Monday, February 10, 2014

172. Taiwan Day 5: Lan Family's Pork Belly Guabao Is the Best / 籃家割包最好吃 (Taipei: Jhong Jheng District / 台北市: 中正區)

On my last trip to my parents' homeland way back in October of 2011, I brought my friend Rina, a first time visitor to Taiwan, to Lan Family Guabao (籃家割包) for a taste of a traditional treat that I knew she would enjoy.  After this first experience with their pork belly buns (割包 / Taiwanese: gua bao), Rina swore that it was the best thing she had ever eaten in Taiwan.  This time I went back for a visit with my friends Grace and Brian to share one of my favorite foods with them.  I can see Rina turning green with envy already.  (See the post from the last visit here.)

Located in the Gongguan area near several schools and universities, the family owned shop sees high foot traffic and is very popular with students.  One of the pork belly buns costs only 50 NTD (less than 2 USD) and is a tasty snack that will satisfy a hungry student until dinner time.  If dinner seems too far from now, then add a sticky rice tamale (肉粽 / Taiwanese: bah-tsang, Mandarin: ròu zòng) and a piping hot four gods soup (四神湯 / Mandarin: sì shén tang) to your guabao for a satisfying meal that costs just 160 NTD (a little more than 5 USD).

In front of the shop sits the street stall where the buns are steamed in bamboo baskets and the pork belly gets stewed in a large steel cauldron.  Any passing pedestrian can see the Lan sons hard at work, packing the bun's pockets with either lean shreds of pork or fatty chunks of belly, whatever your heart desires.  This display of divine deliciousness undoubtedly attracts the passers-by with the visuals of succulent pork and the aromas of stewed soy, sugar and swine.

These guabao are also known locally as ho ga di, which roughly translates to tiger bites the pig.  Why, you ask? Well, the Pacman shaped buns are similar to the curvature of a tiger's jaw, and it seems to almost swallow the pork into its cavernous pit.  The pork seems absolutely helpless while the tiger devours it entirely... all the tender fatty bits included.

Just writing about guabao makes my mouth water.  If I'm craving a mouthful of this monstrosity, I long for the one from Lan's in Taipei.  No other pork belly bun is quite the same.  Just look at this thing... chopped up, juicy, succulent fatty pork, nestled against pickled mustard greens with crackling, crushed peanuts and fresh, crisp, green cilantro... all of it, all of it enveloped by an ungodly soft, fluffy, steamed bun.  Drooling or otherwise? Please, grab the Kleenex.

I want to be the tiger that bites the pig.  Until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

Lan Family Guabao (籃家割包)
No. 3, 8th Alley, Lane 316, Roosevelt Road, Section 3, Jhong Jheng District, Taipei City
MRT: Gongguan Station, exit no. 4 / 捷運公館站, 4號出口 

ML - 20130704

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