Full Menu from Brunch on the Bayou

by Tsai

We continued testing our recipes throughout the week leading up to our Brunch on the Bayou in order to refine the flavors, textures, and experience of the food for our diners, the two dozen guests who had signed up to spend their Sunday morning with us over Bayou St. John. We were proud to share our interpretations of Taiwanese specialties that aren’t commonly available here on the Gulf Coast, and couldn’t have been happier with the clear skies, cooling breeze, and general good spirits that pervaded the event. Many thanks to Sarah and Danny for allowing us to stage the event out of their wee kitchen.

  1. After serving iced apple-ginger-green tea to our guests, we brought out plates of baked buns, each lightly stuffed with sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, vermicelli, two types of Taiwanese greens (A-Ah Tsai and Gua Tsai), ginger, garlic, and a special barbeque sauce.
  2. Our second course consisted of salty soybean soup, shiitake mushroom beignets, and rice rolls. Salty soybean soup is essentially curdled soy milk that is flavored with sesame oil, rice vinegar, and scallions. Instead of the traditional crueller, we served the soup with shiitake mushroom beignets because we try to get mushrooms into pretty much everything we serve and because we don’t own any pans wide enough with which to deep fry cruellers. Rice rolls accompanied the beignets and soup — each a slightly sweet combination of black rice and brown rice formed around a filling of fried tofu, roasted seaweed, and salted radish. Rice rolls are ubiquitous in the streets of Taiwan, with vendors parked outside of subway stations and busy intersections ready to wrap up each customer’s choice of fillings into a delicious meal-to-go in a matter of seconds and for a buck or two.
  3. Almond tofu with mung beans, lotus seeds, and a honey sauce comprised the third course. We created the sauce by reducing the sweet broth in which we cooked the mung beans and lotus seeds, and cooking that down with local honey. The almond tofu is a traditional Taiwanese dessert that is thickened and set with agar agar (made from seaweed) rather than gelatin.
  4. We wrapped up the meal with spoonfuls of sweet fermented rice with a little orange zest on top. Our friend Alice claims that fermented rice was sick food in her childhood, but we’ve always thought of it as a special treat best enjoyed with clear sinuses, so that the hint of alcohol and the remarkable sweetness of rice unlocked through the fermentation process can be fully appreciated.