May 30, 2018

Umami Burst - Braised Abalone with Bok Choy

After opening canned ingredients, what do you do with the juice inside? Keep it? Or drain it? There's no absolute answer for me, but what I'm used to do is that for canned corn kernels, I drain out all the juice before use. Chopped tomatoes, depending on the dish, I'll use the juice or loosely drain out the liquid. However, for expensive canned abalone, I make sure no juice goes to waste, its pale juice can make or break my braised abalone recipe.

Braised abalone with bok choy -


  • 1 can/425 grams ready to eat abalone (about 2 medium abalones inside with about 1 cup of juice)
  • 5 bok choy
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Some corn starch and water mixture


Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Remove any tough outer layer and grate the ginger. Trim off tougher base and separate bok choy into individual leaves. If using baby bok choy, just use the whole bok choy and no need to break the leaves apart.

Take the abalones out from the can and pour the juice to a container. Slice the abalones then soak in their own liquid until needed.

Prepare a pot or deep pan, drizzle some olive oil to evenly coat the bottom and add in chopped garlic, grated ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to medium high heat and wait till aromatic but not burning the garlics.

Pour in about 1 cup of abalone juice, 1 cup of chicken stock, and oyster sauce. Also transfer bok choy over and bring the whole thing to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer and continue to cook till bok choy softens. Juice should reduce a bit during the process.

Lower the heat furthermore and pour in the corn starch/water mixture while gently stirring the mixture at the same time. Once the stock thickens with texture similar to soupier chowder, add in sliced abalone and cook till abalone warms up, about 1 minute.

Serve as it is, or plate the veggies first then arrange the abalone over, then finish with gooey umami-packed juice all over.

This recipe used much more juice than needed because I don't want to waste any of that umami liquid. Plus I can just generously scoop all that flavorful juice over steamed rice to munch on. However, you can cut the abalone juice and chicken stock by half with lesser amount of oyster sauce to turn it into a slightly juicy side dish instead.

May 25, 2018

Longtail - Where You Get the Best of Both Worlds

Not just some kind of fancy joint where you get a few savory snacks to munch on with pretty looking cocktails on the side. Longtail is the true deal here, both on the plates and in the glasses.

Recently crowned with one Michelin star fame, at first I thought about Longtail as a trendy place to enjoy some bistro-like dishes. In fact, it was more than that. The culinary team's multi-national influence not only reflects on savory cuisine, but also shown on drinks. Cocktails with their own twists, Longtail can also be a modern yet cozy place to share a few drinks.

Its transition from restaurant to bar filled with trendy people as time crawls deeper into the night. Little chick chat in the corner, some men's talk by the bar, or laughter coming from the back of the room. People seemed to enjoy this place, whether restaurant or bar, put the food and drinks aside first, I think partly thanks to Longtail's overall vibe.

Not exactly a spacious location, but it was cozy and not crowded with cramped tables at all. But in a way still close enough to get some of that intimacy, especially after the night falls. 

There were leather cushioned seats by the window, bar stools for a closer look at bartender's mesmerizing movement. How about large group of friends? Find yourself a semi-private area in the very back. No matter what the purpose is, Longtail seemed to have a sweet spot for everyone.

As for me, it was a casual celebration dinner with Mister. So our table by the window with one side fitted with wide cushioned sofa was the perfect fit for us.

Menu -

English menu -

On top of a la carte, Longtail currently offers two set menus, one priced around $62 USD and the other around $96 USD -

Drink menu -

As mentioned earlier, Longtail is more than just a fine dining restaurant. If you ever come to this place, just skip the wine and hard liquor, go ahead and give their cocktails a try. Ask for recommendations if uncertain, some varieties actually goes really well with savory dishes.

The list goes on, but here are two pages from the drink menu to provide some idea about Longtail's cocktail offerings.

Pandan mojito -

"Pandan infused rum, pineapple purée, agave syrup, mint"

Being a fan of mojito, I have to try it when seeing interesting flavors on the menu, especially it was my first encounter with pandan flavored mojito. That distinct Southeast Asian scent wasn't prevalent at first, but soon that familiar herbal and coconuty aroma emerged. Comforting drink with an exotic twist. 

Lost in translation -

"Shiso infused rum, green tea umeshu, cucumber bitters, chili powder"

All these ingredients sounded like a petite Japanese appetizer at first, but presented in a cocktail form. Even though not mentioned as one of the ingredients, the drink was actually dominant by citrus aroma. The chili powder on the rim was like a tiny touch on the lips, caused no harm on the tongue but rather appealing to the eye.

Was it me or the drink, what's that fuzzy feeling, was I buzzed? So soon? Only first round of drinks.

Soon the first starter came to a rescue -

"Uni, crispy nori rice, ponzu, shiso"

Buzzed still, but my ability to savor the food remained sharp. The foam tasted like kombu dashi, but light and airy. Just a slight touch on top of creamy uni. Once taken a full bite, umami from the foam and the uni filled my entire mouth. But not the explosion kind, but rather gentle and smooth. A brush of yuzu aroma shined through in the end, surprisingly matched so well with earlier lost in translation cocktail.

"Fig toast, ricotta cheese, port wine, lemon balm" -

Brioche was toasted to perfection. Aroma was intensified on those slightly burnt edges, simple but so satisfying. Nothing fancy or extravaganza, but with just the right touch, simple elements can reach such great heights. 

I was wondering where's the ricotta cheese, only till I scooped everything into one bite I realized that the edge of the plate was actually rimmed with a smooth layer of cheese. The port wine sauce came with a hint of cinnamon. Perhaps I was wrong, but that scent was gentle and not over-powering. In a way, the sauce provided certain degree of warmth to the dish.

Truly a simply but well-constructed dish.

My pandan mojito was served with a paper straw, a kind gesture to the environment. Just when the straw was about to collapse, a hint telling the customer to speed up, it did take me a while to sip on, another hint popped up on the coaster saying "one more?"

Yes, I'll take another one please.

If I passed out later during the night, it's all your fault (point up).

Before my second drink arrived, let me stock up with more food first, such a weak drinker (drink responsibly please, and don't drink and drive).

"Crunchy soft shell crab, salted egg yolk, curry leaf"

If you ever had shrimp crackers, those colorful crunchy airy cookies sometimes served as a side at a Thai restaurant, Mister described this dish like highly intensified shrimp crackers.

Saltier compared to other dishes, but went really well with alcoholic beverages. The sauce hidden in the center also got some acid kick, which balanced off the fried coating in a way.

"Fried chicken, sweet potato, piri piri" -

That orange sauce in the center, the "piri piri" actually tasted like a mixture of Tabasco and Korean Shin ramen. Not just spicy, but also got some savory notes. The pale yellow sauce further into the center was mainly creamy sweet potato purée. These two contrasting flavor complimented one another. Just go with your preference, dipped more orange sauce for a stronger kick, or opted for a smooth sensation with yellow sweet potato.

Chicken itself was fried to perfection, just look at the picture yourself, so juicy. In fact, I could live with this fried chicken alone without the sauce.

Where's my drink?

"Japanese wagyu steak (A5), gochujang glaze, turnip, mint" -

Let's talk about the side first, the turnips were cooked in katsuo broth, so they got a little umami hidden inside. As for the marbled beef itself, rarely seen such heavy seasoning used on wagyu beef. But it was mostly a gentle brush of Korean elements on the surface. A slight touch that went a long way.

High fat content with heavy seasoning, but the portion was right, a couple bite for me and Mister, so in the end the steak brought our sensation to the high point without growing tired of it. All our senses stayed at the peak.

My second cocktail arrived when the steak got to our table, auga de Formosa -

"Hibiscus infused vodka, peach purée, passion fruit syrup, smoked plum"

Looked much like fresh watermelon juice, with a few sips, my mouth was filled with woody smoky aroma. From there, a deep colored stone fruit sweetness leaked through. Highly intensified cocktail, came just in time for my heavy seasoning steak.

A couple's celebration dinner cannot be complete without dessert -

"Chocolate fondant, lime, green tea ice cream"

There was yogurt sauce in the center, but when cutting through the chocolate fondant, yogurt lava flew through. The use of green tea ice cream worked even better compared to the usual vanilla ice cream. Instead of piling up the usual elements on top of one another, the minimal tannic tea can further cutting through the rich chocolate. Still creamy and luscious, but in a much more elegant way.

Sweets craving satisfied.

Still buzzed when walking out Longtail, but my guts telling me we came to the right place for a celebration dinner. Food was great, cocktails were awesome, not mentioning the buzz came after. Truly the place to find best of both worlds. 

Longtail currently holds one Michelin star status

No. 174, Section 2, Dunhua S. Road, Da’an District
Taipei, Taiwan
+886 2 2732 6616
Official website:

Opening hours:

Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday 6 p.m. ~ 2 a.m.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 6 p.m. ~ 3 a.m.
Tuesday off

*Reservation can be made up 2 months in advance

Other Michelin restaurants in Taipei:

May 20, 2018

Green Is Good for You - Pandan Madeleines

Have you ever noticed greenish colored pastries at the airport when traveling to south east Asian countries? It's not artificial coloring, but the juice/extract from pandan leaves. 

Taste-wise, it's like a gentle mix between fresh mint and creamy coconut milk, in a much lighter extent of course. Once you tried it, you'll know right away in the future when something was added with pandan element. 

Even in Taiwan, so close to its origins, fresh pandan leaves can still be very hard to come by. Glad I still have one bottle of gooey pandan extract at home. It works similar to vanilla extract, a few drops to the batter to bring back that comforting aroma.

Pandan madeleines -

Ingredients (about 12 to 15 pieces)?

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 110 grams unsalted butter (plus more for brushing onto the mold)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon pandan extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/176 degrees Celsius. Melt the butter and brush some onto the madeleine mold. Dust the mold with flour then set aside for later use. 

Prepare a big bowl and sift in flour, salt, and baking powder. 

In a mixer, beat together two eggs and sugar till thickens. Add in vanilla extract, pandan extract, coconut milk, and 110 grams of melted butter. Beat till smooth.

Gently pour in the sifted powder mixture and blend again till just about incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.

Scoop the batter to the madeleine mold and into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Or till the edges turn slightly browned.

The batter might appear too watery during the early stage in the oven due to melted butter, but don't worry, just give it some time. Once ready, remove the entire mold from heat and let it cool for few minutes. Carefully transfer the madeleines to a cooling rack and wait till completely cool down. 

It's hard not to eat one or two madeleines while still cooling down. I get it, I ate two myself despite this recipes only yields about a dozen madeleines. Guess just fewer pieces left for the family. But hey, I was the one who did all the work, no judging. 

May 14, 2018

Taïrroir (態芮), Where You Find Seamless Marriage Between Taiwan and the Western World

Taiwanese pineapple cake, one of the popular pastries from Taiwan, it was also the dessert that first caught my attention about Taïrroir. 

Don't get me wrong, Taïrroir is no pastry shop. In fact, it just got its first Michelin star this year. I came across a video about Taïrroir's own interpretation of Taiwanese pineapple cake long before the star fame. Watching the pastry that I grew up with transformed into something resemblance of a petite art piece inside a French patisserie. So many layers of delicate work went behind the supposed simple pastry. Such detailed attention on a small piece of dessert, their savory dishes can be something worth looking into also, I thought. 

But soon my craving was overwhelmed by chores and other temptations. What can I say, my desire went from one place to another and somehow forgot to settle on Taïrroir. Until the Michelin news took over every headline in Taipei back in March, then my memory about that pineapple cake surfaced. It's time to make a reservation, no more delays.

It was a weekday lunch. Reservation didn't come easily after the Michelin fame. My table was booked bout 20 days beforehand. Consider it as good news, since this type of fine dining restaurant rarely gets full booking during weekdays, especially for lunch, so in a way Michelin did help in sustaining the business.

Located on the 6th floor inside a business building. There are many other fine dining restaurants close by, crowned with stars too. Not vastly spacious or grand, but cozy and comforting in a way, perhaps that ample natural lighting has something to do with it.

Our table -

Lunch menu comes in two different price sets, around $55 USD for the Yang Chun set and about $87 USD for the Pon Pai set. Additional egg dish can be added for around $13 USD. Wine pairings available. We picked the smaller portion Yang Chun set and added the egg dish.

In fact, before the Michelin wave, there were so many bistro-like restaurants sprouting in Taiwan that emphasize on the mixture between east and west. More specifically, between Taiwan and the western world. The market grew competitive and it was hard to stand out and be noticed. Few Taiwanese ingredients infused in the dish, or a touch of Asian seasonings blended in the sauce. For a moment, these places all seemed the same to me. 

So thanks to that video about Taïrroir's pineapple cake, I saw something different, a true marriage between east and west. Not just on the surface, but deep down intertwined together. It can be good. It has to be good.

But one thing Taiwan's not yet quite caught up to is the use of local filtered water. I can say at this moment nearly all fine dining places here only serve imported water. Hope that'll change one day, when restaurants start offering filtered water as an option.

Bread from local bakery Wu Pao-chun, one plain and the other kind with dried fruits -

Wu Pao-chun is one of the most important people who raised public awareness about bread quality in Taiwan. Back in 2010, he entered the Bakery Masters competition that was held in Paris and won the title of Master Baker. Since then, the local bakery scene became more vibrant and lively. 

Served with butter and salt flakes.

"Taitung pacific ocean bonito nigiri Qu-Shi, broccoli, salted egg" -

Looked like Japanese nigiri, but flavor-wise closer to Asian version of fish carpaccio. A hit of torched aroma was the first impression, soon followed by sourish and savory notes, especially a slight kick from gingery soy sauce. A fine example of east and west grown onto one another. Not one element out-shining another, but sung in harmony.

"Cabbage potage, sakura shrimp, pan-fried bun" - 

Don't mistake that green powder on top as seaweed or some type of vegetable. I was surprised that those were actually sakura shrimp powder, supposedly pinkish red sakura shrimps. 

The waitress explained that there were sourish element below so the sakura shrimp powder on top changed from red to green due to chemical reaction.

Mixed the upper red cabbage together with lower white cabbage and drank as a whole. Just like potage, thick but frothy, felt like every sip was coated with creamy fat, and then from there a slight sourness aroma came through. 
As for pan-fried bun, just a normal pan-fried bun.

"Pu'er tea silkie egg, congee, sweet potato fondant, buckwheat tuile" -

It's hard to tell by looking at the English menu, but in Chinese, each course was captioned with an interesting name, like a pun or memories about Taiwan. Native Taiwanese or someone who know the culture well can further relate to each course. It's not just a fancy name, but the chef really projected the meaning behind a funny little pun into every dish. So well integrated, by far might be the best presentation between the concept of Taiwanese memory and the actual dish I have even seen.

Take this egg dish for instance. The direct translation of the dish's name is "memories from rest area." Rest area here means the ones you see on the freeway. Here's a little background knowledge. Whole boiled egg is one of the most common savory snacks from such rest area in Taiwan. So the chef took that memory and remade the dish with his own touch.

On buckwheat tuile, you can find bits of fermented soybean tofu, olives, etc. And the sauce poured tableside was rice porridge. Porridge is another comfort food found throughout Taiwan. So ingredients and skill-wise, you got a touch of both worlds here and there. I'd never thought that olives can work so well with Chinese porridge, not mentioning fermented soybean tofu. And then there's contrasting texture, the crunchy tuile and the creamy, condensed egg yolk. The potato cubes on the bottom were seared with chicken broth, creating a thin fine crunchy coating on all sides.

Delicate, fancy, almost an art piece, but yet so familiar and comforting at the same time.

As for entrée, we chose one fish and the other one duck.

"Les poisson du jour, Tainan #4 green asparagus, orange sabayon, sauce bordelaise" -

Fish of the day was black spot snapper. Seared then finished cooking by steaming. It was juicy, but overall the snapper was merely a good dish but not something that'll make a mark in my memory.

"Pingtung duck, hibiscus celery, shishito-hoisin, flat pancake" -

If you ever had Peking duck, this is basically the same dish but in a western form. Usually you would take a flat pancake to wrap the crunchy duck skin. Here, that pancake was already blended with Taïrroir's own version of dipping sauce and brushed on the plate. The duck itself was tender and you can really felt the juice locked in the tissue. Few chews to prove my point. Great texture, especially it's the dryer harder to tackle breast part. 

Really enjoyed the duck main dish. A high dose of sweet and savory seasonings but not clinging at all. This one definitely made a small dent in my memory.

Sorbet to cleanse the palate -

Kumquat, sugar flakes, and tea jelly. The use of citrus to freshen up the palate is not uncommon. But to incorporate tea element into the mixture, it was a total leveled up. That gentle tea scent balanced the sour and sweet ingredients, also provided more depth and filled my mouth with that elegant touch.

We asked the waitress to bring up the tea and latte first -

Little detail on the plate -

"Taro crémeux, parfait, dark brown sugar sago, tart, Bailey's ice cream" -

Never a big fan of taro, but this one I can do.

Overall a very gentle dessert. Nothing too sweet or taking over the spotlight. It only got a slight hint of distinct taro aroma. In addition, other creamy elements further rounded out the taro scent that I didn't care for before. Just the right amount, just the right touch, and I was converted. 

Then sweeter ending came up, buttery cookies with lavender and Jin Xuan tea. Again, never a big fan of lavender, but it seemed like Taïrroir can always pull out the right amount of aroma to flavor the dessert without overpowering other elements. I can totally ask for more of these yummy petite cookies.

What I've experienced at Taïrroir, the one thing that I would tell my friend if they ask me about it, is their seamless marriage between Taiwan and the western world. Sure, there are many other places that do the same thing here, but no one have done it so naturally. These courses were like they were born this way, there's so such thing as "Taiwanese" or "western." The food I had was just the way they should be.

Lunch seemed like a prelude, and there's more to see. I'll be back again for the entire piece. 

Taïrroir (態芮) currently holds one Michelin star status.

Taïrroir (態芮)

6F., No.299, Lequn 3rd Rd., Zhongshan Dist.
Taipei, Taiwan
011 886 2 8501 5500
Official website:

*Reservation by phone only available from 3 p.m. ~ 5 p.m. during opening days

Opening hours:

Monday, Wednesday to Sunday (Tuesday off)
12:00 noon ~ 2:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. ~ 10:30 p.m.

Extended reading: