Fri, Mar 07, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: Ren He Yuan 雲南人和園

Address: 16, Chinchou St., Taipei (台北市錦州街16號)
Telephone: (02) 2536-4459
Open: 11:30am to 2:00pm; 5:30pm to 9pm
Average meal: NT$400
Details: Credit cards accepted. Chinese and Japanese menu with pictures

By Vico Lee  /  STAFF REPORTER

Founded half a century ago, Ren He Yuan has a reputation for authenticity.

PHOTO: VICO LEE, TAIPEI TIMES

Ren He Yuan is probably the most time-tested and authentic Yunnan restaurant in Taiwan. The fact that it is always full of customers testifies to the excellence of its cuisine. Although the restaurant never promotes itself as an "old shop," almost all of its regulars know that it started some 50 years ago and has moved and expanded several times because of its increasing popularity.

Trained under experienced Yunnan chefs, Ren He Yuan's cooks are good at turning seemingly homely dishes into delicacies. "There's no real spectacular or grandiose dish in Yunnan cuisine. Yunnan cuisine is composed of all kinds of homemade dishes," said Yao An-chin (姚安琴), proprietress of Ren He Yuan.

Yao knows the cooking style like the back of her hand, partly because of her background. Yao's father was a civil war veteran who took his Yunnan wife with him when the KMT government moved to Taiwan half a century ago. The veteran's community where they lived was nicknamed "Yunnan village" due to the presence of a large number of couples of that ethnic background. The community, in Taoyuan County's Pincheng, has remained one of the few places where you can find authentic Yunnan cuisine in Taiwan.

Dishes range from the exotic to the mundane. Their spicy stir-fried frogs (NT$248), tree roots with sweet sauce (NT$188), bamboo bugs with salt and pepper (NT$208) are Yunnan specialties rarely seen in Taiwan.

More common dishes such as guochiao rice noodles (NT$128) and bousu steamed buns (NT$20) are also on offer. This exclusive innovation is no less tasty than the traditional version. The buns, which come in sesame, ham and sugar filling and red bean filling, are among the best in Taipei. The sesame, ham and sugar filling is only moderately sweet but leaves a lingering taste.

One popular dish is eggplant with tomato and pork bits (NT$248). Like most other dishes in Ren He Yuan, it tastes naturally light, though the item is usually made to taste stronger and sometimes greasier in its place of origin. Frogs jumping over stone slabs (NT$288) contains peas instead of frogs, as "frog" is Yunan slang for "pea". The stone slabs are actually Yunnan cheese. However, the rarely available ingredient has been replaced by Taiwanese bamboo shoots. This has made the dish popular with the health-conscious.

As the restaurant has in recent years been increasingly popular with Japanese customers, which often outnumber local customers, it now also offers non-Yunnan dishes of fish and tofu to cater to Japanese tastes.

Although there is a long list of items on the menu, many dishes are not always available. These mostly include vegetables particular to Yunnan but difficult to import in large amounts.

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