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May 16, 2007 07:31 PM

Potage ... in France and Taiwan

I'm more interested in Taiwan.

There is a local Taiwanese restarant that serves pork, shrimp and squid potage ... three different soups.

A poster on the SF board wrote ...

" potage soup is a very Taiwanese dish. It's basically noodle soup that is thickened with potato starch. Generally vinegar is added. It comes with either meat covered with this starch or squid covered with the starch ... I would recommend you to try if you don't have an aversion to texture (it's slightly gummy)"

So I ordered the pork potage ... my goodness ... I've never had anything like this before. I am not exactly a dainty eater, but I'm really glad I ordered this take out because the richness is more than I could handle .. I ate about a quarter of a cup and could not manage another spoonful because I was just too full.

I would have bet anything that it would have turned to solid gelatin overnight in the fridge ... but no ... it doens't seem to be fat-based. It remained liquid.

So what can you tell me about this. It seems from the few web refrences that squid and shrimp are the most common in Taiwan ... so I'm going for squid next.

In France, potage seems to be the name of thick soups like Potage St. Germain (Pea Soup). Usually they are cream-based ... sort of the French version of cream of celery or potato soup.

I'm wondering if the version in Taiwan has any connection to France.

Just a little from Wiki which notes a connection to the Middle Ages.

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  1. I think what you're referring to in Taiwan is called Rou Geng. There are many varieties as you mentioned, with the most common being pork, squid, and shrimp. If you want to find it in the bay area, some places that serve it are Ay Chung Noodle, Tastes Good, possibly Joy, and a few other Taiwanese restaurants. Where did you try yours?

    Ay Chung in Milpitas had a respectable version last I tried. But currently they're closed for "renovation".


    2 Replies
    1. re: tanspace

      I tried it at 168 Restaurant in Pacific East Mall. Googling rou geng there wasn't anything like what I had, but there were a lot of modifiers .... like rou geng mien ... with noodles.

      My soup was more in looks like the soup part of French onion soup only there were just a few pieces of some sort of matchstick veggie and the pork coated in what I assume was that potato starch.

      If you look at the soup itself (ignore the other stuff) it looked like this picture.

      One would assume it was pure fat from the thickness, but nope, no gell, no fattieness like a ramen. Have to try the squid version next to see what that looks like.

      1. re: rworange

        It's interesting to read about your impressions of this Taiwanese soup, that you assume it was pure fat, or that you thought it was too rich to stomach. To me it's something light yet temporarily substantial: perfect for midnight snacking - nurturing, warm, filling, but not dense. It definitely isn't greasy or heavy. The starch makes you think it's thick, but it's an illusion.

        Recently the "Ay Chung" chain has been available outside Taiwan - a good news for all those oversea Taiwanese to satisfy somewhat the craving, although, the Ay Chung here in the Flushing Mall, as with most of the versions I've had, isn't and probably could never be the same as the real deal in Taiwan's night market. Ay Chung is known mostly for the Large Intestine noodles (brown angel hair noodles) that's also thickened with starch, with heavy garlic/cilantro/anchovie paste/white pepper..etc. To me even the best version that can be had in the US turns out to stink of raw garlic that somehow you don't get when in Taiwan. Not sure if it's just a different type of garlic...or..the water? the air?

        In general, beside the pork, there seems to be two types of squid "geng": one is made with the fresh squid (white flesh), the other is made with the dried then reconstituted squid (light brown in color). I prefer the latter.
        ( ) the picture of this has both types. This one it's just the white flesh

        In Chinese grocery stores of major cities you can easily get the fresh pre-made squid or shrimp pieces that you can add to the soup. On the above link you can scroll down to a picture of what the ready made ones look like.

        By the way, it seems that the Ay Chung brand isn't really well-regarded in Taiwan, which I can understand when they have so many unique stands to go to, so, whatever you eat in the States, take it with a grain of salt..that the original can be really quite different in a good way.

        Edit: I meant to add the Chinese characters for the squid soup: 花枝羹 ‧魷魚羹 (they are both squid, I think the first Hua1 Zhi1 Geng1 is the white flesh; the 2nd one, You2 Yu2 Geng1 is the brown, but I'm not one hundred percent sure on that. Could be that they are interchangeable, and different makers use different types.

    2. I tasted 'rou geng tang' in Taiwan almost 20 years ago and immediately fell in love with this yummy comfort soup (the pork versioN)!! I've never known where to find it in Toronto though but I went to Taiwanfest at Harbourfront last month and tasted a pretty decent version. In my euphoria, I forgot to take down the name of the company who made it. I looked up Wei's Taiwanese Foods, as I know they were at Taiwanfest, but saw no rou geng on their website.

      Can anyone tell me where I can get some good rou geng tang in Toronto? It would be much appreciated!!

      1. There is really no cream or cream bases in the Taiwanese version of "rou gen".

        Also the starch thickening agent is typically yam/sweet potato starch powder (di gua fen).

        The base broth, while has the thickening agent, typically contains multiple ingredients. Sometimes daikon, but very common, is katsuoboshi or bonito flakes (a Japanese influence). Other flavoring enhancers include some cilantro, minced garlic. There is also a chance the base broth is made with bones (beef or pork or chicken or both). Usually vinegar is not pre-added, but an option to enhance the experience further (black vinegar is a must).

        Now the main theme of what goes into the thick flavorful broth, in addition to either noodles (yoh mien/oil noodles by translation, or mien xien/soggy vermicelli that's sun dried), the meats could be pork, squid, shrimp, or fish (of which the local fish used to make Tu Tuor is insanely delicious). The base broth can also be used towards oyster noodle with some changes to the receipe.

        Here's the Chinese wiki of rou gen

        (may get a loose translation if you enter this in a search engine)