The Raw Power of Fishing With Dynamite

1/2 Dungeness crab, 8 Shrimp, 16 Oysters

You can tell a city has entered a seafood renaissance when several of its most admired chefs and restauranteurs make it a centerpiece of their sophomore-or-later efforts. We watched with delight as they’ve sprung up all over town these past couple of years, and as recently as last week. It’s indicative of a supply feeding the demand, which appears to still grow.

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Taipei, Taiwan: Savory Snacks at Su Hung Restaurant

Braised pork belly, onion and cilantro

It was one of my last nights in Taiwan when my mom and I met one of her old childhood friends at Su Hung, a restaurant surprisingly located in a shopping structure adjacent to a subway station. As we ascended the stairs, a hot pot restaurant caught my eye – but I was ever lucky that Su Hung was the one that came recommended.

Loofah greens and shrimp soup dumplings

I had decided to resist the hype of Din Tai Fung, further dissuaded by word of endless waits and an eagerness to avoid being lumped into the “eating tourist” demographic. After all, why settle for the merely better-than-Arcadian version of the restaurant chain, with possibly an even worse wait? I had a bloodline to honor.

Su Hung offers not pork soup dumplings, but rather loofah-greens-and-shrimp soup dumplings. You can eat more of these than the very popular pork version and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more specialized soup dumpling anywhere else in Taipei – much less in America. There is less soup in these, but they’re a nice departure for diners looking for something lighter, a little different and less obvious.

Braised crab egg tofu

There are plenty of other dishes at Su Hung that will quench your appetite for the savory, including the very delicious tofu dish which comes in a stone pot immersed in a broth made with braised crab eggs. Though I enjoyed pretty much everything that came out from the kitchen, this was my favorite preparation of tofu during my entire Taiwan trip (and you can guess that with all the meals shared with relatives, vegetarian and non-, there were a lot). Never the brave one to crack the middle innards of a crab shell open (I’m a leg woman), I really appreciated this delicious sauce and barely fried tofu with a texture that was silken yet could hold its own to the temperature. Boiling stone pots never fail to excite me as they approach the table – and this one far exceeded even my expectations.

Simmered noodles

If you’re looking for a unique yet delicious noodle dish, order the Simmered Noodles – a simple bowl of wheat noodles-in-chicken-broth that attains its complex taste and texture by, you guessed it, simmering for a long time. It’s dressed with tiny dried shrimp and green onion, and was perfectly comforting for that rainy day we happened to eat at Su Hung. Divy up that medium-sized bowl with your dining partners, and your seconds and thirds will show you that you wished the portion was even bigger. Guess you’ll have to order another, or another of their specialties.

And of course, the title picture may evoke memories…of the East Village. Rather than being portioned out individually at Momofuku for $9 a pop, you’ll get enough green onion, wilted cilantro (just like New York) and braised pork belly to fill 6 “bao” tacos for NT $360 (USD $12). You actually are given only 4 shells to begin with, but the waitstaff will graciously bring you more should you have more honey-braised pork belly to stuff them with. Of course, this is an unfair price point and cost-of-living comparison, but it’s just one more reason this dish is a definite must-order when you dine at Su Hung. It’s your favorite Hunan-style hamburger, ever that much closer to the source.

Sesame rice crepe with red bean filling

No meal is complete without dessert, and Su Hung has the perfect version of your typical red bean-filled sesame rice balls you would otherwise see being wheeled around, cold, on carts at San Gabriel Valley dim sum. This version comes hot and flat, like a freshly-made, sweet rice crepe, with the red bean oozing out from all sides at which it is cut.

Su Hung offers unique and well-executed dishes that will surely enrich your Taipei dining experience. It was ironic that the Taipei Times’ review of the place published online on the very day I dined there. It had mostly favorable views, consistent with my pleasant experience.  It seems as though the businessmen that line their tables are really on to something – and those looking for a solid meal, period, would serve themselves well to take their cue.

11:30 AM – 2 PM
5:30 PM – 9 PM

Su Hung Restaurant
2-1, Jinan Rd Sec 1
Taipei City, Taiwan
02.2396.3186

The Hungry Cat Crab Fest VI

Maryland Blue Crab

It’s a famed event. After, all, we’re on the Crab Fest No. 6. But I’m late to the party and this was my first time around – but now I can finally say I’ve been initiated as a Hungry Cat Crab Fest attendee. The prix fixe pricing ($65) could justify itself well enough, with the starter courses providing a stable anchor to the batch of crabs to follow. The Peekytoe Crab Beignet with its spicy aioli was like a crispy wonder given a creamy kick. And the Solomons Island Crab Soup that followed was extremely flavorful and even a tad spicy, its vibrance really bringing my sinuses to their senses despite my recovering from a cold.

The spicy sauce that sat expectantly at the bottom of the bowl of Singapore-style Softshell Chili Crab rewarded me well. And it made me wonder less if the delicious, crunchy salad that smothered the crab was meant to distract in the first place. But what a refreshing salad to compliment the leggy crustacean. Just don’t ignore that sauce and accept the lesson in surface to meat ratio. Relish that softshell. Chew those legs!

And one thing’s for sure, you can always count on a good cocktail at The Hungry Cat. Solid pours all around – my mint julep not excepted. But when the crabs came out – and then again for round 2 (at 6 crabs per person), I was ready. Flip up that apron on his underbelly and pry his shells apart. Move aside his gills. Or hers, as a couple females ended up on our table – and a couple crabs with more liquid than meat. No matter, it was par for the course and we were pretty much satiated and salted. The copious amounts of seasoning weren’t quite the problem, but whatever of it was salt encrusted my fingers in white. My white napkin, as it stood, became streaked with orange. The camera never came out again, not even for dessert.

Mmm, the sides. The Roasted Corn Salad With Pablano Chiles, Avocado and Queso Fresco was sweet and savory – great for tempering our spiced crab. The Marinated Heirloom Tomatoes With Provolone, Red Wine Vinegar and Oregano came with sweet onions and a kick-filled arugula salad. And once all the shells had been wrapped in the once table-covering newspaper and stowed away, our Lemon Curd Parfaits with berries came out to put the tart period on the end of our 4-hour meal. Sorry – were you going somewhere? Whether or not you’re late, you’ll have to roll there, now.

Bottom line: The $65 price point is a good deal. Not everything was a home-run but the beginning courses and sides were tasty, the crabs are a tad salty, but let’s be honest. I have a hard time arguing with crab. Where’s that wooden mallet?!

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The Hungry Cat
1535 Vine Street
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.462.2155

@thehungrycat

Mon – Wed: 12 – 11 PM
Thur – Sat: 11 AM – 11 PM

Happy Hour Mon – Fri: Noon – 6 PM
1/2 price specialty cocktails
1/2 draft beer

Every Tuesday:
1/2 off Bottle of Wine