Henry Hsieh畢業自紐約大學，以及畢業自美國紐約International Culinary Center及義大利帕瑪ALMA餐飲學校，是米其林一星餐酒館Longtail與原木柴燒餐廳Wildwood Live Fire Cuisine的營運總監。不過他總是說「叫我Your friend at Longtail就好」，Henry熱愛美食更愛分享美食，對餐飲業有獨到的觀察，他現在要以幽默風趣與富文化視角的專欄文字來分享他對美食與餐飲的所見經歷。
TEXT HENRY HSIEH IMAGE HENRY HSIEH TRANSLATION MICK WU
In these extraordinary times, we do what we can in the hopes of finding a little solace and a little happiness. When life is as unsure as it is, hopefully one thing we know for certain, one thing we have control over is how we choose to dine, whether it be cooking ourselves or ordering for take out. It’s moments like these, which I once took for granted, I now cherish deeply. What’s better than a little comfort food to bring joy to our table? Comfort food is something I love having, and even more so I love trying the comfort food of the people around me. Comfort food represents a number of different things, a different meaning for each person. Some people think of it as what they grew up eating, some it’s their favorite snack, while for some it’s the food they crave most after being away from home. Then there are those who consider it as the word suggests: food that most makes them comfortable, in an old palazzo underneath a Picasso. Whatever the answer is, it’s almost always something familiar and a little bit indulgent, however simple it may be.
Pork belly rice (滷肉飯), that is by far the most typical answer I get. Ask any Taiwanese and chances are they will tell you it’s their favorite comfort food. This little bowl of rice with bits of pork belly, soy sauce gravy and the optional but always recommended egg on top. Truly something special. Quick and simple, it is always satisfying whether as a snack, or a meal as long as it’s a double. I do love myself a bowl of this stuff. As much as I love pasta, there is nothing quite like scarfing down perfectly cooked white rice, a little bit al dente, yet soft enough that it’s still attached to the rest of the squad. Topped off by a slowed brewed jus of soy sauce and pork belly, it is part skin, part meat, but mostly fat, and it glistens so irresistibly. Sometimes a little on the dry side, but fear not, the grease from the pork fat gives it just enough moisture so you can wolf it down leaving your lips sticky from the gelatinous goodness that is the pork skin. At extremely low prices, and available on almost any street corner I declare this the ultimate comfort food in Taiwan. It’s a ragù with pork belly instead of beef, and soy sauce instead of tomato sauce. I am coining it, ragù Taiwanese. I always think to myself, if Italians ever tried this dish, they would be absolutely hooked and adopt it as their own!
Other top picks include vermicelli noodles with pig intestines (大腸麵線). This also happens to be my dad’s favorite. I will often go into our fridge and there will be not one but two bowls of this stuff in a take out container just waiting for him to demolish at his next available convenience. For him, it has become routine to pick up two orders on his way home as if getting gas or picking up some bread. The kind of joy my dad gets from this is really priceless. He is not a picky eater, in fact he is most often opinionless about where we eat. Don’t trouble him with Michelin restaurants, lines, or hot new openings. However, when it comes to street food the man lights up like a Christmas tree. In fact, he will pick up a bowl or two on the way to dinner so he can be properly prepared immediately after dinner. Some people have a separate stomach for dessert, he has a separate one for this stuff. I’m beginning to think he doesn’t really care about what he has when he is dining out because he knows that there are two silky sumptuous bowls of noodles with his name on it sitting at home. These noodles are cooked in a bonito stock thickened with corn starch so its more of a gumbo with bits of pig intestines braised in soy sauce, suspended in a sea of vermicelli. To finish, a dash of black vinegar and of course the absolutely imperative cilantro and fried shallots that are sprinkled on top to complete this little bit of heaven. I won’t lie, there are times when I’ve stolen a few bites of it right out of the fridge, cold and all.
療癒美食對有些人來說就是媽媽或奶奶做的菜，會讓你有像是回到家的感覺，對我來說那道菜就是蒸蛋（egg custard soup）。從我有記憶以來我母親就在做蒸蛋，蒸蛋對我來說同時也是心靈美食，看到蒸蛋就代表我回家了，而且母親就在我身邊。用料超級簡單只有兩樣，雖然簡單到只有蛋跟水，不過其中的風味變化可是超乎你的想像。打上幾顆蛋和水一起攪拌，加一點鹽，灑一點酒，丟進蒸鍋等個幾分鐘就是一碗蒸蛋了。我常問我媽有沒有加雞湯或什麼神祕醬汁，答案永遠都是只有水跟雞蛋。唯一容許奢侈的是，假如前一晚我們有蛤蜊的話，我母親會把蛤蜊湯保留下來當做湯底做蒸蛋。我的老天，那真是美味極了，講真的要我任何時間任何地點吃多少都不是問題。就算是簡單挖幾匙配白飯一起吃，跟你保證絕對是你人生中最美味的一餐，而且吃的越大聲代表越美味。
Comfort food to some folks is what mom and grandma make. Food that makes you feel at home. For me, that has to be egg custard soup (蒸蛋). My mom has been making this as far back as I can remember. It’s soul food to me. It’s the dish that tells me I’m home, and mom is near. An incredibly simple dish with just two ingredients, but there are just way too many flavors for something as simple as eggs and water. Crack a few eggs, stir it in with water and a touch of salt, a splash of wine, pop it in the steamer and in a few minutes custardy egg soup. I always ask my mom, if there is chicken broth or some kind of secret sauce, and the answer is always, water and eggs dear. Although, the one extravagance is if we’ve had some clams the night before, my mother would save the juice for the next day when she would make this soup and use that as the base. Oh my goodness, that’s insanely good. I could honestly have this anytime anywhere, and lots of it. Simply spoon it over some rice and I promise you, best meal ever. Slurping is highly recommended.
我想要與各位分享一則關於超有天份烘焙師Davis與他祖母的溫馨故事。Davis是日裔美國人，但他常常造訪他住在巴西的祖母。對Davis來說，療癒美食毫無疑問就是vovo（祖母）做的菜。Davis告訴我，他八歲左右時跟家人在聖保羅，全家都出門觀光去了，就只有Davis跟他祖母留在家裡（Davis的祖母懶得出門）。這可是Davis人生中最棒的決定。他的祖母揉了揉肚子問Davis餓不餓，他祖母也不待Davis回答就開始下廚煮飯。「廚房總是開著伙，不是在煮飯就是在煮黑豆。」Davis回憶。他祖母做的那道菜成了他人生中印象最深刻的療癒美食，是他祖母替他做的Chicken Milanesa（炸雞排）。Chicken Milanesa與天生一對的Arroz com Feijão（黑豆飯），便是一道巴西再平凡不過的常民主食。Davis跟他祖母兩人就這樣坐著把一盤炸雞排黑豆飯一掃而盡。最令人感動的是，他們之間沒有共通語言，Davis連一句葡萄牙文都不會說，他的祖母也不會說英文，而這頓飯、這道炸雞排超越了語言，串起了兩人的情感。就算是到今天只要一講到這道再平凡不過的巴西常民美食，Davis依舊神情奕奕與大家分享那段和祖母共享的時光。
I’d like to share with everyone a heartwarming story about a ridiculously talented baker, Davis, and his grandmother. He is Japanese American, but visits Brazil from time to time where his grandmother lives. To him, the absolute best comfort food comes from vovo. He tells me of a time when he was eight or so, when his family was in Sao Paolo. The whole family went sightseeing, only he and his grandmother, who couldn’t be bothered, stayed behind. Best choice he’s ever made. His grandmother asked him if he was hungry and rubbed her stomach, and without even a chance to respond, she began to cook. “There is always something cooking in the kitchen, if it wasn’t rice it was beans” Davis recalls. She crafted ultimately what was the most memorable comfort food for him, the Chicken Milanesa, and it came, naturally, with a side of arroz com feijao, or rice and beans, a Brazilian staple. The two sat there and cleaned their plates. The beauty of this story is that the two didn’t speak a common language. Davis didn’t speak a word of Portuguese and his grandmother didn’t speak a word of English, but they bonded over this Milanesa. Fried chicken and a grandmother’s love transcends any language. Til this day, Davis speaks quite fondly of this humble dish, and the moments he shared with his grandmother.
There are also those who’s definition of comfort food, is exactly that: comfort. Comfortable location, comfortable environment, and perfect service, are all imperative. To Rick, a friend of mine with the most exquisite taste, comfort food is a three star meal whether it’s french or sushi. I don’t blame him one bit. Life is short, why wouldn’t you want to eat the best all the time if you could? If I can score reservations to the finest french restaurant or an eight seater sushi counter hidden in a subway station, well that would be my go to food too. I love eating with Rick because I know I am always in for a treat, and we will definitely be spoiled. Comfort food should make us happy, and what could make anyone happier than langoustine ravioli with foie gras in truffle sauce à la Robuchon, or a double stacked piece of purple sea urchin from the Hokkaido? Who could argue that the impeccable service and the luxuriousness of the dining room at a fine dining restaurant brings comfort to both your to senses and your tummy.
Whether it is something you grew up with, or something you just love having, comfort food give us a sense of happiness, a sense of indulgence and a sense of nostalgia. I encourage all of you to support your favorite restaurants or spend some time cooking your favorite dishes with your family that bring you joy and good cheer. Think about what you enjoy most and revisit them — revisit them often.
Mom’s Steamed Egg Custard
1. Beat two eggs, in a medium deep flat bottom bowl
2. Add a little dashi powder and a touch of shaoxing wine (clam broth if you have any)
3. Add water to eggs until 80% full
4. Mix very well
5. Place in steamer (rice cooker) around 8 minutes
Grandma’s Chicken Milanesa
1. Butterfly a skinless boneless chicken breast
2. Pound breast between parchment paper or cling wrap to .5cm thick
3. Season with salt a pepper
4. Dredge breast in flour, shake off excess then dip in egg wash
5. Cover breast with breadcrumbs
6. Heat pan with a glug of vegetable oil on high heat
7. When oil is very hot, place breast in pan, cook for 3-4 minutes per side until golden
8. Pat dry on paper towel, sprinkle a touch of salt, and serve with a wedge of lemon
Arroz com Feijão
1. Heat pan with oil and add finely chopped onions
2. Add washed rice and water (1:2 ratio), season with salt
3. Cover and let cook until all water has been absorbed and al dente
4. Take off heat and keep covered until serving
1. Soak black beans for an hour in cold water and rinse
2. Heat oil and add diced bacon, then add chopped garlic to pan
3. Add beans and water or broth to cover, boil
4. Cook until very thick and beans mushy (adjust with water or broth)
5. Season with salt
6. Serve rice and beans with a healthy amount of cilantro or parsley