At the heart of Taiwanese food is simplicity and use of basic rustic ingredients. Simple cooking methods also prevail, where food is usually cooked using just one method (eg steaming, frying, boiling etc) and then served. This is quite unlike other Chinese cuisines, like the Shanghainese or Cantonese dishes whereby usually a combination and permutation of various cooking methods are used to prepare a single dish.
Perhaps it is this simplicity of ingredients and methods which has endeared Taiwanese food to many, me included. Just for the month of October, Chef Michael Chew and his team has come up with several simple Taiwanese dishes to tempt diners who yearn for some simple tasty dishes in their meals.
Boiled Salted Duck
As much as rice is a staple item in the Taiwanese diet, congee plays an almost identical role as a main dish in a Taiwanese meal. To supplement rice and congee, all the 5 special Taiwanese dishes cooked up in Zuan Yuan are excellent accompaniments. Take the Boiled Salted Duck, for example. A whole duck has been submerged and boiled with water and spices under low flame to preserve the natural flavours of the fowl. Unlike the Teowchew style which uses dark soya sauce, the Taiwanese version does not, resulting in pale looking duck slices which nonetheless are very tasty. Dunk these into the 2 dips of chillies, garlic, ginger and lime and immediately the flavours flare up several notches.
On any Taiwanese menu, the 3 Cups Chicken is a resident item, for sure. The quaint history of this dish recites how 3 cups each of soya sauce, rice wine and sesame oil were placed in an earthenware pot with meat and simmered on low heat at dawn. By dusk, when people are back from work at the fields, the resultant dish would be a wonderfully aromatic stew that’s good to eat with either rice or congee. Here in Zuan Yuan, the chef uses bite-size succulent chicken thigh to cook this dish, with liberal addition of whole garlic, ginger and Thai basil leaves for that great aroma factor.
The Braised Beef Tenderloin with Bamboo Shoots is a great hit with us. The slices of beef were very tender, glistening with the thick delicious gravy coating them, with flavours coming from the bamboo shoots and mushrooms. I love the pieces of soft silken tofu added in the dish which had totally absorbed all the flavours of the beef and everything else!
Braised Beef Tenderloin with Bamboo Shoots
The use of fermented soybean paste is a “transfer of ideas” from the Japanese. Since learning the use of this nutritious flavoring from the Japanese, fermented soybean paste is a popular ingredient in many Chinese and Taiwanese dishes. The Oven-baked Codfish with Miso presented in Zuan Yuan is an example. However, I felt the use of the miso paste was a bit over-enthusiastic and this would be good to go with congee. Personally I prefer my codfish done with minimal strong flavoring in order to savour the natural sweetness of this delicate fish. The use of miso paste perhaps would have gone down better with a sturdier fish, like the mackerel maybe?
Oven-baked Codfish with Miso Sauce
Pan-fried Omelette with Dried Radish is a very common simple dish in most households and usually this is a must-have accompaniment to congee. It’s advisable to use the “sweet” dried radish, rather than the “salted” version so that your omelette doesn’t taste like a salted pancake!
Pan-fried Omelette with Dried Radish
So if you are hankering for some simple rustic Taiwanese dishes, head on over to Zuan Yuan now – the Taiwanese food promotion is on until 31 October 2012.
Prices of the dishes start from RM20.
For reservations, please call Zuan Yuan at 603 7681 1159.
Lunch 12.00 noon to 2.30 pm
Dinner 6.00 pm to 10.30 pm
Zuan Yuan Chinese Restaurant
One World Hotel
Bandar Utama City Centre
47800 Petaling Jaya