Mantao (Bao) + Pork Belly = Gua Bao

I’m not sure how the history started but we grew up with Mantao (Chinese Steamed Bread) paired with a pork belly dish with pickled vegetables (Khao Yok) This trip to Taiwan I was determined to try some – Many opened in Bangkok and i saw a few in the USA but i felt it seemed uniquely Taiwanese although i have read that it was inspired or brought by immigrants from Fujian Province. For those who haven’t heard a Gua Bao or Bao as it’s popularised from USA is the Bao (Mantao – Steamed Chinese Bread) + Pork belly cooked til soft and in 5 spice powder + sweetened roasted ground peanuts + pickled mustard greens + fresh coriander. In my next article i will explore how to make it on my own but this is what we had in Taiwan.

Hamburger Sized at this Tourist Market

I think this store had their own take on it which consists of the traditional 5 Spice Pork Belly + A thin Peppery Pork Chop Patty + a slice of Cheese and the traditional flavorings.

You can see the Peppery Patty & The Pork Belly Peaking Out

I thought it tasted alright but if they could melt the cheese somehow it would have been alot better.

Huge Steaming Buns Ready to Go
Condiments in big pails.

Will try to create a homemade version soon, anyone with recipes please share them ūüôā

Fiery Spicy Szechuan Cuisine

My knowledge of Szechuan Cuisine or Sichuan Food is actually limited to Ma La Hot Pot, the bubbling stock with hot oil, szechuan peppercorns, garlic, five spice ingredients and extreme amount of dried chillies.  It is actually my favorite type of hot pot.  Going to a szechuan restaurant was interested or so i thought.  Would it actually be the same approach?  All food just topped with the spicy oil / spices?  I was in for a treat.

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Waste Nothing!

Organ meat is a very chinese thing, we eat everything. ¬†Most likely it’s a waste not mentality. ¬†If i’m not istaken this is the stomach from a cow. ¬†It’s got a chewy crispyish texture more than any taste actually but the spicy garlicy oil made it a nice appetizer to whet your appetite before the fire starts. ¬†I appreciated the green cirpsy and watery thin celery stalk to help add some coolness to my poor tongue.

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Decadent Pork Belly

This was not spicy at all, i think it was great over piping hot rice. ¬†I’m not entirely sure how they made that sauce but it was more sesame in taste, i’m sure there’s ginger in there somewhere. ¬†I understand it looks oily but it doesn’t feel too oily, it doesn’t coat your tongue like when you chew on a blob of butter or margarine. ¬†It seems to melt away leaving this comforting taste. ¬†Really good. ¬†Too salty to eat alone although i preferred it with some rice.

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Nice hit of crispy greens

In Thailand food we usually stir fry cabage with fish sauce, over thre it’s oyster sauce i presume with a few dried chillies thrown in for good measure. ¬†Done correctly cabbage¬†shouldn’t¬†soggy but ¬†with a nice crisp texture and juicy freshness. ¬†This helped balace out all the rich meats so far.

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Ma La Craziness!

My absolute favorite is the Ma La spices, this arrived smoking hot and you can actually feel the dried chillies sizzling in the hot oil. ¬†It’s probably palm oil, with dried chillies, garlic, szechuan peppercorns and other crazy goodness. There is a thick vermicelli noodle which is sticky and chewy in texture and sliced beef. ¬†It was a bomb of chillies, numbness and savory saltiness in every bite. ¬†The beef was tender and the soup underneath was quite delicious. ¬†However you do have to sort your way through the pool of oil. ¬†People may cringe at the amount of oil, but i’m actually ok, it’s not like we eat this every single day.

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Chilli Power!

Now this is everyone’s favorite, the MAPO TOFU. ¬†You see in japanese restaurants but you dont really find it in every chinese restaurant. ¬†Chinese food is quite vast with different regions serving totally different food. ¬†This was like bolder MA LA crazy version, it was so spicy, a hint of sweet with a bit of minced prok thrown in for good measure. ¬†It was so delicious over piping hot rice. ¬†You can’t really eat it on it’s own, it starts to burn after the third bite.

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Best Potato I have ever Tasted!!!!

This potato dish arrived and i though it was just short strands of spaghetti stir fried.  To my amazement it was round strands of potato, stir fried.  Its so hard to explain, it was mushy, but it was al dente but not under cooked.  It was salty, savory, not too oily.  It was very interesting.  It was the highlight of the night, it seemed so normal but the taste and texture was just so interesting and delicious.  I must find out how they cooked this dish.

Szechuan cuisine is really more than just the hot pot but i do believe it’s an acquired taste, it’s very different from my day to day chinese food but it’s a great lift to a cold gloomy day washed with some cold beer. ¬†Definitely for people who love spice, and dont mind a bit of oiliness. ¬†Only warning is for your stomach and it’s a scary addiction.

 

Warming Hot Pot in HongKong

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During our last quick trip to Hong Kong for a passport renewal, we had a quick dinner with relatives and being in Hong Kong it’s a must to have a family get together hotpot meal. ¬†For those not in the know, Hot Pot is a ¬†pot of bubbling stock, where you dip your raw meats and veggies into cook and then eat. ¬†Before we only had plain vegetable broth or pork broth, nowadays there’s curry, satay, ox tail soup, herbs, traditional Ma La or the sezhuan peppercorns super spicy broth, you name it they have it.

This particular hot pot i think it’s either called the Little Fat Cow or smiling Cow i’m not so sure but it’s near the Wan Chai Fire Station on the 3rd floor. ¬†My absolute favorite thing is the octopus meatballs, it comes in a large scoop with fish roe on top you spoon a bit of the mixture and when it starts to float it’s done. ¬†It really is an acquired taste, it’s a chewy rubbery squidy meatball. ¬†It’s not available in Thailand so it’s a treat every time we go back to HK.

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Doesn’t the pork belly look nice? It comes rolled up and looks like a mini flower peaking out of the bowl, and another of my favorites is the fried tofu sheets. ¬†It’s fluffy, light and crispy. ¬†A quick quick dip in the hot bubbling broth and you chew it quick before it gets soggy.

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Normal soft soybean tofu but still good.IMG_1586

I must say given their quite medium high pricing, the shrimp came beautifully cleaned and separated into heads and bodies.  Good for me cause i love shrimp heads.

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Fresh veggies and pork wontons, sometimes wonton comes in a yellow noodle wrap but these ones are more leaning to those gyoza type wrapping like the Japanese kind.

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The highlight of this meal was the splurge on a plate of Angus beef.  It was probably 200 HK dollars but it was melt in the mouth, a real beefy flavor and a great soft chew.  It was delicious!IMG_1579

We also ordered fried chicken joints, nice piping hot, crispy salty and garlicky. ¬†Maybe the savoury taste came from the MSG. – -”

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And again as with all hotpots, we enjoy the meats and veggies and either we pour in rice or a type of noodles to soak up all the yummy broth.  This time we had this really delicious chewy udon.

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So if anyone who can read chinese please let me know what is the shops name.IMG_1594

1st Floor, 141-145 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai Heng Center

Savoury Yummies at Tomato Noodles

Lunch Sets
Lunch Sets

Located in the same soi as Villa Sukhumvit (across Emporium), right next to the Japanese 60 baht store is this cheery looking ramen shop.¬† Tomato Noodle… Either the noodles are pink or the soup must have a tomato base so we decided to grab a bite.¬† The menu is quite extensive ranging from the different choices of Ramen, (both hot and cold), the extensive options to go with your ramen like onsen eggs, sausages, seaweed, butter, corn etc.¬† Side dishes range from pot stickers, stewed pork belly, fried chicken, shrimp croquettes, enoki mushrooms wraped in bacon, sweet tamago and salads and soups to choose from.¬† There’s also rice to choose from including curry rice, rice balls, meat topped rice bowls and even a selection of kids menu.¬† You can even choose from the set menus which feature a main dish, a side dish ¬†and a drink.

We ordered a tomato ramen since it was their signature dish, a pork belly topped rice bowl with a side of gyoza.  The gyoza (pot stickers) came excellent, piping hot with a crunchy bottom and soft juicy filling.  Now some people like deep fried gyoza which to me is a mystery, but i must say it was a great balance of juicy, crunchy and soft wrapping.  Dip with the soy and vinegar was just yummy.

 

Yummy Juicy Gyoza
Yummy Juicy Gyoza

Delish!
Delish!

Melt in the Mouth!
Melt in the Mouth!

Can you taste the tomatoes?
Can you taste the tomatoes?

Now the ramen was well ramen, but strangely, i loved the soup.¬† It was so tomatoey in a rich porky broth.¬† For people who do not like tomatoes, skip this place, well come for the gyozas and the rice dishes but it was a sourish pork rich broth. hmm… yums.¬† Too much ramen noodles, not enough broth in my opinion.¬† Next up was the rice dish, suprising was very good, the pork belly was melt in the mouth a nice balance of sweet and soy and savoury without being too oily.¬† Slurp up the soup and it’s a great palate cleanser.¬† For Thai standards it is a bit pricey as a normal lunch would cost around 50 baht here it was almost 500 baht, ¬†but come here for a special treat and indulge in a bit of tomatoey goodness.¬† Definitely for tomato lovers!

More Sets to Choose from...
More Sets to Choose from…

Yummy looking rice ball!
Yummy looking rice ball!

Fried Rice Choices..
Fried Rice Choices..

Wash it down with a beer!
Wash it down with a beer!

Ma Peche – NYC

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Menu Board

It’s true, sometimes the simplest things are the most impressive. ¬†I asked the server at Ma Peche, which of the “Small Plates” ¬†i should order as an appetizer in addition to his famous pork buns and he said “Try the Broccoli”.¬†The broccoli came in a small bowl cooked three ways, boiled, the outer leaves fried crispy and i’m guessing the flowerheads chopped and ¬†freeze dried with smoked¬†raisin, and a seaweed mayo smeared on the side of the bowl. ¬†The textures was interesting, i felt the raisin just got in the way but what made me exclaim with delight was the mayo. It looked dark and grainy but had a wonderful savory taste. ¬†I’m guessing maybe seaweed with a hint of dashi? ¬†It was yum yum yum, i would prefer omit everything just give me a huge plate of the fried outer leaves and a side dish of the dressing.

 

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¬†The pork buns i must say is probably more “Chinese” than anything. ¬†I grew up eating roast piglets with crispy skin and chinese bread “Mun Tao” with a hoisin sauce, spring onions and cucumbers at special occasions, or a peking duck served the same way. ¬†So i gather David Chang must have been inspired here since i dont see any resemblance in japanese or korean cuisines. ¬†I must applaud the amazingly cooked pork belly served with the crispy thin cucumber slices and a bottle of their take on the siracha (Thai Chilli Sauce). ¬†A bit more spicier than the “Siracha” available in the USA. ¬†Great combination but my companion preferred his without. ¬†The pork was sweet having been marinated in a form of hoisin sauce ingredients and the soft flat mun tao soaked up all the juices. ¬†Not really a chef’s own creation but a spin on a traditional ¬†dish very well executed.

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For the mains of course we needed to try the famous “ramen”. ¬†Our server suggested in addition to the beef ramen that we ordered, there was a special pork ramen not on the menu. ¬†I must say the most important component in a ramen bowl is the broth itself. ¬†Although both of the broths was hearty i personally preferred a more creamy broth tonkotsu styled, but it was above average for both bowls. ¬†The onsen eggs was well cooked and the pork and beef was tender and delicious. ¬†Good job i must say. ¬†The only thing we ordered that wasn’t really worth the price was the in house “Soda”. ¬†I liked the ginger ale personally, the ginger hit was powerful and yummy, however the coke tasted weird. ¬†Like something was out of place, it tasted medicinal . ¬†I must admit though, all in all it was a great experience. ¬†The¬†ambiance¬†was friendly, the servers nice, although the menu needed explaining in order to make a decision.

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