Chinfeng Braised Pork Rice, located next to the busy Nanmen Market (南門市場) complex on Roosevelt Road Section 1 (羅斯福路一段), is an unashamed cheap-eats joint that provides plenty of bang, if not much finesse or elegance, for your buck. It attracts hordes of office workers during lunch and dinner hours, and between those times it is the haunt of taxi drivers and shoppers grabbing a quick meal. It is also a popular stop for foodie Asian tourists looking for a genuine Taiwan street food experience.
Chinfeng specializes, as its name suggests, in braised pork rice, a small bowl of which will set you back just NT$25. A large bowl (NT$45) provides a pretty solid meal all by itself.
For the unprepared, Chinfeng’s braised pork rice could seem like a singularly unappealing dish: a black, lumpy sauce with strings of translucent pork fat and dark strands of mushroom ladled carelessly over white rice. It is garnished with a single piece of pickled radish, seemingly thrown on as an afterthought.
The dish tastes better than it looks, with the powerful flavors of the sauce balanced well against the moist rice, the fatty meat providing sufficient lubrication to the rice without making it too oily. This is traditional Taiwanese food with no concessions made to modern ideas of low-calorie eating; a little is intended to go a long way.
An excellent accompaniment to the rice is a selection of traditional soups, including pork ribs and bitter gourd (苦瓜排骨湯), ginseng chicken (人參雞), clams and chicken (蛤蠣雞), pineapple chicken (鳳梨雞) and deep-fried battered ribs (排骨酥), all just NT$45. Although more elaborate, richer or more subtly flavored versions of all these can be found in many restaurants, Chinfeng’s soups are tasty and substantial enough to be good value for money. The pork ribs with bitter gourd can be particularly recommended, as the bitterness of the gourd helps to cut the oiliness of the rice. Combine this with a small dish of stewed bamboo shoot (筍乾, NT$20) and a piece of fried tofu (油豆腐, NT$10) and you have a reasonably well-balanced four-dish meal for under NT$100.
Address: 10, Roosevelt Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路一段10號之1)
Telephone: (02) 2396-0808
Open: 8am to 1am (closes at 10:30pm on weekends and holidays, 8:30pm on the second and fourth Sundays of each month)
Average meal: NT$100
Details: Chinese menu only, cash only
The braised pork topping is available with yellow noodles, rice noodles or vermicelli for NT$25 a bowl. I have found the pork topping to be superior with the yellow noodles rather than the more popular rice, which is cooked quite soft in the Taiwanese fashion.
If the pork rice does not appeal, another Taiwanese specialty is also on offer. Ding bian cuo (鼎邊趖, NT$45) is a Fuzhou specialty, a kind of dense, flat rice noodle that is served in a thick broth with meat and fish dumplings, along with spring onion, orange day lily and deep fried shallots. The noodle, which is formed from a rice paste and is served in curled up sheets, is much more rustic in taste that the more widely available flat rice noodles (粿條) that it superficially resembles.
The establishment, which is profitable enough to be required to provide a standardized receipt (統一發票), has kept a rather ostentatious grubbiness that keeps it very much in touch with its street food roots, with plastic buckets, gas canisters and steamers exposed to the road. Service is remarkably efficient, and although the floor and walls all require the attention of a high pressure cleaning hose, if you visit during lunch, you’ll be too busy jostling for a place at one of the establishment’s rickety trestle tables to worry much about either.