Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Restaurant: Qiong Fang Ju(瓊芳居)

Address: Stall 25, B1, 70 Xining S Rd, Taipei (台北市西寧南路70號B1-25)
Telephone: (02) 2381 6519
Open: 11:30am to 9pm
Average meal: NT$100
Details: No credit cards accepted. No English menu

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

Cool off with some cold noodles.

PHOTO: MAX WOODWORTH, TAIPEI TIMES

Mention noodles and Ximending in the same sentence and most people will think of A-Chung Noodles (阿宗麵線), the tangy tripe noodle stall that often has a line of customers stretching half a block. That probably won't change soon, but there is another tiny eatery in Taipei's buzzing teeny bopper district called Qiong Fang Ju (瓊芳居) that specializes in noodles of a completely different variety and that draws its own throng of hungry fans to the basement of Wan-nian Department Store.

Little larger than a closet, Qiong Fang Ju is a stall operated by three jovial ladies who look as though they've been dipping liberally into their own tasty dishes when the crowds subside. And who can blame them? They're sitting on the secrets to two of the most delicious snacks available in Taipei.

Normally cold noodles are nothing to shout about, but Qiong Fang Ju has hit upon an especially delectable mix of vinegar, soy and subtle spices for its sauce, while adding color, texture and flavor with healthy portions of grated cucumber and carrots. On sweltering summer days made even less tolerable by shoulder-to-shoulder shopping masses in Ximending, a plate of these noodles is like a gift from the heavens.

Similarly, the dumplings are a delight for the senses, with a soy-and-vinegar sauce that is given some extra kick with additional spices and a fine pastry wrapping that is sturdy and perfectly chewy. The only complaint at the end of eating these tiny Sichuan delicacies will be that half a dozen just isn't enough. That's why many customers find themselves staring at empty dishes and committing for second helpings. Opting for seconds of the noodles and dumplings is probably a better choice than the cold chicken and duck dishes that fill up the rest of this mini-diner's menu.

Like many of the best snack stalls, Qiong Fang Ju places a low premium on decor and comfort. Diners will have to bear with throbbing fluorescent lights, wooden stools and the constant bumping of other diners buttocks into your back when they try to squeeze out of the joint. But it's a small price to pay.

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