After Huang Tsai-yi (黃采誼) moved to Taipei from Ilan County, she realized many Taipei residents missed their rural homes just as she did. So, three months ago she opened Feng lang a gou Xiong (風浪阿狗兄) to bring country food and grass-roots atmosphere to the capital.
Huang lived with her grandmother from age three to 13 and her life inspired the restaurant's name, food, and atmosphere. The name combines old-fashioned Taiwanese slang for "a worldly guy" and "a charming stud." These phrases reminded Huang of those years when she learned to cook in her grandmother's kitchen in Ilan.
Huang's kitchen in Taipei offers over 100 traditional dishes, but each selection has a twist to distinguish it from other Taipei venues that serve up home-cooked, country-style food.
The menu is divided into 15 sections: chef's choice, cold dishes, hot pot selections, meat favorites, seafood, three cups, iron skillet, barbecue, dishes cooked in clay pots, crunchy fried food, noodles and rice, soups, vegetables, healthy pot meals, and set meals.
I brought two friends -- one from Kaohsiung, one from Pingtung -- to help me assess the place. They were delighted right away. Fish tanks on the porch promised fresh seafood. Inside, the walls were covered with paraphernalia from the 1950s through to the 1970s. Most of the items used to belong to Huang's grandmother: a giant Hey-Song poster, movie posters, advertising posters, shelves of plastic toys, trinkets and photographs.
After an appetizer of peppered green beans I tucked into my rice doused in pork oil. More common a generation ago, the rice was so tasty I would have been satisfied with just this.
The vegetable dish of the day was chuan-qi (川七) with mushrooms and ginger. It complemented the omelet, cai pu dan (菜誧蛋) and provided a refreshing contrast with the strong basil of the squid dish (san bei zhong juan, (三杯中卷)). My friends poured the black juice of the squid dish onto their rice. The taste of basil was muted by the three cups sauce. Traditionally, three cups dishes are cooked with liquid ingredients in different pots to vary heat exposure.
The seafood and tofu clay pot (海鮮豆腐) was delicious. A sweet sauce that tasted like shrimp and corn covered lightly fried tofu, baby corn, shrimp, oysters, and carrots. The clay pot conducted heat to keep the flavors rising after the meal had been served.
My favorite dish, however, was tofu cooked on an iron skillet with green peppers, onions and black pepper (鐵板豆腐). Old hit songs entertained my friends as we finish our meal with a clam soup (蛤蠣湯) generously filled with clams and ginger.
The place works as showcase of historical Taiwan pop culture and as a kitchen with some of the best rural cuisine Taipei has to offer.