Address: 57 Longquan St, Taipei City (台北市龍泉街57號); 18, Ln 39, Shida Rd, Taipei City (台北市師大路39巷18號)
Telephone: (02) 2368-4899 (Longquan Street); (02) 2363-7989 (Shida Road)
Open: Daily from 11am to 1am
Average meal: NT$250
Details: Chinese and English menu; cash only
On the Net: www.g-soup.com
Chicken soup is an oft-prescribed remedy for the common cold, but at Lung Hsian Chu (龍涎居), the curative properties of this most humble of dishes go far beyond that. The chain restaurant claims its selection of soups, all made with herbs and organic chicken, improve blood circulation, increase energy, strengthen the stomach, spleen and kidneys, reduce swelling if you are feeling bloated and meliorate the skin.
But don’t mistake Lung Hsian Chu for a pharmacy. Its broths are made with many of the same herbs found in traditional Chinese medicine but are nonetheless very palatable.
The concept is simple. You choose the broth first and then the kind of poultry, which determines the price of the dish. Options include common pheasant (山雞, NT$120 per bowl), whose Chinese name translates literally into “mountain chicken” but is called “imitation free-range chicken” on Lung Hsian Chu’s English-language menu, free-range chicken (土雞, NT$150), black-skinned chicken (烏骨雞, NT$170) and vegetarian chicken (素雞, NT$160). The menu also features chicken hearts and gizzards (下水, NT$30), as well as rooster testicles (雞佛, NT$100), which are supposed to ramp up virility in men.
We ordered wild grape chicken broth (山葡萄雞) with black-skinned chicken and fleece flower root and chicken broth (何首烏雞) with free-range chicken. According to the menu, the wild grape chicken broth is good for the liver and eyes, helps regulate menstruation and improves blood circulation. The broth was mild but complex in flavor, its savoriness cut with a hint of sweetness. The black-skinned chicken was delightful. Chopped into thin, boned slices, the meat absorbed the flavor of the soup but retained its own hearty gaminess.
The wild grape chicken soup did not taste at all like medicinal herbs, but the fleece flower root chicken broth was another matter. It is made from the root of Chinese knotweed and had the very pungent bittersweet flavor often associated with concoctions from zhongyao pharmacies. Neither of us found the flavor objectionable, however, and we were encouraged by the fact that the soup is supposed to strengthen your body and improve your skin. The free-range chicken was somewhat bland when contrasted with the rich flavor of the broth, which probably would have been better matched with the black-skinned chicken. — CATHERINE SHU