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Tea, Caviar and Oyster Noodles

For afternoon meeting, dinner and breakfast, respectively.

overcast 71 °F

On Tuesday, we set off on our road trip around Taiwan. The first day involved mostly catching up with extended family; great-uncles slightly south of Taipei and an aunt and uncle in Taipei. At our first stop, we had tea with my great-uncles and their friends.

I found out that making tea is quite the process here, much different that popping a Lipton's tea bag in a mug of hot water. There is a special tray that holds the teapots and cups while also draining water or tea away from the table with a small tube. Only mountain water is boiled to brew the tea, as tap water "makes the tea taste awful." First, the boiled water is used to rinse off the first teapot. Then the tea leaves are put in the tea pot and water poured in to brew the tea. The brewed tea is poured into a second teapot to avoid brewing in the leaves too long. Then that tea is poured into all the teacups. But it's not served. The tea in each cup is poured into the next (the overflow drains away) until they are all empty. My great-uncle's friend explained that the tea from the first brew is no good and that you have to rinse all the teapots and cups w hot tea. Then a second brew is done in the same manner and this time the tea is served. If you're ever running low in your cup, tea is quickly brewed to refill it. I quite enjoyed watching it all; the rituals around food and drink fascinate me.

From there we drove into the crazy cement and neon maze of cars and scooters that is Taipei. It's a great city that has old parts full of tiny alleys, street vendors and neighborhood parks and then new parts with huge boulevards, sky scrapers and international fashion boutiques. We always stay with my mother's oldest sister that lives off of the old city's major avenue. She made dinner at the apartment and I helped her set up the appetizer. Dried caviar cakes with green onions and daikon. The sac of eggs is taken from a large ocean fish and dried whole to make one solid caviar "cake". Then its sliced thinly and served with a slices of a very spicy variety of green onion and slivers of daikon, both raw. Its an interesting combination of salty fishy caviar and spicy freshness of vegetables. Highlight of the meal for me. The meal and accompanying wine and brandy left me sleepy and I went to bed early dreaming of the next morning's breakfast...

Oyster noodles!! It's a favorite of mine when we're in Taipei. It probably sounds strange as a breakfast food to most people, but I guess it's quite a long-standing tradition. My aunt says that this one street vendor has been selling the noodles for more than 30 years. It's quite simple: tiny noodles are served in a slightly thickened broth with oysters and a hint of white pepper. That's all he sells, in either a big bowl or a small bowl. You can eat it plain or add more condiments. I always go for vinegar and hot sauce, maybe some more white pepper. Yum!

My bowl: small. Bro's bowl: big. Both bowls: good.

Posted by hsustyle 08:02 Archived in Taiwan

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