Spirit and Flavor of Taiwan: Golden Formosa
“A Happy Heart Brings Inspiring Dishes.” The Warmth of Taiwanese Cuisine!
WORDS BY Fan Honghua
TRANSLATION BY Joe Henley
PHOTOS BY Department of Information and Tourism, Taipei City Government
STARTING FROM BEITOU TAVERN DISHES
How do we define authentic Taiwanese cuisine?
According to Chen Boxuan (陳博璿), head chef at Golden Formosa (金蓬萊), the most important feature of Taiwanese cuisine is, “More people, more fun.” Everyone sitting together to have a series of hot, fine dishes should not disrupt the merry proceedings to take photos or check in on Facebook. This kind of joyful atmosphere inspired by the dishes is different from that of French or Japanese cuisines, whose warmth makes no difference when it comes to the flavor. Conversely, Taiwanese cuisine is full of warmth — the food is warm, the atmosphere is warm, and people are warm, as the spirit and flavor of Taiwan have always been.▲With three generations of pursuing the spirit of perfect craftsmanship, Golden Formosa is now the iconic representation in the field of Taiwanese cuisine.
At Golden Formosa, an establishment that has stood for around 70 years, third generation master chef Chen Boxuan still applies his meticulous craft and steadfast quality guidelines despite the restaurant has received two Michelin stars for two consecutive years. His customers include foreign foodies, Taiwanese entertainment stars, young people who admire his reputation, and local acquaintances who have been coming here since childhood. From children to elders, and celebrities to average Joes, Chen’s cooking, originating from simple jiujia cai (酒家菜), or tavern dishes, served in Beitou, wins over their hearts and their stomachs.
The founder of Golden Formosa, Chen Liangzhi, (陳良枝) was once an employee in a traditional Japanese restaurant. Later, he founded Formosa Canteen (蓬萊飲食店) in 1950. At the time, his crispy ribs made from a menagerie of secret ingredients were a must when politicians and businessmen came to Beitou for a feast. Although every hotel had its own kitchen and chef, hotel guests ordering the crispy ribs of Formosa Canteen by take-out or delivery was quite a common scene at the time. Many tavern dishes have been phased out with the passage of time, but, fortunately, the unique flavor of Formosa Canteen was passed down to the hands of Chen Fangzong (陳芳宗), the second generation of master chefs in the Chen family.▲Since its establishment in 1950, Golden Formosa has been in business continuously for nearly 70 years.
In 1987, Chen Fangzong founded Golden Formosa in Tianmu (天母), near Beitou. Continuing to preserve the hard-won reputation of Taiwanese cuisine gained by his father, Fangzong persisted in his father’s path in terms of material selection, preparation, and cooking. Such a spirit of perfection finally pushed Golden Formosa to an iconic position in the field of Taiwanese cuisine.
In 2009, Fangzong formally passed down control of Golden Formosa to his only son Boxuan. The succession and clash between the masters of the second and third generations brought a new light to Golden Formosa. Although Boxuan grew up around the fiery atmosphere of the kitchen, he never considered a life that consists solely of making dishes one after another. Prior to taking over the reins at Golden Formosa, he acted as a marketing director for an international airline. During his time off, he could travel abroad and enjoy delicate foods and a relaxing lifestyle. Later saw that his father wished to shutter Golden Formosa due to his deteriorating health. Not wanting to see the legacy built by his grandfather and father come to an end, Boxuan eventually returned to the kitchen, put on an apron, and with the wok now in his hands, started on the challenging path of being a top chef.▲There is a sense of the modern in the traditional decorations. From children to elders, celebrities to regular folks, they catch the eyes and hearts of many.
CO-EXISTENCE OF THE OLD AND THE NEW
After making the decision to carry on with the family business, Boxuan and his wife Yang Xuefen (楊雪芬) together led the team of Golden Formosa, infusing traditional Taiwanese cuisine with new ideas. He would not reject new things in the name of preserving tradition, nor would he twist the old flavors by blindly pursuing popularity. Instead he experimented continuously with old flavors and better ingredients, and found a balance between traditional and innovative flavors. The old dishes created by his grandfather and father are still there, but they have been merged with the creativity of Golden Formosa’s third generation.▲Chen Boxuan (right) is dedicated to carrying on the chef’s spirit and the flavors cultivated through the years by his family.
In the menu of Golden Formosa, Fotiaoqiang (aka Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, 佛跳牆, a soup made from numerous delicacies which got its name from the fragrant smell that pervades so much that even a monk might give up on meditating and jump over the monastery wall to taste it.), Formosa Sliced Boiled Chicken, Sauteed Pork Liver, Formosa Sweet and Sour Sea Fish, Deep-Fried Sweet Taro, and Crispy Golden Shrimp Cakes are great dishes worthy of a taste. These fantastic delicacies are derived from the super oven, traditional heavy wok pan, and the years of skill of those masters working away in the high-class kitchen. Thanks to the spirit of these craftsmen, an inspiring chapter in the story of traditional Taipei delicacies is still being written today!
The Crispy Fried Spareribs of Golden Formosa may seem ordinary, but there is more than meets the eye. The spareribs come from pork belly purchased from the biggest professional pork supplier in Taiwan. This portion is rich in flavor, with slight marbling, and not too much fat. The cooks will finely divide the ribs in a consistent size of 7.5 to 9.5 cm, cure the ribs overnight with homemade marinade, and then put the spareribs into the pan for frying. The combo of crispy skin and the soft and juicy texture of meat ignites the taste buds and awakens the mind to flavorful possibilities.
To cook the Deep-Fried Eels with Red Vinasse and Chinese Cabbage requires much preparation as well as a variety of ingredients, making for a memorable flavor. Don’t think that the cabbage is simply a sidekick. The thick fried egg crisp and meat floss not only present the multi-layered nature of the stock, but also enhance the sweetness of the cabbage. Meanwhile, the texture of the eel is solid and thick. It is fried to extreme crispiness without being dry. The cooks’ control of the flame and temperature is nothing less than an expert.
Mullet-Roe Fried Rice is another iconic dish. The mullet-roe perfectly merges with rice and vegetables. All food lovers know that fried rice is the most challenging dish for cooks to make well. How to make each grain of rice distinctly and fully absorb the freshness and flavor of the ingredients depends on deep experience and an uncommon sense of culinary judgment. The Mullet-Roe Fried Rice of Golden Formosa never fails to amaze.
Golden Formosa is a shining pearl on the delicacy map of Taipei. It is a classic that springs eternal in Beitou and Tianmu. It gives traditional Taiwanese cuisine a fresh sense of glory, keeping it present in the daily lives of Taipei residents. It is the great fortune of locals and tourists alike that such a historic and unique restaurant still exists after so many years of evolving Taiwanese cuisine.▲The procedure of making Golden Formosa’s iconic Crispy Fried Spareribs is complicated. First fry the ribs. Secondly, expose part of the bone so the guests can easily grasp the ribs.▲Finally, fry the surface at high temperature till it turns crispy. It is the first choice of Golden Formosa regulars.
Golden Formosa ( 金蓬萊 )
101, Tianmu E. Rd., Shilin Dist.,
Tuesday to Friday, 11:30am - 2:00pm, 5:30pm - 9:00pm ;
Saturday & Sunday, 11:30am - 2:30pm, 5:30pm - 9:30pm
Close on Monday
TAIPEI Summer 2020 Vol.20--Four Fantastic Family Restaurants in Taipei
TAIPEI Summer 2020 Vol.20--Taiwanese “Teatime” — Take a Break with the Island's Sweets and Treats
TAIPEI Summer 2020 Vol.20--Your Guide to Taipei's Dragon Boat Festival
TAIPEI Summer 2020 Vol.20--Step Inside the Enchanting World of Picture Books
TAIPEI Summer 2020 Vol.20--Chic Indie-Design Children's Apparel and Family-Fun in Taipei: Ángeles Studio & Shop
TAIPEI Summer 2020 Vol.20--Six Things to Do with Your Parents in Taipei