Sunday, August 27, 2006
Catching My Own Meal
Yeah... this is going to take my culinary journey to another level. While I am in a quest of broadening my cooking skill, all this time I just buy my ingredients from the market but this time is going to be more challenging because tonight... I have to catch my own shrimps if I want to eat my dinner!
Here is the story ...
Richard told me that his youngest brother, Jackie and his wife Li-Hoa love to go "shrimping" they called it. Since my first time to go to Taipei, I saw many "shrimping" places around where we stay. These "shrimping" places usually open 24 hrs a day! So I guess when people here got nothing else to do, they can always go to catch shrimps. It's so easy anyway .... but not cheap, mind you.
At this specific place, they have 4 pools with 4 price options.
NOTE: Let's just say that US $ 1 = NT $ 30
Pool # 1 is NT $300/ 3 hrs - The pool has only female shrimps, small size and the usual type that available in the grocery stores.
Pool # 2 is NT $500/ 3 hrs - The pool has a mixture of both female and male shrimps. Male shrimps are about 40% larger than the female, so it has more meat and you better watch out for their claws because they will pinch you if you are careless or in my husband case clueless...poor guy.... This is the one we chose.
Pool # 3 is NT $ 700/ 3 hrs - The pool has only male shrimps.
Pool # 4 is NT $ 700/ 3 hrs - This pool only has fish. The length of the fish is around 30 cm. It has sharks too, so watch out! It's very very hard to catch the fish. While with catching the shrimps you will use either raw chicken liver or dried shrimps as the bait. Here on the fish pool you can't use any bait at all! The owner of these places know how to make money out of you! Not only you can't use the bait, but the fishing rod that they provide is weak so it can snap off easily. It takes a skill to be able to catch the fish, but it is not impossible to do it because I saw quite a few men who did catch their fish. So just by , let say, whipping the hook in the water and hopping that it might get hooked on the fish tail or something is not going to work here. You need to wrapped the string somehow around the fish body by making a looping motion. Well... that's what Richard told me anyway...
So here I am trying to catch my shrimp for the first time. Knowing absolutely zero about any tricks on how to catch the shrimps. Luckily because I am used to handle raw meat, I am not queasy about putting the raw chicken liver into the hook. Then just put the hook in the water and start watching the bobber or the float.
When I was still a teenager, I have a bestfriend who introduce me to the world of fishing. At first just to keep him company, but later he brought me to fish for the sole purpose of improving his "luck" or at least when we went home, we definitely have some fish to eat!
What he doesn't know, my secret of always catching some fish is by praying like I am going to be executed in a matter of minutes! Just joking...just joking....hmm...not really. It's true that I always pray though.
Before I throw my hook into the water, I asked Li-Hoa, what is her best catch so far. She said the most she ever catch was 5 shrimps in 3 hours. Oooookkay.... that doesn't sound like enough for my tummy.... so I prayed to God to give me 10. Not too greedy right since I have to share my shrimps with Richard and Kai Kai?
3 minutes later, I got my first shrimp!
5 minutes later, I got my second shrimp!
10 minutes later, Kai Kai got his first shrimp!
( Richard tried to shrimp for about 5 minutes but soon he gave the rod back to me because he thinks we have a better chance at eating shrimps if I hold the fishing rod instead of him )
10 minutes later I got my third shrimp.
But when I reach number 7, I catch nothing for like 20 minutes and the clock keeps ticking. When I only have 5 minutes left I caught my 8th, then 2 minutes later my 9th, and exactly on the dot of my 3 hours time limit, I caught my 10th shrimps!!!!
That was quite dramatic! Remember that I prayed for 10 shrimps before I start? I did not tell Richard that I asked for specifically 10 shrimps. He was worried that I will be charge another 1 hour fishing time if I just fish 1 minute longer than my 3 hrs time limit. I guess that's the rule in here. He kept trying to grab my fishing rod out of my hand. so finally I yell at him " Stop it! Trust me, I am catching your 10th shrimps right now!!!! " and then he really did grab my fishing rod out of my hands when the clock hit the 3 hrs mark, and when he pull the string up....there it was... my 10th shrimp dangling at the end of the line!!!! How cool is that????
When I told him my secret of always catching fish was by praying, he did not quite believe me, but now I make a believer out of him, hahaha.... Now he is eager to take me to another "shrimping" or fishing trip!
None of my brother in laws, their wives and their child catch more than me that night. I felt bad when I saw that one of my brother in law catch so little so when his "shrimping" time limit is almost up, I borrow his fishing rod and caught one shrimp for him with only 1 minutes before the time limit end. His wife challenged me to catch a shrimp at the last minute and I did it. I prayed secretly again off course.
So now Jackie clean up our shrimps right on the premises. These kind of places always has everything. It has a corner where they have a cook who can cook your catch for you or if you are really unlucky and not catching enough, you can always just buy it from them in already cooked form. Then this place has a corner where you can clean and cook your shrimps on your own. You can either broil the shrimps with only salt as their seasoning. Or you can make a soup. They provide the pots and the sauce to make a simple shrimp soup. This time we all agree that we want to broil our shrimps. So after Jackie clean the shrimps, he put them in a grill wire basket, threw a lot of salt on it, then tap the wire to get rid of the excess salt. Then my other brother in law, Bruce, did the broiling for us.
Well... I do admit that this broil shrimps are probably the most expensive shrimps I have ever eaten. For only a few shrimps, we have to pay NT$ 1500 or about US $ 50! But it sure is fun to have a clean family time with our family right? This place is design for family fun, it also has karaoke, basketball hoop game, other arcade games, some little car for children to ride as well. You can always get more bait without paying extra and to make it more interesting, they always threw a bucket of live shrimps into the pool every hour! So customers can see that the pool indeed has shrimps in it. They always threw the new shrimps on the same spot of the pool, but don't bother with insisting to cast your hook in that spot because those shrimps never want to stay on that spot. They always move around right away.
Because we were not satisfied with the shrimps yet , Jackie promise to take us to a restaurant that serve mostly shrimp dishes!
So now here we are at the shrimp restaurant, the next day after we went "shrimping", just as Jackie promised us.
This restaurant has a big poster on the wall that shows the many ways they can cook their shrimps. We ordered black pepper shrimps, hot salt and pepper shrimps, and shrimps cooked with ginseng roots and a couple other Chinese herbs in wine. We also ordered 2 garlic Kangkong dish ( water spinach/ong choi ), and BBQ 5 spices bacon dip in garlic vinegar dipping sauce and leek that is finely sliced.
Let me describe the taste.
All of the shrimps has roe on their tummy.
The black pepper shrimps taste salty and has a lot of heat that comes from the black pepper.
The salt and pepper shrimps is my favorite shrimp dish tonight. It taste salty yet sweet and meaty inside.
The bacon is so good that I am going to start looking for it's recipe.
The vegetable dish is good because the kangkong is so big yet crunchy tender because it's not so fibrous.
Pic: Black pepper shrimps
Pic: Shrimps cooked in chinese herbs and wine
Pic: Taiwanese Kangkong ( water spinach ) cooked with garlic and chilies
Pic: pepper and salt shrimps
Pic: 5 spiced BBQ bacon
The one that surprise me is the shrimp wine soup because it has such a punch! I think I can get drunk from drinking the soup! The wine is very fragrant and it is a bit sweet and is like drinking a hot sake with shrimp in it. Off course you can taste the ginseng and the other herbs too but not too overpowering because you can still smell the wine. I won't serve this soup to children. At first I did not like the strong taste of the wine because I drank it first. See here, I am so used to the way Cantonese food being serve which is, soup always comes first to wet you appetite while for most of other Chinese tribe like Hokkien people ( Most Taiwanese are hokkien people ) always drink their soup last as their "drink". So when I drink the soup again by the end of the meal, I found out that the wine taste has mellow a little bit from continuing cooking on the table stove and now I can truly appreciate the flavour of the wine. It still has quite a bit of alcohol punch in it but now it works to cleanse your palate instead of over powering your taste. But if you like the strong taste of the alcohol then by all means you can drink the soup all through your meal like Richard.
This restaurant has the corner where you can serve yourself with rice, washabi mixed with soy sauce for dipping your shrimps ( this is the traditional way of eating shrimps in Taiwan ), or chili soy sauce. Then you can drink free cold water or you can grab your own beverages from the fridge. Here in Taiwan, you have to get grab your own beverages from the fridge and then you get your paper cups as well. Later they will add it to your bill. So don't just sit and wait for your drink to be served.