TaiPei Dao - Beyond Organic & Back to Basics
Guilt-free Taiwanese food? Why not... When TaiPei Dao reached out to me I was really curious to see how this cuisine could be remotely healthy. I don't know about you guys but whenever I feast on asian food I leave feeling extremely sluggish. But my curiosity wasn't the only reason I felt inclined to accept this invite. Felice, the owner, and Candice, the PR, are very choosey about who they reach out to, which is rare in Dubai. In a city where there's something new opening literally every day, the invites are getting more and more impersonal and repetitive (first world problems, I know). Sometimes it's nice when your email isn't addressed Dear Mélange, and the PR emailing you has actually gone on your website and read your work. Felice knew it all, and made sure she was there throughout our meal and took the time to speak to us for over an hour, schooling us on nutrition. She has a wealth of knowledge about it, that's for sure. The menu itself is massive, (which is always a red flag for me), it looks like any other Asian restaurant menu but when you go into specifics, it's actually very well thought out. The food contains no artificial additives, no GMO or MSG, and they try and use organic where possible. It's actually really sad how acclimatized our palates are to MSG, especially in asian food. When you take it away it feels like a completely different cuisine, you can actually taste the base flavors and ingredients.
Born out of a great love and passion for food and the influence it has on our health and lifestyle, Felice Liao takes things back to basics. After having spent the greater part of a decade researching and traversing different countries to find the core and essential ingredients that go into every meal at TaiPei Dao; Felice believes we need to “Forget the buzzwords “natural” “organic” and look into the heart of the ingredients.” She personally visited each and every supplier to see the entire supply chain in their product lines, and has a personal connection with all of them. To her, Taiwanese food has the flavours of China, the presentation dynamic synonymous with European cuisines and the precision and discipline of Japanese cooking.
Our meal started with some absolutely delicious detox water - There's over 50 recipes for these amazing detox waters and they are offered complimentary to all clients who dine at TaiPei Dao. Each bottle is prepared overnight to ensure all the antioxidant “Phytochemicals”, vitamins, minerals and water-soluble fibre contained within the fruits and vegetables are released, to rid your body of toxins and enhance your immune system and overall health. But don't forget to request it when you reserve, because if they run out, there's nothing that can be done on the spot!
Here are some of my favorites off the menu:
Scallion pancakes - Don't be deceived at how boring these sound! I couldn't stop nibbling on them throughout our meal - Amazing. As much as possible, the kitchen at TaiPei Dao uses Tea Seed Oil (made from Camellia trees). It's an edible, pale amber-green oil with a sweet, herbal aroma. Tea seed oil has a thin, light texture, similar to almond or grapeseed oil however it has a very different fatty acid profile. It is a very light and clean oil that is ideal for salads and given that is predominantly a monosaturated fat, it is an excellent oil for high heat cooking as it does not release toxic and harmful compounds when heated. It is also very low in Omega-6 fats and the smoke point of the oil is in excess of 223 Celsius.
Jasmine tea chicken and prawn shu mai, topped with crab eggs - TaiPei Dao does an amazing selection of Dimsum and also an all you can eat option on Weekends - check it out!
Chin Hsuan oolong tea seafood rolled in tofu skins - so crunchy and absolutely delicious. At TaiPei Dao the kitchen deep fries all the food using olive oil but at a temp of less than 140 degrees C as the smoke point of olive oil is 160 degrees C.
Chicken in blackbean sauce and cashew nut chicken - Just tastes so different without MSG... In the best possible way! The soy sauce used is multi-grain, gluten free soy sauce - Soy sauce, commonly known as shoyu, is the best-known flavour enhancer in Asian cooking. Made the old fashioned way, through a careful fermentation process that can take as long as 18 months, if made properly it’s a healthy and nourishing product.
Mixed 5 grains vegetable fried rice - Made with germinated brown rice. By sprouting the rice you make it more bio- available and this provides four times the fiber and vitamin E than regular rice and three times more vitamin B1, B6 and magnesium. It has been shown to improve immune health, reduce anxiety and even prevent the formation of cancerous cells.
They also don't use your typical Sea Salt for seasoning but instead a Deep Sea Salt - These salts are drawn from water that is 662 meters below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, just off the West Coast of Taiwan. At this depth, these waters are free from UV, pollutants and the process in which the salt is extracted ensures that the salt retains its minerals and trace elements like Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Zinc and Manganese. All of which are required to keep your body operating at its optimum condition. In fact, given that it contains significantly less Potassium than sodium (which has chemicals added to it), it is suitable for patients with kidney conditions.
Our meal ended with a shot of Raw Fruit and Herb Vinegars to aid digestion, relieve fatigue, lower blood pressure, improve complexion or aid weight loss - we had apple vinegar with lavender. Surprisingly addictive after the first sip, I actually asked for seconds... At this point we were in a major food coma, Felice took us over to the Teahouse, that's right, TaiPei Dao is not just a restaurant but also a teahouse, bakery and speciality food supplier all in one.
In Taiwanese culture, people serve tea as a way to make guests feel welcome in their homes. And this is exactly what Felice did for us, and we did indeed feel right at home as she taught us all about the proper way to brew tea. You know how we just dump our green tea bag in water that's just been boiled and then just forget about it in there?... Yea. Don't do that! Green, black, and oolong tea are all derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant (are you with me? The same plant I was talking about earlier when I mentioned the tea seed oil). Green tea is prepared from unfermented leaves, the leaves of oolong tea are partially fermented, and black tea is fully fermented. The more the leaves are fermented, the lower the polyphenol content and the higher the caffeine content. Green tea has the highest polyphenol content while black tea has roughly 2 to 3 times the caffeine content of green tea. Phew. Also just FYI, TaiPei Dao has the most authentic Bubble Tea you will have in Dubai, I would go back just for that. It is a must-try!
Then... We had dessert, well we were so full, we could only manage one bite each of this beautifully decadent and guilt-free chocolate fondant!
TaiPei Dao doesn't use refined white sugar in any of their menu items. Palm Sugar is their choice of sweetener - A nutrient-rich, low-glycemic crystalline sweetener that tastes, dissolves and melts almost exactly like sugar, but it’s completely natural and unrefined. It’s acquired from the flowers growing high on coconut trees, which are opened to collect their liquid flower nectar. This nectar is then air-dried to form a crystalline sugar that’s naturally brown in color and rich in a number of key vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. And on top of that they don't use any white flour either, they use Sweet Potato Flour because it holds moisture well, brings a richness of flavor, and adds a slight sweetness to any baked good. It is incredibly versatile and can be used for breads, muffins, cookies, desserts, and even donuts.
Which brings me to my last and final point: The bakery. Quite possibly my favorite part! Absolutely soft, fluffy and freshly baked bread and some very authentic Taiwanese pastries with the most amazing savory and sweet fillings. Note: TaiPei Dao supplies all of the above mentioned speciality products like tea seed oil, gluten free soy, deep sea salt, germinated brown rice, sweet potato flour etc. So you can continue your nutrition at home.