Restaurant: The Chang Family Restaurant (張家食堂)


Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 19

Among the 20 or so top seafood restaurants in Tungkang (東港), Pingtung County, the Chang Family Restaurant (張家食堂) stands out for having entertained President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his guests not just once, but twice, when they attended the town's annual Bluefin Tuna Cultural Festival.

The owner, Chang Tai-fang (張泰芳), who is in his early 40s, still "creates and designs" the food served daily at his restaurant, which is elegantly designed and cozy, though large enough to entertain 300 guests at a time.

Chang does not offer a regular menu, instead he offers his guests the "excitement of treasure hunting," by which he means his guests may not know exactly what dish-of-the-day awaits them but they will always be pleasantly surprised.

Speaking of treasure, Chang is proud of his restaurant's reputation for preparing what are known as the town's specialties, the "three treasures of Tungkang."

The first of these is the tiny sergesgid shrimp (櫻花蝦), which is usually prepared with sliced cabbage and sauteed with a small amount of cooking oil for three minutes, before a quarter teaspoon of salt and 50cc of chicken broth is added. An alternative method is to mix the shrimp with fried rice after sauteing in warmed oil for just five seconds.

Second, are the ribbon fish eggs (油魚子), which are usually three times the size of mullet eggs (烏魚子) and are a well-known Taiwan delicacy among Japanese sake lovers. The eggs are liberally marinated in Shaohsing wine (紹興酒) and served, thinly sliced and garnished with wafers of turnip. If you are feeling adventurous, try the eggs with thinly sliced apple for a unique taste sensation.

The piece de resistance at Chang's Family Restaurant, however, is Otoro (頂級黑鮪魚片), from the belly part of the bluefin tuna, which is said to have the color and texture of a snow flower. President Chen was once moved to call bluefin tuna "the Rolls Royce of fish meat," and many gourmands from Japan travel to Tungkang at this time of year to enjoy the best of the ocean's tuna harvest. Eating the tuna raw in the Japanese sashimi style is the most popular way of sampling the fish. Tuna steaks also pull in the crowds, but either way the meat really does, as they say, melt in your mouth.

Chang's philosophy has always been to offer the freshest and best quality produce available and therefore the menu changes with the seasons.

While food and pricing at the restaurant is adjusted to suit the family budget, the key to winning over clients' regular patronage is communication, Chang said. He consults his guests before suggesting a menu, so that the resulting dishes cater to individual tastes and can be guaranteed to please the most discerning of palates.