It was a sunny afternoon about 4 years ago when I received a phone call that forever changed my life. The call was about a position with the Landis Hotel & Resort Group in Taiwan. Needless to say, I took the position and, since joining the company, have spent time in Suzhou, Taipei, and now Taichung.
Like many people, I was pretty ignorant regarding what Taiwan and the Taiwanese had to offer, and have been pleasantly surprised ever since. I guess growing up and seeing that pretty much everything was “Made in Taiwan,” I assumed that I would be surrounded by factories. I could not have been more wrong. One trip out of the concrete mazes of Taipei and Taichung and it is clear to see there is an amazing amount of beauty on this island.
In particular, some of the food they grow here prompted me to write this article. In each issue of GuanXi magazine, I will spend some time going over some personal experience working as a chef in Taiwan, and talking about some of my favorite seasonal items that I use in the restaurants of Hotel ONE. The items will range from fruits and vegetables to fish and meats, and best of all, they are easy to find, easy to use, and of course delicious.
Working in Hotel ONE has some advantages, such as being able to order products from all over the world. However, sometimes the best products are just a short trip away. As we get into the summer months and the mercury rises, there are a few fruits from the Tainan area that are amazing – mangoes and avocados.
In July, for the IN restaurant in Hotel ONE, I am featuring a nice panna cotta using fresh mango. It requires very few ingredients, is simple to make, and the end product is smooth, cool, and creamy.
As the heat from June and July start to have an effect on fruits, another one of my favorites is just getting ready to be picked from the trees. When August hits, the avocados from Tainan are amazing (not to mention huge). I am sure you all know what I am talking about. Growing up in Canada I was used to those tiny little Hass avocados but, since seeing these monsters, Hass avocados seem more like a joke.
In August in Top Of ONE, we will be featuring a delicious appetizer of tuna, avocado, and tomato. Like my previous recipe for the mango, this is simple. There are a few more ingredients, but you are always welcome to substitute for whatever you prefer. This dish is a tuna tartar salad with avocado, tomato, and a soy lime dressing. Easy to make, looks great, and tastes better.
I hope you enjoyed my segment in this issue, and I look forward to bringing you more local products cooked in a not so local way.
See you next time in GuanXi.
Coconut Panna Cotta
Heat the cream with the sugar and vanilla bean. Soak gelatine in ice water until soft. Mix the hot cream with the cheese, gelatine and mango. Strain and pour into a ceramic or metal mold. Place in fridge for 4 to 6 hours, but better over night. To remove, dip in hot water but do not spill water over the sides onto the panna cotta, tip out on to service plate or cutting board.
Tuna loin (diced) 60g
Avocado (diced) 30g
White sesame seeds 1g
Soy lime dressing 25g
Red onion (finely diced)
Tomato concasse 28g
Black sesame seeds 1g
Sesame oil 20ml
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Season the tuna loin with salt and pepper. Mix the tomato and onion with 10ml sesame oil and white sesame seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Mix diced avocado with black sesame seeds and 10ml sesame oil , season with salt and pepper. Fry shallots in hot oil until golden brown but not burnt. Plate as per service photo with dressing on the side.
Soy Lime Dressing
Lime (zest & juice) 3
Garlic (finely chopped) 10g
Ginger (finely chopped) 8g
Sesame oil 200ml
Soy sauce 70ml
Cilantro (chopped) 10g
Mint (chopped) 5g
Mix all of the above ingredients together very well and season.
AUTHOR: Chef Nicholas Pena Alvarez C.C.C.
PUBLISHED: GuanXi #1 – Summer 2010