In the five years since she graduated from university, Yolanda Cheng has been to seven countries. She tried the local food in all of them, including fried grasshoppers and cockroaches in Thailand.
Between vacations, Cheng often visits international restaurants in Tainan and Kaohsiung and has sampled Indian, Mexican, German, Turkish and other cuisines. But until February this year, the 28-year-old office worker had never tried Taiwanese aboriginal cooking.
One Sunday lunchtime, Cheng and two friends sat down at Hud La Noom, an aboriginal-run coffeeshop in Tainan City. They ordered portions of dulkuk (mountain chicken, in the language of the Bunun tribe) and sakud (the meat of the Reeve's Muntjac, a small deer), plus vegetables and drinks.
An hour later, all but one of the dishes had been finished. "The balangbalang was a little strange," says Cheng, referring to a green, leafy vegetable by its name in Bunun. "It isn't bad tasting, and the boss told me it's very healthy because it grows wild, so there are no chemicals in it. But the consistency is hard to get used to - a bit like jelly."
"The dishes we sell taste different from mainstream Taiwanese cuisine because the ingredients are special," says Hud La Noom's owner-chef, Alas Istandah. "But the cooking methods aren't so different."
To read the rest of this article, go here. To see another article I did with Cheryl Robbins on aboriginal food, go here.
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