October 16, 2009

Raise the Red Lantern

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I'm back in Taipei for a few days, and the family decided to have dinner outside for once.  After my last dinner at Golden Formosa (金蓬萊), I was interested in trying out the restaurant next door - Red Lantern (女娘的店).   It looks a little like an old Taiwanese farmhouse, with - what else? - red lanterns hung by the outer gate as well as the entrance to the restaurant.

The whole place was designed to invoke nostalgia, with traditional wooden furniture - long benches around tables instead of individual chairs - and stuff that you'd find in rural farmhouses hung on the walls.  I've been to a few of these places and always thought the decor interesting.

I ordered four dishes, which was more than enough for the three of us.  The traditional pork belly (古早味烘肉) was a huge, square block of fatty, layered pork.  It's basically the same as a block of 東坡肉 but the flavoring isn't as sweet.  This was very yummy, as the fat has been cooked out into the sauce, and the lean meat was very soft and tender.  If they cook it any more the muscle fibers will simply melt in the mouth.  I'm sure I single-handedly devoured at least 60% of this thing...

Herbal shrimp soup in bamboo (竹筒君子蝦) - the medium-sized shrimps were blanched in an herbal soup with ginseng, wolfberries (枸杞), dried yamaimo (淮山), jujube (紅棗)... Pretty strong in taste but obviously very healthy.  Served in an open section of bamboo.

Stir-fried chayote shoots (炒龍鬚菜) - these are the young shoots of chayote (佛手瓜), except that tonight the shoots weren't so young. 

Crispy pig intestines (脆皮肥腸) - these were very nice and crispy, without being too oily and fatty.  Dab a bit of five spice powder and eat with raw garlic shoots.  Yum...

I made the mistake of order a bowl of rice with lard (豬油飯).  In reality the sauce of the pork belly would have been sufficient, and I ended up not being able to taste the lard. Oh and they didn't sprinkle any deep-fried shallots on top.  Bummer.

I was pretty stuffed by the end, and decided to stroll around a bit before heading home.  Unfortunately this ruined my chances of having some shaved ice for dessert...

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