What you need to know
Within 15 minutes walking distance of the Taipei nightclub Pawnshop are three food vendors with Michelin 'Bib Gourmand' status. Here's what we ate and saw.
By Kwai Chiang
If we need a little something to tide us over before, our first instinct is usually to go for fast-food or a convenience store. But lying within 15 minutes walking distance of Taipei’s Pawnshop is Linjiang Night Market, where there are three food vendors with Michelin "Bib Gourmand" status. As an added bonus, they are all near Tonghua Park, a prime location for a pregame or retreat from the club.
“I came here at the wrong time” was my first thought on entering Linjiang Night Market with a group of friends. We were on a mission to make a whirlwind tour of the three joints in one night. While we made a mistake in timing, location-wise things went smoothly: all three vendors are in the same alley off Tonghua Street — number 39.
Luoji Xiaochao 駱記小炒
While struggling through the crowd on the main drag of the night market, ducking into a side alley presents itself as an attractive option. Luoji Xiaochao is one of the first shops you’ll encounter on Alley 39. If you’re feeling especially hungry, the stir-fried beef or snails are among the most filling and delicious options on the menu.
Although I’m typically careful around spicy food, I’ll occasionally dabble in it. I found the spiciness level to be manageable. Their thick soy sauce complements the rice marvelously. My only complaint is that the portion sizes are on the small side.
When we got up to leave, seeing a few other guests at the table, ordering one dish each, I realized we didn’t order enough. Having everyone in your party choose at least one dish is the best way to experience Luoji Xiaochao as a group. Next time you’re on your way to Pawnshop, the some of best pre-clubbing snacks are to be found here.
Fire and Ice Tangyuan 御品元冰火湯圓
Right beside Luoji is Fire and Ice Tangyuan. Like it’s neighbor, there’s reliably a long line at the entrance. But what makes the line worth it is a chance to wash down the heavy feeling of small fried dishes with an osmanthus honey shaved ice.
After the ice dishes arrived, we took advantage of the hot tang yuan dessert soup to balance off the cold ice dish. The sesame fillings of the glutinous balls had just the right amount of sweetness. The only hiccup came when I saw a notice on the wall that informed us that we had our eating style backwards.
The recommended style is to start with the hot tang yuan, to avoid letting the soup get cold and the glutinous rice balls lose their elasticity. It’s better to end with the osmanthus honey shaved ice with lemon juice. Don’t let the lemon juice mix with tang yuan. I made this mistake myself, before I had my second bite I had the idea of adding the osmanthus sauce and the lemon sauce, and started to go overboard with mixing them together, eventually just ending up with a combination of the shaved ice with the tang yuan.
Although I was self-conscious of egregiously violating the rules, on the whole I was extremely satisfied with dessert. Especially on a hot night, Fire and Ice should absolutely be a stop on the journey to the club.
Liangji Luwei 梁記滷味
Located on the same street as Fire and Ice and Luoji is a classic Taiwanese braised food (lu wei) stand called Liangji Luwei. Just like the above establishments, it lives just off the night market’s main drag, so the lines are reliably long.
By this point, we basically couldn’t eat anymore. My group decided to just order two or three things on the menu to see if it deserved a place on Michelin’s Bib Gourmand.
But when we took in the abundance of options on display before us, we had forgotten that we had just eaten stir-fry and shaved ice. Each of us vied to fill our baskets with the raw foods we wanted to have the boss braise for us. In addition to the staple chicken legs and wings, there were some rare delicacies like duck tongue.
After we paid our bill our party headed over to Tonghua park, about a five minute walk from Liangji Luwei. Reveling in good company and an abundance of good food, we discovered that we had ordered too much. I also discovered that my definition of “mild spice” is very different from the boss of Liangji Luwei. After a few bites, I summoned the friends who had arrived early at Pawnshop to help finish the delectable meal.
I have to admit that the flavor of the luwei was indeed salty, but this is also perfect to pair with a beer. If I had to choose one of the stands on the way to Pawnshop, I would have to go with Liangji Luwei.
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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)
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