Friday, March 18, 2016

korean: i recommend UNCLES TAIWAN

No. 31, Lane 260, GuangFu S. Rd
(02) 8771-8097

MRT: SYS Memorial Hall

hours: 11:30AM- 3:30PM; 4:30PM- 11PM 

$$ (about NT$300-500/person) 

kid friendliness: not a lot of non-spicy options for non-spicy eating kids

Visits reviewed: 11/19/2015 & 3/17/2016

OMG! The moment I saw this on Instagram, hot, melty, stringy cheese bookended by deep fried giant squid on a bed of spicy Korean tteokboki rice cakes, I knew I must try it. I counted down the minutes until I could go the very next day (last November). The first time I went, Uncles Taiwan had been opened for less than one week. A popular tteokbokki restaurant from Korea, Uncles Taiwan is located in the alleys across from SYS Memorial Hall. Uncle's Taiwan was brought in by TKK (Taiwan's KFC) so they know how to make deep fried goodness.

Live out your construction worker fantasies with pseudo uniforms, hard hats and wands to light up and wave down the waiters. 

On the first visit, the Chinese only menu can be a little confusing, but you basically choose the base (step 1) (spicy saucy rice cakes or a stir fried version), opt for cheese or without (YOU MUST CHOOSE CHEESE for the full experience) and what you will top it with- fried squid, pork belly or chicken wings, and the prices are added together accordingly. There only one portion size, and I would say probably best suited for 3-4 people. They don't pack up leftovers so go hungry or with friends. There's also Korean instant ramen, seafood pancake and rice balls. FYI there's a minimum per person fee of NT$300.

Spicy chicken feet with rice cake or Korean fishcake oden

Seafood Pancake (NT$290) Last fall when we tried the seafood pancake, it was quite disappointing, served a bit too thick and underdone. This time, my friend asked for it to be extra crispy. It was better than before, and there's a decent amount of shrimp, oysters and squid inside, though it's a bit pricey for the size. 

Seaweed, mentaiko rice balls (NT$80) This is the only rice option, which isn't really necessary since you're getting a pan full of starchy rice cakes, but if there's someone who doesn't eat spicy at the table or kids, then this is one of your few choices. It's not bad, it's just something you could totally do yourself at home. Depending on what server you get, they will offer to mix up the hot rice for you and form little rice balls, or leave the plastic glove and ball on the table for you to do yourself.

I've been to Uncles Taiwan three times and I still get a tiny thrill seeing the monster squid coming to the table. This is the before of the must order dish at Uncles Taiwan... Crispy whole squid atop mozzarella cheese and spicy Korean ricecake tteokbokki, fishcakes and hardboiled egg. The squid legs dangle off the pot and you wonder how you are going to eat it, but they cut the body and legs for you into pieces after they've pulled it apart into oozing melted cheese. (NT$390 cheese rice cakes + fried squid NT$250 = NT$640). On my second visit, I went with more friends so I could try more of the menu. But we still all liked the deep fried squid over cheesy Korean rice cakes the best. The low spicy/xiao la still has a kick and tinge of sweetness.

First they have to light the fire (that's when you have to get your camera ready for the MOMENT)...

Say cheese. Click here to see my instagram video of the cheesy magic.

You can opt to stir it all together, or just scoop up the parts you want to eat. Low spiciness is pretty dang spicy. 

Buried underneath is the rice cake (tteokbokki) and

thin strips of fish cake...

Some thoughts after three visits- skip the ramen- unless you want to try to add it into the tteokbokki. Make sure your squid is hot when it comes to your table, if that's important to you. On my third visit, I instinctively touched the squid when the dish didn't appear to be hot and I was right when it wasn't. So we sent it back a new one because what's the point of wasting calories when it's not hot out of the fryer. I also missed the cute, helpful waiter from our first visit-- this time the servers were all clumped together at the bar, not looking toward the customers and we often had to walk over and wave them down. Also different servers will create different experiences, and since this dish is a bit interactive, then it's even more important that the servers provide a good experience for repeat business. 

I'm sure I'll be back when another friend tells me that they want to go, there's nothing else like it in Taipei that I know of.  I know there are quite a few Korean restaurants that have the cheesy spicy Korean rice cake hotpot available, including the not-so-new Tiger Tteokbokki, but in a city where often the nachos and sandwiches and dishes need to up their game on their cheese factor, Uncles Taiwan seems to know what we want.

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