Close to the Tonghua Street (通化街) night market, Hui Guan (回館) occupies a rare niche in the city’s dietary landscape by serving cuisine from Ningxia, a Hui autonomous region in China. Li Hai-jung (李海蓉), who is Muslim, opened the restaurant a few years ago primarily to observe her religion’s dietary code and satisfy her craving for a taste of home.
A red lantern hanging at the entrance makes Hui Guan hard to miss. The interior is simple and understated, spiced up with wood furnishings and the signatures of celebrity patrons written on the walls.
Though the meat is halal, alcoholic beverages are served. Hui Guan offers ice-cold Taiwan beer in tin mugs, which go well with the richly flavored dishes.
From a menu featuring a selection of meals made from nearly every sheep part, the cumin-flavored mutton with bread (孜然羊羔烙饃, NT$280), a type of street food in Ningxia, is a friendly choice for first timers. Stir-fried with cumin, celery, onion and other vegetables, the mutton cubes are paired with slightly salted breads made in accordance to a recipe from Li’s mother.
Meticulous effort goes into preparing Hui Guan’s Ningxia braised mutton (寧夏手抓羊肉, NT$260). It requires a process of boiling, braising and marinating, which is repeated. The cooked meat is surprisingly tender and is meant to be eaten with bare hands. The salty and slightly spicy soy-cheese sauce on the side helps neutralize the mutton’s gaminess.
For those with a low tolerance for spicy food, it is recommended to inform the chef while ordering as he doesn’t skimp on the red chili oil or peppercorn (花椒), which are found throughout the menu. The sour and spicy lentil noodles (酸辣扁豆粉, NT$120) are a good example. The deceivingly mild looking plate of cold noodles had one of my dining partners, who has been known to eat spicy hot pot for breakfast, proclaiming his admiration for the dish while gulping down cold beer.
On the other end of the flavor spectrum, mother’s salad (母親手拌菜, N$$180) mixes onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and pea sprouts seasoned with a sweet-and-sour dressing. The ginger-flavored thousand-year eggs (薑汁松花蛋, NT$140) give the staple snack a refreshing update. One must-try appetizer not to be found on the menu is the preserved garlic sprouts (蒜台), which pack a vinegary punch.
The restaurant also serves mutton and beef brochettes (NT$100 per plate). The meat has the right amount of fat to render it alluringly juicy, though the unpleasant smell of grill smoke lingers long after the meal.
Address: 15, Ln 265, Xinyi Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市信義路四段265巷15號)
Telephone: (02) 2754-9924 Open: Monday to Friday 5:30pm to 11pm, Saturday and Sunday 11:30am to 2pm and 5:30pm to 11pm; closed on the first and third Sunday of every month
Average meal: NT$400
Details: Chinese menu; credit cards not accepted
The advent of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has spawned a new genre of fantasy and science fiction in which males (invariably white) argue that it is an “opportunity” or that the government should open up and let the virus run its course. After all, Omicron is “mild,” as numerous studies are now showing, and even more so among the previously infected and/or vaccinated population. It’s time, they argue, to accept that COVID-19 will be with us forever and re-open the country. The government must face reality, must “move from denial to acceptance” as one recent poster on LinkedIn put
The first time I traveled to Pingtung County’s Tjuvecekadan (老七佳 “Old Cijia”), I was greeted by a locked gate and a sign written in old, peeling paint forbidding entry to unescorted outsiders. Behind the gate, the road to the village disappeared around a curve. After the long drive out, not being able to even catch a glimpse of the old slate houses, let alone walk among them, was a major disappointment. What lay behind that gate remained a mystery for years, until the right contact finally helped me arrange a visit last year. After visiting the village, the locked gate
Are you in control of your smartphone or is it in control of you? Sometimes it is difficult to tell. One minute you might be using FaceTime to chat with loved ones or talking about your favorite TV show on Twitter. Next, you’re stuck in a TikTok “scroll hole” or tapping your 29th e-mail notification of the day and no longer able to focus on anything else. We often feel like we can’t pull ourselves away from our devices. As various psychologists and Silicon Valley whistleblowers have stated, that is by design. Many people are making efforts to resist and step away
One evening towards the end of 2003, Chloe Sells was entering the J-Bar in Aspen, Colorado, in search of a late night drink, when an older woman approached her. As Sells recalls in her new photobook, Hot Damn!: “She looked me up and down and said, ‘We’re looking for some help for Hunter. Are you a night owl? Would you be interested?’” Hunter, as every local knew, was Hunter S Thompson, the celebrated creator of “gonzo” journalism, and the town’s most infamous resident. The woman was his wife, Anita. “It took me only a moment,” Sells says, “to answer ‘Yes’ to