Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gifts from Taiwan: 北港元品麻油餅 Sesame oil cake

I love regional specialties. This one comes from Yulin county, North Harbor, by a company called Yuan Pin 元品, a local delicacy called 麻油餅 (Mah You Bing), or sesame oil cake.

The name does not sound very appetizing, but apparently these make great wedding gifts. In Cantonese bakeries you have husband cakes and wife cakes (where husband cakes are savory, and wife cakes are sweet....go figure out that one!)

This one looks like an Islamic Chinese sesame thick bread (where you eat it with cumin lamb or whatever stir fried lamb + scallion dish), but the inside is made with taro. See what white stuff? It's muazi / mochi.

Incredibly smooth, delicious, and addictive. Once you remove the cake from the vacuum sealed package, consume it right away (and you probably cannot stop).


Address:雲林縣北港鎮中山路151號 (Yulin county, North Harbor Village, Zhongshan Rd 151)

Friday, August 3, 2012

[台北] - 牛爸爸牛肉麵 - Beef Daddy Beef Noodle$$$$$$....Who i$ Your Daddy?

Who's Yo Daddy? Why it's Beef Daddy (688 Noodle) of course. 牛爸爸牛肉麵

How much are you willing to pay for a bowl of Taiwanese beef noodles/niu rou mian 牛肉麵?

US$2? $5? $9? These are typical price ranges of bowls you can get in Taipei, night markets, casual eateries, sit down casual restaurants, and beef noodle specialist shops.

Too cheap for you? How about US$20 / NT$600 range? Whoa.... that is starting to get insane by local standards. But wait that's not just it!

Can you handle US$100 / ~ NT$3000 for one bowl of 牛肉麵? Damn dude, not even a plate of dry fried beef chow fun 干炒牛河 is worth that much (even if they use Japanese beef). Then again some people prefer Ferrari's over Honda Civics.
If you are a beef noodle fanatic, then 牛爸爸牛肉麵 will specifically cater to the beef noodle crazy in you.

About 5 min walk away from 忠孝敦化, is literally a temple of beef noodles.

Professor "Beef Daddy" Wang 王聰源 (owner and chef)

牛爸爸牛肉麵 certainly has an interesting story behind it. Mr Wang lived overseas in Vancouver for about 20 years. He gave up pursuing a career in architecture and decided to become an artisanal beef noodle 牛肉麵 maker.

After much careful research (and a lot of $ invested), he has come up with quite an award winning formula. The menu apparently sports multiple price levels of beef noodles, from cheap to crazy expensive. As you go higher up in price, the quality of goods used in the product increases exponentially. What is even more interesting is that Mr Wang originally had a few very affordable bowls of noodles, but business was not good. Contrary to common sense, which LOWERING the price would theoretically attract more customers, Mr Wang decided to go against the grain and RAISE the prices of his beef noodles...but at the same time invested more in quality.

About 8 years ago, Mr Wang came up with the NT$3000 (~US$100) bowl of beef noodles. The general blogosphere thought that was crazy and brave. But Tony stuck to his guns, and insisted on raising the price for this bowl, while being able to control quality with fewer crowds coming through the door.

They say that on most given days, the restaurant can be fairly empty, but Tony's restaurant does have some fiercely loyal fans.

For those who want the Rolls Royce, Lamborghini of beef noodles, professor Wang's has one for you. It costs NT$10,000 per bowl (~US$330)  called 元首牛肉麵. I couldn't afford the bowl, but at least here are the photos of others to give you a glimpse.

To say Mr Wang is a specialist or professor is an understatement.
This NT$10,0000 bowl allows you to customize the types of noodles you want (different thickness, width, and texture). I believe he has a special source for his noodles (similarly to how Ono Jiro of Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo has a unique supplier for his rice).

The beef? Where do I begin? A medley of specific cuts from cows across the world....New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, and Japanese Matsuzaka beef.

The NT$10,000 bowl is served with a side of beef broth essence. Apparently this is pre-made in advance and kept in deep freeze, so that when a customer orders this, he just needs to reheat it. You've heard of stories like 72 beef noodles using 1.5 kilos of ox bones to make a serving of white ox bone broth that takes 72 hours to simmer....only one can guess how much labor and material went into making this beef broth essence here.

When this bowl was introduced around 2008 or so, the restaurant was immediately escalated to world gourmet status, maybe some Guiness world record, coverage on CNN and other business magazines, and a lot of super rich high profile locals and foreigners interested in seeing what the fuss was all about. It has also been said that Tony even said that the NT $10,000 tag is a suggested price, and he offered customers the option to pay what they think the bowl is worth. One Taiwanese executive loved the bowl so much he paid almost triple the amount...

Despite the sillyness, it is said that even the NT$300 and below bowls here are quite good, or the ~NT$600 tomato beef noodles. The varying price levels of this restaurant is one interesting aspect to this restaurant, in addition to Mr Wang winning various awards in the past in the annual Taipei Beef Noodle Festival.

This place is certainly not for the casual beef noodle fan, but for those who can appreciate subtleties and fine attention to detail (including the numerous available condiments/sauces), the fact that this is one of the cleanest beef noodle restaurants around with an almost immaculate kitchen that would make the health department proud), make this place stand out. 

Have you tried the NT$10,000 beef noodle bowl yet? If you have, consider yourself lucky!

牛爸爸牛肉麵 (688 Noodle / "Beef Daddy")
台北市忠孝東路四段216巷27弄16號 Taipei City Zhongxia E Rd 4th portion, Alley 216, 27 / #16

Friday, June 1, 2012

[台北市] - 麵面俱到 - can you handle clams in your beef noodles?

麵面俱到 offers an interesting twist on the typical style beef noodle.

In fact they go a bit overboard with allowing you to customize.
Let's start with the soup base. You can pick 川味 (spicy) broth, 蕃茄 (tomato), and of course 清燉 (clear beef broth). But did you know you can also get pork bone broth 豚骨高湯?!

OK so you're thinking, what's so great about this place? It gets a little better...these guys allow you to add fresh clams to the beef noodle bowls!

牛肉蚌麵 (beef noodles with clams)

or how about pairing it with FISH?

豚骨鮮蚌魚麵 (clams and fish with pork bone soup)

Don't like seafood, but you love innards and parts? How about some pork organs with your beef noodles?

川味原汁三樣麵 (spicy broth, featuring beef, pork liver, and pork intestines) 

The cost for all this goodness? About NT$150 for a bowl.....maybe a bit over US$5.

In the USA, a bowl of Japanese style ramen loaded with MSG and salt will cost you more than US$10 after tax and tip. In Taipei, eating beef noodles (and so many varieties at that) seem to be the more logical choice.

麵面俱到 (Mien Mien Chu Tao Tasty Noodle House)
Taipei City, Shihlin District, Fu Hua Road 162 / #1 (Get off Zhishan station, exit #2)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

[台北市] - 功夫蘭州手拉麵 - How good is their kung fu?

Haiiiiiii YA!

No it is not Bruce Lee. Suddenly Beef Noodles 牛肉麵 is associated with Kung Fu.
To many non Chinese, Kung Fu sounds like some serious martial artist who kicks people's asses.

But from a Chinese context, 功夫 refers to a lot of hard work put in, attention to detail, labor intensive, perhaps doing a lot for a better result. Sometimes it is just a buzz.

Upstairs from Taipei Main Station (train / MRT) is "Breeze Center" 微風臺北車站. Lots of food courts and restaurants, like this one. Perfect if you are not terribly hungry, or just want a convenient bite downtown (nothing spectacular, but nothing bad).

The main focus here is the visual and sound of noodle master thwacking the dough and pulling noodles by hand, Lanzhou style. In a way it is their way of bringing the Chinese art of hand pulled noodles, and applying it to Taiwan style beef noodle soup.

Some say that this shop, while has won past award in Taipei Beef Noodle Festival, somewhat misses the mark on the broth or beef. So depending on your focus and on what is more important, the noodle may be interesting, but the other elements could be potentially lacking.

This shop is definitely catering towards visitors, who might be shocked and awed by the chef action.

The most interesting looking item here? Could be the clear broth oxtail noodle. 清燉牛尾拉麵 .

Enjoy a couple of pictures of oxtail noodle porn.

Goji berry, daikon, green veg, and oxtail. Might be a slightly more enjoyable experience that Ramen Nakamura in Hawaii (oxtail ramen)...

So if you try it, let me know how it tastes.

功夫蘭州拉麵 Kung Fu Lanzhou Noodles
地址: 台北市中正區北平西路3號2F(微風台北車站) Zhongchen District, Beiping S. Rd #3, 2F
(Breeze Center, upstairs from Taipei Main Station)
Tel: 02-2388-2298

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

[台北] - 老外一品牛肉麵 - Foreigner's Beef Noodles - Fusion Done Right

In Tokyo, there is a New York expat named Ivan Orkin who opened up his own ramen restaurant (Ivan Ramen) to great instant success, fame, and worldwide recognition. A foreigner who against the odds, entered a field of fierce competition where you had better be good, no...excellent, in order to get to the top.

There is a similar success story, all but shunned from international media, in Taipei, Taiwan. Many foreigners settle down in Taiwan, bring their food and culture with them, and have their own success stories. You see people from the Middle East, India, Pakistan who open up their own eateries and food stalls. You find Turkish ice cream at night markets, and of course the grilled lamb wraps (where the wrap skins are hand tossed and grilled to order). But for someone who came from Iran, entered the field of beef noodles/beef noodle soup, or niu rou mian 牛肉麵, and came out with a very successful product, business, and loyal fan following, is rare and unheard of.

The Ivan Orkin of Taipei in the beef noodle world is a man named Davod (= David) Bagherzadeh. He speaks fluent Mandarin (I'm sure way way way way way better than mine) too.

The clear stew noodle broth is made with beef knee bones and is simmered for upwards of 4 days.

The signature red stew broth contains tomato, various spices, and a secret blend of Persian herbs that brings out the needed spicy kick and fragrance. Many Taiwanese who studied abroad (e.g. New York) and have had a range of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean street food, then come back to Taipei and eat at 老外一品牛肉麵 will find many familiar flavors in this bowl.

Definitely a must try.

老外一品牛肉麵 Foreigner's Beef Noodles
Website: http://persian-gulf.web66.com.tw/web/Home
台北市中山區吉林路403號1F (Taipei City, Zhongshan District, Jihlin Road #403, 1/F)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

四訪 知味館 - Yum's Bistro - Fremont, CA (USA) - I Just Can't Get Enough...I Just Can't Get Enough

"When I'm in here baby, I go outta my head....I Just Can't Get Enough....I Just Can't Get Enough."

It feels like I'm running out of material, which in some cases is true. But one thing I extremely enjoy about Yum's Bistro 知味館 in Fremont, is that there is always a surprise in virtually every visit, big or small. Sometimes you have to make that surprise happen yourself, and take the reins of a wild horse, and see what path you venture down with it.

It pains me sometimes to read the food adventures of many of my favorite Hong Kong based bloggers (I love you guys, your writeups, and pictures to bits) but as an expat living on the other side of the globe, that good stuff, particularly classical style Cantonese food, is so far out of reach.  Sometimes I couldn't be half arsed to settle for pricey pretentious crap at an overated high end seafood restaurant. Other times, there are just not enough people to partake. But more importantly, quality and traditional original taste are generally missing, let alone not authentic.

But the chef owner here, man.... this guy that I've come to refer to him personally as 旋哥, who was a retired chef before he decided to get back in the kitchen to run his own restaurant, not only delivers in quality at a very affordable price, but he also knows the traditional flavors of Hong Kong, and is probably the best chef of his genre in the entire SF Bay Area.

It is also no secret that he has already amassed a loyal cult following from expats who know how to navigate the waters in the Bistro, but yet you will rarely find detailed writeups, blogs, or reviews of some of his best dishes.

On a cold winter night in December 2011, a few of us came in. Pre-ordered a few dishes, and we just let the evening run its course.

Chef owner gave us this free on the house, roasted squab 乳鴿

The skin was softer this time round, tasted less greasy, more marinated. No salt pepper dip, but overall very satisfying. I even ate the entire head which I normally don't do...and it was actually quite juicy!

Yes, we should not even compare this with Shatin, let alone most places in Hong Kong, but this is already miles better than anything else.

This is what happens when you let the chef be creative - HK style won ton claypot chicken soup

This is a typical Shanghainese claypot soup that you could easily find in many non Cantonese Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. Typically a whole mature chicken is stewed in a claypot for hours (with pork won tons, maybe napa cabbage and Jinghua ham). Chef Yum basically took this dish and gave it a more Cantonese approach....using fresh wontons he made himself (excellent pork to shrimp ratio), mature chicken, and the American Jinghua ham substitute, smoked Virginia ham, and napa cabbage. While not tasting the same, it was pure natural deliciousness. You could virtually taste all the ingredients, and was extremely comforting on a cold night. 

Even crazier is that this is the absolute best won ton I've had in town. Beautiful bite sized, form fitting, and additional skin slack. American comfort soup is chicken noodle soup. But Cantonese comfort soup that is chicken based, would be something like this.

I could use 30 more of these things

I unfortunately did not get a chance to find out what kind of fish was used for this steamed fish dish, but it looked way better than it tasted. Some parts were a bit chewier and dryer than others. Sad to see one inconsistent dish. Unfortunately it is not easy to get interesting exotic fish most of the time, unlike Hong Kong where there are hundreds if not thousands of varieties, if you include boney ocean wild fish, and ones swimming off the South China sea. What Cantonese Chinese restaurants in SF Bay Area refer to as "mouse grouper" (humpback grouper) 老鼠斑 is not equivalent to the rare prized humpback grouper in HK. Sigh.

This is not on the menu - 糯米

Again I have to thank all my favorite Hong Kong bloggers. You guys eat like Roman emperors. Some of your eating adventures (particularly around crab) remind me of something I've craved for years, but haven't had a chance to eat again locally, as my lack of faith in many seafood restaurants make me worry that they cannot execute a traditional receipe like this. And what better than 糯米蟹 (crab steamed with glutinous rice), which is another perfect dish for the winter, on top of Chef Yum's expertise with crab and lobster dishes. Nothing beats quality seasonal local dungeoness crab being used in this traditional receipe. One can only have so many spicy crabs, typhoon shelter crabs, salt pepper crabs, or even salted egg yolk crabs.

Easily the best dish of the whole evening. Simple yet it felt luxurious. There's nothing sexier than crab juices and essence dripping down into the perfectly made glutinous stir fried rice (that is rich with flavor and ingredients). 

Never have I seen so much care and attention in a glutinous rice prep with steamed crab! Chef Yum went entirely old school on this one. 米 (dried shrimp, and BIG long ones too) and 魚乾 which are similar to dried anchovies, really brought out the flavor. Every glutinous rice grain was moist and more importantly 上色. Ridiculously good...

Chef Yum told us, "there's one more dish to come!". It was a surprise. Well not really, because he knows we like it.  Beef brisket curry claypot 咖哩牛腩煲. It tastes way better than it looks. Less coconut milk presence, and chef uses a blend of Indian and Indonesian curry and spices to create this. The addition of potatoes is vital to the outcome, and are not to be missed. Already full with glutinous rice from the previous dish, getting additional bowls of white rice was compulsory, especially when the sauce was not to be wasted. The second highlight of the contents was not the soft tender brisket, but the beef tendons.

And just when we thought the surprise was over, the complementary house dessert closed out the symphonic performance.


I don't know too much about Cantonese stewed dessert soups, but using BURDOCK/GOBO 牛蒡 in one is new to me!

Naturally sweet and a delicious combination. After having so many taro sago or red bean dessert soups, this was a breath of fresh air. 牛蒡 (burdock), 紅棗 (dried red dates), 雪耳 (snow ear funghi), 枸杞 (wolfberry). A simple game of classical genius!

Until next time...

Yum's Bistro 知味館
4906 Paseo Padre Pkwy
(between Capulet Rd & Deep Creek Rd)
Fremont, CA 94555
Tel: (510)-745-8866

Saturday, February 11, 2012

[基隆廟口夜市] - 世盛一口吃香腸 Keelung Night Market's "One Bite Sausage"

Out of many so called TV food celebrities out there, no one other than Anthony Bourdain, has had his fill of sausage in virtually every country or episode (save Asia, because there is food other than hot dogs).

Every food loving person will always have something to recommend when visiting some famous night market. At Keelung Temple Mouth Night Market 基隆廟口夜市, it is impossible to eat absolutely everything, or even 50% of what there is to offer, and inevitably someone will ask you to save some room to try something.

So if you are into really tasty high quality sausages and garlic, look no further than this signature stall.
世盛一口吃香腸. Literally "one bite sausage" because each weenie is small enough it fits comfortably in your mouth, whether you are straight, single, married. Of course not all weenies are equal, some are phatter than others. Each weenie runs NT $7 (used to be NT$5 in 2005 prices), and of course a piece of garlic is included. You figure NT$30 ~ US$1. So this is affordable. Even if you are a bit broke ass.

If you live in Southern California, you've probably heard of Sinbala and their sausages. While those are good if not frozen and reheated, the real deal can only be had at a place like this.

Looks a little greasy but devlish sexy right? Bourdain sadly never ate something this good.

Somehow the black pork sausage (chockful of tasty good stuff) eaten with one piece of garlic, is just a wonderous experience. Explosion in the mouth, and of course major stink breath. If only a chunk of raw onion was paired with it in addition! The effect of this, is very similar to eating Singaporean satay skewers (one bite of meat satay, one bite of raw onion). Somehow it all makes sense.

世盛一口吃香腸 (One Bite Sausage Stall)
基隆市 Keelung City (Taipei County)
仁愛區仁三路、愛四路交叉口(第43-1號攤位) Ren Ai District, x 3rd Rd with 4th Rd (stall # 43-1)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

[花蓮縣] - 七星柴魚博物館 - Chihsing Tan Katsuo Museum in Hualien county - Holy Smokey Fishy Goodness!

Some years back I had the pleasure of joining some friends on a road trip that took us first from Taipei to Yilan county, then southward towards Hualien county 花蓮縣. It is truly an amazing oasis on the eastern side of the coast. What surprised me the most was that in the middle of nowhere, next to a rocky beach (no sand) that is supposedly near a military base (and often used for practice), is a museum. Right by the Chising Tan area 七星潭風景區.

Not just any museum, but one dedicated to....katsuoboshi or bonito flakes (鰹節 or かつおぶし in Japanese). Commonly referred by the Taiwanese as 柴魚片, coming from the fish bonito which the locals call 鰹魚. Whoa?! It turns out that every year, there are tons and tons and tons of katsuo harvested off the coast of Hualien, and made into bonito flakes via fermentation and smoking process.
This museum preserves some local history (showcasing the life of local fishermen), food culture, and knowledge, and is a very well known tourist attraction.

No need to give away too much, but make sure you drop by the gift shop for a lot of great fantastic katsuo based goodies, from the typical bonito flakes, bonito flakes seasoned soy sauces, dip sauces, and also Taiwanese snacks made with katsuoboshi (e.g. fish floss made with katsuo). Free samples for some stuff too. It is hard to resist.

And when you're done, don't miss the food section (looks like a canteen with benches and tables), where you can get takoyaki, fishball soup (stock enhanced with bonito flakes), katsuo roe sausage, and a few more.

七星柴魚博物館 Chihsing Tan Katsuo Museum
花蓮縣新城鄉七星街148號 Hualien County, Hsun Chun village, Chihsing Street #148

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

基隆廟口夜市- 營養三明治 - Keelung Night Market in Taipei County - Can a deep fried sandwich be nutritious?

基隆廟口夜市- Keelung Night Market, it's like the Las Vegas strip of street food

Let us take a trip back in time....into the archives. One of the greatest things from a food blogging perspective when it comes to reviewing classical night market food, is that the receipes and offerings virtually do not change over time. There is no need to, because these vendors are excellent at what they do, do it well, maintain some level of consistency, and continue to thrive from fans and supporters all around. Which means that other than potentially minor glitches due to changes in quality and seasonality of ingredients, the end product should more or less taste the same!

But with that said, amongst the 200+ food stalls available at Keelung Night Market, this particular stall gets my vote for being the most ridiculous, wackiest, and perhaps a bit out of the box unexpected.

Presenting, the Nutritious Sandwich! 營養三明治

Copycatted and cloned elsewhere many times, but you cannot do any better than coming to this original location where it all started.

Move over banh mi and US$10++ sandwich... this beast of a Taiwanese sandwich will only run NT$50, just a shade over US$1!

The ingredients are pretty simple and straightforward.

Let's start with the bread rolls. They deep fry them first. It looks like Japanese style ebi furai. The outside is mildly crispy and roasty, with a soft inside, but firm enough to hold the mixture of condiments, seasonings, and ingredients.

Ham 火腿, tomatoes 蕃茄, cucumbers 小黃瓜, marinated simmered egg 滷蛋, mayonnaise 蛋黃醬

A Taiwanese symphony in a sandwich

My initial reaction was similar to many out there....yeah WTF?

But after eating it....WOW this is some good stuff. An incredible pairing.
Decent grub to bring on the train too.

Keelung Nutritious Sandwich
Keelung City, Ren-ai District, Rénsān Road, #58 基隆市仁愛區仁三路58號

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

三訪 知味館 Yum's Bistro (part trois) Fremont, CA (USA) - what do turtles, snakes, and lamb have in common?

Get ready for another exclusive magic show

Wa! Dai Lo, back so soon?

Why yes, why not? :-)  After all, it is not like there are a lot of good solid traditional and old style authentic, non Americanized Cantonese places around. And plus this is not Hong Kong where you have a gazillion selections of really top notch food establishments...you take what you can get, but you don't want to settle for less. And with that in mind, it is not difficult to find Cantonese customers in here, some who travel across the bay, upwards of 45 minutes, just to have some of the best food in town.

We don't have Tak Lung or Luk Yu (both spectacular restaurants that preserve classical Cantonese cuisine) in the USA. But I will gladly settle for Yum's Bistro.

Let's get a few things in order first....this restaurant is quite small. It can hold maybe 4 to 5 medium sized to large tables (maybe 3 to 4 tables of ten maximum) and then roughly a handful of 5 tables that seat at most four per, and a few that seat only two. There is a small seafood tank with mostly crabs, a few lobsters, and perhaps a fish or two....and the kitchen is perhaps even smaller in scale, no more than 2 to 4 burners on the stove, one assistant in the kitchen, and the master chef Boson Yum 任旋 does the rest.

Such a small output, yet some of the best food in town comes out from his kitchen. How does he do that?

With that said, you could be looking at a minimum of two hours for dinner, and you need to set your expectations accordingly. If you want speed and efficiency, there are a few HK cafes 茶餐廳 within 20 minutes drive that will satisfy your food booty call. Good things come to those who wait patiently!

And bring at least 4 people or more, this is the only downside and rule to being able to sample as many dishes as possible. Much like a game of mahjong, 三缺一 or "three players, missing one", but here it's the reality is at least one more player is required. In addition to being able to sample more delicious food, sharing the taste and delight of good food (with family and friends) is an imperative experience.

Yes Master Yum in short is perhaps the local God of Stir Fry 鑊氣廚神 and a serious expert with seafood and classical receipes. In addition to various gigs as executive chef across a number of famous local high end seafood restaurants (as well as chef gigs in Chinese restaurants in Japan and Indonesia), his earliest humble beginnings include a chef gig at a place called 小欖公 in Hong Kong (not sure if it was an association or club) possibly during the late 1970s, and it was a place specializing in 鄉土菜 (rustic/village style cuisine). Bold, up to date, yet classical traditional? It's all there.

Menu? We don't need no stinkin' menu! But they recently revised it. And it is prettier and a lot more western friendly now. At least read it first :-)

How about the white board? Slightly new additions for November, including the seasonal old style lamb brisket claypot 古法羊腩煲, perfect for winter time.
The chef's recommended specials page on the menu, no pre-order required. This is for people who are new to the restaurant and are not afraid to be a little more adventurous.

The "soy sauce king" lobster is another not to be missed item. Chef Yum kicks so much ass with his wok! Hmmm Pan fried oysters with Hairy Melon...doesn't sound very appetizing, but this should be good considering oyster omlette/pancakes that are not Taiwanese are hard to find around here.

Hmmm typhoon shelter style fried intestines? I thought typhoon shelter was based on seafood themed items? Here you also see Deep Fried salted egg yolk pumpkin (kabocha) slices, another dish Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco made famous (chef Li and chef Yum used to work together at 南海魚村 in SF!). Sour plum pork knuckle pot is another tasty dish.

Deep fried baby squab (even though Chinese characters say roasted) 紅燒乳鴿 is excellent here, where chef Yum pretty much recreates that 1980s Hong Kong flavor (Shatin to be exact), nobody in SF Bay Area does squab better than Yum's.

Still can't decide? Or don't want to be bothered with choices and just eat? Have a group of at least 4 ready to mahjong the food away? Then the various banquet set menus will handle your worries. Reservations and pre-ordering in advance required of course.

YAWN, you didn't come here to read this standard stuff did you? Certainly not the chef's top A+ game.

I'm sure you didn't come here to read my review of their Yangzhou Fried Rice (which I'm sure is great with lots of wok hay), or that their XO sauce seafood ho fun noodles is spectacular, or that the sweet and sour pork will send you home oinking like the proverbial slob. But I will say that his vegetarian thick noodles 羅漢齋撈粗麵 is excellent, even better than Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club's version in the 1980s.

For those who want a taste of the VIP stuff in subsequent visits, but don't know enough Cantonese or Hong Kong food knowledge, can find new thrills with the updated menu, which will enable and empower you further!

Find this page of the menu:

Here's a modest start, some classic soups and dishes for pre-order so you can feel like you're eating at a private kitchen!

This page was previously an inkjet printout only in Chinese....now translated in English with clear prices and part of the menu. I'm confident these are all really good (particularly duck gizzard with watercress and dried scallop chicken soup). Now if this is your first time pre-ordering dishes, I suggest you start here. One soup, one specialty bird (chicken or duck).Yum's crispy skin sticky rice stuffed chicken 脆皮糯米雞 was covered previously here, but if you have not eaten it yet, it is an excellent introduction to classic retro-Cantonese. Allow at least 2 days or more in advance so the chef can prepare the feast for you. While Yum's version should not be compared to Luk Yu Tea House in Hong Kong, you will likely not find a better version elsewhere in California.

Now turn to the back page of the menu for the true private kitchen style food (pre-order + reservation required, again, allow a few days) that can be a lot harder to find elsewhere (and if you do, likely lesser quality and way more expensive).

Master Yum essentially took a set of dishes he felt best represented the private kitchen experience, compiled them into an easy ordering format on the menu (many put together based on dishes he made for his regular customers), and is now making them a whole lot easier for others who are ready to take dinners to the next level, and thus eat like royalty without having to fly back to Hong Kong. There is no pretentiousness or snobbery here, just solid good food, at an affordable price. Just bear in mind that pacing can be slow, so budget 2 to 2.5 hours for dinner at the very least. Take the time to enjoy, because good things come to those who wait.

We've seen some of these dishes before here, like 賽螃蟹 (crab meat with egg white) that Koi Palace in Daly City also has (but probably way more expensive).

I really didn't know what to expect this cold winter night, since a close relative had already pre-ordered the entire menu. And he let the chef decide. Cantonese omakase?

Unfortunately some of the handwriting to me was not quite legible, so we'll do the best we can!
A few items were changed last minute, such as the black pepper spicy crab, and the stir fried glutinous rice

Leave it to the Master chef to come up with something so out of the box like this!

The first dish is basically the roasted (re: deep fried) squab meat wrapped with spring roll and deep fried. There also also pieces of the wings and the thighs (as well as the head). This is a slight variation of his "paper wrapped" squab (紙包鴿) but instead of that approach he's using spring rolls (乳鴿春卷). His house made XO sauce was offered that we used for dipping, which was the perfect companion. An excellent starter to a taste of the private kitchen style dining.

House made XO sauce 自家製 XO醬. This man should sell jars of them!!

 Next up, special snake soup (Tai Shi Snake Broth With Fish Maw 花膠太史蛇羹)

 Crunchy bits and condiments for the snake broth

Who would have thought that there would be delicious snake soup in California USA?!

Relax folks, there is nothing scary about snake soup. It tastes more like....chicken! Well not really, it is closer to the smoothness and texture of eel. There is quite a bit of material in here, although let's not compare this with Hong Kong. The snake is not fresh meat, but frozen from Texas (rattlesnake variety), but prepared with a very high level of care. Mushrooms, fish maw, snake, chicken slivers, and a very strong dried citrus peel 陳皮 presence that gave the soup its needed boost. As it was quite cold outside, a few sips of this soup really warmed us up very quickly. This is an excellent example of replicating an old world receipe, using new world ingredients (well frozen snake isn't exactly at the top of the list....but it worked!) .

For those interested Tai Shi Snake Broth With Fish Maw 花膠太史蛇羹, is now offered as nightly seasonal item. It works out to be a little over US$9 per person....cheaper per person if you get a larger sized portion that will feed 6 or more people. I dare anyone to find me a restaurant in California (or USA for that matter) that is doing something like this. Koi Palace? Forget about it.

 Collard green with geoduck (蘭度如意炒象拔蚌)

This is actually a variation of the private kitchen menu item (collard green with lobster). Except it's not collard green, but gai lan 芥蘭 / Chinese brocoli, and geoduck 象拔蚌 is used in place of lobster. Crunchy veg, light crispy clam with real good flavor, and woodear 木耳, combined with the skills of the stir fry god, and this dish was just screaming of pure enjoyment.

The stir fry god spread his powerful heat everywhere, sealing in flavor. So tasty.

雀肉多士拼煙肉象拔蚌 (squab toast and bacon wrapped geoduck)

Whoa! More fried goodies! The chef was actually not done with the previous squab course, and decided to play some more. The five pieces near the center are fried white bread toast with minced squab meat (like a paste), emulating Cantonese style shrimp toast 蝦多士. The deep fried goodies at the end, I believe were made with the ribbons and other portions of the geoduck clam that were not used in the previous dish, wrapped with bacon and deep fried. Crazy delicious! There you have it...creativity of using everything. And I wasn't done with hand clapping yet!

The next dish kind of stopped my hand from clapping, but only because it was too weird for me....but it was actually quite good if you don't think about it.

(old style stewed Wattle necked soft shelled turtle claypot with large pea sprouts)

Totally unexpected. I've had turtle before in Hong Kong but was scarred as a kid. However I must say Yum's preparation was true to form. The stewed sauces had a lot of depth and flavor, and the fatty gelatinous parts were wonderful....almost like a great pork belly, or pig feet (skin part).

This is the best part of the turtle, very gelatinous.

Master Yum took it a step further, and did a side plain stir fry of large pea sprouts 大豆苗. The idea was to use these leafy greens to dip into the sauces, then consume with rice. Absolutely delightful (just don't think about the ol' turtle there).

The finishing starch: dried scallops salted fish egg white fried rice

The usual classic for dessert, egg white and almond soup 杏汁蛋白露

Oh yes... what do turtles, lamb, and snakes have in common? They are great winter food items!

Thank you again Master Yum, t'was a fantastic feast of epic proportions.

Yum's Bistro 知味館
4906 Paseo Padre Pkwy
(between Capulet Rd & Deep Creek Rd)
Fremont, CA 94555
Tel: (510)-745-8866