People go to Tsun Tzu Kou (村子口) to experience either nostalgia or novelty. Tucked away in a quiet alley off Bade Road, the single-story eatery preserves the memories of the juan cun (眷村), or veterans’ village, with its simple northern Chinese-style fare.
Flour sacks once used as material for clothing now divide the open kitchen and dining area jammed with plain round tables and stools. The walls are painted with patriotic slogans that read, “against communists and Russians; be productive to repay the country” (反共抗俄，增產報國). Yellowed grain tickets and household IDs are framed. And the national anthem and military songs are played. While more senior restaurant patrons may find it hard to resist the old habit of standing at attention and saluting upon hearing the patriotic tunes, younger diners are attracted to the novel experience at the juan cun-themed establishment set up by a few childhood friends who grew up together in a veterans’ village.
During lunch, Tsun Tzu Kou offers dumplings and a few varieties of noodles dishes including half-beef, half-tendon noodles (半筋半肉麵, NT$120) and braised beef noodles (紅燒牛肉麵, NT$90). Another signature staple is luwei (滷味), or soy sauce-marinated snack food, which comes in a few dozen choices ranging from tofu and vegetables to pig tongue and intestines.
Apart from the above-mentioned specialties, the chefs take the liberty of using whatever ingredients they have on hand to create an evening menu for the day. Judging from my several visits, the mostly frequently made dishes include fresh leek fried with preserved pork (蒜苗臘肉) and sliced dried tofu stir-fried with pork (豆干肉絲). The evening fare, though, tends to be a bit too oily.
Address: 34, Alley 52, Ln 12, Bade Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市八德路三段12巷52弄34號)
Telephone: (02) 2579-6455
Open: Daily from 11:30am to 2:30pm and 5pm to 9:30pm; closed on the second and fourth Sunday of every month
Average meal: NT$250 including drinks
Details: Chinese menu; credit cards not accepted
There is always a big crowd waiting outside every time I visit, and the menu selections become limited for those who come late. Popular items include dual sauce noodles (雙醬麵, NT$70), which harmoniously mixes the nutty flavor of sesame sauce (麻醬) with the sweet and salty tang of fried sauce (炸醬), and fried stinky tofu (炒臭豆腐), which I haven’t had the chance to taste.
The betel nut-chewing proprietor known as Xiao Wang (小王) is another reason people keep coming back. Loud and hospitable, Xiao Wang likes to chat with his diners, drink Taiwan beer and Kaoliang liquor (高梁酒) with them and treat them to dishes and fruit. “You eat whatever I eat” is one of his many pet phrases.
At Tsun Tzu Kou, there is no such thing as dining etiquette. People eat, drink and talk loudly at the bustling eatery that appears frozen in time back in the 1950s.