October 4, 2009

Afternoon excursion for local delights

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This afternoon I went out to Ximending (西門町), Taipei's equivalent of Shibuya/Harajuku.  It's been a couple of years since I was last here so I was looking forward to taking a look.  It's always been a place for the young, and I was thinking that I was getting too old for this neighborhood.

The main objective was to hit Laotienlu (上海老天祿), the store that is most famous for their duck tongue...amongst other things.  A good friend from Hong Kong loves these things, and of course I had to get some to bring back as gifts.  It's been a long, long time since I've been to the shop, and I realized that there are actually two different stores calling themselves 老天祿 (a pretty common occurrence in Taiwan - just look at how many stores call themselves 太陽堂...).  The one that I've always gone to - and the original - is on Chengdu Road (成都路).

The store was busy as usual, and I wasn't surprised at all to see customers from Hong Kong.  Everybody wants some of the duck tongue, and they're not cheap!  At NT$ 170 per 100g - which yields about 8-10 tongues - I think I can get a better deal at Shanghainese restaurants in Hong Kong.  I picked up two boxes of the spicy variety and hand over a wad of cash.  I also decided to pick up a couple of small Shanghainese moon cakes, since I haven't had these in a while.

I also stopped by to snack on another Taiwanese local staple - rice-flour noodles (麵線).  I've heard about Ay-Chung Rice Flour Noodle (阿宗麵線) for years but never got around to having some. These guys have done so well that they're no longer operating out of a push cart on a street corner, and have moved into some permanent digs.  Naturally there is a line, and I figured at any given point in time there are 20-40 customers standing around holding a bowl in their hands.  The guy standing behind the counter doesn't ever stop - he just keeps scooping the noodles in the thick, starchy soup into one bowl after another with the same repetitive motion.  It takes him 5 seconds to fill a small bowl and 10 seconds for the big bowl.  It's gotta be one of the most boring jobs around...

I grabbed a bowl and started to chow down.  Was it good?  Yeah, it's pretty good.  But what was so good about it that tourists - both local and foreign - make this one of their stops?  I'm not really sure.  Yes, the pieces of pig intestines are yummy and have a distinct fragrance that is often lacking in what one gets elsewhere.  And the starchy soup with the usual bonito shavings, vinegar and coriander topping was nice, too.  But honestly, I'm not that much of a connoisseur to be able to rate this bowl vs. many other good bowls of noodles.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're in the neighborhood, it's worth stopping by.  But I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to make a detour for this.

Later on I also grabbed a small bag of popcorn chicken from Ji Guang Delicious Fried Chicken (繼光香香雞), which operates out of a tiny corner shop near one of the subway entrances.  I asked for the non-spicy version, which only has sprinkles of five-spice flavors and not the chilli powder.  The chicken cubes are deep-fried and they've sprinkled sesame seeds in the batter, which helps make it tasty.  This was my pre-dinner snack before boarding the bus and heading home for mom's cooking.


Unknown said...

Seems like you been very busy during your staying in Taipei.

Peech said...

Ate lots including mom's cooking at home. Gained 0.5kg after 11 days... not bad

susan said...

All your posts on Taipei are making me so hungry. I love Taipei as a food destination.


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