June 29, 2010

And You Were Right Here All Along

For an Asian society with cuisine built on a thousand-year foundation of rice cultivation, Taiwan sure loves their white bread toast. Soft as a cloud and just as insipid, the ever-present squares are vital at breakfast shops where they're cut into triple-layer triangular pre-prepared sandwiches, or act as the doughy wrapping of a hot ham-and-egg breakfast sandwich. Considering the emphasis on texture in the local cuisine, it's a mystery how the flat and soggy toast came to be so widely accepted as a common breakfast food.

I'll grab the occasional pork floss, egg, and cucumber sandwich from the local breakfast cart when I'm in a hurry, but on a lazy weekend morning when I'm feeling indulgent, I might still hit McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin combo. Not so much for the processed cheese or the mystery meat patty, but for the English muffin bread. The more glutinous texture makes for a much more satisfying bite than white-toast, without scraping the roof of my mouth raw like a baguette's hard crust. Living in the States I'd taken English muffin's presence on the grocery shelves for granted. So it was a slightly irritating niggle to not have it around, except for extortionate prices at the fancy import grocery.

Not that I should be whining. It's not as if I'm hard up for breakfast options in the morning. Traditional Chinese breakfasts such as rice congee, or soy milk plus oil sticks are hearty and satisfying. The Japanese-style bakeries offer a vast variety of buns and breads stuffed with creative fillings that go well with a cup of coffee. And there are even pretty legitimate Euro-style bakeries popping up with real, crusty bread. On the other hand, the missing English muffins represents a loss of displacement, like how we couldn't have bell fruit during all the years in the USA.

So one of Mom's old friends from Hsinchu came up to Taipei to visit the other day. A former head-pharmacist, she usually comes bearing cheap Lipitor for mom, as well as loads of Hsinchu's local specialties like 肉丸 pork dumplings and 貢丸 meatballs. This time she brought bread, from the plebeian I-Mei chain. The burger buns I could've done without, but the English muffins were a sight. Outer surfaces were cornmeal-dusted, nooks-and-crannies inside and everything. The taste was right on, too. Maybe not quite up to Thomas's standards, but certainly at least as good as grocery store generics. Quite nice with just some butter and jam. Would make a good egg-and-cheese, too.

Posted by mikewang on 02:06 AM