Loveboat, Taipei is a cute story that focuses on 18 year old, Ever Wong. She gets sent to Taiwan one summer to study at what seems to be a strict institution. But Ever finds herself at Loveboat instead, where she experiences new friendships, romance and self-discovery. It’s a fantastic contemporary YA that gets your heart jumping and puts a smile on your face.
I love exploring how Ever blossoms into her own character and learns to not be what her parents expect her to be – perfect, bilingual and a doctor. It’s nice to see how Ever overcomes this and starts finding her place in the summer boarding school. Her journey also made me want to revisit Taiwan again for new places to visit such as National Theater and Concert Hall, Snake Alley and Tianmu Park. Wen wrote the book so well that it’s changed my mind to consider first person narrative book’s again.
The Spicy Dish?
There’s so much food that Ever Wong discovers in Taipei but as students, I’m not surprised some are limited to snacks or street food. Common food and drinks that I remember reading about was Nian Gao (年糕, Chinese New Year Cake), suncakes, oolong tea, baozi, scallion pancakes and mapo tofu that are present in Loveboat, Taipie. But there are some uncommon food such as snake-kebabs and snake-blood sake that intrigues me that I’d like to explore when I can travel again.
In this case, I chose a street food that was not mentioned in the book but I imagine Ever, Xavier, Rick and the rest of the Loveboat characters would beeating this as they enjoy exploring the nightlife in Taipei. As such, I was thinking of Hújiāo Bing (also known as “胡椒餅 • Pork Pepper Buns”) which I have previously written about and was so cheap to get on my adventures in Taipei. And the recipe? Please take a look at YepRecipes who have created a great recipe that we can share below:
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon of rice wine
- 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 1 teaspoon of ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 2 cups of thinly sliced green onions (about 2 bunches)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon of water
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
- 1 cup of warm water
- 3 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon of cooking oil (feel free to add a little extra)
- Add the pork, soy sauce, sesame oil, sherry, ginger, honey, white pepper and black pepper to a large bowl and mix very well until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate.
- Combine the yeast and warm water in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the flour and oil and knead (or mix on low speed in a stand mixer with a dough hook) until dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Form the dough into a ball and rub a little oil all over the dough ball. Loosely cover the dough ball with a towel and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the pork filling from the fridge and set aside.
- Punch down the dough and divide up into 10 small equal size dough balls and lay them out on your lightly floured counter.
- Flatten the dough balls into circles about 5 inches wide.
- Divide the pork mixture evenly amongst the dough circles and spread in the center of leaving about a 1/2 inch edge all around.
- Divide the green onions evenly and layer them on top of the pork.
- Stretch the sides of the dough circles up over the filling to enclose then pinch to seal, make sure your dough is sealed well, you don’t want any filling to escape. Form into a bun shape and place seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly dusted with flour.
- When all your buns are formed, whisk together the egg and the 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl.
- Spread you sesame seeds out on a large plate.
- Brush the tops of the buns with the egg mixture and dip the buns in the sesame seeds to cover just the tops.
- Bake the buns in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until top is golden brown and pork is cooked through.