During my 10 odd years working for China Times (中國時報), I often enjoyed the oysters at Budai Fresh Oyster Eatery (布袋鮮の蚵) and Chen Ji Intestine & Oyster Noodle Eatery (陳記腸蚵專業麵線), both situated by Huajiang Bridge (華江橋).
Savory With Irresistible Umami
At Budai Fresh Oyster Eatery, food is served on metal dishes, and the oysters are bigger, fatter and fresher than the ones you’ll find at other street food stands. Whether it’s the oyster omelette (蚵仔煎), oyster soup (蚵仔湯), or boiled oysters with sauce (乾拌蚵), all are delectable! The way they make oyster soup is pretty standard for Taiwan – with ginger, basil, fried shallots, and celery for seasoning, but it is the juiciness of the oysters that makes the soup so tasty. Don’t mention boiled oysters with sauce! The restaurant uses extra eggs to thicken their oyster omelettes instead of adding potato starch. I have always thought most oyster omelette eateries use too much potato starch, which is the accepted practice, but I believe this ends up reducing the flavor.
Next door is Chen Ji Intestine & Oyster Noodle Eatery, which also provides juicy oysters and braised intestines with an intoxicating aroma and a chewy texture. The fairy Chang’e is painted on their sign outside, which is kind of an auditory pun since her name sounds like the words for intestine and oyster: “chang ke.” Here, the intestine and oyster vermicelli (腸蚵麵線) is always scrumptious. The two main ingredients are cooked separately, but end up in the same bowl. This results in each one presenting its best taste qualities, yet the two blend together perfectly!
Good Taste Delivered From the Place of Origin
The main reason Dongshih Shun Ji (東石順記) makes such great seafood congee (海產粥), oyster fried rice (蚵仔炒飯) and oyster omelettes is the quality of their oysters. The seafood congee contains shrimp, fish, clams and squid – rich ingredients to bring a solid satisfaction at the end of the meal. Oyster fried rice is harder to make than other fried rice dishes, because an oyster releases its juice during the cooking, which makes it harder to control the moistness of the rice. All it takes is one tiny mishap and the result is a mushy slop!
The owner of the eatery is from the town of Dongshih, Chiayi (嘉義東石), which produces tons of oysters, hence the store’s name. All the oysters are delivered fresh from his hometown every day. At the front of the restaurant is the cooking stand where milkfish belly is lined up neatly alongside clams, shrimp, squid and oysters – all waiting to be put in the pan. The clank of cookware seem to herald the upcoming feast! Sometimes, I order sautéed milkfish belly; it’s a big piece, specially selected by the owner. There’s a lot of fat in the belly, so it tastes and smells better sautéed or roasted rather than boiled in my opinion. I quite often cook it myself, sautéed with a little lemon zest added at the end. Of course, with my deep affection for fish heads, I often buy some of these to braise at home too. For my daughter, this is the taste that will always remind her of her Dad.
Budai Fresh Oyster Eatery布袋鮮の蚵
198, Sec. 3, Heping W. Rd. (near Huajiang Bridge)
和平西路3 段198 號（近華江橋）
Chen Ji Intestine & Oyster Noodle Eatery陳記腸蚵專業麵線
166, Sec. 3, Heping W. Rd.
和平西路3 段166 號
Dongshih Shun Ji東石順記
104, Xichang St.
Tastes of Taipei’s Old City Areas
Author: Jiao Tong／Price: NT$250／Available at major bookstores throughout Taiwan.
This article is an excerpt from Tastes of Taipei's Old City Areas (味道臺北舊城區), published by the Department of Information and Tourism, Taipei City Government (台北市政府觀光傳播局). Its author Jiao Tong has spent more than a decade carrying out in-depth explorations and research into food. He has visited the Monka (艋舺), Dadaocheng and Dalongdong (大龍峒) areas, spending nearly half a year sampling different foods and beverages at hundreds of eateries, and he ultimately selected 167 of them to take travelers on an exploration of Taipei’s traditional cuisine.