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October 24, 2021

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Authentic Taiwan grub, but service is insipid

TAIWAN food is about a blend of flavors, and is usually considered comfort food — think about famous Taiwan beef noodles and an equally comforting bowl of braised pork rice.

Taiwan food is versatile, colorful and influenced by the island’s history and geographical location. A trip to a local Taiwan restaurant reveals it all, as the menu usually includes signature Taiwan dishes plus popular street snacks.

Yilan Dading Huoxia is one of the oldest Taiwan restaurants in the city, and a line outside is quite common during busy hours. It’s located on Xianxia Road in Changning District, home to a large Taiwan community. I decided to give it a try.

The service was slow and the staff wasn’t welcoming — my first impression on my first visit. After a long wait, the food was sent to my table.

As the restaurant name Huoxia (live shrimp) suggests, their focus is the fresh crustaceans cooked in a variety of styles. In the back of the dining room, there’s a tank full of live shrimp. After you place your order, the chef takes a few out of the tank and throws them in a wok. It’s surprising to see the many different ways they prepare shrimp.

To name a few, there are shrimp dishes made with black pepper, lemon, sesame oil, curry and wine. First-time diners should try the signature black pepper shrimp that you’ll see on nearly every table. It’s very tasty with a strong taste of black pepper, but with a hint of herbal flavors similar to lemongrass. Every shrimp is large and meaty, and each order comes with 10 to 12 of them in a pot for sharing.

Another signature dish is sesame oil pork kidney. Nutty, very earthy and intense, sesame oil is a cooking essential in Taiwan kitchens, providing aromatic flavor to this traditional dish. Three-cups chicken is another classic: one cup of soy sauce, another of rice wine and a third of sesame oil are poured on chicken pieces and cooked in a casserole pot. The special recipe works well with chicken, but it’s also available with squid and pork intestines.

Overall, the food tastes authentic but the downside is the service — not enough staff and a long wait for food.

Opening hours: 11am-2pm, 5pm-11pm
Tel: 6291-8239
Address: 671 Xianxia Rd
Average price: 120 yuan


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