Flowering Chives with Turkey and Black Beans

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I was missing Taiwan and the cornucopia of food I ate during my trip last year, so I made this spin on what’s colloquially known as “fly’s head,” but is really more like Chinese chives with minced pork and salted black beans. Except my version uses ground turkey instead of pork (I stay halalifying Chinese recipes on the regular).

Try to seek out the flowering chives jiu cai here, as opposed to the flat, leafy ones. These stalks are light and crisp and will make all the difference in the final dish, which is perfect alongside a simple bowl of steamed rice.

Flowering chives with turkey and black beans

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
3/4 cup mirin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 pounds flowering chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
3 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons dried fermented black beans, rinsed and drained

1. Heat oil in a wok over high. Add turkey and stir-fry while breaking up the pieces, until almost cooked through but with some remaining pink spots, about 3 minutes. Add mirin and soy sauce and simmer, continuing to press down on the turkey to break into small pieces, until liquid is reduced by half and meat looks slightly glazed, about 8 minutes. Add flowering chives, garlic, chiles, sesame oil, and black beans. Cook, tossing, until chives are just tender and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Serve over rice.

Sri Lankan Caramel Pudding

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A nation’s cuisine is in many ways a reflection of its history. Take Sri Lanka, for example. Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim, Indian, Indonesian, Dutch, and Portuguese influence factor into everything from street food to curries to desserts, a reminder of trade routes, colonization, and migration.

One of the sweeter examples is caramel pudding, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Portuguese flan. I include a tiny bit of ground cardamom in my version, but you can omit it. Either way, it’s a perfect cooling treat at the end of a Sri Lankan meal.

Sri Lankan Caramel Pudding

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cans water
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Heat sugar with 1 tablespoon water in a 2 quart stainless steel mold or saucepan until the color of amber. Swirl the melted sugar to coat base and sides, being careful to not let the caramel burn.

2. In a bowl, mix condensed milk, water, eggs, vanilla, and cardamom.

3. Pour mixture into the prepared mold or saucepan, cover with aluminum foil, and steam in a double boiler for 30 minutes until set. (The water should not boil under it but simmer.)

4. Remove from heat, remove foil, and allow to cool.

5. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours before serving. Serve chilled.

Rose Sangria with Berry Ice

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Rose season is upon us, friends. Rose all day, rose-yay, etcetera, etcetera. I’ve got to be honest, though. I like summer’s official beverage as much as the next person, but I don’t like all rose. A lot of it is too sweet for my taste, too white wine-y, too, well, too rose-all-day-ish, if you know what I mean.

But not this rose. This rose is (a) in sangria form, which is always a good thing, (b) includes rum and Campari, and (c) has too-pretty-to-eat-except-they’re-melting ice cubes that impart a subtly berry flavor to the whole thing.

So yeah. Rose season is upon us. Bring it on, I say.

Rose sangria

Ingredients:

1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blackberries
Two (750-ml) bottles rosé
1 cup light rum
3/4 cup simple syrup
1/2 cup Campari
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1. Layer the berries in two ice cube trays. Gradually add just enough distilled water to cover. Freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight, until solid.

2. In a pitcher, stir the wine with the rum, simple syrup, Campari and lemon juice. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

3. Serve sangria in individual glasses with two or three berry ice cubes each.

Velvety Peppers with Vinegar and Sesame Oil

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This side dish is so simple and yet it’s a revelation. You’ve had Italian-style marinated red bell peppers, right? Well, think of these as the Chinese version. Adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty, these peppers are velvety, piquant, and earthy at the same time. They keep well and dress up any meal. I love the texture on these.

Peppers with vinegar and sesame oil

Ingredients:

2 red bell peppers
2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons rice vinegar
salt
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds and stems. Steam them for a few minutes until cooked. Set peppers aside to cool.

2. In the meantime, dissolve the sugar in the vinegar in a small bowl. Add salt to taste.

3. Peel the skins from the peppers, then cut the eppers into strips and place in a serving bowl. Pour the vinegar mixture over the peppers and mix. Then add the sesame oil and mix again. Serve room temperature or cold.

Taiwan, Day Six

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Maokong is techically part of Taipei but it feels like another world. The area used to be the biggest region for growing tea around Taipei and today that tea culture is evident, and Maokong is filled with teahouses, hiking paths, and temples along the way.

Maokong Gondola

Maokong Gondola

Douhua

Grilled baby corn

Fried sweet potatoes

Squid balls

We took a four-kilometer gondola from Taipei Zoo station all the way up to Maokong station. Once we were in Maokong, we meandered through the picturesque hiking trails, stopping for a snack here and there. Douhua (sweet and soft tofu pudding) with crushed ice, grilled baby corn, fried sweet potatoes, and squid balls from street vendors kept us happily satiated along the way.

Maokong

Maokong

Zhinan Temple

Zhinan Temple

On our way back down towards Taipei central, we stopped at Zhinan Temple, a Taoist temple on the slopes of Houshan. Founded in 1882, the temple afforded incredible views into Taipei.

Maokong Gondola Line

By the time we got back to Taipei Zoo station, we couldn’t resist the siren song of a freshly-made pineapple smoothie to beat the stifling heat.

Dinner at Li Yuan Dumplings

For our last dinner in Taipei, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Li Yuan Dumplings: xiaolongbao, salt and pepper tofu, stir-fried chili chicken and mushrooms, and greens in dashi and citrus dressing. A fitting end to a delicious, memorable trip.

Taiwan, don’t ever change.