Taiwan Eat: Unique Dining Experience at Adagio Shihtiping (石梯坪缓慢民宿)
In Part 1 of this dual-post article on Adagio Shihtiping in Fengbin Township of Hualien, Taiwan (台湾花莲丰滨乡), we peeped into the interior of the well-decorated and spacious Adagio Shihtiping homestay (石梯坪缓慢民宿).
In this post, we will talk about Adagio's unique dining experience that travellers to Taiwan should at least try once — it will be an experience that one can never forget.
A heads up, we were in Shihtiping during the May flying fish season (飞鱼季), which usually happened from March till June every year.
Adagio's "山海慢食" Dinner
Adagio Shihtiping's special dinner was fine-dining style and themed as「山海慢食」— translated as "enjoying food from the mountain and sea slowly". There was no menu.
All guests were required to be seated by 6:30pm and the dining session started right on time. It was an interactive session, not just digging at the food and drinking. A housekeeper introduced every dish that was served, and explained the health benefits and origins of the locally-sourced ingredients — it was like a food-tour around the lands of Shihtiping and the sea off the coast.
Housekeeper Xiaotian (小甜) mentioned that all the ingredients used in Adagio were gathered from around Shihtiping and Hualien — a way to promote and use local produces. Since Shihtiping was located near to the sea, the ingredients would be mostly seafood. The dishes served at Adagio would also change with seasons as the ingredients were seasonal. Staying at Adagio at different times of the year would have different dining experience.
First on the table was the eye-pleasing Welcome Drink「欢迎醋」, which was a glass of lavender vinegar with roselle petals (洛神花) in it. The vinegar was homemade by Lavender Cottage (薰衣草森林) — in fact, all Adagio Homestays are properties of Lavender Cottage. The vinegar-soaked petals were edible too with mild-sweetness and crunchiness. The acidity of the vinegar prepared the stomach for more food to come.
The starter「山珍海味」was a 3-in-1 sampler prepared with ingredients from the mountains and sea. The three dishes gave simple tastes of both the land and the sea. The dish on the left was a piece of beancurd topped with bean sprouts and sauce. The middle dish was prawn roes on Hualien's mini bitter gourd. And the last was said to be reed or napier grass (芦苇心或牧草心筍) salad with mayonnaise.
Next was a sashimi dish「生鱼片」with big prawns, chunky fresh fish cuts — I believe it was marlin but I could not recall — and crunchy seaweeds. Even the wasabi was grown and made in Taiwan. Depending on the season, the fish used to make the sashimi would vary.
During the flying fish season, the main course would be none other than grilled flying fishes. This main dish had two flying fishes, topped with generous amount of prawn roes and accompanied by some shellfishes and varieties of greens and pumpkin dices. Accompanying the dish was a glass of sweet Amis-aborigine-made (阿美族) local rice wine (小米酒) for the gentlemen and ladies would get a cocktail of rice wine with orange juice.
(I like the rice wine so much that I asked for a second glass, inquired about it and even bought a bottle to bring home. Ever since then, I would always bring a bottle of rice wine home every time I visited Taiwan.)
The next dish was「山海交响饭食」which means "rice with symphony of ingredients from mountain and sea". The prawn and seaweeds were from the sea and veggies and eggs from the land. The short-grain rice was from the paddies around Shihtiping — take a walk around Adagio and the rice fields could not be missed.
The next dish was a self-serving vegetable dish known as「乐活汆烫」or "happy living with boiling". Diners would pick their own selection of raw vegetables and boiled them briefly in hot water for about 3-5 seconds. Long boiling of the vegetables would result in the nutrients being drained away. This was a much better way to eat fresh veggies other than to eat them raw.
After the veggies were boiled, we would add some sauces on them to each's likings. There were minced meat sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, dark vinegar, oyster sauce, chopped chilies, chopped spring onions, ginger strips and garlic bits. The minced meat sauce was Adagio's specialty, so it was a must-try.
I added on some minced meat sauce as recommended, a little oyster sauce, ginger and garlic bits. It was a make-my-own veggie dish, and I did it the way I wanted it. By the way, this dish was "free-flow".
Finishing up the meal was a bowl of chicken soup boiled with the stem of rattan palm called「藤心鸡汤」. The taste of the rattan stem was a little bitter and was consumed for its health benefits.
The housekeeper also shown us how the raw thorny stem of a rattan palm looked like (see photo at top of this post). The hard-to-get rattan stems were gathered from the deep mountains and were precious tonic to the aboriginal people.
Bringing up the rear was dessert called「阿美甜心」. It was a some traditional desserts from the Amis aboriginal tribe (阿美族). A bowl of purple glutinous rice soup (紫糯米汤) was accompanied by traditional rice cake or mochi (小米麻薯) and decorated with a lit candle to liven the ambience. The rice cake was roasted with shell ginger leave (月桃叶) to give it a mild aroma.
And that ended the 8-course dinner. The whole session took about two hours and we had a really relax and entertaining night. It was also the first time we knew what we were really eating.
This special dinner was NT$600 per pax (charged separately from the room since it was optional) and was available for stay-in guests only. Reservations for the dinner must be made at least one day in advance.
After a good dinner, the next best thing to expect at Adagio would be next morning's breakfast.
Adagio's Breakfast Set
We woke up the next morning and look forward to Adagio's signature breakfast, known as "九宮朝食" or "9-Grid Morning Meal" in a 3x3 presentation style. It was a nutritious selection of 9 dishes completed with meat, fish, eggs, veggies and fruits to go with warm porridge. Each breakfast set was enough for two persons.
And we had a special additional dish that day — a dish of grilled flying fish. Thanks goodness it was the season where flying fishes were in abundance.
The breakfast set was included with the room.
We actually considered Adagio's special dinner and breakfast set to be an attraction that was really worth it to travel all the way to Shihtiping to experience it.