I have a confession to make. I have an uncanny liking for anything with glutinous rice in it. It can be just plain savory version of steamed glutinous rice topped with shallot crisps and roasted peanuts, or a slightly jazzed up version of my grandma’s wicked “zok bee png“. Otherwise, a bak chang or two comes easily as a meal replacement for me anytime of the day. I also love it in sweet desserts, be it in Kueh Sarlat or the Japanese Sakuramochi a la Kansai Regardless of the form, I just love ’em all. Despite the high glycemic index glutinous rice purportedly has which can cause all of us to fatten up quickly, nothing really beats the sticky, chewy and a somewhat down-to-earth sensation glutinous rice provides that fills the tummy and the appetite at the same time. Perhaps I’d inherited my tastebuds from my mum, because she loved glutinous rice dishes as well. Or perhaps that is just the old soul in me, that constantly yearns for traditional flavours that many glutinous rice dishes are embodied with.
Like me, many Taiwanese are also particularly fond of dishes using glutinous rice. I’m pretty sure this is a very Asian thingy, or perhaps even a Hokkien thing. Like I’d mentioned previously, many Taiwanese signature dishes originated from Tainan, being the earliest urbanised regions in all Taiwan. 台南米糕 Tainan Glutinous Rice Bowl is one of them. One of my all-time favorites!
I remember enjoying my first bowl of 四神汤 Si Shen Soup about 10 years back during my initial trips to Taiwan. It was the period before Chinese New Year and my friends brought us to 寧夏夜市 before visiting 迪化街 for the Chinese New Year bazaar. Just gotten off the plane, we hadn’t eaten dinner so my Taiwanese friends suggested going to 阿桐阿寶四神湯 located near the night market first. Being largely a “herbal soup”, it tasted rather plain and smooth, with a lingering sweetness in the mouth. Void of pungent odours and bitter aftertaste, the flavours of Si Shen Soup defies what I had expected Chinese herbal soups are traditionally like. The soup was a relief, not only against the fattiness of the bak chang and large steamed pork buns we had, it also helped to warm our constitution amidst the cold and rainy weather.