TAIWAN FUN MAGAZINE, November, 2006.




Pong Lai Village
at the Howard Plaza

Pong Lai Village at the Howard Plaza
160, RenAi Rd., Sec. 3
(02) 2326-7433
Hours: 11:30 am-2:30 pm, 5:30-9:30 pm

Beyond a doubt, Taiwanese cuisine represents Taiwan's culture and traditions at their best. In Taipei, the only dedicated Taiwanese restaurant in a five-star hotel is the Howard Plaza Hotel's Pong Lai Village. This establishment has been around for 20 years, the same length of time that Executive Chef Wang Zhe-wen has been working there.
In much-earlier days, there was a constant shortage of supplies. As a result, oil was extensively used in local dishes to give energy to the ingredients. For the same reason, seasoning also tended to be heavy. Over time, however, both oil and seasoning have been reduced significantly. This includes MSG, which used to play a key role in Taiwanese cooking but has since faded as restaurants increasingly lean towards health-oriented dietary trends.

Lo Di Ding Siang (NT$230), a combination of fried baby fish, peanuts and chilis, gives out a crunchy yet non-greasy texture and goes perfectly with Yam Rice Porridge. Ma Lu Stewed Pork (NT$200), unlike other stewed pork dishes, features pork that is fried first and then cooked with sugar cane juice and red sugar, adding a natural sweetness. The fresh-tasting Mashed Garlic Prawn (NT$55 for 50 grams) is made with steamed fresh prawns, to which crushed garlic is added.
Tainan's most famous local dish, Dan Zi Noodles (NT$60), is cooked in a pig bone broth to give a stronger, yet non-greasy flavor, that stands apart from similar dishes elsewhere. Light and sweet Penghu Gourd (NT$200) and Pickled Pig Stomach (NT$130) are authentic Taiwanese dishes you shouldn't miss, either.
Finally, for dessert there's the restaurant's unique Almond Tofu (NT$60) which doesn't contain the artificial flavorings frequently found in this dish. By contrast, chefs use natural almond fragrance during preparation. The resulting smooth flavors, combined with mango, will stay with you for days.
Prices are reasonable and comparatively cheap, particularly in light of Pong Lai Village's five-star rating. Thanks to its exclusive use of fresh local ingredients and the superior experience of its veteran chefs, this is a hard-to-beat spot for anyone craving some authentic Taiwanese cuisine.

---By Hsiang Ray Translated by Sho Huang