Thursday, February 14, 2008

Braised pork belly, free range chicken, hakka cuisine, heartlander's food

What do the heartlanders eat in Taiwan? I have yet explored every part of it but I'm quite sure they eat a variety other than steamboats and hotpots.

This is the kind of "economic rice" I can find in Taiwan, similar to those found in Singapore, close enough to California's Ranch99 deli section ... or does it have a far resemblance to your Chinese take-outs in the United States? You know...it's the same concept - rice + something :P

Of course, there is much more selection here (for dine-in and take-outs). And I'm quite sure the food taste better. Make a guess - how much does this cost?

Clockwise from pork belly rice: stir fry bittergourd with egg, fried fish, braised napa cabbage 卤白菜 , vermicelli (glass noodles/cellophane noodles) soup

Ermmmm
...."economic rice"? WhAa....aaat is that? Not really sure how this name evolved but I'm guessing its origin came from the "value for money" rice set that you can usually get from these rice stalls. Typically, it's plain rice + your choice of meat and/or vegetables from a wide selection of dishes, costing S$3 and up (depending on more meat or more vegetables, and depending on inflation rate :P ). In the United States, most of you would otherwise know this as rice plate or somtimes hungryman's rice plate - you get your complete lunch or dinner meal (of rice + meat + vegetables) on one plate.

Rice topped with braised pork pelly (stall name: 李海鲁肉饭)

I prefer to draw this analogy to "economic rice" since it hangs on similar concept - just that they don't put everything on one plate. You order your rice topped with braised pork belly 鲁肉饭, then order other side dishes(as separates) to make it a complete meal. That meal above was just ~100NT (HUH? ~ USD 3 dollars! ). Best part of it - this feeds two - believe it or not!

As compared to dialects such as Hokkien, Teochew, and even Cantonese, I admit I'm not that well-informed about the Hakkas - their culture and cuisine. Taiwan has a significant Hakka population, portions concentrated in Hsinchu city and Hsinchu county. Thanks to JY and S, our friends in Hsinchu. They brought us out to a wonderful Hakka lunch, on the hills away from Hsinchu city.

Braised Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetables 梅菜扣肉

Like I said, I'm not too into Hakka culture and cuisine but I believe this Braised Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetables 梅菜扣肉 is one of their specialties. The braised pork belly has an appetizing texture of alternating layers of fat and lean meat. YUM!



The chicken is known to the locals as 土鸡 (wild chicken: chicken reared in the rolling hills). I'm thinking this may be equivalent to "kampung chicken" (literally meaning - village chicken). Or what you are familiar with in the United States - free-range chickens that are allowed to roam around instead of being caged. These chickens are generally considered to have higher nutritional value. They are not caged and have all the free space to run around. Since they do "running exercises", they have less body fat than their farmed couterparts. You do not need fancy cookwork for these chickens since by steaming them or cooking them in soups, you can clearly taste the natural flavor of the chicken. Just it. Just eat.

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