Monday, October 6, 2008

Yuanlin Rouyuan (員林肉圓)

Ever found yourself on Fuxing S. Road, wishing you could have a nice, hot, local meal that was flavorful, hearty and cheap? In an area dominated by Starbuxes and fake-o Mongolian joints with fancy lanterns, that seems impossible.

But it's not.

I had the pleasure of discovering a new restaurant out of the blue today - and on a very busy intersection to boot! Usually the best places are hidden in the lanes or tucked away in a maze of tiny vendors, but this one was right out in the open.

I'm talking about Yuanlin Rouyuan (員林肉圓) It's right off the intersection of Heping E. Road and Fuxing S. Road, next to Sheng Li - the discount store with the green sign and the giant scary baby cutout perched on its roof.

It's a small unassuming restaurant - well, not so much a restaurant as it is a "joint" - with blond wood tables, disposable chopsticks and old ladies in hairnets shouting orders in the delightful nasal plops and slips that make up the Taiwanese language.

Their specialty is, of course, mba wan (rou yuan) - Taiwanese rice gluten dumplings stuffed with pork and served with gravy. In the night market, these usually come with a pink sauce and are topped with coriander. The women of Yuanlin Rouyuan dispense with the pink sauce and greenery and give you a hearty helping of artery-clogging gravy, topped with cubes of delicious young bamboo and mushroom slices.

And they are absolutely delicious. The gluten isn't too sticky or weird, and the pork is savory and delicious. I miss the pink sauce, but the young bamboo more than makes up for it.

On a rainy, bleak, typically Taipei day, it's a hot meal reminiscent of something a hearty ol' farmer would eat after coming back from the fields. Not that I know if farmers ate mba wan, but they probably do/did.

I also had their lu rou fan, another Taiwanese treat. It was savory, soft and delicious as lu rou fan always is, but I had to add a little soy sauce to amp up the salt.

They serve far more than those staples - a small menu boasts several standard-issue rice and noodle dishes, all of which are served piping hot and ready to combat the city's relentless drizzle, and xiaochi in environmentally unfriendly plastic contraptions. I had the broccoli - cold and garlicky. Yum.

And all for 90 kuai.

Beats eating mediocre pasta at Dante anyday...and those ladies in hairnets are extremely friendly.

Yuanlin Rouyuan 員林肉圓 is next to Technology Building MRT Station on the brown line. Exit the station and turn left - it's past Starbucks and Cosmed, but before Sheng Li discount store and the Heping E. Road intersection.

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