go 13

July 15, 2012 thesundaytimes

Return to childhood favourites
Chef Andre Chiang lived in the Taiwanese capital till he was 13 and often revisits his old haunts
Huang Huifen

W

ho: Andre Chiang, 36, chef-owner of highend Restaurant Andre Favourite city: Taipei Why: I lived in Taipei till I was 13, so each time I return, it is like going back to my childhood. I remember every corner of the neighbourhood near Shilin Night Market where I grew up, the food I used to eat there and the uncles and aunties who sell food there. It is very nostalgic. In the last two years, besides going home for Chinese New Year, I have been going to Taipei every September for work. For one week each year, Restaurant Andre will move everything (staff, music, plates, except the furniture) to Regent Taipei to present our food there. Travel advice Explore the city without any planning for a few days. This is how you can stumble upon little alleys of surprises. Just a few months ago, I found a few small alleys opposite the Regent Taipei along Zhong Shan North Road. They are filled with little shops ranging from bakeries and furniture shops to bookstores and Japanese restaurants. I found my favourite restaurant called Sa Sa (Zhong Shang North Rd, Sec. 2, Lane 42, #6) here. It is a small Japanese restaurant with only one counter that seats 10 to 12 people. I prefer this to the ones in Tokyo as they use only local produce instead of bragging that they get their fish from Japan. I love the sea urchin nigiri and the fresh anchovies. The chef has a technique such that the gooey sea urchin stays on the rice without the need for the nori. The chopped anchovies on rice are extremely fresh. Budget around NT$2,000 (S$84.44) a person. Favourite cafes La Crema (No. 45, Lane 280, Guangfu South Road, Daan District, tel: +886-2-2731-3264) is an old-school cafe for serious coffee lovers. The crowd is slightly older, around 30 to 40 years old, and are hardcore coffee connoisseurs who go there to appreciate the drink. The staff roast the beans and grind them on the spot, so you can smell the aroma of roasted vanilla and nutty caramel as you walk in. It plays jazz music and is popular among the locals. This is the place I Andre Chiang’s go to at the start and end of a busy work day for a strong Brazilian coffee. Expect to pay about NT$150 to NT$200 a person. For a more casual hangout vibe, I go to Sonnentor Cafe (No. 1, Tian Yu Street, Alley 18, Lane 38, Shilin District, tel: +886-2-2874-0208) which serves organic pastries and good coffee for about NT$200 to NT$300 a person. Another option is Melange Cafe (1F, 23, Ln 16, Zhongshan N Road, Sec. 2, tel: +886-2-2567-3787, www.melangecafe.com.tw), a small artisanal coffee shop that is very cute. It is almost like drinking coffee in a friend’s house. Budget about NT$200 to NT$400 a person. Favourite teashop Smith And Hsu (No.33, Zhong Xiao E. Road, Sec. 5, tel: +886-2-2747-4857, www.smithandhsu.com), which has an extensive collection of Chinese and Western tea. There are more than 100 numbered glass bottles filled with tea leaves that you can smell and pick your flavour, and have the tea prepared for you. I usually go for oolong tea for NT$150 to NT$200 a person. Favourite street food stalls The salt-cured chicken stall in Shilin Night Market located next to Yangming Theatre. Many stalls selling this chicken put a lot of flavourings such as salt, pepper, coriander and chilli, but the auntie from this stall uses only the gravy from the curing with spring onions. So you get a very classic and authentic taste. She does not sell a lot and packs up once she is done, so go early. I will buy at least NT$150 worth of food, which includes chicken thigh, feet and intestines. I also like the Taiwan salted crispy chicken from a stall in Da Zhi. It is the landmark of Da Zhi so it is not difficult to find. I like its variety of items. Everything that you will not imagine to be
PHOTO: CHAN BROTHERS TRAVEL

“I remember every corner of the neighbourhood near Shilin Night Market where I grew up, the food I used to eat there and the uncles and aunties who sell food there.”
ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Food is an essential part of the childhood memories of chef and restaurant owner Andre Chiang.

ANDRE CHIANG on the famous night market in Taipei (above)

fried are fried – from popcorn-size chicken to taro and turnip cakes. I can spend about NT$200 buying chicken popcorn, chicken feet and french beans. Favourite restaurant Tai He Dian (No. 315 Xinyi Road, Sec. 4, tel: +886-2-2705-0909) is the best spicy hotpot place that I have been visiting since I was young. Nothing has changed, except that it gets more crowded each time I go back. They have a very good soup base, and you will have to order extra duck blood and handmade shrimp and squid mousse. The food is very fresh and I always go for the highest level of spiciness in the soup. Budget about NT$400 to NT$800 a person. Favourite bar The Woobar (10 Zhongxiao East Road Sec. 5, Xinyi District, tel: +886-2-7703-8888, www.wtaipei.com/ en/woobar) is where you can get custommade cocktails. You get to pick a base and they will come up with an interesting concoction. For example, I like Bacardi, so they will mix it with pomegranate, grapefruit and raspberry so you get different layers of taste and colours. The Bacardi is bitter, while the promegranate and raspberry are sweet. The grapefruit gives it a citrusy flavour. Best power workout I ride a bicycle through a trail that starts from the National Palace Museum (No. 221, Sec. 2, Zhishan Road, Shilin District) to Neishuangxi Pass to Wuzhishan and Fengguizui. This mountainous path takes about four hours of uphill cycling and is really what I call a power workout. The scenery is spectacular too. Favourite place for inspiration I go to the Binjiang market at 4am to find top-quality produce such as seafood, vegetables and fruit. Each time I go, I always find a new type of fruit that I have never seen before. The agricultural standard in Taiwan has reached a world-class level. Sometimes, I can buy about 25kg worth of produce and ship them back to Singapore for use in the restaurant that week. Favourite season Winter, when the temperature is around 5 to 10 deg C. It is perfect for a hotspring bath in the mountainous area in Beitou, about 15 minutes’ drive from Taipei. I recommend the luxurious five-suite hotel Villa 32 (Number 32, Zhongshan Road, tel: +886-2-6611-8888, www.villa32.com) for its hot spring bath. I like the fact that in Taipei, you can get away from the busy cityscape to a totally unartificial hot spring on the mountainside so quickly. hfhuang@sph.com.sg

TRAVEL BLACK BOOK

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful