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Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Sometimes, the simple and uninteresting can be deceptively good.
I just came back from my biking and binging vacation in Taipei. Thankfully, we've stayed physically active during the trip otherwise, we would all have grown 1 or 2 dress size bigger. I am not exaggerating for we were eating something or other every hour of the day.
Taiwan, unlike China, does not have its definitive cuisine -e.g. Canton Cuisuine (粤菜）, Shanghainese Cuisine (泸菜), Sichuan Cuisine (川菜), Hunan Cuisine (湘菜), Teochew Cuisine (潮菜) etc... Hence, there isn't a distinctive Taiwanese Restaurant per se. Most restaurants in Taiwan serve one of the Main Cuisines from China. For example, the famous Ding Tai Feng is really a Shanghainese restaurant. Taiwan's gastronomic charms lie in their street food culture. Little snacks (小吃) and quick meals that are usually served in less glamourous settings. Simple and unpretentious stir-fry restaurants (小炒) that often do not even have a menu - where the cook will take the freshest ingredients available for the day and whip up a tasty dish without cracking their heads over recipes, flavour pairing or plating finesse...
A dish that I ate repeatedly over the last 4 days in Taipei is the Mee Sua (面線). Mee Sua (literally means thread noodle), most of us would know, is very thin, fine noodle. When cooked in soup, it takes on an almost congee like, smooth & slippery texture. It can be digested easily and hence is another favourite food for the sick, young and old. The most famous Mee Sua dish in Taiwan is undoubtedly the Oyster Mee Sua - cooked in a starchy flavourful broth and served with Pig Instestines and Oyster, this dish could most likely be the representative Taiwanese food.
Apart from the Oyster Mee Sua, I had also tasted 3 other types of Mee Sua when I was in Taiwan. 2 of which were dry noodles tossed in special dressing. The one that I am reproducing here is the Sesame Oil Mee Sua which I ate at a charming 'mud hut' stir-fry restaurant at Yangming Shan (Yangming mountain).
We were unimpressed by the bland looking noodles when it was placed in front of us but all fell in love with it when we tasted it. We finished the portion in a flash and had to place a second order.
Simple and unpretentious in taste, the wholesomeness of the noodles and fragrance of the sesame oil (use good quality sesame oil) was undescribably satisfying. So when I saw these hand made Mee Sua at the Airport Duty Free shop, I knew immediately that I had to get them.
Unlike the usual dried Mee Sua we find here in Singapore, these hand made versions are amazingly pliable and remind me of bundles of yarn used for weaving cloth. They look more like raw noodle than dried noodle.
I don't have a recipe to follow but simply tried my best to reproduce what I ate at Yangming Shan. Here goes.
Mee Sua 2 bundle (or enough to serve)
Chicken stock 1 - 2 cup
Salt To season
2 cloves garlic
1. Heat water in a heavy saucepan until boiling. Reduce heat so that water is not bubbling vigorously.
2. Put in Mee Sua and cook until the noodles is al dente (with a bite in the center of the noodle). Drain noodle.
3. Heat a wok until very hot. Add sesame oil and garlic (do not mince) and fry for a minute until fragrant.
4. Add chicken stock and cooked Mee Sua. Season with salt. Continue to simmer until chicken stock is almost dried up. Add sesame oil to coat noodle.
5. Dish out noodle and sprinkle with ground white sesame seed. Garnish with Parsely / coriander leaves.