Fri, May 05, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Restaurant: Lung Hsian Chu 龍涎居

Address: 1, Ln 13, Yongkang St, Taipei (台北市永康街13巷1號)
Telephone: (02) 2321-8383
Open: Seven days a week, 11am to 11pm
Average meal: NT$500 for two
Details: Chinese menu only

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chicken soup is good for the soul and light on the wallet at Lung Hsian Chu.

PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

You know how it is to yearn for a dish with a distinctive taste and nothing else will satisfy.

This was the case a few weeks ago in Ximending when the unmistakable smell of sesame oil chicken soup wafted up to the 11th floor. It was lunchtime so we looked around but found no restaurants in the area that served this traditional Taiwanese offering.

It turned out the only place you could buy the meal locally was at 7-Eleven, where you have to order two days in advance. It's not bad if you like your food microwaved and served in a plastic container, but Lung Hsian Chu in bustling Yongkang Street is much better.

The Taiwanese version of sesame oil chicken uses stock boosted by various herbs. The result is a dish reeking of sesame that is served up in an earthenware chafing pot. It's simple but effective and goes best with plain rice and an order of vegetables.

Other chicken dishes on offer includes chicken with heshouwu (何首烏), a mixture of Chinese medicinal herbs that is guaranteed to fend off colds, according to the wait staff. Milk chicken, grape chicken, pineapple and bitter melon chicken, and dried vegetable chicken provide further variations on the same theme.

The poultry ranges from the cheapest, regular chicken (NT$110), to free-range chicken (NT$140) and finally black-skinned chicken (NT$160) -- which is said to be the best of the lot.

The adventurous may want to try some of the side dishes, which include sesame oil dried blood, dried cured tofu, or fragrant soft eggs. Wash it all down with the honeyed green tea or plum juice.

Lung Hsian Chu is a pleasant two-story restaurant with around 25 tables that's been open for a year-and-a-half. It's popular among students and local mothers who pop in for a takeaway to put on the table for the family's evening meal.

The decor is unassuming with dark wooden tables and white paper lanterns, large Japanese colonial-era windows and bare walls. The wait staff are reasonably helpful and friendly when you get to know them.

This is unpretentious eating and the Taiwanese version of chicken soup that is good for the soul. A meal at Lung Hsian Chu more than fills the gap, as it also delivers a healthy dose of Chinese medicine.

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