Unlike other types of Chinese cuisine, Taiwanese food does not really enjoy much of a presence in Thailand. Back in 1999, a group of Taiwanese investors launched Water 1999, the first Taiwanese restaurant in Bangkok, and it received rave reviews during the few years it was in operation.
Demi Huang is a Taiwanese native who was brought to Bangkok as the main chef at that restaurant. She started learning all about Taiwanese food when she was very young.
"When Water 1999 was dissolved, I opened my first restaurant on Soi Thonglor," says Demi, 35, who cooks with ingredients imported from Taiwan. "Water 1999 exposed Thais and expats to Taiwanese food and now the cuisine is becoming more familiar. The dishes are popular with diners who want something different from normal Chinese food."
Demi explains that Taiwanese are proud of their dishes because they are tasty while making minimal use of oil, salt and condiments. Many Taiwanese dishes are derived from cuisines of the Hoklo and Hakka and other peoples of southern China. Taiwanese food is known for bringing out the original flavours of ingredients. Taiwanese vegetarian cooking focuses on fresh vegetables and tofu, not mock meats.
Demi's new restaurant specialises in the best-known Taiwanese dishes, as well as vegetarian dishes. They have lunch sets too. The menu features tempting pictures of all dishes, making the decision to choose very difficult.
For an appetiser, we ordered a plate of fresh tofu with thousand-year eggs (Bt60), which comes chilled and mildly flavoured with sesame oil and soy sauce. The thousand-year eggs were good, not repulsively pungent like they are in many places. Then, we ordered steamed three-flavour wantons (Bt80) which feature shrimp, pork and vegetables in fresh flour wanton wraps served with Taiwanese soy sauce and chilli oil.
Demi does wonderful beef, pork and seafood dishes, which are favourite choices for Taiwanese people. We tried a plate of cold shank-cut five-flavour beef (Bt70) served on a plate of fresh cabbage. The softly braised beef is thinly sliced and served with dashes of sesame oil and soy sauce. You can try spicing it up with dollops of Taiwanese toasted chilli sauce.
Taiwanese are also known for making delicious grilled squid, which is a favourite street-side snack, so we tried Demi's fresh sliced squid served with her five-flavour sauce that looks like a concoction of tomato sauce, chilli and chopped ginger.
For the main meal and we had stewed beef noodles (Bt120), stewed pork rice (Bt120), seafood rice (Bt150) and vegetarian noodles with mushroom sauce (Bt150). Portions are large. Even my husband, who takes much pride in his ability to clean his plate, struggled to finish his meal.
The beef noodles come in thick broth. The noodles are chewy and the beef is thickly cut. The rice with stewed pork is packed with sticky and plain rice with delicious pork chunks which we enjoyed with chopped preserved radish, stir-fried corn and vegetables as well as a half of a stewed egg.
Other main dishes worth sharing with the whole family are the melt-in-the-mouth stewed pork belly served with preserved cabbage, and baked prawns in salt. The restaurant has a delivery service, and also caters for private parties.
Sirin P Wongpanit
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Demi Taiwanese & Vegetarian Food
21/15 Sukhumvit Soi 49 (about 150 metres on the left from Sukhumvit Road; parking is available kerbside)
Daily, 11am to 10pm
Delivery: 9.30am to 8pm
(02) 662 6485-6, (081) 890 7787