Nothing brings a neighborhood together like good, inexpensive food. Heyuan (和園), a Sichuan eatery near the Executive Yuan on Zhongxiao East Road (忠孝東路), attracts a lunchtime crowd made up of government employees, taxi drivers, business types, students and retirees.
It’s probably the old red sign reading “economically priced Sichuan dishes” (川味經濟小吃) that lures in first-time patrons. They certainly don’t come for the atmosphere: Heyuan is an aging hole-in-the-wall, dimly lit with fluorescent lights.
But the tasty, family-style grub keeps the room full during mealtimes. Stir-fry dishes, averaging NT$100, make up most of the menu, with the constant clacking of spatulas and woks to prove it.
Photo: David Chen, Taipei Times
Diners choose from a long list of dishes full of Sichuan standards like kung pao chicken (宮保雞丁, NT$120) or spicy stir-fried eggplant (魚香茄子, NT$90).
Heyuan’s mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐, NT$60) is a good example of the restaurant’s home-cooked goodness: the gravy-like sauce, full of chilis, scallions, ginger and garlic, has a zesty, spicy kick, but won’t leave you crying into your rice bowl.
Egg dishes seem to be a popular choice, judging from a peek at our neighboring tables. Choices include the traditional Taiwanese oyster omelet (蚵仔烘蛋, NT$80) and omelet with pickled radish (菜脯蛋, NT$60).
We stuck with the Sichuan theme and had the spicy yuxiang hongdan (魚香烘蛋, NT$90), literally “fish flavor omelet,” which actually has no fish it, but rather minced pork. (The name refers to a spicy sauce commonly used in Sichuan cooking to garnish fish.) This dish was good, but the flavor was too similar to the mapo tofu. Order one or the other.
Balance the spicy dishes with qingjiao niurou, or stir-fried beef with green peppers (青椒牛肉, NT$110). The beef is tender and garnished with scallions and ginger in a sweet glaze sauce.
Despite the greasy spoon vibe, Heyuan is clean and well kept. The Formica tables and plastic chairs look like they get a regular scrubbing and the floors don’t have that mysterious stickiness sometimes found at lunch shops. The waitstaff is very friendly and pleasant, and the shop offers complimentary spring water and chrysanthemum tea.
Heyuan is more enjoyable with a companion or two, but if dining alone, plate meals or a biandang (便當) can be had for NT$80, and there is a long list of fried rice and stewed dishes with rice from NT$65 to NT$90. The gaolicai chaofan (高麗菜炒飯, NT$65), or fried rice with egg and cabbage, is good value for a quick and satisfying meal. Or choose a single dish from the list of stir-fry selections and have it with a bowl of rice (NT$10), which comes in a generous portion. The ganbian sijidou, stir-fried green beans (乾扁四季豆, NT$100), is a bit greasy, but a decent take on a Sichuan classic.
Another reason why Heyuan probably does a brisk business is that there are few restaurants in the neighborhood serving family-style cuisine. The place felt like a godsend after a recent visit to Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914). If you’re not in the mood for this stretch of Zhongxiao East Road’s sparse selection of 7-Elevens, fast-food chains and overpriced restaurants, it’s a good place to keep in mind.
Address: 5-2 Shaoxing S St, Taipei City (台北市紹興南街5-2號)
Telephone: (02) 2394-0008
Average meal: NT$100 to NT$300 per person
Details: Cash only, menu in Chinese only
Open: 11:30am to 1:30pm and 5pm to 8pm Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm on Saturdays, closed Sundays
When Auntie Su (蘇) was evicted from her apartment last Monday, locals were so overjoyed that they sent thank you wreaths to the Tainan Police Department. “Justice has been served.” “Punish villains and eradicate evil,” read some of the notes. “Thank you, hardworking police for bringing peace and quiet back to Tainan!” a neighbor posted on Facebook. Auntie Su is a notorious “informer demon” (檢舉魔人), someone who is known to excessively report violations either for reward money or — depending which side you’re on — to serve as a justice warrior or a nosy annoyance. Usually they are called “professional”
In Taiwan’s foothills, suspension bridges — or the remnants of them — are almost as commonplace as temples. “Suspension bridge” is a direct translation of the Chinese-language term (吊橋, diaoqiao), but it’s a little misleading. These spans aren’t huge pieces of infrastructure. The larger ones are just wide enough for the little trucks used by farmers. Others are suitable for two-wheelers and wheelbarrows. If one end is higher than the other, they may incorporate steps, like the recently-inaugurated, pedestrians-only Shuanglong Rainbow Suspension Bridge (雙龍七彩吊橋) in Nantou County. Because torrential rains hammer Taiwan during the hot season, the landscape is scarred by
With his sugarcane juice stall at Monga Nightmarket (艋舺夜市) floundering due to COVID-19, things took a turn for the worse for Lin Chih-hang (林志航) when he was furloughed from a part-time job. The crowds are trickling back to this nightmarket in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), but Lin is now so busy that he has hired a friend to run his stall. As the sole driver of the night market’s delivery service, established on April 12, Lin takes on an average of 20 orders on weeknights and over 60 on weekends, with his father helping out when he is too busy.
May 25 to May 31 Three months before his 90th birthday in 2015, Chung Chao-cheng (鍾肇政) woke up shortly after midnight and experienced a inexplicable sense of clarity. “Suddenly, my mind started going all over the place. There were some recent memories, but also many that I thought I had long forgotten. They would appear and disappear from my brain one after another, and they were so clear, so lucid. Even the memories from 70, 80 years ago felt like they happened yesterday. I suddenly thought, if I still remember so much, why don’t I write everything down?” Despite his solid