Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: Er Ma Lu-wei Stand

Address: 23-1 Xinyi Rd, Sec 3, Taipei(台北市信義路3段23-1號)
Telephone: (02) 2784 4401
Open: 11:00am to 10pm
Average meal: NT$150
Details: No English menu, no credit cards accepted

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lu-wei rarely tastes so good.

PHOTO: MAX WOODWORTH, TAIPEI TIMES

Taiwanese snack foods like lu-wei (滷味) revel in being down-market, but that doesn't mean they resist all attempts at being spruced up.

Er Ma Lu-wei Stand (二馬滷味攤), located directly across Xinyi Road from the north end of Da-an Park, has taken this local specialty and decided to serve it in a setting that is a few notches up the ladder from eating it standing with disposable utensils -- the usual way to eat lu-wei. There are tables, some fairly comfortable seats and attractive bowls and platters that make pig heart and pig tongue look far more appetizing than they do in greasy plastic bags at the night market.

Faint-hearted visitors to Taiwan tend to wince at the options available in lu-wei, and indeed, it's probably not for everyone. The concept behind this food is to dunk in a broth just about every remaining part of an animal after it's been butchered for its prime meat and make it tasty, albeit in a uniform, soy-based salty kind of way. Vegetables and tofu are also tossed in for variety. The results, at least at Er Ma, are always interesting and for the most part quite delicious.

At Er Ma, diners check off items to be stewed from its long menu, which includes the pig heart and pig tongue mentioned above, as well as pig head skin, pig ear, vegetarian chicken, chicken wings, 10,000 year egg, tofu, seaweed, pig intestine and many, many more.

The house specialities -- peanut pig feet, cow shoulder, curry beef and braised cuttlefish -- are displayed in italics on the menu. One item that caught my eye, but that I sidestepped when it came down to choosing my lunch was the pig lip meat, though I tend to believe that like the other dishes, this is quite delectable too, despite how it sounds and where those lips have been in their days attached to a living pig. These dishes are then stewed in Er Ma's light broth and served in delicate portions on Yingko ceramics.

If the more exotic fare on the lu-wei list doesn't appeal, a decent meal can also be made of Er Ma's noodle dishes and its cold chicken platters. About half of the noodle selections are derived from lu-wei dishes, but others, like the mushroom and fish ball noodles or the won-ton noodles are not, and are some of the best of these common staples that you're likely to find. A variety of soups, in particular the cabbage and egg-yolk soup, are hearty dishes that don't scrimp when it comes to flavor and packing in the ingredients. Unadventurous diners can try the cabbage and spinach dumplings.

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