On the food and beverage front, Taipei boasts diverse delicacies that go way beyond boba. Scallion and daikon pancake, hot pot, braised beef noodles, xiao long bao and oyster mee sua — just to name five.
Chicken two ways and stinky tofu at Sung Chu Yuan
But if you want to delve deeper into Taiwanese cookbooks, you may want to consider going uphill for low-key Sung Chu Yuan, a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant on Yonggong Road in the Shilin district, where you can tackle (and I don't use the word lightly) a very big meal inside a wooden hut. Given its close proximity to the boundary of Yangminshan National Park, you can also take a deep breath among the leafy surroundings as an added bonus.
When I say a very big meal, Sung Chu Yuan offers several set menus for eight to 12 people and I shared a starting set meant for eight with my dining companions. By the end, we were satisfied and stuffed as we had in total around a dozen dishes for a reasonable price of TW$4,800 (B5,245). Several courses of the meal come with additional choices so we were spoilt for choice. Don't worry about not having enough space for all the dishes though, as the big round table had a lazy Susan.
There was neither gradual flow nor build-up during the meal as the dishes arrived quickly one after another and each was substantial. Sung Chu Yuan's star and signature dish is the Boiled chicken and Crispy roast chicken and I could easily taste why. It was a hybrid delight as each half of the bird offers something different — juicy and tender on one half while crispy and succulent on the other.
We caught a bit of a katsuobushi dance on top of the Stir-fried white water snowflake. The aquatic plant was crunchy while the paper-thin fish flakes added smoky touch. Don't turn your nose up at Pork intestine with eggplant and garlic until you give it a try. I am a bit biased here, given that I order guay jub with every internal organ available, but the pork intestine was pleasantly chewy and flavourful, thanks to the tasty sauce, while eggplant added a meaty feel to the dish.
Stir-fried dough sticks and stinky tofu scramble is definitely an acquired taste, a taste I will not be acquiring any time soon. However, I was told that the stinky tofu was on an "advanced" level compared to the average stinky tofu.
On the opposite end, Peeled chilli pepper chicken soup was my favourite for several reasons. Not only do you get the juicy chicken but also tender chill pepper that packs flavourful punches along with soothing and aromatic broth to boot.
My first runner-up was Stir-fried squid with three-cup sauce or three-cup squid for short. The dish's name is derived from the trio of soy sauces, Chinese wine and sesame oil, which combine into a dark and rich sauce to complement pleasantly chewy squid rings.
Another dish that scored high in my book was Steamed cod with crispy beans. It impressed with a big, tender and white fillet in a shallow pond of savoury soup while crispy beans were sprinkled on top for extra flavour and texture.
The other dishes included were Braised pork, Fried shrimp balls with pineapple, Homemade salty pork, Braised bamboo shoots, Stir-fried cabbage and Deep-fried taro rolls. Lastly, homemade steamed buns and rice were also served to be enjoyed with all the dishes. Living up to the Bib Gourmand recognition it receives, Sung Chu Yuan serves good food at moderate prices.
Freshest catch of the day at Addiction Aquatic Development
You haven't truly arrived in Taiwan if you haven't tried the abundant seafood. If you're looking for plenty of seafood choices in one place, the curious-sounding Addiction Aquatic Development, next to the Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Corporation on Minzu East Road, is it.
AAD triples as a fish market, restaurant and supermarket where you can buy live marine creatures, pick up freshly made dishes or pre-packaged sushi and sashimi sets or have a proper sit-down Japanese meal. Have a seafood party by picking different things to be enjoyed with your friends as there is seating outside.
Don't worry if you have an aversion to raw seafood as there are many cooked choices such as Grilled halibut with miso, Grilled red shrimp, Pork cordon bleu and Roasted pork with creamy koji sauce. For something more exotic, opt for Smoked shark or Deep-fried durian 'cause Yolo.
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