I was quite excited to finally try the Taiwanese food offered at Formosa, located across the street from Fulham Broadway tube station. The cuisine is under represented in London, with a Google search resulting in Leong’s Legends, Taiwan Village (which I’ve not tried), Keelung (which was in Chinatown but has now closed) and finally, Formosa. Last Friday, a group of us gathered there to celebrate Kevin’s birthday – he’s one of my colleagues and is quite the foodie himself. I do believe he’d told me about this restaurant in the past but I just never found myself in the area and so I was really looking forward to this meal which he’d organised and I know that if Kevin’s involved, it’s gonna be good!
Turns out the restaurant is quite tiny and yet there was just enough space for us all plus a few other non-partygoers. As there were over 20 of us, we were divided up onto a few large tables and served one of each dish to every four people. The meal felt like wave upon wave of dishes arriving at the table – there was a lot of food and I’d be really surprised if anybody left hungry!
First to arrive was this braised pork knuckle. The meat was so tender and falling off the bone and I detected some five-spice (or some of the spices in five-spice!) in the braising liquid. Bottomless bowls of white rice accompanied this and all the other dishes and was an absolute must!
Plates of lightly cooked pickled vegetables came soon after and were lovely refreshing bites to contrast the rich meaty pork knuckle. I never knew the Taiwanese loved to cook with so much chili but in all the dishes that day, it was mainly for flavour rather than heat. That said, there was a fresh chili sauce available that would knock your socks off.
More pork arrived in the form of this white pork with garlic sauce. The meat was indeed tender but wow, that innocent-looking sauce really did pack a punch with its unexpected amount of chopped raw garlic.
Big bowls of Taiwanese beef noodle soup were brought out at this time. The owner of the restaurant was hilarious in her instructions: “One of you will have to play auntie or big sister and serve the others!” One of the guys made his opinion about her choice of gender known, to which she replied, “Oh! Or big brother!” She’s quite chatty and extremely friendly and was happy to answer our questions.
This was the first beef noodle soup I’ve eaten in this country and I was pleased to find it was delicious – the soup good and beefy, the beef tender, the noodles with a good chew. I’d love to recreate this at home.
Was this next dish the infamous Taiwanese stinky tofu? Well, I detected no stink but crispy fried tofu is always a winner in my books.
This Sichuan-style chicken lacked the chili heat I expected but it was still tasty. I suspect the chicken had been velveted giving it an incredibly soft and moist texture.
More pork (Yes!) – now it was the turn of one of my favourite Taiwanese dishes: fried pork chops. These moist inside, lightly crisp outside chops were delicious and I could have downed the whole plate myself.
The famous Taiwanese three cup chicken (cooked with equal parts of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil) also made an appearance and again the meat was supremely tender and so moist (also velveted). I’ve been sitting on a recipe for ages and really must cook it at home.
I was surprised to see a Taiwanese interpretation of the Sichuan dish of ants climbing a tree (minced pork on mung bean vermicelli) – there was no chili here but still tasty nonetheless.
The final savoury dish got some mixed reactions at the tables. Cooked oysters aren’t very common in European cooking, I gather, and so many people did balk at the strong flavours within. I loved this as it reminded me very much of the oyster omelettes we ate in Singapore, only this one came with a not unpleasant sweet sauce on top. I particularly love that tender yet crispy eggy and starchy edges to it. However, as this came right at the end, we were all struggling to fit it into our already distended stomachs.
What’s a birthday without a birthday cake? Well, for Kevin, it was a big birthday platter of toffee bananas and apples. A piece each was enough for dessert – tummies were being rubbed by this stage.
Now, some important points to note if you’re planning on visiting to try these Taiwanese dishes. Kevin had preselected the menu from Formosa’s Chinese language menu (I don’t like the fact that this special menu isn’t translated), which lists their Taiwanese specialities. I did speak to the owner about the dishes and she suggested that if you’re planning on ordering them, but can’t read Chinese like me, you can to try to describe the dishes or use their English names (i.e. ants climbing a tree). As well, one or two of these dishes may not be on the menu so if you’re very keen on any of these you see above, it’s probably best to call ahead and ask. I thought this place was a gem and we hope to return soon.
And if anyone’s interested, Kevin had managed to organise this whole menu at a cost of £16 per head.
Thanks for the invite, Kevin – the party was great with both good food and good company – and happy birthday again!
1 Walham Green Court
London SW6 2DH