Sunday, June 28, 2009

Zhu Ji Xian Bing (朱記餡餅)

Some years back, before I fell in love with beef noodle soup... I had another obsession, which were these small round discs known as 餡餅 (xian bing). Little pockets of pan fried dough, akin to a thicker and larger pot sticker wrapper, is home to a little ball of minced meat (pork or beef) blended with a mix of the requisite ginger and garlic. They reminded me of my grandfather, since it's a Northern Chinese delicacy, and he used to make them all the time. Needless to say, I still have a place in my heart for these 'oversized gyoza.' Perhaps the most famous place in Taiwan to find these is 朱記餡餅 (Zhu Ji Xian Bing). I think the name means it was founded by someone with the last name of 朱, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I prefer to think of it as 'piggy' instead... or at least that's what I thought when I was a kid (another point of confusion, am I still a kid? At what point can I start saying 'back when I was a kid' without feeling awkward?). Anyway, before I digress into another tangent, I should finish this review.

Not so much a hole in the wall type place (I know... I know... I'm sorry!), this place is actually sort of a tourist spot. Not to the point that it's on travel brochures like 鼎泰豐 (Ding Tai Feng), but people in Taiwan know it well... and even people who visit from the south will likely make a trip here. So let's just say, it's famous within Taiwan, but relatively unknown to foreigners. Anyway, as you can see from the store front picture... nice big signage, easy to find... it's located 仁愛路 (Ren Ai Lu), right after 花市 (flower market). It's a fairly large establishment, two levels, lots of tables, nice interior... with a traditional Asian decor (read: no metal stools... this actually makes me sad haha). It's actually pretty damn fancy. Look! Even the soy sauce and vinegar are kept in porcelein and not some cheap clear plastic containers. I did think it was kind of humorous that they had to label in Chinese and then English... but I guess that Chinese people aren't their only target audience.

As for the food... we ordered 1 bowl of beef noodle soup, knife cut of course, which cost 120 NT ($4), 2 beef xian bing which are 35 NT ($1), 2 pork for the same price, and one 牛雜湯 (mixed beef soup) which cost 70 NT ($2). The beef noodles are actually a surprise here, since they're not famous for them. A few years back, when that was all I ate, I ordered it, proceeded to get yelled at by my grandmother for ordering something stupid, and then was pleasantly surprised to have a giant bowl of noodles that probably ranks in my top 5 (and when you've eaten as many different places as I have, that's a pretty high ranking). Anyway, the noodles are the stand out here. Long, thick, and heavy knife cut noodles that stretch to tomorrow, they are of the same pedigree as those at 良品 (Liang Pin). The broth isn't terrific, but isn't terrible... but if we go by straight comparison... Liang Pin still wins out because of the combination of awesome noodles with a fringe above average soup base. I will not complain about this bowl of noodles though, for the price, it is absolutely massive... that bowl is about 10" across.

The beef and pork xian bing are what the place is famous for, and for good reason. Both have very unique tastes, and in semi cop out fashion, I'm just going to say that I can't find words to describe them. Both combine a pleasant mix of semi fatty, semi lean ground cuts, a healthy spattering of garlic, and some spices to make for a pretty awesome little bun like sandwich. The meats cook up nice and juicy (to the point where they have soup dumpling spillover), and the gets nice and crispy from the pan frying. No disappointments here.

As for the mixed beef soup (that is... a mix of various body parts from a cow including tripe, tongue, and brisket)... uh, my mom wanted that... and to be honest, it looked kind of gross, but she liked it. Overall... I love this restaurant, and I make it a point to visit every year I come back. Do I even have to bother to say I recommend going? Haha, seriously though, you won't be disappointed.

Oh... I don't have time right now... but I got to run again.

distance for the day: 6.55 miles
distance biked for the day: 0.00 miles

distance on the year: 368.84 miles
distance biked on the year: 142.68 miles


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