Aunt Lee’s Pan-Fried Steam Buns at Shida (Taipei)

November 26, 2011 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

All buns are made fresh on the spot

Just a quick one.  The restaurants and food stalls I’ve been visiting are pulling away from my posts of the places at an alarming rate, so I really have to start picking up the pace.

Shida Night Markets in Taipei is one of my favourite places.  I used to think it was just the various food stalls at night markets but recently I’ve realised that there are countless restaurants and snack stalls and cafes literally everywhere, and they all look so enticing, especially the ones in the back and side alleys.

This post isn’t about one of those places.

Aunt Lee’s Pan-Fried Steam Buns (李阿姨水煎包) (she calls it ‘Fried Dumplings on the Iron Plate’ — which just doesn’t sound right) is one of the super popular stores on the outskirts of the Shida Night Markets.  The buns hand-made on the spot, squeezed into a massive iron plate, drizzled with oil, flooded with water, and then covered up.  The buns are both steamed and pan fried, which is what makes them so irresistible.

Sample bun...mmm...

The lines are almost constant during peak hours and as soon as a batch is completed, the buns disappear before you have time to blink.  The anticipation is palpable.  Fortunately, there are two iron plates, so there’s always a batch being cooked, but if you go at the wrong time you might have to wait for a while.

The buns are sublime.  Littered with sesame seeds, the skin is thick and fluffy on the outside, crispy on the bottom, and the inside is moist, juicy and flavoursome.  There are meat buns and cabbage ones — they taste quite different but both are terrific in their own way.  And at NT$12 each (and 6 for NT$60), you can afford to get a few of each!

The truth is, there are so many pan-fried steam buns in Taipei, and most of them are amazing.  But if you are ever in the Shida area and you have some space left in your tummy, I’d definitely recommend Aunt Lee’s.

With business like theirs, you'd be laughing like that guy in the back too!

Details

Aunt Lee’s Pan-Fried Steam Buns (李阿姨水煎包)

Address: No. 11, Lóngquán St, Taipei (Shida Night Markets)

Price: NT$12 each, NT$60 for 6

Nearest MRT Station(s): Guting and Taipower Building

Naturestar HK Style Restaurant (Taipei)

November 26, 2011 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

We went at around 11am to avoid the rush

The last time I went to yum cha (that’s dim sums for you Poms) in Taipei I wanted to go to Naturestar HK Style Restaurant (天星港式飲茶 — pronounced ‘Tien Xing’) on Nanjing East Road, but due to renovations we had no choice but to go to the below average Plum Blossom Room (click for review).

This time, we made sure Naturestar was open and got there early to avoid the lunch time crowds.  Located a short distance from the Nanjing East Road MRT station, Naturestar is one of several yum cha restaurants owned by the Citystar Restaurant Group, which include the 24-hour Citystar (京星) and Luckstar (吉星), but personally, I think Naturestar is the best of the lot, whether it’s the food, the service or the ambience of the restaurant.

On this occasion, Naturestar did not disappoint again.  The thing with Naturestar that is different to regular yum cha restaurants you might be used to is that you have to order all your food — there are no ladies pushing carts of dim sums around.  It’s kind of good and bad — on the one hand, you don’t get that ‘ooh, I wonder what they’re bringing this time’ excitement, but on the other the food is always guaranteed to be hot and fresh.  Ordering from the menu also prevents you from getting too much food in one hit, though you do have to wait a little while after you’ve ordered.

Here’s what we ordered: pea pods, seafood gratin with cabbage, pan fried turnip cakes, steamed flour rolls with dough fritter and spring onions, steamed flour rolls with prawns, steamed prawn dumplings, pork ribs with black bean sauce, shu mai, garlic vegetables, pan fried squid cakes, deep fried crescents, and of course, chicken feet!

I took too many photos so here’s a gallery/slideshow.

Most of the stuff we ordered from from their yum cha menu, but Naturestar also has a regular menu with stir fries, BBQ meats, vegetables, rice and noodles, etc.

Everything we ordered was good, and because they were all made to order, fresh and piping hot when they arrived on our table.  The highlights included the seafood gratin (perfectly seasoned), the pork ribs (I like all pork ribs, so…) and the steamed flour rolls with dough fritter (which was one of the crispiest I have tasted any any yum cha place), but amazingly there was not a single weak link.

The price is around NT$300-400 per person, which is quite reasonable.  They have a special deal where you can purchase vouchers for the restaurant (and others in the Citystar Group) for NT$2000, which comes with a 10% off platinum card.  Not bad if you are a regular visitor or intend to become one.

The solid quality across the board is what makes Naturestar a good bet, no matter if you’re having a brunch or a midnight snack.  No wonder the place is packed most hours of the day.

8.5 out of 10!

Details

Naturestar HK Style Restaurant (天星港式飲茶)

Address: Level 2, No. 275, Section 3 Nanjing East Road, Taipei (next to Brother Hotel)

Nearest MRT station: Nanjing East Road

Website: http://www.citystar.com.tw/naturestar/about.php

Opening Hours: 11am to midnight, 7 days a week

Price: NT$300-$400 per person