Feasting on Japanese delicacies at Ba Tiao Shou Si – 八條壽司

May 31, 2011

八條壽司 Ba Tiao Shou Si

Let me take you to a very special place, 八條壽司 a Japanese restaurant near Taoyuan. Before we enter the place and indulge in the photos I took of the various dishes served to us, let me explain a bit the background.

Every year when I teach my course on good governance in land administration at the International Center of Land Policy Studies and Training in Taoyuan (ICLPST), Taiwan, a good old friend of mine, Prof. Lin Kuoching, professor of economics and agricultural policy, invites me and Prof. James Riddell, an even older friend of mine from my days at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, out for an evening in the hot springs.

It is the annual reunion of three men united by their passion for agriculture, the land and the people cultivating the land. They also share a passion for politics, geo-politics and political developments in Asia. After our long conversations in hot and warm and cold water basins, we move on and have dinner together.

Ms. Lin, Prof. Lin’s wife, is usually the one selecting the meal and the dishes. However, this time we were too late for the Chinese restaurant at the spa, so we went back to town. A Japanese restaurant called 八條壽司 was our aim.

The entrance of 八條壽司

The place is down to earth, nothing fancy. When we arrived it rained cats and dogs, and the restaurant was packed with people. The photos were taken when we left late in the evening.

The common dining room 八條壽司

The shogun’s armour in a glass vitrine was the heirloom of the place. To the right from the common dining area are individual rooms in the Japanese style.

The Shogun’s armour

Now just follow me from picture to picture of the delicacies we were offered. I do not know the names of the dishes, often I even cannot say what the dish was composed of, but trust me, this was amazing, awesome, super delicious, in short: heaven on a stick, as we say in Australia.

Beautiful raw fish

A salad with fruit to clean the palate

Fish eggs

More raw fish

Brown rice selection

Beautiful creations

Soup

Some more raw fish

And a flat fish

Chicken

I am not much of a chicken lover, but this chicken skewer was just delicious, unbelievabel. It converted me: good chicken dishes do exist.

Sake

We drank tea and warm sake with our meal. I love sake but are utterly ignorant about the various types and qualities. This is something to explore in the near future.

The three men and the Shogun’s armour: Prof. Lin, Prof. Riddell, and me.

Needless to say that this was a fantastic evening. Thank you fellow diners for the company, the hospitality of the Lin family should be praised and rewarded in the other world, last but not least I wish to thank the cook of the 八條壽司 restaurant: you did a great job. Arigato


I cooked Sunday roast – 2006 Timo Mayer Cabernet, Yarra Valley, Australia

May 29, 2011

As you know I am not much of a cook. But today I cooked a traditional Sunday roast. I am so proud. I did it. Not that it was particularly difficult. Actually I just seasoned the meat, put it into the oven for 60 minutes, and voila there was a delicious meal.

This called for a special wine, and a special wine we had. I choose a ‘2006 Cabernet’ from the Mayer Vineyard, made by my old friend Timo Mayer in the Yarra Valley. Timo is one of the famous South Pack, a group of young and creative wine-makers in Victoria.

This is a beautiful wine, full of red berry flavour, a good structure and a long finish. The cherries on my palate were almost like the ones of a Merlot, but it is a straight Cabernet, amazing.

Great colour

The roast was just perfect with its pink colour. It was Thai beef of a very good quality. As were the other ingredients by the way. The girls made a Yorkshire pudding. Moreover we had broccoli and carrots as vegetables.

The roast

Delicious Sunday lunch

Great vegetables

From here it was downhill all the way. First came my favourite cigar, then came the port. I just love Sundays like this.


Lunch at Spring Farm 春天農場 in Taoyuan, Taiwan

May 28, 2011

Goodness me, a week has past and I had no time to produce a single post. That must have been a busy week. Every evening is was flat out tired, and had just enough energy for a family meal, a glass of wine, and bed.

Another Saturday, another chance to prepare some of the photos which I took while on Taiwan for stories on food. I have so much material I do not know where to start. And on Wednesday I am on another busyness trip which will take me to Manila,which has a great cuisine, and Beijing. I guess there are some culinary delights in the making.

Well, but let’s get to Taiwan, to the city of Taoyuan to be precise. The “peach garden city” (that’s the literal translation of the name), alluding to a story of an oath (桃園三結義) being taken amid peach blossoms by three friends (Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei) and warriors from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms a famous novel written by Luo Guangzhong.

Taoyuan is a rather dull town, clad all in grey of the many concrete walls and high rise buildings. There is little public space and not much green.

However, the more significant seems the attempt of an eatery to built on that particular lack of nature in the town and use it to its own advantage: “Spring Farm” could be such a venture.

It might fall into the category of so called “leisure farms” which are a model to attract city people and offer them a kind of unique experience.

We went there on a rainy Saturday to have lunch after a long morning meeting discussing anthropological research and land tenure questions.

Spring Farm

I assume “the farm” was once at the outskirts of the city, and has now been “swallowed up” by urban sprawl.Set up a on a couple of acres of garden land, I would call it, it combines eating with other first hand benefits such as buying health food and ornamental plants from the producer. There is a lot of space around it where kids can play outside.

One of the sales rooms

When you enter, making your way from the car park to the main building, you do not get straight away to the restaurant but you are led through various sales rooms where various processed and dried foods, cookies, cake, bread, rice, oils, vegetables but also soap, fragrances and other odds and ends are on offer.

Shoppers paradise so to speak, all on your way to the dining room. It helps to acquaint you with what to buy on your way our.

Some veggie garden

From the dining room you can see a piece of garden where various vegetables are grown, a banana grove is seen in the back.There are a couple of different dining rooms, an indication that the number of people visiting is very large at times.

One of the dining rooms

The diners

Actually we were five people but I have only Prof. Yen Aiching, her son (left side), Prof. James Riddell and myself on this photo.

You order a main dish from the menu and get the entrée from a buffet type structure. here you will find a mix of Asian and European dishes and ingredients, and you can assemble a fusion first course for your meal.

Fusion appetizer

As you can see I went for a healthy appetizer selecting Asian and non-Asian ingredients.My main dish would be salmon which turned out to be very tasty. There were other fish dishes on offer as the one further below cooked on the table in a steam boat.

My main dish

Fish on a steam boat

The dessert

All in all the food was very good. The quality of the ingredients was excellent. The service very efficient. And the most important, we had a very relaxing time and great conversation over the dinner table. The only thing missing in my view was a good wine list. Instead various chrysanthemum teas were on offer. I guess that grape wine is not that high in demand.

On the way out we inspected the wares on offer which is always very educational. What products do people buy? These and other questions come to mind. Overall I think the concept pays off. Spring Farm tries to make a difference. It provides its customers which a unique experience in the middle of al large city.

Bread as in Germany

The bred counter made my German heart jump. There was so much on offer, amazing. In an Asian context bread has somehow an exotic flavour. In fact some of the creations can be quite surprising including non-traditional bred ingredients (such as green or red bean paste).

Various processed foods

Some dried beans etc.

The green house with ornamental plants

The porcelain dog says good bye (well he does not say that)

We had a great time. In Europe I would not patronize such a place but on Taiwan when all the time in the urban jungle, my soul was longing for some green, some plants, trees and fresh air.

PS: We found the place by searching the internet from a smart phone. Thanks for taking us Prof. Yen.


Lunch on the Mekong river

May 21, 2011

Welcome to my Saturday post. Behind me is a sign in Thai indicating that we are at the Mekong river.

Lunch at a “swimming restaurant” on the Mekong

Let me take you today to an exotic place on this majestic stream, where I had lunch with a couple of colleagues when I visited Udon Thani some time ago. I had to try some Isan cuisine which is not for everybody.

Come on to my boat

On the boat restaurant a large group of school children where having their lunch. They seemed to be on an outing together with their teachers.

The children were delightful

As I said before, 22 years living and working in Asia exposes you to interesting cuisines. I have eaten all kinds of food in my life but not one of the foremost delicacies of Thailand’s North-East: ants eggs.

In fact this cuisine tested my resilience.

An assortment of typical dishes

On the river you eat fish

Also soup is healthy

What would we do in Thailand without “som da,”?

So far so good

Almost all dishes contained the ants eggs sprinkled over them

They look well cooked, don’t they?

The ants eggs have a strong chitinous taste when you bite into them. It’s a strange feeling between the teeth too. In my body the chitinous inside of the eggs produced a tremendous amount of heat. I guess one has to be used to this kind of dish in order to fully enjoy it. My companions, almost all from the Udon Thani region, just loved the food.

By the way, we drank water with our meal, just clear water.

And the river flew.
Come to the Mekong.


Styrsö Skäret Guesthouse, Gothenburg, Sweden

May 19, 2011

Swedish waters near Gothenburg

When I visited Gothenburg, Sweden last year I had a beautiful lunch at a cute little guesthouse called Styrsö Skäret. I was part of a group. Together with other participants of the conference we went on a boat trip to a small group of islands just about 30 minutes from the mainland.

It’s a kind of island hopping until you reach the place. The boat ride was extremely pleasant, the islands, which we passed, very picturesque. Only today I am able to post the story.

The beautiful Styrsö Skäret guesthouse

Styrsö Skäret is a guesthouse with restaurant, and we were booked in for lunch. The meal was pre-ordered. It started with a pumpkin soup.

The soup

The main course

The main course consisted of boiled potatoes with some capsicum veggies and a white fish. Awesome flavours, earthy but refined and delicate.

Delicious fish

The dining room

fro the dining room you have a beautiful view of the see. When we were there some clouds came up and we had some rain with a rainbow after. That was magic.

The wine cabinet

There was the possibility to order wine which I did not do because I followed the group somehow and just had water with the meal. Do not follow my example. Order a bottle of white wine, maybe a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc if you have the fish.

The service is very good, the ambiance is very pleasant, and the people are very friendly. My verdict: must visit when in Gothenburg. Highly recommended.

After your meal you can have a long walk on the island on hop on the ferry at some other pier. There are beautiful country houses to be seen, gardens surrounding the dwellings, and from almost every point you can overlook the sea.

This was such a wonderful excursion. I highly recommend the trip. If you are in Gothenburg take the time and visit the islands and treat yourself to a decent meal at Styrsö Skäret.


Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon

May 15, 2011

The good news is that just across the street from the Center (ICLPST) where I teach in Taoyuan, there is a wine and spirits shop with a good selection of wines. Last night I bought a ‘2008 Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon’ from Margaret River in Western Australia. Xanadu Wines is a well known first class producer.

This is a good wine, full of black currant and plum flavours; and despite the 14% alcohol, the wine is not overpowering but delicate and finely balanced. I paid 1.188 New Taiwan $ which is not cheap (about 29 EURO). The cellar door price is A$ 35.

I must say that I was still a bit disappointed. I had expected something better for that price level. Maybe I am spoiled from the Mosel where a top class Riesling can be bought from the winery for 18 to 25 EURO.

2008 Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon

The back label, 14% alcohol


Some other wines – Taiwan treasures

May 14, 2011

At Friday night’s birthday party of the International Center for Land Policy Studies and Training in Taoyuan, Taiwan two bottles of wine made from millet were presented to us.

Wines not made from grape vines taste of course very different from fermented grape juice. I liked the fragrance and aromas of a grain based brew. The sweetness is of course deceiving and the rest sugar might give you headaches the next day. But I was positively surprised by the freshness and the fine balance of the liquid.

Beautiful millet wine

The milky liquid with the delicate fragrance

PS: I was careful and had only one glass from each bottle.