Monday, February 3, 2014

169. Taiwan Day 4: My Absolute Favorite Local Spot / 我最喜歡吃台南意麵黑白切 (Taipei: Jhong Jheng District / 台北市: 中正區)

I have written about this place before, a curiously popular eatery that is just bigger than a hole-in-the-wall but still slightly smaller than a restaurant in size.  It is nestled between apartment complexes and a produce store in a residential neighborhood.  It has no English name, but I have previously titled it Black White Slice, which is a careless translation of its name in the local language.  It is a true local spot, an absolute personal favorite... good enough reason to introduce this place to Diana and the Ma brothers, Jordan and Justin... and good enough reason to write about it again.  (See previous post here.)

The sliced goose (鵝肉 / Mandarin: é ròu) is a must here... an absolute must.  The chef poaches it in its own juice, allowing the meat to reabsorb its own natural juices and flavors.  It is cooked just to the point past rare so that the flesh is still tender.  The fat from the skin renders down into the succulent yet lean flesh and makes each slice extra supple, extra glistening, extra delicious.  Pair each bite some freshly sliced ginger, the fragrant basil leaves, or even a dip in the sweet chili sauce for a taste of pure heaven.

The noodles are also a must.  After all, it is in the name of the restaurant, and you can take my word for it.  There are two options, the flatter house egg noodles (意麵 / Mandarin: yì miàn) and its slightly thicker and rounder street stall variation chek-ah noodles (切仔麵 / Taiwanese: chek-ah mi, Mandarin: qie zǎi miàn), both of which are topped off with bean sprouts, sliced leeks, scallions, crispy fried shallots, and a sprinkle of white pepper.  Oh, and the broth? It's made from the poaching liquid of the goose... so sensually good.

When I think about the freshly sliced liver (豬肝 / Mandarin: zhu gan) here, my mouth waters.  It is nothing like any liver you have ever tasted before... the tough, iron tasting, brown and bubbly looking jerky-like substance that used to be eaten only when there wasn't enough money for actual meat.  This is different.  It is fresh and doesn't have any metal taste, and the texture is almost silken like a very fine tofu.  There's tons of fresh ginger to add to the liver if you're still squeamish, but this is nothing to be scared about.

Since the first time I visited this place almost a decade ago, I have always ordered the smoked shark (鯊魚煙 / Taiwanese: soa hee ian, Mandarin: sha yú yan).  The meat itself is soft and mild, very similar to unagi.  Even its smokiness is not as apparent but just a bit more scented than the typical smokiness from lox.  Dip it into the soy sauce paste and wasabi the way you would sashimi, and the natural sweetness of the fish develops.

I prefer my oysters raw in America, but in Taiwan I prefer them deep fried, made into omelettes or par-cooked like this.  These fresh blanched oysters (燙蚵仔 / Taiwanese: thng ô-ah) are perfectly bite-sized and served with sweet chili sauce, ginger and basil... easy to chase down with a swig of Taiwan Beer or a slurp of hot noodles.

We ordered some fresh asparagus tips (蘆筍 / Mandarin: lú sǔn) to balance out our protein heavy meal.  These chilled green vegetables work as a refreshing palate cleanser for all the dishes laden with soy, ginger, garlic, basil, and wasabi

Stinky tofu, oh, stinky tofu, how I love you so.  For something that is usually quite malodorous when deep fried, this spicy and steamed variation on the fermented bean curd (麻辣臭豆腐 / Mandarin: má là chòu dòu fǔ) is not as unpleasant.  In fact, the garlic, chili pepper, and peppercorn that it is simmered in makes for an aroma that draws you in and keeps you coming back for more.  The numbing spiciness of the broth requires you to follow it with a spoonful of noodles and soup to wash it away, but soon after the cleanse it beckons you to take another bite... only to have you chase it again with savory goose broth.  Slippery slope, much? I don't mind rolling down this hill...

By the way, this is a beer drinking establishment.  Customers grab the chilled bottles of Taiwan Beer from the self help fridge in the back of the restaurant and pop each one with the opener sitting in a basket on every table.  Every table, whether it's the businessmen who have just escaped their cubicles or the college students procrastinating on research assignments, has at least one bottle of beer.  Ours have four... so far.  All of these small plates or small bites (小吃 / Mandarin: xiǎo chi) paired with the alcohol makes this form of black white slice cuisine (黑白切 / Taiwanese: ouh beh tzeh, Mandarin: hei bái qie) something I look forward to each time I visit Taiwan.  From the looks of it, the Ma brothers, who happen to live just around the corner from here, may be looking forward to another visit as well.  Cheers, y'all.  Until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

Tainan Noodle Black White Slice (台南意麵) 
No. 63-8, Jinan Rd., Sec. 2, Jhong Jheng District, Taipei City
MRT: Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station, exit no. 5 / 捷運忠孝新生站, 5號出口

ML - 20130703

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