Pepper Pastry at Longshan Temple (Taipei)
One of my favourite snacks in the world is the Pepper Pastry (胡椒餅), otherwise known as the ‘Pepper Biscuit’ or ‘Pepper Cake’ (which are both so wrong because it in no way resembles a biscuit or a cake). It is a savoury flour-based, thick-skinned bun pastry stuffed with pork meat and lots and lots of shallots (spring onions) and black pepper, sprinkled with sesame seeds on top. The raw buns are stuck on the inside of a cylindrical oven until cooked to perfection.
On the first bite, your teeth with crush through the thin, crispy pastry layered on the outside, the thick, doughy skin beneath, before hitting the hot, spicy, juicy explosion awaiting on the inside. At the good places, the marinated is tender, fiery and slightly sweet, and the shallots and pepper give it a real kick. I simply love ’em.
There used to be lots of these stalls around Taipei, but for some reason they are harder to find now. I last wrote about them in my post about the Raohe Night Markets, which has a particularly famous Pepper Pastry stall.
Another very famous one is located in a tiny side alley near Exit 1 of the Longshan Temple MRT station called ‘Fuzhou Original Pepper Pastry’ (福州元祖椒餅). It is actually a proper store as opposed to a stall, but considering how inconspicuous the place is, it’s a minor miracle that they not only have very good business, they often have extremely long lines that go all the way out of the alley.
The pepper pastries are created in batches. If you get there before a batch is done, you can place your order first and grab a number. A certain portion of a new batch is reserved for pre-orders, and the remainder are for those who rock up on the spot and line up. It’s a bit of a gamble sometimes because some people might order 10-20 each, meaning the batch can disappear in a hurry. I got there in between batches and had to wait 20 minutes.
But trust me, it’s worth it. Of all the pepper pastries I have tried, the ones here must be either number one or two. The sesame on the outside is roasted and extremely fragrant. The skin is not overly thick and you can taste the layers as you bite into it. The meat is succulent and bursting with flavour. They are particularly generous with the ingredients so you don’t feel like you’re being short changed (at NT$45 each, it’s hard to feel short changed anyway).
In Taiwan, lots of places have long lines for no good reason, but at this tiny little store near Longshan Temple, a place tucked away in an alley so narrow that you’d never even know it existed, it makes perfect sense. The pepper pastries are that good.
Fuzhou Original Pepper Pastry (福州元祖椒餅)
No. 5, Alley 2, Lane 89, Section 3 Heping West Road, Wanhua District, Taipei
Nearest MRT Station: Longshan Temple (Exit 1)
Directions: Take the MRT blue line to Longshan Temple station and come out of Exit 1. Turn left and you should be able to see a tiny alley. If you can see lots of people inside then it’s probably the right one.