If you believe Taiwanese food-stand snacks are always greasy and MSG loaded, think again. Hidden in an alley in the up-market Xinyi district (信義區), I Hsiao Pu Tzu (一笑鋪子) offers a pleasant dining experience with healthy, delicious traditional snacks accompanied by light Japanese delicacies in spotless, comfortable surroundings.
Having worked in the restaurant business in Japan for over 20 years, chef and proprietor He Chin-chang (何錦璋) has taken a perfectionist approach to dining.
The seafood comes directly from Nanfangao (南方澳), a fishing port in Ilan County, and all the sauces are freshly homemade. And better still, prices are on a par with night-market stalls.
Menu highlights include stewed pig intestines, which might even tempt someone not partial to innards. Another popular dish with regulars is hongzhao pork (紅糟肉) — slices of pork marinated overnight in a sauce made red wine must. Fried seafood rolls made up of fish, shrimp, squid and vegetables are other frequently ordered dish.
For the less adventurous, there is shredded chicken with rice, which gains flavor from the addition of chicken essence, and for the health conscious, there is mushroom rice porridge. The joint also offers two special sauces that add a whole new dimension to the food.
On the Japanese side of the lineup, octopus and salmon sashimi are must-tries. A big assortment plate costs only NT$250. Recent additions to the menu include rice with mountain yam and tuna, a popular favorite in Japan but rarely seen in Taiwan.
Another delight is the big servings of fresh salmon. Dipping salmon eggs and sashimi in preservative-free Japanese soy sauce with daikon radish mash, green onion and mustard, accentuates the fish's sweet freshness, and is ideal at any time of day.
The joint also offers a list of traditional Taiwanese light repasts that are not for the faint-hearted, among them pig's womb and fallopian tubes.