This afternoon, after nearly nine years of married life I got legally married. Let me explain. Mr Taiwanxifu and I have been legally married for nearly nine years, but in Australia — not Taiwan. Recently we realised his Taiwan I.D. card still has him listed as ‘single’. All jokes about enjoying his continuing bachelorhood aside, the status on his I.D. card is important. For one thing, as a ‘single’ man he could legally marry again in Taiwan. And also, Taiwanxifu baby would have had ‘father unknown’ listed on his birth certificate when born in Taiwan.
So we trooped down to the local registry bureau. Nearly two hours later we emerged with a freshly inked and stamped marriage certificate. Oh, and I am now legally allowed to use my married (Chinese) surname in Taiwan. Oddly, this was the issue that seemed to provoke so much confusion with the registry staff. Most Taiwanese women have now abandoned the practice of adopting their husband’s surname, and many have commented on how quaint and loyal I am for using a four character Chinese name (my husband’s Chinese surname, my Chinese surname plus my two-character Chinese name). After having gone through the marriage registration process, I think I understand why. Thankfully, the registry staff were lovely and a whole team stayed an hour past their knock-off time to get the registration done.
After which, we were hungry. So where to for our wedding banquet? Since we were tired, hungry and keen to go home to our nanny we opted for something simple and local — Jinfeng Luroufan (金峰滷肉飯).
Jinfeng is one of those ‘lao dian’ (老店) — eateries that have been in business for years, selling the same tried and true dishes. Don’t expect air conditioning, or a zen-style interior. And you will have to queue up and possibly share a table with complete strangers. But service is brisk, the food good quality and the whole experience is good value for money. And you can also try a few dishes listed on the just released CNNgo list of 40 essential Taiwanese foods, including the relatively hard to find dingbiancuo.
Mr Taiwanxifu ordered a large serve of Jinfeng’s signature Luroufan (滷肉飯, NT$45). The Taipei City Council was horrified last year to see this peasant-style Taiwan dish listed by the Michelin Green Guide Taiwan as being a Shandong import, and staged a press release (including giving out free samples) to reclaim the dish’s Taiwan birthright. The Luroufan at Jinfeng glistens with the fat in the tender pork belly, which has been stewed in a salty/sweet combination before being spooned over freshly cooked rice. Just don’t think of the calories.
I opted for a similar version of the stewed pork belly served over ‘dry’ noodles (乾麵, gān miàn NT$25). The smaller serving was the right size for me, and I loved the contrast of the slightly chewy yellow egg noodles with a hint of mung beans and shallots.
Having spotted a delicious-looking thick soup with semi-formed pork dumplings being eaten by another table, I decided I must order some (肉羹汤, ròu gēng tāng, NT$45). Despite not being listed in the CNN report, geng — a type of gelatinous soup — is popular soup throughout Taiwan, especially in the Eastern city of Yilan. Here the combination was just right: it was not too thick, the pork dumplings were fresh and tender, the mushrooms added the right texture and there was a delicate but not overpowering taste of ginger. In fact, it was so good I did something unthinkable and forgot to take a photo. It must be pregnancy brain — or else I was hungry.
Mr Taiwanxifu ordered a bowl of the unique Taiwanese noodle dish (鼎邊銼, dǐng biān cuò, NT$50). “This is mine,” he jealously guarded as I noticed how good his curled noodle broth with oysters, pork and vegetables looked. “Ah, but we’re married now so what’s yours is mine,” I answered stealing a bite. It was very good.
Feeling the need to add some greenery to our meal, we ordered a large serving of kōngxīncài (空心菜, NT$50). Kongxincai, which roughly translates as ‘hollow heart vegetable’ in reference to its tubular shape, is sometimes referred to in the West as ‘morning glory’, ‘Chinese water spinach’ or even ‘Kang Kong’. They are all the same thing. This vegetable is best eaten in summer and as it needs lots of water was a good choice to eat during our wet and wild week. At Jinfeng, it was served with some of their delicious stewed pork topping for flavour.
So all up, our lavish wedding banquet cost us NT$215. But I suspect it will be a meal that we will remember for some time to come.
Jinfeng Luroufan is located near Exit 2 of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall MRT station, at No 10 Roosevelt Road Section 1 (台北市羅斯福路一段10號 ).