By Gene Gonzalez
Illustration by Roc Verdera
The 2019 Asian Veterans and Master’s Fencing Tournament in Taipei, Taiwan was a great time to reunite with my old teammates, specifically Southeast Asian Gold medalists Richard De Guzman and Vier Tajonera. We caught up and relived old times by trying out the food of the host country. We food crawled through our area in between our days of competition, and whenever there was free time. Here are a few places in the Songshan District worth visiting.
Juan Yao Restaurant, Dunhua South Road
Juan Yao’s braised pork hocks casserole with sweet potato;
This restaurant specializes in rustic casseroles and Taiwanese comfort food. Juan Yao means brick kiln. The restaurant’s design of brick, stressed wood, and Taiwanese memorabilia makes it a favorite among office people, the after work drinking crowd, who love the table top casseroles, which they enjoy from cocktail hour, dinner, and even as recovery food. One of the dishes I strongly recommend is the three spice tofu. The texture of the tofu was so fine and silky—smooth on one’s palate coupled
with a flavorful but light sauce that is soy-based.
Just divine! Order this simple stir fry of yam leaves in light oyster sauce. It was quite enjoyable with only a dousing of superior stock. Other favorites were rice yeast marinated fish with cabbage pickles, braised pork hocks casserole with sweet potato, and bamboo mushrooms stir fried with wax gourd. These favorites were all eaten with Lardy rice, which is the fond scraped from the bottom of the pan.
Taiwan Beef Noodles, Civic Boulevard
Taiwan Beef Noodles’ beef noodles
At midnight, we waited outside the restaurant, packed even at that ungodly hour. Our noodles arrived swimming in signature spicy broth with the full flavors of sweet wood spices and black pepper. The base was of dried ginger. There Nwere little blotches of Szechuan chili oil floating that added even more spice. The noodle choices were wide shaved noodles and finer egg noodles. Toppings ranged from the everyday minced pork to tasty chicken, and the side dishes from braised peanuts to edamame. Popular sides like pig’s ears were offered, and added another dimension to the order.
Dian Shui Lou, Nanjing Road
Dian Shui Lou’s xiao long bao
We were lucky enough to find this famous restaurant across the Taipei gym where dim sum and Taiwanese recipes are tops. It’s also in front of Citibank. There was a viewing counter where all the xiao long bao were made. The wide assortment of flavors of the soup dumplings (There were 10 kinds on the menu) highlighted absolute creativity with many of them showing off uniqueness, and dare I say, improvements on the classic. Just the same, we ordered the classic, a bestseller based on the walk-ins. The classic was beautifully cooked. No part of the wrapper leaked, holding the soup—a delightful and flavorful amber liquid. It was also our gauge for we also ordered the chili flavor, which had a nice floral quality to its soup from the dried chili and Szechuan peppercorns added.
The truffle-flavored dumplings were also excellent! Other dimsum worth mentioning arethe crisp pancakes filled with pork and dates, and the flaky pastries made with dried radish and
Chinese ham. We decide to have steamed salted egg buns to calm our excited palates from the chili and truffle soup dumplings. These steamed egg buns just oozed out the lightly sweet red egg custard, which we finished off and washed down with some choice Taiwanese Oolong tea.
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