I have been on the hunt for a good Vietnamese restaurant ever since I arrived in Taipei last year. The fresh, tangy flavours at my local cheap and cheerful Vietnamese back home was something that I thought I could easily replicate in Taipei. I was convinced Taiwan, Vietnam’s largest investor and home to over 100,000 Vietnamese workers and countless foreign brides, would have excellent Vietnamese food. Until recently, I had been sorely disappointed. But then Steve from THE Steve’s Golf Blog introduced me to Ming Jih in Xizhi.
You may think it odd that arguably the best Vietnamese restaurant in Taiwan is hidden in suburban Xizhi. But there is a reason: it is run by the son of Vietman’s former Representative to Taiwan, who has an import-export company nearby. He opened up a small stall selling Vietnamese food as an adjunct to his business. The food stall proved so popular that he expanded and opened Ming Jih restaurant ten years ago. Or should I say the Ming Jih restaurant complex; the sprawling 250-seat South-east Asian-themed restaurant has ample inside/outside dining areas, a separate coffee house next door and its own 40-car parking lot. It is worth taking time to explore the restaurant, which has lots of knick-knacks showcasing Vietnamese culture – including a full-size antique cyclo and a life-sized model wearing an Ao Dai. My toddler had a wonderful time running around and exploring things … with me following closely behind, of course.
We sampled several dishes, beginning with an entrée of Vietnamese fresh spring rolls: served like a swirled sushi roll, they were fresh although obviously Taiwanese influenced.
More authentic was the Vietnamese chicken curry, served with a crusty baguette to sop up the rich gravy.
I especially enjoyed their sate pork, which was tender with enough of a kick to be interesting.
Also good was the succulent grilled chicken skewers and pork.
For side dishes, we had a choice of a tangy chicken salad and fried rice.
I also liked their Chinese-influenced claypot tofu, which would be a good choice for vegetarians.
We ordered chicken congee for our son, Austin. He quite liked it, but he had already eaten beforehand so we ended up finishing it off ourselves. The congee was quite bony, but had a nice flavour, augmented by the chopped cilantro and shallots on top.
We planned on ordering Ming Jih’s Vietnamese beef noodle soup (pho), but regretfully cancelled because we had ordered too much. I contemplated their homemade ice-cream, which thankfully for my waistline was unavailable outside of the warmer months. (Steve tells me it is very good, though.) My husband couldn’t resist joining Steve for some Vietnamese coffee, which was so sweet and strong he was up all night. But he reckons it was worth it.
Ming Jih (銘記越南美食) is at 536-1, Kangning St, Xizhi (台北縣汐止市康寧街536-1), phone (02) 2692 7015 It opens Tuesdays to Sundays from 11.00am to 9.00pm. Reservations are a must on weekends, when it gets really busy. The menu is in English, Chinese and Vietnamese.