Yang Wedding Banquet in Taipei

We were fortunate to be part of Andy (yang1815) and Sugi’s wedding banquet in Taipei last weekend. Here are some pictures from the banquet (especially the food!), which was hosted at the very nice Regent Taipei Hotel.

Andy and Sugi pose with their nephews in the greeting room just outside the banquet hall. We had met the middle of the three nephews at the wedding in Maui last year and enjoyed meeting the other two on this trip. 

There was a large ice sculpture of two cupids about to kiss, melting quickly underneath the lightbulbs. It wasn’t until the way out that someone pointed out to me that the “male” cupid was anatomically correct and, I suppose, less well endowed after two hours than he was at the start of the banquet.

Andy’s father speaks to the guests while Sugi’s father, Sugi, and Andy sit at the table and await the first course. Chinese banquets are elaborate affairs. Usually about a dozen courses and great care is taken to choose the best (read: “expensive”) ingredients as a matter of showing a good “face” to the guests. The Yangs certainly were outstanding hosts as this was one of the finest banquets I’ve attended and every course was impressive. Here they are in the order they arrived.  

The first plate (everything at this banquets was plated for us, not served off common platters) was an appetizer salad of smoked goose breast. The orange ingredient is a kind of solid “cake” of fish eggs, if I understand correctly, the saltiness of which paired nicely with the tender, smoky goose.

The next course was a small bowl of slightly sweet mochi (sticky rice) dumplings with longan fruit. This was an interesting dish that is similar to desserts I have eaten in Thailand. It seemed strange that something dessert-like would be served as a second course, but the dish was tasty. 

Third course was abalone. This is one of those big-ticket ingredients that impresses guests and this particular succeeded in doing so. The abalone was tender and flavorful, a really good example of why the price tag is so high. 

The fourth course was braised scallops. In general, scallops are one of my favorite ingredients and these particular scallops were cooked really nicely. 

The next course was shark’s fin soup. Yes, this is an unpopular ingredient these days as most shark fins are harvested in a horrific manner. While I don’t know the source of these particular fins, I can say that this was the best shark fin soup I’ve had. Normally, the fins are cut into very thin strips and the broth is murky with cornstarch. This was a clear-broth soup and the fins were in large pieces. A good example of why this dish is considered a must-have on Chinese banquet menus. 

The sixth course was steamed sea bream with scallions. Chinese know how to cook fish and this captured the reason why: steaming keeps the fish moist, captures all the sweetness of fresh seafood, and avoids overcooking.

The seventh course was braised pork tendons with okra and chestnuts. The gelatinous texture of pork tendons doesn’t appeal to everyone, I’m sure, but it is hard to beat the flavor! 

The eighth course was something I’ve never seen before, a pork chop that has been cooked confit style and crusted with what I swear were Doritos and corn flakes. The meat was tender and very tasty. Definitely unusual. 

The ninth course was a chicken soup made with “black bone” chicken. This type of chicken has black skin but tastes like any other chicken. One truth, though, is that chickens in Asia (in general, and Taiwan in particular) are so much tastier than the chickens in the United States. The broth had the type of flavor that you always imagine chicken soup should have, but rarely does. 

The tenth course was a small bundle of glutinous rice with Chinese sausage, mushrooms, and lotus seeds, steamed in taro leaf. This is a dim sum staple and provided a little starch to help fill you up, just incase the previous nine courses had left you hungry! 

 

The eleventh course (the first dessert course) was actually two types of pastries, the left one filled with sweetened daikon radish and the right one filled with barbecued pork. These are familiar to anyone who goes to dim sum.

We concluded with a platter of fresh fruit, something sweet but refreshing to conclude the banquet. By this point, nobody had the appetite to do more than just nibble!

Congratulations to Andy and Sugi and thanks to the Yangs for their very generous hospitality! 

 

Food in Bangkok: Grand Shagarila Restaurant

In December, Tawn’s university friend Ko was married.  Tawn and several of their close friends helped with various aspects of the wedding.  For example, Tawn served as the emcee both in Thai and English, since the groom’s family are from Sweden.  As a thank-you, Ko’s mother took the friends (and me) out for a very nice dinner at the Grand Shangarila Restaurant, an old-school Chinese restaurant in the Silom area known for their seafood hot pot and lobster sashimi.

Let me share our banquet with you:

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A choice of sauces and condiments: kimchee, soy sauce, wasabi, and Thai style dipping sauce.  Korean, Japanese, and Thai all in one row.

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Look at the beautiful kimchee!

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Newlyweds Per and Ko take pictures of the appetizer plate, while Ko’s mother looks on.

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Can you name all the appetizers?  From the back, clockwise: fried daikon radish cake; fried small fish; fried deer tendon with ginkgo nuts, and – anyone want to guess what item four is?  Please see below…

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If you guessed duck tongue, you would be correct.  There’s a little cartilage spine in them after you eat the meat.  Who knew?  Tasty, though.

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A lovely roast duck was brought to the table and presented to us, then the staff carved the crispy sweet skin off and wrapped the skin in these delicate crepes with plum sauce and green onion inside.

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Close-up view of the crispy goodness of roasted duck skin.

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The main course: lobster sashimi.  Look at the size of it!  Everyone is in awe…

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Creature from the black lagoon…

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The sweet meat, which we could either boil briefly in a broth and eat, or simply eat raw after a brush of soy sauce.  In my opinion, raw was the better option as it was tastier.

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My goofy husband pretending to be impaled on the lobster.

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Also served was a boat of sashimi dragon fish, a firm white fish that was boiled in another broth.

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There were two broths, one made from some of the lobster’s blood and Chinese cooking wine and another from the fish bones.  Don’t mix!

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Also served with the lobster was a little bowl of – any guesses?  A gelatin made from the lobster’s blood, with Sprite poured over it.  Odd… didn’t understand the point of this.  It is meant to be a chased to the lobster and the gelatin was pleasantly salty.  But no idea why the Sprite was in it.

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Shrimp balls served with a crab meat topping.  Rich…

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Fried soft shell crab with black pepper and salt, garlic, scallions, and chilies.

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The remaining roast duck meat made its way back to the table as a stir fry served on a bed of crunchy fried vermicelli noodles.

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Fried wide rice noodles with lobster head.  Ultimately, the entire lobster that was first served as sashimi is consumed over several courses.

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Dessert number one was a taro paste bar with ginkgo nuts wrapped in pumpkin seeds and fried.

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Dessert number two is fresh young coconut meat and ginkgo nuts served in a light sugar syrup.

Needless to say, this was a pretty fancy – and filling! – meal.  We were really treated wonderfully by Ko’s mother and went home with several containers of leftovers per person.

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Outside the front of the restaurant, which is located just off Soi Taniya, the adult nightlife street that caters to Japanese tourists and expats.