taiwan, right here ::::
I first visited Taiwan in 1997, when Eat and I were newly engaged, so that we would meet some of the distant relatives and have a mini family reunion with his mother’s side of the family. Eat tested my on my chopstick use before the trip: I passed, even with wily, slippery noodles that one could typically eat in this cuisine. Eat told me that chopstick use was not only mandatory but the core of eating. His grandfather once said that American (sic ) people eat with four fingers (a fork) and Chinese (also sic — what about Japanese? Taiwanese? Vietnamese?) people eat with only two fingers (a pair of chopsticks). The ability to eat with a more parsimoniously-endowed utensil was lauded as superior.
Good food was everywhere: multiple variations of spicy, broth-filled bowls, flowing with swaths of noodles and ground pork paired with a green onion pancake (cong you bing), flaky and oniony. I remember eating stinky tofu (chòu dòufu) with other family members warning me that the off putting smell of toilet was not how it tasted and it is often banned from certain street vendors so as to not stink up the alleyways. The fresh soybean milk from the kiosks down the street from Eat’s grandparents’ house was unlike any other I had tasted, bottled in the U.S., and it inspired me to make my own soybean milk (before I made tofu). I remember the almost diaphanous skins of the most tender, flavorful soup dumplings (xiao long bao) at one of the famed Din Tai Fung Dumpling House looked like lace and lingerie. There was the cousins’ obsession with ordering Apple Sidra to drink at every meal. I still crave the crispy tang of the green guavas that Eat’s grandmother always seemed to have at the ready when we were peckish (which is hard to believe as we seemed to be eating all the time).
When I came across this recipe for noodles with fried scallions, it made me think of Taiwan immediately. We have been aching to go back with our kids, since they have never been, but have been halted with ability to get enough time off of work and my fear, perhaps irrational, of being on an airplane for 12+ hours with two children under the age of six. It just seems like an easy way to go insane in a very short time, and perhaps taking some strangers along for the hellish ride.
Eat’s mom definitely does her share of bring Taiwan to us. We dive into rice porridge with salty condiments, like dried shredded pork, fermented soy, and 1000 year old eggs. She makes lots of pork, noodles, and tofu dishes. We have an annual turkey rice porridge after Thanksgiving every year. I am always learning about something new in the cuisine and trying to figure out a way to find the ingredients using my English in an Asian grocery store (usually not very helpful) or using some culinary detective work to acquire them with showing discarded wrappers to store clerks.
I first worked on this post just before my gestational diabetes diagnosis, lamenting the desire for more broth, more noodles, and a runnier egg. With this paltry portion of noodles and decent servings of protein, I can actually eat this for a meal without a surge of high blood sugar. The servings presented in the original recipe make for a nice light lunch. That’s more than I can say that we ever had in Taiwan, our eating frenzy of protein and various noodles or rice. And my chopstick prowess had continued. I actually find it easier to use chopsticks eating certain foods (even some non-Asian) than a fork. I must be gaining some of that grandfatherly wisdom. My pinnacle? To pick up xiao long bao without tearing the delicate skin. I must have had a very good teacher.
One year ago: feta-walnut dip
Two years ago: cannellini bean dip
Eat and I are off (alone! no kids!) to Portland for the weekend! Hopefully, I’ll have some interesting updates on food from the trip, no doubt more from Eat’s plate than mine.
- canola oil or peanut oil
- 12 scallions, white and light green parts, julienned
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth*
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 pods star anise
- one 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
- kosher salt, to taste
- 1 pound dried or fresh Asian wheat noodles (I used Wu-Mu brand dry wheat noodles, made in Taiwan)
- 4 eggs
- Put oil into a 1-quart saucepan to a depth of 1 inch. Heat over medium heat until thermometer reads 325 degrees F.
- Add scallions and cook until crisp, about 15 minutes.** Using a slotted spoon, transfer scallions to paper towels to drain. Using same oil, transfer 2 tablespoons to 1-quart saucepan. Add broth, soy sauce, star anise, and ginger. Boil.
- Remove from heat; let rest for 5 minutes. Strain broth and set aside.
- Bring 6-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cool until tender about 8 minutes (but if using fresh ones, cook time is likely less so check the package or check after 2-3 minutes).
- Heat 2 more tablespoons of the reserved oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet or wok over medium heat.
- Add eggs and cover, and cook sunny-side up, about 3 minutes.
- To serve, divide broth and noodles between four bowls. Top noodles with an egg and some scallions. Enjoy with your Taiwanese spouse.