Hsu Ya-hung (許雅紅) used to leave Taiwan several times a year to perform with theater groups throughout Asia. But all this changed five years ago when she met a Sri Lankan chef while on tour in Tokyo. The chef whipped her up the best curry dishes she had ever tasted and after spending a few months learning about Sri Lankan cuisine her traveling days largely came to an end.
Like many would-be restaurateurs in Taiwan who have a lot of soul but little cash, Hsu began her business by creating a Web site for online orders and standing out front of the Guting MRT station twice weekly to sell Sri Lankan curry lunch boxes. After a year and a half of hitting the streets - she is known by many customers as the "bicycle cook" (腳踏車廚娘) - the popularity of her food meant Hsu could take her operation inside.
Like the menu, the interior of the restaurant is simple and unadorned; this is no first date joint. But though the space is sparsely decorated, Hsu spends considerable time preparing each dish. The joint's dishes often sell out before closing time.
Using both roasted and regular curry powder, the addition of various amounts of cloves, coriander and cumin, Sri Lankan curries are lighter than the yogurt-heavy versions found in most parts of India.
Hsu follows the Sri Lankan tradition of offering vegetarian dishes of which pumpkin and passion fruit curry and potato and apple curry are favorites with customers. The red lentil curry (the menu says red "wax bean") with vegetables is the best I've had in Taiwan: the lentils were cooked to perfection (no mush here) and the curry was both savory and spicy. All the vegetarian dishes are made without garlic or onions and, apart from the red lentils, are less spicy than the meat dishes.
For those more accustomed to eating meat, Sour Time offers pork and chicken curry dishes that considerably ramp up the spice factor. Though Sri Lanka is known for its abundance of seafood, Sour Time has largely left this off the menu, only preparing a roast prawn curry on Thursdays and Fridays.
No Sri Lankan meal would be complete without butter roti, a flatbread that is perfect for sopping up the leftover curry sauce.
Address: 16, Ln 66, Roosevelt Rd Sec 2, Taipei (臺北市羅斯福路二段66巷16號)
Telephone: (02) 2321-1616Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 12pm to 3pm and 6:30pm to 9pm
Average meal: NT$100
Details: Menu in English and Chinese; credit cards not accepted