Ji Jia Zhuang
Taipei' s secretive, private Spanish kitchen
Written and translated by Diva Yang
55, ZhangChun Rd
Hours: 11 am-10 pm
Credit cards accepted. 10% service charge.
Recently, when director Jia Chang Liu returned to Taiwan for the first time in 10 years, he specifically requested Ji Jia Zhuang as his first meal back home. For 35 years, this establishment has been a top restaurant for Taiwanese cuisine. Consequently, many arriving overseas Taiwanese don't bother going home first to drop off luggage before heading straight from the airport to Ji Jia Zhuang for a feast! Clearly, it's the kind of food that keeps them dreaming of home when they're away.
Ms. Xue Yu Lee, founder of Ji Jia Zhuang, was a poultry seller at Jian Cheng Traditional Market. With the encouragement of her long-time good friend and Taiwanese opera legend Li Hua Yang, Lee started the restaurant, offering Taiwanese chicken dishes. The menu is quite extensive, including cold dishes, soups, meat stews, casseroles, seafood, traditional stir-fries, and vegetables. And there's a whole section of vegetarian dishes for non-carnivores. However, you will not find beef on the menu.
This place is well-known for chicken dishes and you may wonder what makes its extra-tender, sweet chickens so special. According to manager Ms. Huang, who has been working here since the day after she graduated from school, "We only use purebred chickens and not egg-laying breeds because purebreds have the best meat quality! They are also free-range chickens." When dining in Ji Jia Zhuang, you have to order the "Three Savory Chicken" (NT$420/small). Dip the black-bone chicken in ginger sauce and roasted chicken in sweet & hot red sauce. Steamed chicken goes well with both sauces. "Ji Jia Tofu" (NT$256) is made of shredded chicken, tofu and oyster sauce, and goes wonderfully with rice.
Speaking of rice, Ji Jia Zhuang's signature Chicken Broth Broiled Rice (NT$30/person) is unlike any steamed rice you've ever had. Instead of plain tap water, white rice is cooked with chicken broth which is the essence of chicken meat. Salt Shrimp (NT$360) and Small Fish with Green Vegetables (NT$256) seem like simple dishes but are the kind of entrees that make overseas Taiwanese nostalgic. Many customers started coming here with their parents at a young age, and now bring their own offspring to enjoy the same dishes they grew up with. Neither children nor adults can resist the Egg Pudding (NT$120/takeout). Even Japanese customers with high standards for desserts rave about it. Plum tea and egg pudding are complimentary with meals. All staff and chefs have dedicated their youthful years to working here and are the reason the quality and the service have been so consistent for 35 years. Undoubtedly, Ji Jia Zhuang will continue to touch customers with traditional Taiwanese flavors for a long time to come.