Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Taichung with work so stopped by to try out Taichung Steamed Rice (台中蒸飯), which a good friend had told me about.
Taichung Steamed Rice is the only place in Taichung to serve Fuzhou steamed rice. Husband and wife team Zhi Liang Cheng (鄭志良) and Ching-Yuan Tuan (段菁源) are passionate about good food. Cheng, a qualified chef, ran a seafood restaurant in Pingtung for ten years before relocating to Taichung to share the results of his secret steamed rice recipe. They are both lovely, and were more than happy to chat with this strange Taiwanxifu who wandered in from no-where late one afternoon to try some steamed rice.
The signature dish, Taichung Steamed Rice (台中蒸飯, NT$30), is a homely bowl of pork and rice layers that is deceptively complex. The rice is first fried, then topped with a special homemade pork sauce (乾肉燥) before being steamed together in a rice bowl. The rice is served inverted and sprinkled with fried sakura shrimps. The steamed rice tastes similar to rice dumplings (粽子) only lighter, with the plump rice grains soaking up the crown of rich pork gravy.
According to Cheng, an old man who specialized in making this dish for over fifty years handed the closely guarded recipe down to him. But then Cheng adapted it by substituting premium grade Taiwanese short-grain rice instead of the more usual glutinous rice. (According to Cheng, white rice is easier to digest, and tastes better.)
At Cheng’s insistence I also sampled a bowl of crispy chicken soup (雞骨酥湯, NT$50), made according to a traditional recipe using Chinese red yeast rice (紅糟). At first I did not believe I was eating chicken because the flesh, hidden beneath rose-gold batter, was so soft. Actually, I initially thought the soup was made with stewed pork knuckles, which is in fact the more usual ingredient for this soup. Cheng produces the unique texture by first deep-frying the chicken, and then steaming it before finally adding it to the rosy-colored soup, which has a slight astringent sweetness from the red yeast rice that matches the fried perfectly chicken perfectly.
Taichung Steamed Rice is at 81 Wuquan Road, Taichung (台中蒸飯,台中市五權路81號, phone (04) 2205-3299 ), near the National Taichung University of Education (台中教育大學). It is open daily from 11am to 9.30pm.