Sunday, 23 July 2017

Chen Family Restaurant. Taipei 成家小館.木柵店.台北

The Chen Family Restaurant 成家小館 is a humble little eatery in Taipei that serves a good Manchurian style "sour hotpot" and an extensive range of solidly executed traditional dishes.

Founded in 1986, the founding shop is a simple little eatery popular with families. It has also kept up with the younger generation by constantly coming up with interesting dishes.

Enterprising second generation owner Ms Chen has expanded the family business to three restaurants in Taipei and is also retailing homemade pickled vegetables.

Earlier in the day, I bumped into Ms Chen's mum. 成家小館 has a booth at the 2017 Taiwan Culinary Exhibition at the Taipei 101 World Trade Centre (on from 21 to 24 Jul). She was promoting 成家's famous pickled cabbage 酸白菜.

Ms Chen's 91 year old dad was a Manchu cavalry man during the Qing Dynasty.

Back at the Chen Family Restaurant, the action in the little kitchen was frenetic. All three chefs at Chen Family Restaurant have been with Ms Chen for over twenty years.

The three chefs whipped up an impressive range of cold dishes, dim sum, chicken, fish, vegetarian, clay pot, hot pot, rice, noodles, soup, dessert and Chen Family signatures. Prices are competitive too.

Of course, we had Chen Family's signature 东北酸菜白肉鍋 hotpot served in traditional copper pot over a small gas stove. The fresh ingredients are cooked in chicken stock which is slightly tangy from the bed of house made pickled cabbage at the bottom of the pot. I drank a few bowls happily as they don't use MSG in the flavourful soup at all.

There are many things we can add into the hot pot. There are duck blood curd, leafy greens, sweet tangy crunchy pickled cabbage, Enokitake mushroom, hand beaten fried pork balls, fried tofu cubes and skin, prawns and lots of other options. 

Whatever you choose, the pork belly slices are a must try. They are tender with a subtle soft springy chew and loaded with natural porky sweetness.

Chen Family's Dong Po Rou 东坡肉 is one of the best that I have tasted. The braised pork belly is tender and juicy. The savoury sweet braising stock is mild and I can taste the pork's natural sweetness.

Chen Family's signature 賽螃蟹 is named a crab dish but there is no crab in it at all. According to legend, one day the Qing Dynasty Empress Dowager wanted to eat crab. But, as there was no crab available, the palace kitchen made the dish with cod and egg.

Cod fish's white flesh is diced and stir fried with egg white. The dish is served with fried cod and egg white representing crab meat and egg yolk in place of crab roe.

The texture is soft tender with subtle sweetness and fish taste. The egg yolk imparts a slight eggy taste. The Empress Dowager was impressed with this "crab" dish and it has existed to this day.

This dish reminded me of Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa. It's a large meaty yellow croaker fish deep fried and then bathed in a thick sweet, sour, savoury sauce.

Practically all traditional Taiwanese restaurants have this 獅子頭 "Lion Head" dish. It's a tennis ball size minced pork ball (which has a mix of fat and lean meat). It is so named because the rough surface of the meat ball resembles the surface of granite stone lions (a common auspicious object in Chinese communities).

The meaty balls are tender and taste sweet savoury.

宮保雞丁 Kung Po Chicken is cubes of marinated chicken meat deep fried and then stir fried with spices, spring onion, crisped ginger, garlic and chili peppers. The mildly savoury chicken cubes are complemented by layers of spiciness from ginger, garlic and chili peppers.

Deep fried squid topped with fried chopped garlic.

鸡丝拉皮 Shredded Chicken appetiser.

Despite heavy meals today and during the past few days, I found room for three pieces of 豆沙鍋餅 or bean paste biscuit. This Chen Family signature is a flat fried biscuit filled with house made red bean paste. Ms Chen and her mum still hand make the red bean paste. The crispy biscuit is savoury and the red bean paste is not overly sweet. The fried sesame seeds on the surface gave the savoury sweet dessert a toasty nutty accent.

Remember to order this no matter how full your stomach is ok..... Don't worry, you will have space for this 😋

When we were about to leave for our next dinner appointment 😂 Ms Chen took out this plate of Green Bamboo Shoots 綠竹筍. These were so juicy, crunchy and sweet. It is easy to eat many pieces of these sweet treats without knowing.

Hard to resist.

👉 When you are in Taipei and want to go local, go where locals eat, then I recommend checking out the 31 year old (est'd 1986) Chen Family Restaurant 成家小館. Lots of interesting, storied dishes that taste good and offered at competitive prices. The ambiance is humble but air conditioned and comfortable. I will be back, especially for their hotpot and dong po rou.

Disclosure: My thanks to China Productively Center for this opportunity.

Restaurant nameChen Family Restaurant 成家小館
Address: #154 Section 3, Muxin Road, Wenshan District 文山區木新路三段154號 Taipei, Taiwan
GPS  24°58'54.8"N 121°33'40.8"E | 24.981877, 121.561323
Tel: +886 2937 4611
Hours: 11:30am to 1:30pm | 5:00pm to 9:30pm

Non Halal

Date visited: 21 Jul 2017

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Johor Kaki,

    If you have dropped by Taipei Museum you would have seen display of realistic looking Dong Po Rou 东坡肉 made out of jade which was presented to the Chinese Emperors of Yore. There are also beautiful Chinese Cabbage made up of jade at the museum.

    I remember savouring the traditional 东北 - Dong Bei Hotpot during my sojourn of 7 years at both Changchun & Shenyang. The broth was just plain hot water. As one add seafood, meat and veggy into the hotpot the broth will become more and more savoury and tasty. I remember intially thinking " Hell the broth is tasteless unlike those of Malaysia/Singapore " . The favourite dip amongst the Manchurian Chinese is usually sesame puree.

    My last visit to Shenyang in 2015 saw us patronising the famous Hai Di Lao Huo Guo (海底捞火锅) . The service rendered at this chain of restaurants is beyond belief. I gather currently there are four Hai Di Lao Huo Guo in Singapore.



As your experience at the restaurant may differ from mine, I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or not.

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