三六九素包子店, 369 Buns, Taipei

369baoziOne of my mom’s best friends in college recommended this place to us. It’s actually a chain, but she told us the one on 長春路 [Changchun Rd] and  遼寧街口 [Liaoning St] is the best. I haven’t been to any of the other stores, so I can’t say if that’s true. Regardless, they make the best 包子 [baozi, or bun] that I’ve ever had. You would walk right past it if you weren’t careful. My mom and I always get our haircuts right around the corner, and this is the place we go to afterwards for a quick, dirty, and delicious lunch. I’ve managed to figure out its location by looking for the 長春市場 [chang chun shi chang, or Changchun market]. I believe they’re diagonally across from each other (??). Feel free to correct me though. 🙂 And since 2012/13, they’ve had a name change to 正饌素食 [zheng zhuan su shi]. However, the people who run the place haven’t changed, and neither has the quality of their food.

369baozi2The storefront is narrow and sits no more than 20 people at most. There are about 4 small tables inside. The menu is a short list of about 15 items, most of them buns. Go figure. It costs about 17 NTD/bun, which is about $0.50 USD! SO CHEAP! And they’re rather large buns too, which makes it all the more worth it.

369baozi3369baozi4There are 8 flavors of bun, some sweet and some savory. We tend get the savory buns. My favorites are the 香菇脆筍包 [xiang gu cui sun bao, or mushroom and bamboo shoot bun] and the 四季豆包 [si ji dou bao, or green bean bun]. I’m the kind of person who loves food with texture, e.g. chunky peanut butter and minestrone, and the filling made at 369 always fulfills this criterion. The mushrooms in the mushroom/bamboo bun are always tender and juicy; the bamboo is always crisp and fresh. The green beans are never mushy–I love the feeling of the beans popping out of the pod and into my mouth. And there’s always a dash of sesame oil in there. Mmm. 😀 All the other flavors are equally delicious too, so try them all!

369baozi5The filling is then lovingly wrapped in the most wonderfully springy wrapper a steamed bun could have. Upon breaking it open, warm steam powders your face. Fingers leave gentle grooves in the supple and slightly spongy dough, like a Tempur-Pedic mattress. Pair these buns with some 黑豆漿 [hei dou jiang, or black soybean milk] and you’re set. Their black soymilk is made in limited quantity, so beat the lunch rush to get it!

Venture outside of the buns and you will be rewarded with some of the tastiest dumplings outside of Din Tai Fung (in my humble opinion). The style is entirely different, but 369’s dumplings are like little bags of gold–so heavy and full with delicious mustard green filling. You get about  8-10 pieces for 50 NTD, or $1.50 USD.

369baozi6

I also really, really like the 蘿蔔絲餅 [luo buo si bing, or sesame turnip pastry] they make there. Flaky pastry shell with sesame baked into it, and finely shredded turnip sauteed with white pepper. My mom never fails to get their 冬粉 [dong feng]. Vermicelli noodle soup with Chinese celery, daikon, shredded bamboo, A 菜 [Taiwanese chard], fried tofu, and some really tasty homemade bean curd roll-ups.

So if you want great, cheap food, go check 369 out at 台北市中山區遼寧街152號 [Taipei Zhongshan District Liaoning St, No. 152]!

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