A while ago, a Taiwanese friend who is originally from Hong Kong suggested a Cantonese lunch venue near his office. Of course I jumped at the chance to find out about his favourite Cantonese restaurant: although Taiwan has a great snack (小吃) culture featuring fantastic Shanghai-style dumplings and buns, it can sometimes be a little hard to find more southern-Chinese style food.
Bamboo Village (竹家莊) is an authentic Cantonese restaurant, perched somewhat strangely above a Mitsubishi Motor Showroom. Like many Cantonese restaurants, it gets busy at lunch time when regular patrons come in to chow down on yum cha. There are no trolleys, or at least none that I saw, but the service was quick and some our table was groaning with a feast of traditional yum cha dishes that my host ordered. And I loved the royal-style bright purple satin tablecloth, which was the perfect backdrop for great photos.
A Hong Kong friend back in Australia once told me that the true litmus test of good yum cha is their prawn dumpling (蝦餃, pronounced in Cantonese har gow). In one bite, you can tell whether the chef is any good or not. These days sadly most har gow are mass-produced, sold frozen to yum cha establishments (at least that is the case in Australia). But at Bamboo Village the dumplings were exactly as they should be: a translucent, scallop-shaped skin encasing a prawn mince combination.
Also good was the yum cha classic ‘dim sim’ (shaomai). Dim sims are somewhat of a cultural icon in Australia, first introduced in Melbourne where early southern-Chinese gold rush seekers settled. So I am somewhat picky about the quality of dim sims; the golden wonton-skin wrapped version here were tasty and reassuringly good, not deviating from the recipe for a good dim sim.
I once attended a banquet in Australia where the host insisted the guest of honour try fried turnip cake (蘿蔔糕). He did his best, but the gooey texture is something people either love or hate. I happen to like fried turnip cake, and this was delicious: crispy on the outside and warm and soft inside.
This dish was more Japanese-Taiwanese fusion than Cantonese. Based on yam, it was topped with shaved bonito which danced merrily on top of the warm fries. I do not usually like yam-based dishes, but this was addictive.
I loved these beancurd skin rolls. Usually the beancurd rolls I have tried have been crispy and a tad oily. But these were soft, and soaked up the flavours in their rich gravy. Some beancurd skin rolls are vegetarian, but not this one.
A similar approach to the beancurd rolls was the fish balls (魚丸). I had not seen them served in a spicy-style gravy before; usually they are served as a soup but this was more substantial.
This to me was the standout dish: a single dumpling in a bowl of light chicken broth, topped with Japanese mushrooms and Chinese wolfberries (goji berries). The ‘ooh ahh’ moment was when I bit into it, and tasted how silk-smooth the dumpling skin was. It just seemed to melt away.
Another classic yum cha dish, these steamed rice noodles did not disappoint. I tasted a prawn one, but from my pictures it appears that they may have had a combination. In any case, the noodles were fresh without being gluggy and the prawns were plump and pink.
Our token vegetable at the banquet was a simple dish of quintessentially Taiwanese silk melon (絲瓜). Silk melon must be eaten fresh or else it can become tough. This was tender and tasty, unadorned allowing the simple melonly flavour to shine throw.
Did I mention that there was a lot of food? I passed on these pastries, but they looked fantastic.
As you can see, no-one in our party of five starved. As I looked through this photo I realised that there were even more dishes that I had forgotten about: stir-fried beef rice noodles, fried rice (not too oily), beef balls, steamed pork buns, xiaolongbao dumplings (小籠包)steamed in foil cups and a delicious fried appetizer which was presented like sushi.
Bamboo Village is at the corner of Fuxing North Road and Minsheng East road), directly above the Mitsubishi Motor Showroom (香港竹家莊, 台北市復興北路299號, phone 02 2718 8181). To get there by public transport, exit the Zhongshan Secondary School station, turn right and walk five minutes. The restaurant is on the other side of the road; you will see the Mitsubishi showroom as you cross the road.