I’ve been eating irregularly at what I (affectionately!) dub the KMT Goon restaurants since I started at my current job a couple of years ago. There are some other places like this around town but I’ve forgotten where.
These two are close to each other – one located on a lane between Bade Rd Sec. 3 (八德路3段) and Civic Boulevard (市民大道), the other a few minutes west on Civic itself, just short of the Breeze Center.
Everything about them is Blue. Outside there’s the light blue paint of the wooden slats and sliding doors; then the interior is kind of like a KMT old boys club: walls cluttered with photos, certificates and paraphernalia documenting faithful service to the R.O.C., along with benevolent images of Old Peanut, Frogman and various military bigwigs.
At the one on Civic, which has a slight edge in terms of menu, size and décor, there is also the rather stylish contrast of the navy blue sky framing the white sun on the KMT emblem that sits between the characters (陸光) on the shop front’s sign. There’s no ambiguity as to the owner’s background.
I was there the other night for a couple of side dishes and, as ever, enjoyed casting my eye around the place. There are loads of photos of what are presumably previous generations of the owner’s family looking all proud in military attire. An elderly Chiang Kai-shek bestowing his approval on a couple of young cadets caught my eye.
Then, on the other wall, this:
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there the last time I was here. A Mao Zedong-Deng Xiaoping hologram poster on the wall of a KMT restaurant, with portraits of the Generalissimo and Junior just to the side: You really couldn’t get a better (or at least more bizarre) instance of the ineffably complex nuances and paradoxes of national identity in Taiwan.
As amazing as this is, rather than fusing the Chairman and the Little Cannon, I would have gone for a Deng-CCK mash-up. Looking at the images of the diminutive duo, I was reminded of this passage from Jay Taylor’s The Generalissimo’s Son, referring to their time as classmates at Sun Yat-Sen Uni (Sunovka) in Moscow:
“According to former students at Sunovka, Deng and Ching-kuo were assigned to the same classroom of twenty students. Deng was team leader of the Chinese Communist Youth Corps, which made him responsible for evaluating the performance and ideology of all its members. Unfortunately, his report on Ching-kuo has not come to light, but the two apparently struck up a close relationship. Xiaoping, at barely five feet, was shorter than Ching-kuo, but their similar stature contributed to their rapport. During strolls along the Moscow River, Ching-kuo frequently asked Deng about his days in Paris. In reponse, the young man wrote several articles describing his work in France [where Deng had edited a CCP mimeographed weekly called Red Light - my parenthesis] for Ching-kuo’s bulletin board.” 1
For years, during some of the most volatile times, there was a private correspondence and hotline between the pair. It seems they were fairly fond of one another. On CCK’s death, Deng is reported to have remarked that their common goal of a “united China” [my inverted commas]
“would not be as difficult and complicated as it is now. The KMT and the CCP have cooperated twice in the past. I just don’t believe there cannot be a third co-operation between us. It is a pity indeed that [Ching-kuo] died too early.”2
Both places serve luwei (滷味) with all kinds of innards, as well as sesame (麻醬) and fried bean (炸醬) noodles. 陸光 (Luguang) does a tasty twist on a local speciality that I’ve not come across before – a kind of stinky tofu roll. It’s available only in the evenings.
The side dishes at Luguang are also interesting. The pork-stuffed chillies are greasy but good and the pregnant fish in a sweet, fruity sauce is a real lip-smacker. I’m not really big on the eggs inside and don’t remember them being there the first time I ate here, but last time I looked, all of the fish were bursting at the seams with their unborn. Even if fish roe is not your thing, the crispy skin and flesh is delicious.
There are plenty of other treats that I’ve yet to sample: I’ve been told the dumplings are top-notch and 村子口 (the one on the lane) appears to offer Lion’s Head meatballs (獅子頭), which I’ve not had in eons. For a look at some of their dishes, see here. And for 陸光小館, here.
While hardly opulent, neither place is cheap as local eateries go: those two sides set me back NT$240 and the signature luwei can be pricey, depending on your level of gluttony. But if you’re looking for authentic local cuisine with a feel for Taiwan’s waishengren (外省人) culture, both of these restaurants merit a visit.
The only downer is that they both close way too early, which doesn’t mesh with the raucous vibe you get when walking past of an evening. Still, Luguang’s got a Mao-Deng hologram.
No. 34號, Alley 52, Lane 12, Section 3, Bādé Road, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105
Tel: 02 2579 6455
Opening hours: 11:30~14:30; 17:00~21:30