Let me start this with a quote from our beloved Anthony Bourdain:
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
Travel is important, especially for chefs. It changes you in the most subtle way, and I particularly like travelling alone.
Last year I made my first ever trip to Mexico thanks to Noma. I travelled there with completely no itinerary, no plans except my only booked meal at Noma. Eventually it turned out to be one of my best travel experiences. During my stay in Mexico City, I lived very close to the National Museum of Anthropology, so I spent two days just wandering within the museum. The thing that fascinated me most was how they documented the way they eat and cook in very precise details. I found out that vegetables and fruits in Mexico have a lot of similarities with the one in Taiwan, so it inspired me to try using their cooking techniques.
After I got back to Taiwan, I did some research on Nixtamalization, but of course using something that belongs to Taiwan and is common in our diet.
It was much more complicated that I though, there were many variables since I was trying different grains, for example different types of rice, wheat, legume, etc.
It was a long process and I thought I would never be able to make a nice tortilla. After countless failures we came across a very interesting grain that is indigenous to Taiwan. It is a type of Red Quinoa that is widely consumed by the aboriginal people in Taiwan. After the nixtamalization of the Quinoa we made Masa and hand pressed them to make it nice and thin, I really liked the toasted flavour after the Quinoa has been fried, so we decided to make it a Tostada instead of a Tortilla.
Since then it’s been on our menu ever since, it is a perfect “base” for many ideas and applications.
I served a Wagyu Tartare that we incorporated with many Taiwanese traditional condiments with this Quinoa Tostada.
The tartare is seasoned with a Taiwanese shrimp oil and with preserved daikon, clam mayo ( I personally like the sea / land combination ) and a confit egg yolk that we cooked in low temperature to create a gel like consistency. To me this is a savoury umami bomb, that is perfectly matched with the crunchy tostada.
It is purely inspired by my experience in Mexico, yet it is so close to where we are, here in Taiwan.
Richie Lin, MUME (Taipei, Taiwan)