Fri, Nov 15, 2002 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: Lungmen Dumpling Shop

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lungmen Dumpling Shop's drab interior belies its superior fare.

PHOTO: DAVID MOMPHARD, TAIPEI TIMES

In 1969, Chiang Yi-chang (姜宜璋) stoked up a fire outside a storage shed off Linsen South Road and started cooking dumplings. Three decades later his dumpling joint is still in the same shed with its timber rafters, homemade wooden tables and wood-plank floor. The only difference is that now it's Chiang's son who's cooking the dumplings.

"I've had to change out the stools several times. Other than that most everything is the same now as it was then," the elder Chiang says of the decor. He's not exaggerating. The walls have never seen paint. The sole attempt at decoration consists of several large, smoke-stained calligraphy pieces with customers' scribblings on the particle board between them: "Roger & Donna `89. We Love Taiwan!"

Roger and Donna probably loved their meal, too. Chiang has stayed in business so long because his pork dumplings are among the best you can find anywhere in the city and likely much further afield. Ask any older resident of the city and they're likely familiar with Chiang's dumpling joint. The number of people waiting outside for a table during peak dinner hours is a testament to just how good the food is -- and not just the dumplings, perhaps the best part of the meal is the requisite plate of tsai: sliced beef or pork, tea eggs, tofu, pigs ears, bamboo sprouts and other items of your choice piled high and covered with chopped onions.

The menu on the front wall also lists various soups and noodles, and while the noodles are quite tasty, ordering them is like ordering chicken in a steak house; this place is about the dumplings.

"There's nothing special about my dumplings," Chiang insists, "I've just been making them so long I finally got good at it. The food I make is the food I grew up eating in Qingdao. Maybe people like it because it's different."

Address: 19 Linsen S. Rd., Lane 61, Taipei

(台北市林森南路61巷18號)

Telephone: (02) 2351-0729

Open: 5pm to midnight. Closed second and fourth Saturday each month

Average meal: NT$200

Details: No English menu available. Cash only


Coke is recommended to wash down your dumplings and tsai. It's served in the tall recyclable bottles that are rarely seen any more. "I think we're the only place in Taipei that still recycles Coca Cola bottles," Chiang says. Taiwan and Asahi beers are also in plentiful supply.

Among the few things that are new is a remodeled bathroom. It previously had a wood-plank floor that began rotting long ago but has recently been tiled and tidied into something usable. "Restaurants never had restrooms in Qingdao so I never gave it much thought," Chiang said. "But now my wife is happy with it."

Chiang's grown son has been minding the shop for several years now and promises to keep the doors open for another generation. The shed he inherited has become an institution in the city, he says. "Everyone I've ever met in my life, I've met in this shed. I could hardly walk away from it.

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