September 27, 2015

Maybe the best food chain I have ever been to

The return to Din Tai Fung - 鼎泰豐 - in Taipei

Din Tai Fung - 鼎泰豐 (Din Tai Feng). It is a food chain, something I am generally not a fan of, food chains don't really do it for me, they are not very inspiring. But no rule without exception, right?
Picture of dumplings in a bamboo basket, with a small plate of cucumbers and another starter in front of the dumplings

This is the exception. 

You come here for the absolutely amazing xiaolong bao - 小籠包 - the juicy soup dumplings filled with pork, but you return for more than that - the wonderful pickled cucumber, the fried tofu, all the OTHER types of dumplings, the stir-fried Taiwanese leafy greens, and lots more. However, the Xiaolongbao are really a must, and I want the original ones, the ones with pork, even if the other types are equally tasty, just in a different way. No visit to Din Tai Fung without xiaolong bao.

Soup dumplings isn't something new, dumplings in general isn't something new, they are all over Taiwan and China, but the way this Taiwanese chain does them - that's special. When I bake I do it quite spontaneously, I know what approximate measures I need to follow, and I change depending on what I have home, how dry it is as that impacts the flour, and so forth. I improvise. Same, or even more when I cook. Not here.

At Din Tai Fung what you get is perfection. The soup dumpling themselves, the xiaolongbao, they are not dumplings IN a soup, that's a different thing, these are dumplings with the finest, thinnest dumpling skin, with a filling full of flavours, and with a bit of soup inside - and EVERY dumpling that goes out to the guests at Din Tai Fung is perfect, exactly the same size, exactly the same amount of content, and exactly the same number of folds to keep them together, and then they - at least the xiaolongbao - are steamed to perfection.

September 16, 2015

Returning to Taroko

Dramatic landscape - magic in the mountains

Recently I had the opportunity to return to Taroko Gorge in Taiwan, an area I wrote about already in 2014. Taroko gorge on the east coast of Taiwan, an area prone to earthquakes - it was not far from Taroko that the epicenter for the first earthquake I felt in Taiwan was.  Earthquakes and volcanoes are a part of everyday life when you live on the Ring of Fire, and while it's a hassle, and can indeed mean danger it has it's advantages - not just the  hotsprings and water rich in minerals, but it also makes for a very dramatic landscape. 

Taroko Gorge has been shaped by wind, rains - this is often the first area hit by the bad weather from the typhoons - landslides and earthquakes over thousands, no, millions of years. 

The mountains on Taiwan are high, far higher than the highest mountains in the Scandinavian countries, high as many of the mountains in southern Germany, France and Austria, and when it rains, it pours - and the water falls fast from the tops of the mountains and the rivers, which are merely trickles the rest of the time, become huge, untamed monsters eating their way through the landscape. Among the most dramatic landscape you can see and experience is in the Taroko Gorge, just north of Hualien, south of Yilan.