Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Posts tagged “Taipei

金子半之助天丼 Kaneko Hannosuke Tendon @ Taipei

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You know when you’d tried a certain dish at a new joint, and after that tell yourself that the “gastrorgasmic” experience you’d gone through had just breached the boundaries of what you’d think was the best rendition that could possibly exist out there for that particular dish, hitting all the right spots, making you nod your head periodically, albeit uncontrollably as you close your eyes in attempt to shut off the other senses so as to concentrate on extracting every ounce of gastronomic pleasure from each bite, smiling to yourself without even knowing you are smiling, only to be overwhelmed by that oddly tingling sense of sadness that creeps in as you partake that last mouthful or slurp, savouring every bit of lingering morsel in the mouth, or waft of aroma in the air, bittersweet as you can’t help but let out a sigh of contentment and gratitude for the experience, interspersed with hopeful yearning for the next episode. Sounding both phenomenal and incredible at the same time while wondering how could that be even mortally possible. Well you could be if you live a life to eat. We’d experienced that before, on several occasions in fact, most notably with Mutekiya Ramen when we first visited a couple of years back and also my first personal encounter with Sugino’s mousse creations, and most recently, 金子半之助天丼 Kaneko Hannosuke Tendon.
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珠寶盒法式點心坊 Patisserie Boîte de Bijou @ Taipei

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Whenever we visit Taiwan, apart from going back to some of favorite eating places to relive the gastronomic experience, we also love to try out new joints which we’d not been to before. Truth be told, it’s not our first visit to 珠寶盒法式點心坊 Patisserie Boîte de Bijou. As one of the pastry shops with better quality creations around, Bijou has been constantly “upgrading” themselves, not only with their breads and cakes, but also their shop front to give folks that sense of novelty and “freshness” whenever they pay Bijou a visit.
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南機場夜市 Nanjichang Night Market, Taipei

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To experience truly Taiwanese food and pop culture, one must surely pay a visit to their local night markets. Some even say that going to Taiwan without a firsthand experience of their local night markets is like not having been to Taiwan at all. I definitely agree with that. To many Taiwanese, night markets are where they take care of their daily needs. This is especially so for the those who work from dawn till dusk, and have to settle their meals mostly outside. This is analogous to our hawker centres and more currently “food courts” here in Singapore, but it is not just the tummies that are taken care of here, as Taiwanese can buy practically everything they need at home here from stationery to toiletries. As such, there are night markets everywhere in Taipei, but we only visit a selectively few and 南機場夜市 Nanjichang Night Market is one of them.
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猴硐貓村 Houtong Cat Village @ Taipei

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Houtong is a small town nested near the northeastern coast of Taiwan. Named so for the populous colonies of macques that once made this place home, along the cliffs. Numbers have since dwindled but you can still see them around. But folks ain’t here for the monkeys. The main attraction here now are the cats! And I can’t believe that this is our first time here despite having been to Taiwan more than a dozen times!
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小茶栽堂 Zenique Le Salon @ Yongkang Street Taipei

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Yongkang Street 永康街 lies within the Da’an district 大安区 in Taipei, a semi-residential and business area. It is one of my favorite places in this bustling city as it is dotted with a variety of unique shops, restaurants, cafes and tea salons where one could simply hang out leisurely for a few hours amidst all the sight-seeing and shopping. It is symbolic of the kind of lifestyle which many younger Taiwanese now very much look forward to or are striving for, where one could afford the time to smell the flowers, admire changes of the seasons, rest the mind and tame the soul. Unfortunately over the last few years, no thanks to the opening up of tourism regulations for visitors from across the straits to visit Taiwan, Yongkang street is slowly being overrun by the Mainlanders, epitomised by the long queues outside 鼎泰豐 Ding Tai Fung and 永康牛肉麺館 Yong Kang Beef Noodles, not to mention the noise and rowdiness they bring along with them. However, as the Taiwanese locals strives to live out their own lives the way they’d wanted, it is still possible for find quaint spots of serenity in the vicinity of Yongkang Street where 慢活 “leisure life pacing” is still the abiding philosophy.

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吳寶春麥方店 Wu Pao Chun Bakery @ Taipei

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I began noticing master boulanger 吳寶春 Wu Pao Chun when he first appeared in one of my favorite Taiwanese forum talk shows 新闻哇哇挖 upon returning to Taiwan, after winning the prestigious Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie aka Bakery World Cup in Paris five years ago. Since then, he has been hailed as a 台湾之光 “Glory of Taiwan” alongside acclaimed director, Lee Ang, an honour accredited by the local Taiwanese press to their fellow countrymen who had achieved worldwide recognition and acclaim of sorts. This does not come easily for anyone from Taiwan, a country which has yet to be formally acknowledged by UN, and whose existence is constantly under pressure and threat across the straits from Mainland China. Since returning to Taiwan, Wu set up his first artisan bread bakery in Kaohsiung before opening another in Taipei the next year. Our previous trips to Taiwan had always been filled with pastries and cakes more than anything else, so for our most recent trip, we finally decided to make our way to Wu’s bakery located at Eslite Spectrum Song Yan Store.

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燒仙草 – Hot Grass Jelly

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Grass Jelly is a dessert which many of us enjoyed since our childhood days. The Cantonese folks call it 凉粉 “leung fun“, while it is 草粿 “cao kueh” for the Teochews and 草粄 “cao ban” for the Hakkas. Its popularity spreads throughout Taiwan, as well as the rest of Southeast Asia where it can be easily cultivated as well, to Vietnam, Thailand and of course Malaysia and Singapore. It is usually eaten as a cold drink or dessert, especially welcoming when the weather is hot and humid but in Taiwan, it is also enjoyed during the winter months, where a hot version would be available and is no less gratifying. And the way 燒仙草 Hot Grass Jelly is eaten seem to be uniquely Taiwan indeed!

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金瓜櫻花蝦炒米粉 – Pumpkin & Sakura Ebi Fried Bee Hoon

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米粉 Rice vermicelli or what is colloquially known as “bee hoon“, is much of a staple like rice in Taiwan. It doesn’t matter if you are a Hokkien or a Hakka, bee hoon is served in every occasion, from daily meals to family gatherings and celebrations. There are many ways of frying bee hoon, with recipes varying not just across dialectal groups but also from family to family. It also very much depends on what is available in the pantry and could be as simple or as elaborated as one can think of. 金瓜櫻花蝦炒米粉 Pumpkin and Sakura Ebi Fried Bee Hoon counts as one of the traditional Taiwanese dishes, a 手路菜 “chew loh cai” which most 台湾媳妇 “taiwan sim boo” Taiwanese housewives would know how to prepare at home, as it is imbued with a deep and profound sense of 古早味 “koh zah bee” and more importantly for many, 妈妈味.
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四神湯 – Si Shen Soup

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I remember enjoying my first bowl of 四神汤 Si Shen Soup about 10 years back during my initial trips to Taiwan. It was the period before Chinese New Year and my friends brought us to 寧夏夜市 before visiting 迪化街 for the Chinese New Year bazaar. Just gotten off the plane, we hadn’t eaten dinner so my Taiwanese friends suggested going to 阿桐阿寶四神湯 located near the night market first. Being largely a “herbal soup”, it tasted rather plain and smooth, with a lingering sweetness in the mouth. Void of pungent odours and bitter aftertaste, the flavours of Si Shen Soup defies what I had expected Chinese herbal soups are traditionally like. The soup was a relief, not only against the fattiness of the bak chang and large steamed pork buns we had, it also helped to warm our constitution amidst the cold and rainy weather.
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台南擔仔麵 – Tainan Dan Zai Noodles

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Taiwan is famous for many of their local snack-like delights called “小吃” which literally means “small eats“. As the name implies, many of these snacks come in small portions which aren’t enough to fill the stomach at one go. Nor is it meant to, as that is the exact intention, i.e. to allow one to sample as many of these different local “small eats” as possible. Tainan, as I’d written previously, is the origin of many local “small eats”, largely brought over by the migration wave from China during the mid Qing Dynasty. Many of these have very humble beginnings as street food stall vendors which we call “hawkers” in this part of the world. Some of these hawkers did not even have a permanent stall, but instead, carried their food, cooking ware, and everything else wherever they go , in two large bamboo baskets delicately balanced by a thick bamboo pole called 擔仔 Dan Zai or “tah-ah” over the shoulders. This was most characteristic to those who sold glutinous rice dumplings colloquially known as “bak chang” (肉粽), often heard before they are seen walking down the alleys of residential areas peddling their bak chang late in the evening.  Wafts of aroma from these freshly steamed glutinous rice dumplings wrapped into a pyramidal shape by bamboo leaves permeated the cool air of the night as one hears the familiar calls “烧肉粽!” or “shio bak chang!” in Taiwanese Hokkien. This often set one’s tummy a rumbling, dashing down to buy a bak chang or two from the hawker before his calls fade away as he vanishes around the corner.

Like bak chang, many other street food vendors too make use of these baskets with bamboo poles to peddle their ware. Another signature “small eat” from Tainan comes in the form of small bowls of fresh noodles in piping hot soup, embellished with an assortment of condiments. The noodles were also initially peddled around the streets of Tainan with makeshift stoves and baskets carrying crockery straddled across a 擔仔 bamboo pole, and that is how its name 擔仔麵 Dan Zai Noodles came about…
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蚵仔大腸麵線 – Oyster & Braised Intestines Mee Sua

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Talk about street food in Taiwan and one cannot dispense discussing “Oh-Ah Mee Sua” 蚵仔麵線 Taiwanese Oyster Mee Sua. With humble beginnings as a “poor man’s snack”, Oh Ah Mee Sua soon became an internationally renowned dish which one would flock to eat when they visit Taiwan. That is certainly the case for me. Over time, two versions evolved, one which uses fresh oysters 蚵仔, and another with braised large pig intestines 滷大腸, both equally popular with their own loyal followers. I love ’em both as they offer very different experience in flavours and textures. So if you like Oyster and Large Intestines Mee Sua like me, do give the recipe a try!

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府城棺材板 – Tainan Coffin Toast Bread

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Long before the designation of Taipei 台北 as the capital city of Taiwan 台湾 by the Qing court in early 18th century, the southern city of Tainan 台南 was long regarded as the centre of administration, politics, as well as financial and economic development in this island state. Tainan was established as the base of Dutch Formosa when the Dutch East Indies company came in the early 1600s and used it as a trading post, which they’d named Fort Zeelandia at Anping 安平. This earned Tainan the name “hoo siah” 府城 in the local Min dialectal tongue, a place where the local folks in southern Taiwan, especially those in the neighbouring counties like Chiayi 嘉義, Pingtung 屏東, Kaohsiung 高雄 and Nantou 南投 looked upon as a site of social and cultural flourish back in the old days.

As the city prospered and grew, more and more people from surrounding rural regions moved into Tainan in search for a better livelihood and opportunities. As such, many aspects of Tainan also became more varied and diversified demographically, socially and culturally. Through the innovation of the locals, many Taiwanese snacks 台式小吃 and signature dishes in Taiwanese cuisine 台菜 we know today have their roots in Tainan. These include 擔仔麵 Dah-a Mee Soup Noodles with Braised Meat Sauce, 台式滷 Lor Mee Noodles in Thick Braising Sauce, 鳝 Sen-Hee Yee Mee Braised Eel Noodles, 碗粿 Wah Kueh Tainan Steamed Rice Cake in a Bowl, 蚵仔麵線 Oh-aa Mee Sua Oyster Meesua, 蚵仔煎 Oh-aa Tsen Fried Oyster Omelette  and of course, 棺材板 Gwa Tsah Pang Coffin Toast Bread.
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Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan

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Welcome to Taiwan! Our 10th instalment of Asian Food Fest brings us to this beautiful country which was once called “Formosa” by the Portuguese, the first “foreigners” to set their eyes on it about 500 years ago to mean “Beautiful Island”, and beautiful is truly an understatement. Rarely would one would be able to find another place on Earth where one could be enjoying the warm sea breeze by the coastal regions and within less than an hour, scale altitudes of more than 2500m above sea-level to confront the majestic mountain ranges. Having the Tropic of Cancer cutting right through the island nation, one can be chewing sugarcane in Tainan or Pingtung in the morning and in less than half a day’s drive, be admiring the majestic cypress and cherry blossoms on Alishan or even playing with snow on Yushan. It is through this complex and often strategic juxtaposition of geographical factors that brings about the rich natural and social history Taiwan has, as well as its anthropology and culture. So join us in this month-long adventure to discover the interesting aspects of her food culture, the nuances which make her distinctively different from her proximal neighbours, to become what we now know as being uniquely Taiwan!

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Patisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris @ Bellavita, Taipei 2014

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Whenever we are in Taipei, we’d always make it a point to drop by Sadaharu Aoki’s dessert salons in either Bellavita or Hotel Regent Taipei, and sometimes both! There are always something new or seasonal, like a surprise that awaits us to uncover! Last year, we had Sensuelle, a Hotel Regent Taipei exclusive and our visit to Patisserie Sadaharu AOKI paris earlier this year was no exception. There were two new creations that were just waiting for us to sample!
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阿宗麵線 Ah Chung Mee Sua @ Ximending, Taipei

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Like many other Asian cities, Taiwan is known for their street food. Everywhere you go, there would be food stalls, tucked within the small alleys and lanes which would offer something to go. The fast pace lifestyles folks in Taipei lead often meant that they have their meals on the go, from takeaway buns, soya bean milk and sandwiches at numerous 早餐店 like 永和豆浆 or 美而美 to takeaway paper bento boxes containing 排骨便当 or 鸡腿便当。 Come nightfall, one of the favorite pastimes of Taiwanese is to visit the local night markets (夜市) which offer a wide range of local delights like 蚵仔煎 ((oyster omelette), 鱿鱼羹 (cuttlefish soup), 生煎包 (shanghainese pan-fried steamed buns) and the bewilderingly named 大肠包小肠 and 大饼包小饼! One of the iconic dishes in Taiwanese street food is their mee sua, rice vermicelli cooked in a thick starchy broth and of all the outlets around, the most visited is probably  阿宗麵線 Ah Chung Mee Sua at Ximending, Taipei.
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鼎泰豐 Ding Tai Fung @ Yong Kang, Taipei

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Strangely of all our trips to Taiwan all these years, we’d never been to 鼎泰豐 Ding Tai Fung(DTF). This is very odd I know, given how iconic  DTF is in Taiwan’s culinary scene, being featured in perpetually every single guidebook we’d read in the past. Somehow, we’d never really felt compelled to visit, often brushing it off as a tourist gimmick and most rightfully so. This is often the first place we would pass by whenever we visit 永康街 Yong Kang Street in 大安区 Da’An district. The front door is always packed with tourists from Japan, Korea and of course Mainland China, sent here by the busloads. It often got so bad that the crowd started to spill over to the shop windows of the bookstore next door. We were often put off by this sight and would briskly walk away, shaking our heads and rolling our eyes.

But we’d tried DTF back home in Singapore many times and I must say that we thoroughly enjoyed the food there. While the loud and chattery crowd outside the main shop in Taipei irked us to no ends, we often wondered if the food there is better than what we are getting in Singapore. DTF originated from Taiwan after all. Finally, curiosity got the better of us and we made our first proper visit to DTF after all these years.
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姜太太包子店 Mrs Chiang’s Steamed Buns @ Taipei

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Whenever we are on an early morning flight to Taipei, we would always make it a point to drop by Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station from the airport even when our hotel is actually one stop away. That is because one of our favorite breakfast joints in Taipei is located here. 姜太太包子店 is a very popular pitstop to get fueled and watered by the locals. There is usually a queue whenever we visit be it the working crowd getting their breakfast takeaways on their way to their office during the morning rush hour, or mothers or grandmothers packing buns by the dozens for family members to enjoy as an all-day-long snack.
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现烤蛋糕 Old School Sponge Cake @ Danshui, Taipei

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The pastry scene in Taipei is really developing very rapidly. Just barely a year since our last visit and so many new cafes and pastry joints have sprung up all over. One thing we’d also noticed, is that some of the traditional bakeries seemed to have caught up with the trend and begin to decorate their cakes with macarons and tempered chocolate pieces in place of the old school cream and piped gel decor. To survive one has to keep up with times. And this is true for practically every trade.

Yet amongst this wave of change, there are some who preferred to stick by the old ways. Despite the rebellious resilience to resist changes, they seem to have a strong and loyal following of folks who would continually patronise these shops who simply refuse to jump on the bandwagon. This comes as no surprise as these old school confectioneries sell not just cake, but also “peddle” memories and reminiscence of the not-too-long-ago yesteryears that go together with it. Nostalgia is after all a very powerful ingredient as you probably already know, remember the past to fuel the future. (more…)


品悅糖 Pâtisserie La Douceur @ Taipei … a revisit

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Yes we are back here again! We’d visited them back in 2011 and were quite impressed with their creations then. Hence, we’d decided to come back again on our next trip to Taipei. Found out through a fellow blogger Chelle that their selection changes periodically. Well, we kinda figured that out as what she sampled looked entirely different from what we’d tried!
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あんず九州杏子日式猪排 Anzu Katsu Speciality, Taipei

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We are such creatures of habit, having our own list of favorite eating joints and patisseries in the places we’d visited and would invariably drop by for a peekaboo whenever we are in town. Well, that can be a blessing and a curse. While we are most certainly assured on the quality of the food we are gonna get from these entries on the “tried and tested” list, we also stifle and restrict ourselves somewhat on other available options possible. Not too adventurous as travelling foodies eh? Finally decided to put a stop to this and “stretch our tents” further by sampling some outlets which we’d not visited in the past, in hope that a pleasant surprise would be in line for us along the way!
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烏來温泉鄉 Wulai Hot Springs, Taipei County

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Our last trip to Wulai was some years back and it was a very brief one, to admire the sakuras. Alas we were a little too late then and the season was just over. We’d spent a considerably amount of time in 雲仙樂園, a local amusement park with a gondola that leads into the mountains and didn’t get much of a chance to see much of the old and rustic side of this beautiful small town 40 minutes south of Taipei City. So here we are, back again after all these years to find out more about this quaint little place which we passed through, but never got to know…

最后一次到烏來玩已经是好几年前的事了。当时为了追樱花而来到烏來山上。但还是来迟了,花季刚刚结束,所以最终没能追成。临时决定到附近的雲仙樂園玩,反而没有体验到真正的烏來。再次来到台湾,一定不能错过逛烏來老街, 享受它“温泉鄉”美誉的机会。
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肥前屋 Unadon Speciality Shop, Taipei

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The Taiwanese know their Japanese food really well. Yes you heard me right. Apart from Tokyo or Osaka, most if not all of my best Japanese meals were in Taipei. The Taiwanese are such “nipponophiles” (if there is ever such a word) that they have achieved a certain of specialisation, be it the traditional art of mochi, sushi or oden making, to replicating the concept of Japanese bakeries and boulangeries in their entirety.

But the Taiwanese are far from being mere copycats. The island nation being subjected to Japanese colonial rule for the longest time outside Japan itself, allowed an almost complete inheritance of not merely the superficial but in-depth transposition of cultural practices. Needless to say, this bore an ingrained effect on their culinary and dietary profile as well. During our last trip to Taipei, we’d visited 肥前屋 Unadon Speciality Shop. It is a small restaurant, complete with wooden sliding doors for that authentic rustic feel, most known for their unadon, also known as unagi don, which is short for “unagi kabayaki donburi”. The best unadons we’d seen were probably in Kyoto. But the rendition served up in this little deli in the heart of Taipei is pretty wicked as well, but only for a fraction of the price.
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永康牛肉麺館 Yong Kang Beef Noodles Taipei

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永康街 Yongkang Street is a quaint little area in Taipei, located right smack in the city’s centre just next to 大安森林公園  Da’An Forest Park. It is a haven dotted with famous eateries, together with lesser known but no less interesting cafes, as well as some of my favorite pastry joints. We travel to this lovely city on a yearly basis and almost without fail, one day on our itinerary has to be allocated to exploring the intertwining little lanes and alleys for new foodie places we have yet to visit. Always full of surprises.
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永康牛肉麺館 Yong Kang Beef Noodles is one of those beef noodles joints which had attained “celebrity class” status, and can be found in perpetually every other travel guide to Taipei. It has often been touted as the first to have anchored itself in this area to sell beef noodles, sharing the common ground of humble beginnings with other big names like the king of xiao long bao, 鼎泰丰 Ding Tai Fung. The latter still has their flagship store at the entrance of Yong Kang Street, but for us, we are here to have a bowl of authentic beef noodles.
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台北金峰鲁肉饭 – Jin Fung Lor Bak Png, Taipei

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When in Rome, do what the Romans do. I have several food places which I repeatedly visit whenever I’m in Taipei.  These are often joints and stalls which the locals come for a quick breakfast with their pals after their morning exercise or grocery shopping routine, or for a takeaway during the lunch break. They serve good local food at rather affordable prices! Let’s see, I have my favorite 牛肉面 beef noodles stall in 永康街 Yong Kang Street, I have my favorite 肉粽 bak chang stall in 西门町 Ximending, I have my favorite 碗粿 wah kueh stall near 龙山寺 Long Shan Si Temple, I have my favorite 四神汤 stall near 宁夏夜市 Ning Xia Night Market, etc… and the list runs on! But today, I shall bring you all to my favorite lor bak png 鲁肉饭 stall… well, one of my favorites that is! Ironic it may sound, how can one ever settle for just one favorite right?! *chuckles*

鲁肉饭, lu rou fan or better pronounced as “lor bak png” in Taiwanese is truly food for the masses, enjoyed by folks of all ages from all walks of life, during any time in the day from breakfast all the way till supper! There are some pretty famous lor bak png joints/chain stores around but when I’m Taipei and I’m up for it, I would visit 金峰鲁肉饭 for a quick fix!

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