Nov 20, 2020

Salt and Pepper Century Eggs 椒鹽皮蛋

Back in the days, there weren't that many food shows available, and through the ventures of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, which might be the most popular food show on TV at the time, we learnt many interesting ingredients used all around the world.

One episode was about century egg, or preserved egg, thousand-year egg. Its Darth Vader appearance might frighten some, but to me as a Taiwanese, century egg is like a finely condensed, flavor-packed egg with gooey center and jelly-like egg white. Actually, egg "black" to be exact. 


Salt and pepper century eggs 椒鹽皮蛋 -


Ingredients (for a small portion)?

  • 2 century eggs
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 1 red chili
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some corn starch


How?

You can enjoy century egg straight up, or serve alongside with other ingredients without further cooking it. However, this time I'm going to stir-fry some salty, spicy, and garlicky seasonings to go with the eggs. Once cooked with such heavy aromatics, that distinct taste gets diluted. Also in exchange, the eggs are soaked in the flavors from garlics, scallion, and chilies. One might be scared of century egg's original form, but this Chinese flavor-kicking version, can change your perspective once and for all.


The century eggs I've got here were still with shells attached. So I bring a medium pot of water to a boil and cook the whole eggs, to help further harden the shape. About 5 minutes. Once ready, drain and set aside until cool enough to handle by hand. Peel off the shells and slice each egg into four even pieces.

Dust the eggs with corn starch.

Destem the scallion and finely chop the remaining section. Destem the red chili and give it a fine chop too. Peel and chop the garlic cloves.


Use a non-stick pan, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil or other light flavored oil. Turn to medium high heat and wait till the surface warms up. Add in the eggs and sear till slightly hardened on the sides. Remove and set aside for later use. You can place the eggs on top of a kitchen towel to soak up excess oil, but not necessary.

Use the same pan, add in scallion, red chili, and garlics. Cook for about 30 seconds, make sure not to burn the garlic. Transfer the eggs back along with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. Give it a quick mix and plate to serve.


It's a fairly small portion recipe, but I was just cooking for myself. I know even the cooked version tastes better than straight-up century egg, but Mister at home still not a fan of it. I love it though. 

Just double up the ingredients if cooking 4 eggs, but watch out on the amount of salt and black pepper. Better go easy on the seasonings first. Add more if needed after tasting the mixture.


Also don't be afraid of using more scallion, garlics, and red chilies if you can handle the heat. The more the merrier. In fact, these cooked aromatics might be even more addicting compare to the eggs, totally stole the spotlight there.


Other Asian egg recipes:


Nov 14, 2020

A Plateful of Tangy Goodness - Thai Seafood Salad 泰式涼拌沙拉

Were you amazed by all the flavors going on in a "salad" when first having a Thai seafood salad? Sweet, sour, spicy, and savory, so many good things happening in that one single serving, converting you to become a salad lover, no longer treating a plate of cold veggies as a boring, healthy-oriented only dish.

With all that seasonings going on, one might think that Thai salad can be hard to recreate at home. Well, it's true that getting all the Asian ingredients can be a hassle, but once you've already stock all the necessities, actually putting together the salad can be done fairly quickly. The best part is that you can even prep the dressing and the ingredients first, then put together when the party is about to start, making quite an impression on your guests.


Thai seafood salad -


Ingredients?

  • 170 grams shrimps (peeled, deveined)
  • 190 grams squid
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 1/4 purple onion
  • 2 to 3 red chilies (preferably bird's eye chili)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 fresh kaffir lime leaves (can be substitute with dried version)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh lemongrass
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Thai chili paste nam prik pao (can be substitute with Thai sweet chili sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar


How?

Peel and devein the shrimps. Cut the squid into rings or smaller chunks. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and transfer the shrimps and squid over for a quick dip. Wait till fully cooked through, should be fast, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Don't even bother to lower the heat with such fast cooking time. Once ready, drain and set aside to cool down.

Peel and thinly slice the onion. Peel and chop the garlic cloves. Destem and finely chop the red chilies. Peel and finely chop the shallots. Chop the mint, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. Squeeze some fresh lime juice.


Use a big mixing bowl, add in the lime juice, fish sauce, chili sauce, and sugar, mix till incorporated. 

Mix in all the other prepped ingredients, also cooked shrimps and squid towards the end. Taste and see if need more seasonings per your own preference. Toss and serve. 

I only used shrimps and squid here, but there are variations. Fish chunks, mussels, even crab lumps can be added to Thai seafood salad.

When writing up this recipe, I came to an idea that perhaps I should at least try to understand the true, authentic name of Thai seafood salad, in Thai script. So I googled it, something like this showed up "ยำทะเลไทย," and it supposed to mean Thai seafood salad? 


Well, well, that's really something I cannot understand at all, not even a bit. People always say that Chinese is the most difficult language to learn, but since I grew up with it, from my perspective, Thai script is like artsy drawings from another world. As for now, I'll put the Thai script aside, and continue to learn more about Thai culture through food, in a much more relaxed and appetizing way.


Other salad recipes:


Nov 8, 2020

Molino de Urdániz Taipei 2020 Fall Menu - Bold Presentation that Challenges the Local Taste

Is it just me or some of you feel the same way, that someone or something has been watching you and tracking what has been browsed over the internet. More specifically, I meant social media like Facebook and Instagram. 

From the moment I booked a weekend table at Molino de Urdániz Taipei, I've started seeing other people's reviews, blogs, and YouTube videos popping up on my social media. Not that I worry about my security, but more so I do not want to see too much or know too much before my long anticipated meal. 

Usually I only look at the restaurant's Facebook page or website just to get an idea of what kind of food they serve, ambience, price range, etc. Then I decide whether or not the place seems to be worth trying per my preference. I'd like to keep it as a surprise, a whole new venture when I actually dine there, without other people's feelings or thoughts that might interfere my experience.

So I tried very hard not to look at those "recommended" or "sponsored" info, but it's impossible to escape them all. Sometimes images or the headings just pop right in front of my eyes. There was no time to click to another page or swipe down to something else. Reluctantly, I learnt that many locals who dined at Molino de Urdániz weren't too happy about their meals. Something about the portions, textures, and presentations. 

I have to admit that I did get affected by these comments, pre-assuming that I might walk out of the restaurant still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. No worries, I came up with a backup plan that I'll get a fried chicken snack after a full-on dinner. Saying that as my plan, more so just because I got greedy.

Ended up I didn't get a fried snack in the end, but I did finish a large boba tea in the afternoon, before my fancy dinner. Boba might be filling for some, but should be alright with me, these tiny chewing things won't even make a dent on my appetite.

Let's just shake that greedy thought out, try to reset myself as a plain white paper. Trying not to get affected by neither mine or other people's dining experiences, also trying to enjoy the meal without any stereotypical mind.

Molino de Urdániz Taipei is located at a boutique hotel called MVSA. On top of this hotel's modern and delicate decor, I think it's also trying to turn food and wine as its selling edge. Co-branding with seven wineries from six countries, and now also crowned with a Michelin starred restaurant Molino de Urdániz. The original Molino de Urdániz is currently a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain, and the one in Taipei is their only oversea branch. 

It's obvious that Hotel MVSA put a lot of effort building a food and wine sanctuary. If someone is looking for a fine getaway filled with top selected dining experience, MVSA is the place to go.

You can find these co-branded winery names showing on their signage outside the hotel. Just to name a few, Gramona, Peter Mertes, S.A. Prüm, and Kimibandai with its proclaimed Japanese sake. 

It would be a shame to skip the wine pairing, but I just wasn't feel like it that night. One or the most two glasses is enough. Surprisingly, they offer two single glass riesling varieties, my favorite type of wine, and it can be a rare scene in Taiwan to have a few riesling on the list since it is not as popular compared to Europe. I should be happy enough to skip the pairing and solely dived in to my beloved riesling.


Without a second thought, I got a glass of Prüm Riesling Kabinett Feinherb, Germany 2016.

Remember don't drink and drive. The best thing about Taipei is that we actually "walked" to Molino de Urdániz from our place.

Mister chose Gramona La Maca Macabeu, Spain 2019 to start off the night.


Bread came first, and they'll keep refilling with the same kind of bread throughout the night. So don't even rush to finish it, perhaps use the bread and eat with the courses coming along. Some sauce and pickles actually worked really well with the bread.

I would like to translate the names and ingredients used to English, but the menu we saw earlier only had Chinese and Spanish on it. So basically I'll copy exactly what was on the menu, but explain a little in English in the description.


CARAMELO DE PIMENTÓN RELLENO DE MOUSSE DE TXISTORRA -

"Adaptación del embutido a nuestra cocina"


Txistorra, also known as chistorra, can be considered as a type of chorizo but with faster curing time.  It's also a popular sausage in the Navarra region of Spain, where the original, the main Molino de Urdániz resides.

Turning txistorra into mousse and encased in a super thin sugary coating. "You have to eat it fast," our waiter said. Especially with the humidity in Taipei, it'll quickly absorb any moisture in the air, turn soft, and become hard to handle by hand.


Quickly snapped two images then I picked up the txistorra roll, a creamy yet meaty sausage aroma surfaced. Slightly spicy too, but then soon pushed down with a touch of sweet note from paper-thin glass-like wrapper. A gentle kick to stimulate the palate.

 

PEPINO ENCURTIDO Y ALIÑO DE HIERBAS -

"Pepino osmotizado, crema de ostras, hierbas y notas lácteas"


The spicy and sweet notes were the two outspoken flavors from the previous course. Now the sweetness continues, with the addition of sourness to further brighten up the senses.

Cylinder-shaped slices are rice vinegar pickled cucumbers, and the mini spheres around are made with oysters and cheese. The spheres tasted somewhat reminiscent of aged Parmigiano Reggiano plus gorgonzola. Kind of fun thinking about it, that both the oysters and gorgonzola share similar umami traits.


The green herbal sauce was also mixed with oyster. Taking every component in one bite, including the fresh herb on top, which can kick in a tiny bit of bitter note to the mixture, really prolonging the flavors linger in mouth. So strong, especially with that high acidity from the pickled cucumber, but without any sharp edges that might cause any fatigue or unpleasant lingering effect.


CREMA DE LÁCTEOS Y LICUDAO DE CINCO HIERBAS -

"Guiso de tapioca"

Have you ever had a coconut milk dessert with tiny pearls at a Thai restaurant? That's sago. Usually boiled with water, but here at Molino de Urdániz, sago was cooked with mussels. However, I can't really relate to mussels if our waiter didn't inform us prior, more so I found mussels by mixing all other elements on the plate.

And it's pretty good to wipe clean this course with some bread. 


SALMON MARINADO Y ZANAHORIA -

"Licuado de zanahoria, aciete de henebro y cilantro"

The description in Spanish didn't say at all, but see how they named this dish in Chinese, it's called "the coral." Lightly pickled orange salmon with green herbal and cilantro oil drops, two beautiful color contrast happening there. And the chefs are trying to bring the customers to the Spanish shoreline via this dish.

ROYAL DE SALAZONES AHUMADOS -

"Verduras y licuado vegetal"

Then from the ocean, this course draw us inside to the land of Spain. It's actually a very comforting dish, mostly due to the milky egg sauce on the bottom. But describing it as a sauce can be misleading, the texture more so resembles a grainy steamed egg, custard-like so to speak. Got that warmth and hearty touch to it, further infusing its well-rounded texture to the rather cold-looking vegetables "growing" on top.


QUINOA ESTOFADA CON MISO -

"Crema untuosa de erizos y langostino"


The main sauce used here were made with sea urchin and shrimp eggs, imagine the level of umami packed there. The orange sphere is not the commonly seen ikura, or salmon roe, but made with trout roe instead. The texture is slightly harder, and require some pressure to make it burst in mouth.

I prefer having quinoa, trout roe, and the sauce together, feeling that with such character, it needs heartier ingredients to withstand the flavors from the sauce. The soft shrimp was mainly there to boost up the umami level.


TALLOS DE PUERRO -

"Bañadoes en una infusion picante de mejillones y calamar"


Have to admire the sweetness from this dish, not the kind seasoned with lots of sugar, but rather through the essence of these ingredients. Further enhanced their own natural sweetness with cooking and compliment of another flavor profile. 


Leek, scallops, perhaps the slightly Cantonese-like seafood stock helped magnify the sweet taste. This dish is the perfect example showcasing what a good chef can do, not only letting these quality ingredients shine, but through their techniques, exposing even greater potentials to another realm.


FOIE -

"Hígado de pato asado y remolacha"

There was an almost real life sized painting leaning against the wall, and we can see it from our table. It was a flamenco dancer in her passionate red dress. So the moment this FOIE course was presented, I can immediately relate that with an picture of flamenco.

Beets were made into a thin gelée, gently embracing the duck liver like a cozy blanket. The duck liver was soaked in milk first, so the texture is even more tender compared to the other common way of cooking foie by direct sear on the stove. An impact on the visual presentation, yet so creamy and velvety in the mouth. 


MANO CERDO -

"Cebolla roja encurtida y soja fermentada"


Gelatinous pig hand course paired with pickled red onion. If you ever had Asian braised pork knuckle, it's somewhat similar but in a much more condensed way. The best part are those tiny round bits on the edge of the mano cerdo. It feels like these darkened bits have been in direct contact of heat so the flavor was further concentrated with slightly crunchy bite to it.

With such strong tasting dish, it's good to have some refreshing pickles on the side to balance that sticky collagen-packed mano cerdo. But few sips of UMBERTO FIORE Nebbiolo d'Alba, Italy 2014 helps too.


LUBINA -

"Polvo de lubina, crema y aire de humo"


And this, might be the course that received the most controversy here in Taipei. With a glance, who would have thought that this is a dish made with sea bass?

Put that aside, it was also a cold dish. Fish in powdered form plus it wasn't even hot or warm, can generate a lot of question marks on the heads of local diners. Personally speaking, I think when coming to a restaurant like Molino de Urdániz, some pre-assumptions and stereotypical thoughts should be put aside first. The best dining experience happens when you come here like a plain white paper, open to all ideas, familiar or distant. 

I really enjoyed this course myself, it was fun, and actually taste great. Without actually seeing the fish in chunky form won't hurt a bit of my feelings. On top of that, who said that a fish must served hot? The interesting part is that by simply tasting the white powder itself, it can be hard to relate to sea bass, but when mixing all the elements together, when that pink beet cream reveals, quickly take a bite, together with all your senses, the flavor, the smell, the picture of sea bass emerged again. Elegant and fun at the same time, if you don't let your past experience stand in the way.


CORDERO LECHAL ASADO -

"Emulsión de hierbas, avellanas y cebolla asad"

Burdock root was used here. Together with hazelnut, adding more earthy touch to the meal.


CREMA HELADA DE AVELLANA Y HELADO DE LAVANDA -

Dessert made with lavender and hazelnut. Lavender can be a challenge to me since I've had way too many soapy dessert made with lavender from the past. But this one, oh my, hands down by far my best lavender-infused dessert.

That distinct scent from lavender was only like a blow of gentle afternoon breeze. So when the freeze-dried hazelnut chocolate bits in contact with the warmth of my mouth, together with the ice cream, everything just softly melted on top of my tongue. The scents seemed just tag along with my breadth, permeating from the inside out. Not intruding at all, but rather gentle as feather, slowly relaxing the senses with a floral sweet touch.


More desserts to come that were not listed on the menu.

So the following plate brought us back to the mountain and sea of Spain. Beautiful isn't it?

Just like a cliff by the ocean, especially when you stick your head right in front of it, magnifying this tiny corner on the plate through your eyes. Made with pine nut ice cream, seaweed powder, and caviar, it's more so a sweet and savory type of dessert. The best part is that if you dig in with some imagination, it can really lead you to the beach, that ocean smell, sweet yet earthy scent with a touch of saltiness like sea water.

Stout ice cream and milk skin -

That wood-like layer is made with milk skin. When heating up the milk, the thin film of protein forms on top, so take that and sear with sugar, then you get something reminiscent the flavors of sweetened brioche.

The ice cream no longer contains any alcohol, but rather a hint of bitter note from the beer. Pair these two together, it's a type of dessert that adult would like, but I'd say kids will fall for it too.


Fruity cookie, strawberry marshmallow, chocolate truffle -

Also a cup of hot tea to draw and end to the meal. 


The locals have 50/50 reviews about Molino de Urdániz Taipei. Per my opinion, I think some of the ideas can be too new, too avant-garde to some. Also some customers are expecting a meatier bite, so the artsy and beautiful presentations here can be hard to grasp, even further translated as just putting on a show. 


It takes time, for diners, more so different culture base to grow acceptance to such type of cuisine. However, it shouldn't be that hard in a way too. Don't overcomplicate a meal. I can't emphasize it enough, come like a plain white paper and just take on the journey with the chefs, it'll be fun, that I can assure. At least I had a great time venturing through the sea and land via these creative plates.


Molino de Urdániz Taipei currently holds one Michelin star status.


Molino de Urdániz Taipei

No.61, Section 1, Jianguo North Road, Zhongshan District

Taipei 10491,Taiwan

+886 2 2500 6770

Facebook (Taiwan): https://www.facebook.com/molinodeurdaniz

Hotel MVSA website: https://hotelmvsa.com/en/dining/molino-de-urdaniz/

Restaurant website (Spain): https://elmolinourdaniz.com/en/


Opening hours: 

Breakfast 7:00 a.m. ~ 10:30 a.m. (last order 10:00) 

Lunch 11:30 a.m. ~2:30 p.m. (last order 13:30) 

Dinner 6:00 p.m. ~ 10:00 p.m. (last order 20:30)