Monday, 30 January 2012

Restaurant Review: -- Something warm on a winter's night (Pingxi, New Taipei City)

With lots of people heading east from Taipei to the former mining valleys of Pingxi (平溪) District (née Township) for the seriously romantic, spuriously traditional, and decidedly non-environmentally friendly Sky Lantern Festival (天燈節; Jan 26~Feb 6), NOMM cycled out in yesterday’s rain to find a vegetarian restaurant offering sustenance to visitors.

For a while it looked as though none of the clusters of “old streets” (actually cute railway-side rows of shops) of the various communities along this—one of only three branch lines in Taiwan—was risking losing the tourist dollar by providing wholesome, unfried fare, but finally one was found at the far end of the strip in Shifen (十分) Village.

Blue flags attract diners with the restaurant’s name Xiang Yuan Sushi (鄉緣素食; no English, but meaning something like “Hometown Affinity Vegetarian Foods”), and promotes these as “healthy, fresh, hygienic” (健康、新鮮、衛生).

The Chinese-only menu lists simple rice and noodle dishes, boiled and sautéd leafy greens, and soups, which were selling well on this miserable winter’s day.

NOMM ordered rice in curry sauce (咖哩燴飯; NT$60) and a side of vegetables (趟青菜; NT$30). The latter was on the small side, and NOMM could easily have eaten more of the former, not because it was small but rather because it was moreish. Not a usual favorite, nevertheless something about it worked on this occasion. Moreover (and unlike the greens), it was free of fake meat.

XiangYuan has been open since last year, when its owners “moved back” to their hometown, though perhaps they still work elsewhere during the week as the restaurant is only open on weekends and holidays.

Pingxi Lantern Festival is definitely a mist-see for visitors and residents alike. Go in the evening with a date to appreciate the full romantic effect. But to avoid a guilt-ridden return journey it is perhaps best to watch other people’s lanterns rather than launching one’s own flying incendiary device over the forested hills between Taipei and Yilan.

Address: No.122 Shifen Street (十分街122)
Tel. 02-2495 8239
Hours: Saturdays, Sundays and holidays; 12:00~17:00
NOMM fake meat/processed food index: 2 (low)

Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2012

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