Chu Chu Yuan is a relatively nondescript restaurant chain serving up some of the favorites of Taiwanese cuisine. If you want something pretty rich that has gotten acquainted with a little bit of oil and fat, in a slightly nicer environment than the street side, it’s a good option. This is their Hongkou branch, in the basement of a mall; there are others around town.
Their beef noodles are OK, maybe a bit disapointing for a Taiwanese spot. They do a killer bowl of XO Beef Fried Rice though, one that somehow takes me back to the comfort of cheap Chinese places back in the U.K. There's a bit of fishy funkiness, and just enough smoke and spice to tickle the back of your throat.
But what they really specialize in are heavy, bready, savory Taiwanese snacks that could function equally well as a hangover-smushing breakfast or a carb-loading dinner. Their pork and scallion gaotie, more akin to Japanese gyoza than the usual Shanghainese ones, are delicate and rich. They also come with a dipping sauce that reminds me, more than anything else, of the sweet and sour sauce that comes with Chinese McNuggets. If you think I mean that as anything other than a compliment, then you don’t know me well enough.
They also do these great “red bean” wraps, that are actually a thick kind of scallion pancake wrapped around sliced beef, cucumber, and hoisin sauce. Man, these things are good. So good. Heavy too. Share them – this and a bowl of noodles to myself was way too much.
Atmosphere is mall dining, service is good. A perfect candidate for regular work lunches if you’re based near the neighborhood; just as good for a quick feast if you find yourself in the area. It’s in a part of town not far from the impressive-looking 1933 complex, in a northern part of the city that is getting pretty built up. Worth a look.
Price: RMB 30 – RMB 80 per person
Summary: Heavy, very tasty Taiwanese snacks up north in a mall in Hongkou. Their noodle and rice dishes are decent enough, but be sure to split a plate or two of dumplings and wraps – these are the winners. Going by the menu recommendations is a decent strategy.
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