Wednesday, March 10, 2010

[台北市] - 火車頭鐵路便當 Taiwan Dinkey Railway Bento (Taiwanese style Eki-Bento) chain shop

When some people need to take a short break from work, they may go out for a walk to get some sun and fresh air (especially if you work indoors and sit down a lot). Or they may hang out with friends for a quick espresso at some fancy coffee joint and get a la-tay, with or without cigarettes (espcially if your arse is on the line). Some might hide in their offices (if you are not in a cubicle), plaster cardboard on the windows, and take a long nap. Arguably there are some who like to get high during work and secretly bring crack, dope, shrooms, and use them during breaktime. Next thing you know they're your boss or high up in the ranks of the company ladder.

And there are those who like to sit in the toilet stall. Some delight in reading a book, newspaper, or surf the net if you have a wireless connection. Me? Sometimes I go through my wallet and see what kind of junk I accumulated. In this case I found a business card with a printed menu I kept as a souvenir during my trip to Taipei, which leads us to our next review.

People who grew up in Taiwan might remember that old style flavor of bento meal boxes sold only at train stations (known as eki-bento in Japan), that you could take to eat on the train (coal buring engines too). This is arguably a Japanese tradition and influence that perhaps found its way to Taiwan during and after WWII, except the train station (railway) bentos have seasonings and ingredients that cater strictly to Taiwanese tastes. Homesick Taiwanese ex-patriots in the USA will surely remember this old flavor, including certain instant noodles that you eat right out of the bag without cooking them (e.g. the Prince brand of cruncy instant noodle snacks).

Enter Taiwan (spelling Tawain on their business card) Dinkey Railway Bento, with 3 locations throughout Taipei county. They set up one shop where I went some years ago, in the heart of downtown Taipei on Nanyang Street where there are many tutoring centers (bu-shi ban) for afterschool high school (and college) students, and tons and tons of places for cheap eats. Needless to say, there are a lot of budget and demanding gourmets as a result. You can't bullshit the people here.

Nanyang street location (not sure if is still around). Quite a few selections beyond the standard pork chop and chicken leg, including katsu (breaded fried items). There's a help yourself side konbu sauce (spicy or original) too.

The upstairs seating area is modeled to kinda/sorta look like the inside of a train, or somewhere in a train station. Not the cleanest space, and if you are lucky there's maybe a small box of tissues. Bring your own drink, or you can get a free fruit juice carton packet that comes with the purchase of any bento.

Each bento at TDRB is a humble but decent sized portion, with the most expensive one under US$3, and the cheapest one a tad bit over US$2.

I actually tried two bentos, one with chicken thigh leg, and the other with pork chop. The pork chop was supreme, really beating out any version in SF Bay Area and even parts of Southern California where there is arguably the highest concentration of Taiwanese expats and restaurants. There were also some marinated peanuts, 2 scoops worth of rice, one whole soy sauce and spices marinated egg (like a tea egg but no tea flavor), one piece of marinated tofu (tofu gan) and some preserved vegetables. While I never tried or had the opportunity to eat at a train station in Taiwan, just based on the flavor I'd say this was pretty damn authentic, and best of all CHEAP eats.

Other bentos on the menu include "Hokkaido style fish sticks", shrimp steak (probably a variation of ebi-furai), fried fish steak, fried calamari, minced marinated ground pork.

This is a fine shining example of a business that at least for me successfully re-creates an old flavor for many grown ups. You probably won't be able to eat this everyday as you would get sick of it, though should you find yourself in Taipei, this is an interesting experience.

This is a chain, I do not have an updated address, sorry.

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog... glad you got one going too! I need to update mine as I haven't posted in a while due to health. Now that I'm o nthe mend... back to food blogging obsession.
    BTW, this bento is making me drool on my keyboard. But alas, no place really in the Bay Area to find this. Think will make do with a beef noodle soup at Sun's in SM.