Taiwan, or Republic of China, a tiny little island south east of China isn't tiny at all. She is fiercely contentious, fighting off the big guns of mainland China to establish her very own identity. It's no surprise, like every country that has a migrant Chinese population, Taiwan has since developed her own take of Chinese cuisine. And Melbourne is very lucky to have a food-court like Taiwanese restaurant appropriately named Food Republik.
Miss Hoggy's finding of this Singaporean-imported Taiwanese-themed Food Republik was an improvised plan. She and her friend were meant to go to Box Hill for a Chinese New Year festival, only to realised they read the time and date wrongly. Understandably, they were upset. What do you do when you're upset? You eat! Where do you choose to eat? A restaurant with a queue, naturally. And the one with the queue was Food Republik.
It wasn't easy to establish your own identity, when you're so intricately linked with your past. How do you separate yourself when one's keep pushing your button, to try to keep you, well in line? Reinvent yourself, that's what it is. And that's what Taiwan did exactly. Embracing democracy, stubbornly operating with traditional writing, and reinventing Chinese dishes into their very own. Hmm... bubble tea, anyone?
And that's why the food court-like Food Republik is quite amazing. It's not a food court per se, but an reinvention of it.The beauty of this arrangement is that you get to order from any of the Taiwanese food institutions in here; Crystal Jade Xiao Long Bao, Shihlin Café Taiwan Street Snacks, Old Tong Beef Noodles, Shin Yeh Restaurant, and Toast Box.
Oh, throw in Dessert Story and Taiwan Cafe, too. Warning: indecisions to follow.
So, browsing the menu from seven different restaurants and filling out the order form was by far the most difficult task. Miss Hoggy and friend certainly didn't want to be at war with our tummies as to whether we were not to over feed or under feed them.
After 15 minutes of deliberation we finally filled in our order form. Here goes:
Pig intestine vermicelli, aka Mee Sua. Yeah, it's quite good, but might be too adventurous for some.
Pork dumpling with black vinegar and chilli oil, topped with peanut and coriander. I was expecting it to be spicy, but it's very well balanced with the tangy vinegar. Even the texture from the peanut and coriander give that extra crunch. Quite a surprising package.
Taiwan is still fighting to be recognised to be a country of her own, and she's doing her best. Just like Food Republik, it was a busy service when we went. Our wait staff was trying her best, prioritising fast food delivery and consequently, her service might not be the best. But we managed to savour the Taiwanese story in Food Republik, under $20 per person, in the eastern Melbourne, and I'd say, it's pretty good experience.