A good biandang (便當) is hard to find, so Tidbits was delighted to discover Neighbor’s Deli, a tiny take-out shop on Heping East Road (和平東路) near Liuzhangli MRT Station (六張犁捷運站).
Neighbor’s Deli is the answer for anyone sick of greasy lunch cafeteria slop and 7-Eleven microwave-heated lunchboxes, not to mention anyone who needs a fresh, home-cooked meal on the go.
Owner Joseph Chang (張友諭), a semi-retired chef who spent more than 30 years cooking in and running restaurants in the US, gives his biandangs a slight American twist — and we don’t mean adding a few soggy French Fries.
The 67-year-old spent over a decade in Baton Rouge and New Orleans (he speaks fluent English with a slight southern drawl), where he learned to cook both traditional Chinese banquet food and cajun and creole cuisine. His lunchboxes gently fuse ideas from East and West. You get Asian-style presentation — small side servings of a variety of vegetables — with main courses that suit Western tastes, often meats served with flavor-rich, hearty sauces. And instead of the requisite tea egg, he often serves a slice of vegetable frittata on the side.
The barbecue ribs are succulent, and certainly as good if not better than you get at most Western restaurants in Taipei. The meat slides right off the bone, and the ribs are dressed in a piquant sauce that goes perfectly on top of white rice. At NT$100, this lunchbox is practically a steal. “Julia’s beef bourguignon” (NT$95), as Chang calls it, is based on Julia Child’s famous recipe, also hits the comfort food spot.
A favorite among regulars (myself included) is the “beloved pollo locco” (Chang’s biandangs are often given cheeky names), a chicken leg topped with a “Mexican” inspired tomato sauce that gets its subtle kick from smoked chili peppers. The chicken, which is rubbed in cumin and soaked in cream and egg before being roasted, always comes out wonderfully tender and moist. This meal is also a great deal at NT$95.
Traditionalists can always get the kongrou fan (焢肉飯, NT$95) or pork belly and rice, a much less greasier, but still tasty version of this staple lunch. This points to another point of appreciation for Neighbor Deli: there are no oily, stir-fried vegetables — almost everything is roasted. He covers all vegetables in foil before cooking them in a large bread oven to keep them moist. He also makes his own bread for his egg-and-ham breakfast sandwiches (NT$50), as well as fresh foccacia.
Chang, who teaches cooking and runs a restaurant consulting business on the side, says he runs the deli basically “for fun.” He says he welcomes requests for any kind of meal with advance notice. Neighbor’s Deli is open Monday through Saturday, from 7:30am to 10am, 11:30 to 2pm and 5pm to 9pm, and is located at 188, Jilong Road Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市基隆路二段188號). For all enquiries, call 0916-543-622.