger should fill things out beautifully.  Eaten with "hsiao ping" - an unleavened dough baked with a scant filling of either sweet-fruit or salty meat and vegetables - all washed down by a bottle of Taiwan beer, chilled till it smokes; boy -- that's eating.

If you are looking for hot food which tastes good when the thermometer is showing a 100 degree fever, this may be a little difficult.  However, let us try.

First we'll have a fish dish -- guaranteed to be non-atomic.  They call it "chia chiang man" -- sliced cutlets of a halibut-like fish or an entire small one baked whole in a sauce which is a chef's secret.  I gather there is anise seed, oil, sugar, soy sauce, yellow wine, salt, white pepper and one or two other Oriental spices, blended into a black tonic which would make anything taste good I think, but which is obviously designed just for fish on hot days.

Another dish of scrambled eggs with diced "hsiang chang" -- the hard little smoked sausage of China which faintly resembles some of the dried "pepperoni" of Italian fame.  Through this is a sprinkling of finely chopped chives and green pepper -- and even your worst ulcer won't murmur in protest when it's fed this superb diet-blaster.

Eat these dishes with a bowl of cold noodles -- "la mien"  or hand drawn noodles if you can get them.  This is a plain, cold weather filler covered with finely sliced threads of cucumber and flavored with "sze-ma chiang" -- or sesame seed paste.  This you mix well yourself and season to taste with fruit vinegar and soy sauce.

(Just a tip for those who eat in Chinese restaurants, cannot read the words on the sauce bottles and wonder which is the vinegar and which is the soy sauce, when they are both the same color.  Chinese have a saying, "Kao tzu, ai chiang yu," -- the tall bottle is vinegar and the short bottle is soy sauce -- seldom ever miss unless they have a careless waiter.)

So, on the cook's night out, pack up the family and one Chinese friend or so to do your interpreting unless you have memorized these words, and off you go to a wonderful adventure in hot weather eating.  Or you might even have the cook fix the "gourmet's express" at home.

Sure helps to take your mind off the weather.  Phew !

Reprinted with permission. 
Joe Brooks wrote a column for the ChinaPost newspaper in the mid 1950s.

  This story and other articles found in this Blog came from his book, 
"From A Yankee Notebook in Taiwan"

Find more information about Joe Brooks and this series of articles HERE

Please leave your Comments below, or e-mail us ~~

In a "Comment" below, a reader updated Mr. Brooks writings with dishes found in Taipei today, along with their names in Chinese characters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

to fu niao豆腐腦 (Now it's usually called Dou Hua豆花 in Taiwan.)
ping pan拼盤
to fa ju豆腐乳
hsiao ping燒餅(or 餡餅?)
chia chiang man炸醬麵(?)=pork sauce noodle, not a fish dish?
hsiang chang香腸
la mien拉麵
sze-ma chiang芝麻醬
Kao tzu, ai chiang yu高醋, 矮醬油