Ama's five spice pork

It was a rare treat when Ama (grandmother) would come to stay.  She'd bring her special recipes with her.  Using unrushed, deliberate movements, Ama showed me the beauty and skill in cooking.  Whenever she made Five Spice Pork, I'd greedily down twice my normal intake.  Ama would look on and smile proudly.


Mama's special chicken

My mama grows her own vegetables in her garden.  “Only the expensive stuff,” she’s quick to interject.  She couldn’t deal with the lack of power of an American kitchen so she set up her own fire-breathing wok in the backyard.  “It keeps the oily smell outside,” she proudly beams.  By stealing her chicken and rice noodle dishes, I hope to make her famous.


chef's lion's head meatballs

This was my favorite dish when I lived in Taipei.  There was a cozy, neighborhood spot I'd go to every Sunday for my Lion’s Head Meatballs over rice.  While traditionally fried then braised in China, my version is more akin to the meatballs I had in Taiwan: smaller, skipping the deep fry, with more nuanced, complex flavor.  


Cousin's Beef Noodle Soup

One of my favorite memories from Taiwan was meandering down small alleys in search of the next great bowl of beef noodle soup with Cousin Ning.  Cousin Ning taught me the ins and outs of a good Beef Noodle Soup: smooth, rich broth, just a bit of chew on the noodles, the perfectly tender beef texture, and just the right amount of acidity from the pickled mustard greens.

Auntie's Steamed Pork Bun

There was an Auntie (unrelated older female) with a blue cart near my apartment in Taipei and she would make just one thing: Steamed Pork Buns.  The limited menu made ordering easy for me while I was working on my Mandarin.  I loved to swing by on the way home from work for a pork bun appetizer before dinner.  It was always tragic if she sold out early.


This was my childhood favorite night market dish.  The first time I ordered it for my American-born girlfriend in Taiwan, she couldn't finish it.  Oyster omelets have the bouncy “Q” texture that Taiwanese people love (imagine the chewiness of a soft gummy bear).  However, as I learned, that texture is not revered by all.  The relationship was not to be.