Some lou rou fan in Taipei
As much help as it was to be guided around Taipei by my uncles and cousins, it was cool to be able to explore the capital of Taiwan for a day on our own. You know the thing about traveling is that humanity is pretty much awesome everywhere around the world, and I’m not sure why some go through the trouble to say the people in a certain place are really friendly. People everywhere are friendly, and Taiwanese people are no exception. What I think is more telling when I travel is the reality that the world caters to Americans. There’s just enough English to get you to where you want to go. Armed with the older version of google maps that still allowed you to download offline maps, and English names in the metro, we went around Taipei for a day for the best hits of sightseeing.
In Mandarin, Ximen means west gate. I guess back in them old days it was the location of the west gate of Taipei city. That’s long been torn down and now it’s like a prominent shopping district for youngin’s. There’s a Red Theatre there there, which was the opening picture of this post. But supposedly older folks don’t shop in Ximending cuz it’s mostly young people and who likes getting that look from people who thinks you are pedo? Right? Not a good look.
We walked by a really random looking place that did rice balls and since we didn’t eat breakfast, it seemed like a good idea. I never ate rice balls that much as a kid, even though it seemed to have at least two ingredients that I generally loved: rice and pork floss. In the middle of the rice ball was a youtiao which was better than the one we tried at the end of the big family meal. I’m supposing you could find more-than-acceptable rice balls all over Taipei. The mothership dos it right.
We then took the metro to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. It’s a fairly large open public space that looks pretty nice. Apparently this was commissioned by his son, which is why it’s so nice. In contrast, the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall is just aight and not as ballerific. But anyway, in the middle of July it’s pretty awesome to sweat right through your shirt in a wide open space with few shade covering. Man, I was nasty that day.
The National Concert Hall was also in the same area and there were some high school kids practicing some sort of musical routine over there. There were more than one group doing that and honestly I realized that I can’t tell how old young people are anymore. That’s how old I am now. Those kids practicing could have been in college theoretically but who knows. Asians are small. Haha. Racist.
By the time we got to the actual memorial hall, the changing of the guard had just finished. There were dudes in full uniform just standing there, probably drenched in sweat and looking like they were guarding a statue as the most important thing ever. Mad props to my distant brothers for being so vigilant in their duties. I purposefully bypassed conscription when I left the Mothership.
Anyway, we got tired and went to look for food. We found something else that you can probably find all over Taipei – pan fried buns. You could get pan fried pork buns in various night markets in Taipei, but its also popular in non-night market restaurants. These went for 12 NT, which translates to around 40 cents. I think this is as cheap in most American minds as it is in Taiwanese folks’ minds.
Part of the sell is that they cook these things right on the sidewalk which is nice because you see them making it, and you know it’s fresh out of the pan. You can smell that shit and just get intoxicated with what it can be. I’m sure various places have different recipes with the filling and for the wrapper, but I think most of these things are going to be good fresh. Your average pan fried bao is probably better than your average dollar slice in New York City, and it’s even cheaper.
As you can see in the upside-down shot, the bottom of bao has a nice color. The booty was nice and crisp, just like all bottoms should be. You want that shit tight. We only got one because the lou rou fan place I wanted to visit was on the same street, just a few doors down.
As a bad food blogger, I’m not going to research what this place was called, even though I found this fairly well-known place on another blog. Too bad! Lou rou fan is one of the most famous dishes in Taiwan and yes you can find it everywhere. I had some before the big family meal. The main differences you’ll see in the variations is the cut of pork. Some places favor lean ground pork, while others prefer slivers of pork belly. Usage of shitake mushrooms is either crucial or taboo depending on who your grandfather/mother was. You’re just not going to have any family in Taiwan who doesn’t have a recipe for lou rou fan.
This place was a well-oiled machine that knew its money depended on high turnover. The take-out order form was just like, how many do you want, and what size do you want, and five minutes later you have food. We took a medium and it wuz AWESOME. While I grew up on the lean ground pork version of lou rou fan, I also enjoy the pork belly version. The one we had also had bits of mushrooms in them and it was just damn tasty. Anything that reminds an eater of childhood is almost guaranteed to always be good.
As an aside, I was in a coffee shop with Steph the other day and “I Swear” by All 4 One came on the radio. If you know which song that is, YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT RITE?! RITE?! But this particular coffee shop was full of NYU looking students (even though as I said earlier, I can’t fucking tell how old younger people are anyway). The only thought we had was, this song came out when half this fucking coffee shop wasn’t even born… What I think is interesting is that food should theoretically do a better job of bridging generations compared to music but it seems like folks unite more on “OMG Marshal Mathers LP 2!” compared to “Lou rou fan fo life!” But anyone who loves this rou lou fan? You is a friend for life.
Posted by Danny on November 12, 2013 at 8:43 pm
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