For those who cannot eat or even look at pork due to personal beliefs, religious reasons, or whatever, please avert your eyes to the following photograph (warning: may cause temporary blindness, foaming at the mouth worse than a rabid dog, impulsive uncontrollable desire for lust, decadence, debauchery, you might rip off your clothes for this.....then again maybe not)
If Las Vegas is sin city for gambling and uhm...riding horses at the Mustang Ranch, then Taiwan is the sin city for fine and not so fine dining. Even the orniest meanest looking street vendor or hole in the wall restaurant is sooooooooooo good it's not even funny.
Almost 5 years ago on a very cold night before leaving the fine city on a plane ride back home, we came here for dinner. Located somewhere near the shopping district (not too far away from Sogo) was 長白小館 (Chang Bai Xiao Guan).
長白, or "long white" literal translation, is named after the Baekdu Mountains bordering between China and North Korea, where you probably don't want to take a vacation during winter. Perhaps long white, refers to the snow capped mountains and land, for long periods of time during the winter months...
But there is something special about NorthEastern cuisine....sour (fermented) cabbage, a main staple preserved veggie of the diet, and of course, copious pork belly slices to keep one's body temp optimal, and ensure that a dude's testes does not integrate or assimilate into his body entirely from the frigid temperatures (they're supposed to hang for a reason).
Oh yes, 酸菜白肉鍋 (sour cabbage pork belly slice hot pot) It's Chang Bai restaurant's signature dish. Some of you might be wondering, where's the sour cabbage?
It's underneath the mondo layer of pork belly slices. They are very rich in flavor, but you don't get that filling or disgusted feeling afterwards. Why? The secret is in the sour fermented cabbage that numbs the fattiness, and makes your stomach feel warm and fuzzy inside.
The fermented cabbage must taste like ass, you will think. Actually no...it's a very mild and refreshing taste, unlike other versions where it's heavier than sauerkraut or as pungent as stinky tofu (or kimchi). This is unlike any other sour cabbage you will have abroad.
Similar to Lin Tung Fong in Taipei, there is a shelf filled with small plates of mostly cold/room temp appetizers. All self help, and to be charged to your tab. A few of these will kick off the bacon hot pot goodness palooza.
Chang Bai (restaurant, in Taipei) is a fine example of specialized regional Chinese cuisine, multiple versions and wide varieties all over the island. A shop over 30 years old and still kicking ass, and keeping people's bellies warm and happy during the colder months of the year.
長白小館 Chang Bai Xiao Guan
台北市大安區光復南路240巷53號 (Taipei City, Da An District, Guang Fu S Road, Alley 240, #53)