King Join 京兆尹 is a culinary institution in Taipei. Located in the CBD district, just off the traffic circus in Tunhua Road, they have served the rich and famous in Taiwan since KMT retreated to the island and brought their elephant along (story about the elephant in another blog). What they have also brought along are culinary skills that have been passed down generations, and these chefs followed the Generalissimo as well as hoping to escape the Communist threat. Irony today is that they are looking to go back (not by war, but) to start restaurants in China once again.
One of those that came to Taipei was King Join. They bragged of a fine lineage of Imperial cooks that specialised in Vegetarian dishes. Nothing in this restaurant featured meat, and if you want, you can ask them to skip the milk and garlic (or any other tubular spices like leek and onions). As many of you know, I cannot go a meal without animal fibre. But with King Join, I can endure this once or twice a year pilgrimage to vegetarian gourmet.
Firstly, they don’t try to pretend they are doing a mock duck or mock chicken. All dishes are vegetable/mushroom/soy based. They do not use gluten to recreate the illusions of meat. All dishes derived their tastes from the natural organic ingredients in them. The menu changes with the seasons, so I would only mention a few of their staples that are available year-round that are a must-order when you visit. 三杯猴頭菇 (Taiwan-style SanBei Mushroom) used the Taiwan technique of SanBei (vinegar, soy sauce, rice wine) cooked with this thick mushroom. The strange effect was that it brought out the tastiness of the mushroom and has the texture of meat(?). Another dish that is a must is the toufu braised with a carrrot sauce. Usually it was done with conpoy in the regular restaurant, but here they used CARROT! Wow, you suddenly do not miss the conpoy. Eat without feeling guilty.
What’s famous are the little desserts that are made in house. Classics like 驢打滾，豌豆黃，山楂糕，etc boast of imperial heritage. Many of those were lost from the culinary map in China, only to be preserved here. Remember to drink their Sour Plum Soup 酸梅湯 which is actually a very refreshing beverage.
Be warned, their website is still the post-90s, graphics laden with lots of flash animation. http://www.kingjoin.com.tw
Enjoy the slideshow!