by Sophia Hsu / Photos by Amit Chaffee
Walking around the East Village, so many new shops advertising a variety of Asian foods and goods have popped up, especially food establishments promoting Taiwanese and Taiwan-inspired cuisine. Ho Foods brings Taiwanese breakfast dishes and braised beef noodle soup. Snowadays is inspired by Taiwanese shaved snowflake ice and Japanese snacks and treats. 886 takes a modern spin on Taiwanese national dishes and street snacks. Last summer, the Braised Shop opened its door next to Snowadays. Kris Kuo of Taiwan Bear House, a Manhattan Chinatown go-to for Taiwanese bento boxes, and William Tabler with years of NYC real estate experience joined forces to develop The Braised Shop, bringing another Taiwanese staple to the East Village.
滷瓘 (luwei) is a cooking method where food is stewed in an aromatic, magical melange of soy sauce and carefully selected spices that may include, but are not limited to, cinnamon, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, cloves or allspice, and fennel seeds. To relate this to something a little more familiar, it is loosely similar to fondue. Not cheese fondue, but the more traditional, savory broth with a variety of meats, vegetables, and starches to be cooked in the flavourful liquid. In the beginning, Kris and William spent two to three months researching, braising, and taste testing with friends to find the perfect balance, that nostalgic flavor.
This particular flavor of over 20 spices and soy sauce is nostalgic for most Taiwanese people, a taste of home, what you crave when you are homesick. The braising reminds us of roadside tents with steam escaping from in between the flaps. The neatly aligned bins of neverending noodles, vegetables, and meats remind us of the night market stalls with faded round tables and wobbly stools where we waited for our orders. The aroma of your choices simmering in the deep, layered braising liquid reminds us of A Po’s or Ahma’s braised stew sitting on the stove waiting for you to come home. The 鮮瓘 (xianwei, also known as umami in Japanese) produced by the soy sauce, spices, proteins, and starches reminds us of stuffing our faces before a major exam, full of nervous energy. The entire experience of luwei conjures a warm feeling, like a hug from the inside.
The Braised Shop works carefully at recreating all of those nostalgic sensibilities from the flavors to the ingredients to the vintage decor. The lettering on the signage is pervasive at night market stalls in Taiwan. The stone for the counters was imported from California because it most closely mimics the counters and floors found in Taiwan. The selection of available ingredients to be braised is astonishing. There really is something for everyone. First timers tend to pick chicken breast, broccoli, and okra. The more experienced patron goes for the overnight braised beef shank or tendon, tofu skins, Prince (instant ramen) noodles, daikon, and cabbage. Even though the part of the process the customer sees takes only a few minutes, the cooking begins days before. From the condiments to the beverages, everything is handmade and a taste of home.
Visit The Braised Shop for a taste of Taiwanese homesick food. Follow The Braised Shop on all the social media.