Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Taiwanese Munchies

Liu San Ge
No 1 Jalan Anak Bukit
Bukit Timah Plaza
Tel: 64631833
N and I made an interesting discovery of a small little Taiwanese oriented eatery over the weekend. Our objective was to check out the new Fairprice Price Finest Marketplace at Bukit Timah Plaza but I ended up being more impressed with this little place than the supermarket itself which I thought was actually a Cold Storage wannabe but run with the civil servants type of corporate culture mindset. I shall blog about this later.
Liu San as the little Taiwanese place is known offers basic street delicacies which some are already familiar with local Singaporeans who have been there done that at the famous Shilin Night market. The menu isn’t very wide but who cares as long as everything comes out great and tasty. We started each with a cup of soothing homemade cold soya bean milk for me and warm rice milk for N. The soya bean milk was as define concentrated enough for me to feel its milky texture though it was not very well sieved and I could taste fine sandy bits of grounded beans around. Perhaps it was intentionally done so to validate their claim of have it home made. Despite the not so smooth texture, it has a kind of fragrance in between the distance of caramelized sugar and burnt notes that evokes the nostalgic feelings of neighbourhood wet markets in the good old days where soya bean milk was boiled before serving at the stall. The process resulted in caramelized bits of the milk leaching out the unique fragrance that I distinctly remember as part of my childhood repertoire of taste preferences.
The rice milk was a brownish slightly thickened gruel of toasted ground rice with its distinct nutty flavour. The toasty notes made the gruel rather fragrant and the slight sweetness was a welcomed balance to the whole cup of rice milk. Both beverages are suitable for vegetarians too!

There are many interesting things on the small menu and we choose a few of those who are not so familiar. We started with the Lu Rou Fan which is a topping of soy braised minced pork over steamed short grain rice topped with a soy braised egg and home made pickled cucumbers on the side. It was a simple but satisfying dish especially with the warm hard boiled egg that had a slightly undercooked yolk. The pickles provided a nice contrasting crunch to the comfort tastes of the food and it made me felt very homely with peasant warmth.
N’s share was a grilled fresh eel (unagi style) on rice, something just introduced but not printed in the menu. Modelled after the classic Japanese Unagi Don, the freshly grilled eel do not reek of any unpleasant fishy notes that we find in poor quality frozen eel packs in the supermarkets. In fact it took to the sauce very well after being grilled on the hot plate and N and I enjoyed it absolutely.
The crispy chicken roll was a delicate wrap of sliced chicken meat and lots of crunchy vegetables like local turnip (Bang Kwang) and carrots. The flavours of the bean skin imparted and nice smokey salty tinge to the rolls and each bite was a reminder of those lovely vegetarian goose pieces made by the nuns in the kitchens of a Buddhist Temple along Punggol Road which I go to regularly since young with my grandmother. The accompanying tangy sauce had fruity notes of pickled plums with a hint of a slight dose of ketchup and Mayonnaise. This contrasted well against the slightly greasy chicken rolls but nonetheless the tasty filling made up for any other slight errors.
“Tian Bu La” or literally meaning sweet not spicy refers to a small side dish of fried fish cakes smothered with a sweetish pinkish sauce similar to what we get when we order five spiced fritters (Ngo Hiang). The fish cakes were rather smooth textured and eating them with the sweet sauce was like rediscovering the thrill of childhood experiences of following my folks to the Wayang Street Hawkers Center and eating those fried fritters with the sweet pink sauce while the adults would dip into the chili flavoured one., This hawkers has long since made way for the extension of today’s Eu Tong Sen Street.
Last to arrive was a simple dish of boiled dumplings (Jiao Zi) with the usual black vinegar dip.The chive and meat flavoured filled dumplings were pretty standard but tasted home made. Each bite reveals the honest sincerity of these lovingly hand crafted dumplings made with passion.
There are still quite a few more other interesting items on the menu that N and I are keen to try in the next round and will update on this post when we have done so in the next two weeks.

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