blue eye dragon
Taiwanese Cooking – Jade & Muriel Chan
A book review by Franz Scheurer
Taiwan is the mixing pot of Chinese food from all over China with strong Japanese influences. The food of Taiwan is more flavour driven as it evolved from the food of street vendors rather than lavish banquet food. The street vendors needed to refine flavours and tastes in order to stay in business. The fact that Jade and Muriel Chan come from Taiwan is one of the reasons that their food is so different to mainstream Chinese, the other is that the dishes are uniquely Jade’s and show an amazing balance, testament to years of commitment to the handling of food and choice of ingredients.
The book is divided into Basics, Sauces, Entrees Side Dishes & Condiments, Salt & Pepper, Soups, Mains, Desserts, Tea, followed by a Glossary of Unusual Ingredients. I love the way these sections are explained and illustrated. It’s a little like handling the sheet music of a symphony by Mozart, and I all you need to do is ‘play’ it as per the instructions and you just might finish with a terrific performance. The food is not hard to cook but it is essential that you follow the abundant thought and feelings, embedded in the text. This is a book to get involved in, to read, test, re-read and re-cook and you’ll soon get it right. When you think you have, go back and eat at blue eye dragon and understand what you need to improve. This is a work in progress, both for you at home and for Jade and Muriel at blue eye dragon. I doubt it will ever be finished.
Start with something as simple as ‘Crispy Chicken with Basil and Five Spice’, then try your hand at making the ‘Pork Dumplings’ on page 55. For the total ‘wow factor’ at your next dinner party ‘Oysters with Spicy Taiwanese Garlic Sauce’ can’t be beaten (and they’re not a lot of work) and if you want to explore the Japanese influences then you should try the ‘Silken Tofu with Garlic Chives and Bonito Flakes’ on page 68. For me, the most intriguing dish is ‘Chicken Soup with Ginger, Wolfberries, Rice Wine and Sesame Oil’ on page 101. It’s comfort food with depth of flavour and a wonderful, silky, slippery texture. Everyone cooks pork belly but you might want to try Jade & Muriel’s version on page 108. It’s simple, focused and delicious. (Make sure you ask your butcher to sell you meat from a female pig!) Chinese desserts are not the Western palate’s first choice, but ‘Sticky Rice Cakes in Ginger Syrup with Sweet Peanut Powder’ not only looks great, but also tastes great.
There is a section in the book that deals with Mum’s love for tea and the teapot collection, displayed in the restaurant, is both entertaining and educational. Talk to mum about Oolong tea; it might be a long conversation!
Blue eye dragon – TAIWANESE COOKING by Jade & Muriel Chen is a book you must own if you ever ate at their restaurant. If you have not then it’s about time you went!
Published by New Holland