Saturday, August 4, 2012

Just Food. and Milk Tea.

Back to the same district in Central that we first went to all those weeks ago...
 To an unassuming hole in the wall on the side of a steeply inclined back road.

We were given a starting appetizer plate of marinated cucumber, crab roe, and jellyfish:
 followed by a crab roe, crab meat, and cucumber salad.
Salmon sushi.  With two giant mounds of freshly grated wasabi on the sides.  Apparently, it's a lot easier to get here, and the fresh stuff really does have a nuance to it that doesn't come from the manufactured paste.
The assorted sushi plate: from left to right, shrimp, salmon, scallop, six cucumber rolls, more salmon, some unknown fish, and toro.
Beef "rolls" stuffed with various veggies and fungi were also served.
 There was this plate of toro two ways - raw, and lightly seared.
 And finally, yakitori made from minced chicken and cartilage.
The meal was good, but there were a few subtle things that made it a somewhat less enjoyable experience than the ones I had at Zen in Toronto - the rice was a bit overcooked and mushy, and the toro did not melt in the mouth quite as well, and seemed to lack the delicate fishy taste.  Of course, when you're having omakase, you notice the details a lot better...

All the roads in this part of Central are narrow, side streets:

and on one of them is this place:
 specializing in egg tarts.  Again.
These tarts are different from the norm in that they use a shortcake crust instead of a flaky puff pastry crust. It kind of crumbles in your mouth instead of melting.  The egg in the custard was very pronounced, and the whole product was very well made (and sold for the normal, "street price" of $5!), but I guess I'm too used to the flaky crust.

Down the street was this place:
 Which specialized in Hong Kong style milk tea.
 I don't think I ever explained the tea culture in this city properly.  Milk tea, as drunk here, is another colonial vestige, born out of the local Chinese seeing their British colonists drink their tea with milk, something that the Chinese, with a proper appreciation for the nuances of their fine teas, would never do.  For some odd reason, when they emulated these British, they started using evaporated milk instead of ordinary milk, giving the drink a much richer, creamier taste.  For some other odd reason, for this concoction, they only used the strongest tea from the other British colony of Sri Lanka, and not any local varieties of tea.  I suspect that is because they were too used to drinking those teas black.

The end result is a tea that is very strong, yet not too bitter, as the sugar in the evaporated milk counteracts the bitterness from the Ceylon tea.  It has a very distinctive dairy smell from the partial curdling of the milk, and a very astringent mouthfeel from the strength of the tea.  For anybody who is not a local, it is most definitely an acquired taste.  But perhaps the strangest thing about this tea is how they make it, steeping it in a pot for a couple of minutes before straining the milk/tea blend through this:
Yeah, that really does look like pantyhose, doesn't it?  They say it isn't, that it's some special fabric used to make the tea especially smooth and creamy, but this traditional way of making milk tea has become known in local parlance as "silk stocking milk tea" (絲襪奶茶)

Tomorrow, we go to Ocean Park, then spend five days in and around Taipei.  Stay tuned!

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