Recently, a Taiwanese friend shared with me her favorite snack shop, hidden in an alleyway a few blocks from Taipei 101. So of course I had to try it out.
The South Village Hyatt Snack Shop (南村小吃店小凯悦– náncūn xiǎochīdiàn xiǎokǎiyuè), despite its name is a simple (but clean) 65-year old snack shop famous for Taiwan-styled stewed items and fresh noodles. South Village’s gastronomic reputation means that it gets busy. The restaurant encourages reservations, but even without one they have a system to ensure patrons do not wait too long: new arrivals are directed to wait on a small bench near the entrance, and given a menu (in Chinese) and a number. You move to the table with the corresponding number when it is free.
In the meantime, grab a metal container and a pair of tongs and help yourself to a selection of Taiwanese-style stewed food including meat, tofu and eggs (滷味). The items are charged by weight, with prices (in Chinese) above each item.
The first time we ate at South Village I was holding my squirming toddler while my husband went to find a parking spot. So the waitress chose for me. I thought I asked for tofu gan (firm tofu), but somehow there was a misunderstanding and I instead ended up with chicken liver (gan). Yet surprisingly, it was my favorite treasure in my soy-sauce drizzled pile of stewed goodies.
Feeling emboldened, on my second visit I selected a small, coral-like piece of tripe: this again surprised me with its tenderness and mild flavor and was so different from my horrid tripe memories from childhood.
Good to see that my beef tripe was Australian.
Offal aside, South Village is also famous for its thick, knobby wheat noodles. We initially tried simple ‘dry noodles’ topped with a robust Yangchun sauce (陽春麵 – Yángchūnmiàn).
On a subsequent visit I was converted to their aromatic cold noodles topped with a slightly acerbic sesame sauce and a hint of fresh garlic (麻醬涼麵 – májiàng liáng miàn).
In contrast, my husband was satisfied with his more robust pickled vegetable and meat noodles (榨菜肉絲乾麵 – zhàcài ròusī gānmiàn).
South Village also makes a decent hot sour soup (酸辣湯 – suānlàtāng). Although not really as pungent as a true Sichuan soup, it was among the best I have tried in Taiwan, and was jammed pack with tofu, bamboo shoots, tofu skin, carrots, pak choi and wood-ear fungus. I had to laugh though when I read a (Taiwanese) blog review of South Village that complained the flavours were too strong: I didn’t think it was strong enough so added more vinegar and pepper.
I also enjoyed their refreshing four treasures soup (四寶湯 — sìbǎotāng), which featured tomato, tofu and other vegetables in a light broth.
South Village is on located at No 14, Lane 8, Alley 423 Zhuāng jìng Road (台北市信義區莊敬路423巷8弄14號), directly opposite the Xinyi High School entrance in a lane off Songren Road. It is open at lunch from 11.00am to 2.30pm, and for dinner from 5.00pm to 10.30pm, except for Sundays when it is closed. For reservations phone 2720 7388 or 2729 8691.