Monday, March 15, 2010

[ 台北市] - 寧夏夜市 李家香無刺虱目魚 Li Jia Hsiang boneless milkfish cuisine (Ningxia Road Night Market)

Right next door to Formosa Chang in Taipei City at Ningxia Road Night Market 寧夏夜市
is a proper sit down restaurant called Li Jia Hsiang 李家香, or loosely, "Lee's Home is Fragrant".

But what is Li cookin' that got the locals jonesin'?

One Fish
Two Fish
Boney Fish
Milk Fish (OK let's not go there)

They specialize in the cuisine of "Shir Mo Yue" (in Mandarin) 虱目魚. Also known as Milk Fish in English, Chanos Chanos (Latin), Milchfisch (Germany), Bangus (Phillipines), Badeng (Indonesia), Sabahii (Japan), Bandang (Malaysia), Cá Máng (Vietnam), and last but not least Awa-Awa (Hawaii).

It's one of those "you haven't eaten like a local until you've had this" kind of dish.

Milk Fish / Shir Mo Yue is plentiful around the south western island of Taiwan, and it is said that the Dutch (who were the early occupiers of Formosa, now Taiwan) brought with them the milk fish farming methods
to Taiwan. When Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong or Tei Seiko according to Japanese) kicked the Dutch out of Taiwan circa 1662, he apparently was one of the first Chinese nationals (although his mum was Japanese) to have the milk fish and his reaction was: "daaaaaayum bitch, this shit is gooooooooooood! What's the name of this fizzle shizzle?" And the locals eventually came up with a name, "it's Shir Mo Yue, my man!"

So anyway, Shir Mo Yue or Milk Fish, is also a Tainan staple. The locals there would have congee made with this fish as a breakfast item. Milk Fish has a ton of bones, so it is not very pleasant to eat otherwise. Fortunately the Taiwanese over time have developed a technique to debone the fish, well at least get rid of the major ones. I dare not say their knife technique is anywhere near as good as the Japanese are with deboning the super boney hamo eel, but now there are many restaurants that specialize in "boneless" milkfish cuisine 無刺虱目魚, like Li Jia Hsiang, that can be enjoyed as far north into Taipei.

The best part of the milk fish? It's da BELLY. Rich in all sorts of goodness (omega 3, etc etc). The fish is virtually never eaten raw locally.

The grilled filet looks like a butterfly, served with a wedge of lemon. It's the local version of shioyaki, where the center part is the belly PHAT goodness. This one you want to eat as your very first bite, as it is quite filling.

Milk fish soup of any sort is not cooked for very long, and this is a local style. The idea is to preserve the natural flavors of the fish, with the only ingredients to enhance are ginger slices and pinches of salt. To some the fish may be a bit fishy, but rest assured it is how it tastes, and not fishy in a bad way.

Li Jiang Hsiang  also serves it Shanghainese style, with vinegar and sugar, as well as a stewed version with soy sauce (the Japanese parallel to this would be nitsuke).

Other uses of the fish:

Fish skin
Fish ball (made with paste of the ground meat)
Fish belly noodles

Want some non fish items to go with it? They do the plain ol' minced pork rice, and it is of a very decent standard.

李家香無刺虱目魚 (Li Jia Hsiang)
北市大同區寧夏路60號 (Taipei City, Datong District, Ningxia Rd #60)


1 comment:

  1. that Milk fish soup looks yum! I should have gone to this one instead!!!