Following the success of its Taste of Indonesia, Taste of Malaysia and Taste of Philippine food events, this month the Shangri-La Hotel Sydney launched a festival of Taiwanese flavours in Cafe Mix running from October 20th to 28th.
The mention of Taiwanese cuisine brings two things to mind – Pearl Milk Tea (aka bubble tea) and Bao, both originated from the island south east of mainland China.
Pearl Milk Tea has been prevalent in Sydney for some time with chains such as Easyway and Chatime now a common sight in the CBD and suburbs. The original drink is made from black tea with milk, served either cold or warm with round black balls – the ‘pearl’ floating at the bottom. It is in fact a starch made from a root vegetable and displays a chewy texture. There are countless variations from fruity flavours like lychee, peach and grape to taro, chocolate, green tea and matcha. The drink is also customisable – the toppings are not limited to pearl and many shops let you change the amount of sugar and ice included. Formerly the preserve of Asians, milk tea is now a firm favourite with westerners too.
Bao Zi (包子）in mainland China is a round shaped bun with fillings sealed inside. BBQ pork, red bean, vegetables, and custard are amongst the most popular flavours. The Taiwanese version is more like an open sandwich with the filling exposed. Pork belly is commonly used but other varieties like Peking duck, chicken karaage and soft-shell crab are not uncommon. Specialist Bao shops are now popular lunchtime eateries around Sydney and new flavours are regularly added to menu for wider appeal.
Due to its shared history with China, the cuisine of Taiwan has been heavily influenced by its bigger neighbour and particularly from southern China. Sweet and Sour flavour is obviously a classic Cantonese dish, at this Taste of Taiwan buffet chicken wings are served in the same bright orange sauce.
Steamed Fish in rice wine, soy sauce, ginger and shallots is another traditional Chinese dish and you can find white fish fillet prepared in a similar way at the buffet. The four key ingredients are believed to remove smell from the fish during steaming and preserve freshness and flavour. Both sides of the fish are scored to allow the penetration of the seasoning. The fish is then steamed in a whole for only a few minutes, any longer it will dry up the meat. Rest assured though – no bones or head are found at this buffet.
Thinly sliced Cold Cut Beef is a common appetiser at Chinese banquets. At Taste of Taiwan it is found in the salad section along with green salads and braised Asian greens. It’s not dissimilar to terrine, where the meat, juice and fat are all refrigerated and sliced thinly before being served at room temperature.
Noodles are a staple of Taiwanese cuisine and the most famous variety is the Beef Noodle Soup. Noodles are quickly blanched with bok choy before being added to a slow-cooked broth. Beef brisket is the preferred cut of meat for locals. This is such a celebrated dish in Taiwan that there are even annual festivals where chefs compete for the honour of having their dish crowned as the best beef noodle soup.
As much as we love Matcha Cheesecake and Mango Pudding, it’s the Snow Cones we had our eyes on after the main course. This dessert is basically shaved ice served with toppings such as lychee, jelly and red bean and drizzled with coloured sugar syrup. A real taste of home for any native Taiwanese.
Taste of Taiwan is one of many culinary festivals hosted by Shangri-La Hotel Sydney this year demonstrating the variety of Asian cuisine. The festival takes place at Café Mix from Oct 20th to 28th with lunch priced at $55 AUD per person Sunday to Thursday from 12PM to 2.30PM. A seafood buffet is available for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays from 6.00PM to 10.00PM at $85 AUD per person.
Taste of Taiwan
Cafe Mix, Shangri-La Hotel Sydney
176 Cumberland St, Sydney NSW
Phone:(02) 9250 6000
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Shangri-La Sydney