Restaurant review: Yi Yuan Restaurant, Peking Food in Taipei

October 31, 2009

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After all the wonderful “island food”, I felt like something northern Chinese and therefore had suggested this type of cuisine to my friends, Jim, Chimei, and Tzu-Chin.

They choose the restaurant: Yi Yuan Restaurant it was called located in the The Westin Taipei Hotel in Taipei.

Its chef, Jordan Yang, is well known for its traditional Peking roast duck and his many new “incarnations” of other northern Chinese dishes. Yi Yuan roast duck is the signature dish of the restaurant and a must-eat.

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Peking roast duck

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The Chef doing his magic

During my years in Beijing, I had had the famous Chinese dish many times. Almost every visitor wanted to taste it at one time or the other with the result that in the end I often did not feel like roast duck at all. But now things are different. Living in Thailand exposes you to excellent duck dishes but the Beijing roast duck is very special.

To serve roast duck and carve it properly is a skill one has to be trained for. One also needs a very sharp knife. The very first bits were just the skin. Unfortunately, I have no clear picture of it but they were meant to be dipped in caster sugar and mustard (see the second picture below).

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Beautiful duck meat

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Caster sugar and mustard

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More duck meat

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The proper serve of duck ready wrapped

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The “empty” duck, stripped off all its treasures

After the duck we had various side dishes, some with seafood, others of a more traditional northern China style and the banquet ended with a soup of course. All the food was just wonderful. We indulged in a most interesting conversation about food and the universe which leads nowhere, as we all know, but gives so much pleasure to the mind.

Thanks folks for taking me there.

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We did not have any alcohol with our meal but sipped on green tea which was very refreshing. However, at the end of the hall stood a sideboard filled with various treasures and a mostly high percentage alcohol content. But nothing beats an original “gaoliang” made from sorghum as a digestive.

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The whole range of Chinese liquors

If Taiwan is on your travel list and your taste buds long for a very special treat, drop in at the Yi Yuan Restaurant in Taipei, and indulge in roast duck and other “Pekinese” foods.

Address:
Yi Yuan Restaurant at the Westin Hotel
www.starwoodhotels.com

台北市台湾
3 区南京东路 133 号台北 104
+886 2-8770-6565

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A pesto pasta with Alsatian Riesling

October 25, 2009

My homecoming was celebrated with a dinner featuring one of my favorite pasta dishes: a pasta al pesto. But it did not stop there. The basilico for the pesto sauce was grown on our terrace. Freshly harvested the leaves were processed with pine nuts and the best olive oil we could get hold of in Bangkok. The pictures below shows the different stages of the pesto-making process.

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Basilico leaves

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Healthy leaves of home grown Basilico

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Pesto in the making

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The fresh pesto sauce

I tell you this pasta was worth killing for. What ‘profumo’, goodness me, it filled our kitchen, the living room and transcended to the terrace where it filled my nostrils long before the dish arrived. We treasured every bite.

If you think that in the 1760s French cultural supremacy was so dominant that Italian cooking was considered totally inferior even by Italians. Local cooking had to have the coda, “”perfected in Paris” to be taken seriously. Today, every second top restaurant in Bangkok and indeed in all cosmopolitan world cities is Italian. That’s just amazing!

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Linguine with pesto

We celebrated the reunion with a French Riesling from Alsace, a ‘2006 Les Princes Abbes, Domaines Schlumberger, Riesling’. The price was a bit on the high end for us. TBH 1,600, about 32 Euro (or US $ 48), from our local super market is quite some money. That it sells for about US $ 20 in California somehow consoled me. We thought that life is just too short to waste it with drinking cheap wine and the occasion warranted something special, and special this Alsatian Riesling was.

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This wine is just a wonderful specimen of Alsatian Riesling and it went very well with the pesto pasta. The fresh and fruity wine with aromas of citrus, lime and lemon and some floral notes, opened our taste buds wide. The wine has character and shows its typical Alsatian traits with some refined and not overpowering petrol notes. Alcohol is 12%, and just right. The finish is pleasantly vibrant but not overly long.

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Fifty five

October 24, 2009

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Back street near Houhai, Beijing

I was very luck to spend my 55th birthday with a good old friend in Beijing, China. He took me to a Hakka (“Kejiaren”) restaurant near Houhai where we had a jolly good meal and a jolly good time.

My Chinese name (Zhou Min-de) was given to me in 1983 by a Taiwanese farmer, Mr. Zhou, who was also Hakka (in Linlo Xian, near Pintung in Southern Taiwan).

We enjoyed the food and each others company. It was a mild August night, and the world seemed to be at peace. It was a double 5 festival for me, so to say. That must mean luck, prosperity and long, long life!

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After the feast

PS: We had beers, of course, what else? It just came naturally.


Rioja in Taiwan

October 22, 2009

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After teaching a full day I am usually exhausted and somehow empty. the best way to spend the evening is with a glass of wine. Jim and I, we marched into the wine shop just across the ICLPST in Taoyuan and shopped for some wine.

I choose a ‘2006 Tempranillo Beronia Rioja’ from Spain. What a nice wine this was; an “umpf” wine, as we call it in Australia. Dark red in colour, full of wild fruit, plum, and berry flavours, this wine is of a more traditional character, heavy and intense, but with balanced acidity and spicy notes from the oak it is matured in, and good mid-palate weight.

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We had no wine glasses but drank it from large, thick tea glasses. That’s the reason why I have no picture to show the beautiful colour of the wine. The ‘2006 Tempranillo Beronia Rioja’ sells for about US $ 13 in the USA, we got it for the equivalent of about US $ 21 in Taoyuan, not bad for such a wine.


Street food paradise

October 20, 2009

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A mobile sausage-cooking facility on a bicycle

In most Asian places, street food is an essential part of everyday life. That’s also the case in Taipei. Unfortunately, I did not rise to the occasion and took only a few photos when I should have taken many many more. I promise, I will rise to the occasion next time.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, when my friends Chimei, Tzu-Chin and Jim were strolling with me through the streets near “Taida”, one of the famous universities in Taipei.

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Various kinds of filled waffle (hong dou bian)

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Red bean, chocolate and cream are the fillings

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Chimei, Jim and Tzu-Chin in the street food paradise


Drifting in Taipei

October 18, 2009

Saturday, I had lunch with an old friend which was very pleasant and the Chinese food was excellent. After that I went for a long walk around the city. In 1983 when I did my field research here in Taiwan I came to Taipei from time to time for meetings and discussions and got to know the place a little. So I wandered around on my old tracks thoroughly enjoying the beautiful mild autumn weather.

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The modern art museum in the Peace park

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Fortune telling services are available

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Street scene

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Trees and people in the Peace park

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The charming Starbucks

After a while, I was looking for a quiet place to have coffee, not an easy undertaking on a Saturday afternoon when the city is buzzing with people. The first Starbucks was completely full, crowded and noisy. But I was lucky and found a charming place, also a Starbucks. I watched the customers come in, order drinks and food, relax and leave the place. Lots of students were surfing the net and/or doing work on their laptops. Some seemed to do homework and assignments. I was utterly at peace with the world.

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A look into the future

I had not much time since I wanted to meet friends later in the day and therefore went to “Taida”, one of the islands universities. I used the subway which was excellent and very easy to navigate. I had a pleasant trip. I could not resist to take the above photo. Somehow it felt like a window to the future. The running banner in the train informing the innocent traveler about the “don’t’s” included among others ‘betel nut chewing’ which was very common 26 years ago when I first visited the island.

I did not drink any wine that day. More about my adventures later.
Greetings from Taiwan; it’s a great place to visit.


Flower

October 16, 2009

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Today I feel that I deserve something nice. I am a bit exhausted. Not even a glass of wine could excite me but a flower might bestow on me peace of mind.

I took this photo on my terrace in Bangkok. I have water lilies in different colours. Tomorrow I will go out and check out the wine shop opposite the centre were I am teaching right now.

Cheers from Taoyuan.