Second-generation farmer fights to rescue Gongliao’s abalone industry

Let’s head now to a culinary gem hidden in the heart of Taipei. Around the campus of National Taiwan University lie many modest restaurants with big reputations. Local students are keen to sniff out a good deal, and an authentic menu at a reasonable price will always attract fans. Let’s check out a Jiangzhe dim sum joint, that students say rivals the high-end chains, without the price tag.
Steamer baskets stacked to the heavens. High-pressure steam wreathes the dumplings in mist. Each basket houses five perfect parcels. Translucent skin gives just a glimpse of the soup inside, ready to burst out as soon as you take a bite.
This Jiangzhe dim sum joint is located near the NTU campus in Taipei. Students call it “Budget Ding Tai Fung”, after the high-end dim sum chain. One branch even won a coveted Bib Gourmand award in the 2021 Michelin Guide Taipei & Taichung.
The edges of the dough are rolled to a gradual wisp of nothing by the chef. Filling goes in lightning quick and with a few flicks of the wrist, the Golden #18 dumpling is ready for showtime.
Kao Jui-kun
Jianzhe restaurant owner
The skin should be thinner at the side and thicker in the middle. It’s totally different than one made by a machine. We make them all here, so when you eat it you get a softer texture.
The thickness of the dumpling skin is a key part of the experience. The filling, however, is the soul of a xiaolongbao, says the chef, who prides himself on his fresh ingredients.
Kao Jui-kun
Jianzhe restaurant owner
The ingredients are extra fresh. It’s all warm pork. The main thing is, if your ingredients are fresh, your product will be delicious for sure.
The crab meat dumpling is another specialty. The meat filling is even tastier with crab added. The menu is crammed with famous Jiangzhe dim sum dishes. The chef says he stumbled into this industry by accident and somehow finds himself still making dim sum 50 years later.
Kao Jui-kun
Jianzhe restaurant owner
Back in the early days, when they liberated Taiwan from Japan in the 1940s, the army came over to Taiwan to fight, and then stayed here. There was a master chef who stayed in Taiwan, who happened to have this skill. We met by accident. It was fate. And so we studied this.
The restaurant’s walls are covered with photos of famous patrons, including former regular customer, singer and actor Jay Chou. A Japanese TV show even made a pilgrimage here for a special episode. The budget-friendly eatery has plenty of fans to see it through 2022, no matter how the winds of COVID blow.
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