Wednesday, February 28, 2018

YummY! - Taiwanese Milk Fish Soup @ Hualien New Station Milkfish Shop (新站虱目魚專賣店)

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Taiwanese Milk Fish Soup @ Hualien New Station Milkfish Shop (新站虱目魚專賣店)

Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan - October 2017
We were on a cycling tour of Taiwan, and had arrived at Hualien (花蓮市). As usual we always try to look for good when at a new place and we did find one of the best food in Hualien - Milk Fish Soup!

This specialty can be found at the Hualien New Station Milk Fish Shop (新站虱目魚專賣店), so named because it is nearby to the new Hualien Railway Station. The shop is a no frills place, without air-conditioning and patrons sit on small tables at the small front compound or along the five-footway. Despite its humble settings it is one of the favourite food of Hualien locals.

There were six of us and we ordered four of the Milk Fish Maw set, two of the Milk Fish Ball set together with some stewed tofu and stir-fried vegetables. The sets came with saucers of garlic-soy sauce.
By the way the beer and other drinks seen in the photo above were bought from a nearby 7-11 outlet. That's the odd thing about most food outlets in Taiwan, especially those in the big towns and cities - they don't sell drinks. Anyways, I detract; let's get back to this good Hualien food.

The fish maw set came with a bowl of fish belly soup together with a bowl of rice topped up with pork braised in soy sauce and garlic. The rice looks very good but the fish soup looked rather plainly lame.
Note: Although called Milk Fish here, the fish used is actually not Milk Fish, the fish used here is the Toli Shad (Tenualosa toli); it is sometimes called the Chinese Herring. In Malaysia it's called Ikan Terubuk, in Chinese it's called Jié yú (节鱼).

But don't let it's looks fool you, A close up look shows a fresh fillet of Milk Fish belly, de-boned except for the dorsal fin. The soup had thin slices of ginger and had been cooked such that the fish meat had absorbed a little ginger flavour; the soup had very little fishy flavour as most of the fish essence were still retained in the fish meat. I believe they added fresh fish  to be cooked in the soup only when orders are made, and then cook the fish just to the right timing so that the fish flavours does not seep out to the soup and thus maintain the essence within the fish meat itself.

Flipping the fillet over showed that this was the case, there was no overcooking as the fillet was intact as a single piece without any odd bits floating away. Do note that the Milk Fish has lots of tiny bones in the main body, and it's the belly that does not have tiny bones. So to avoid difficulty in eating order the belly. Although some say that the main body meat is sweeter!

The white rice came with tiny cublets of fat pork belly braised in soy sauce together with thin slices of Chinese mushrooms. It's all fat and with hardly any lean meat yet somehow this worked well as the braising had extracted some lard into the braise gravy which goes very well with the rice. The gravy had a fairly strong flavour which balance very well with the lightly flavoured soup. Guess what? I went for a second round of the rice!

Here's their menu and price list, showing their Combo Meals Set. The house favourite Milk Fish Maw with rice cost NTD120, The combo of other Milk Fish cuts was much cheaper at  NTD80. I would recommend going for the fish maw as it tasted much better.

Hualien New Station Milkfish Shop
國聯三路6號, 970, Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 958.
Phone: +886-3835-7816
Hours: 4:30pm to 1:00am everyday (hours may differ on public holidays)
Direction Map & GPS : 23.99131, 121.60298

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