If you want a quick understanding of Taipei’s essential character, a tour of Wanhua District is the best way to go about it.
Taipei’s oldest district and the first to undergo economic development, Wanhua these days is known for its heady mix of neon-lit, glitzy commercial buildings; historic alleys and buildings where time seems to stand still; and incense-filled, imposing temples housing some of the city’s oldest deities.
Incidentally, Wanhua is also known by its local moniker Monga, which is the inspiration for one of Taiwan’s leading fried chicken franchise.
Landing on our shores on 28 Sep, Monga (the fried chicken), is a labour of love by Taiwanese comedian Nono, who shared that he set up the brand to promote the culinary culture of Taiwan, through the universally beloved medium of deep fried food.
A great brand story, but does it stand up to the test?
Judging by the media preview, I must say that Monga is good enough to easily challenge the duopoly of Shilin and Snackzit. True to advertisement, Monga’s fried chicken fillets were thick and juicy, with the batter creating a tasty, crunchy shell worthy of the extra calories.
I had a go at all three flavor options on offer. Original flavor The King ($6.90), dusted with salt-pepper, is a really good rendition of Taiwan-style fried chicken – earnest, satisfying and comforting, just like how our favourite Taiwanese dishes tend to be.
Hot Chick ($6.90), dusted with a generous helping of chilli paprika powder delivers more of the same, only with a spicy kick tinted with a smoky edge – thanks to the Anaheim peppers used.
Rounding out the trio is The Taiker ($6.90), seasoned with seaweed and Japanese sauce that adds a savoury, umami layer. A welcome addition to the local fried chicken scene, for sure.
Besides the three headlining chicken cutlets, Monga also offers a variety of vegetables and sides – all deep fried in their signature style of course. Choose from Chicken Nuggets (6 pc – $5.90, 9pc – $7.90), Chicken Skin ($3.90), Potato Fries (Signature – $2.90, Seaweed – $3.50), Sweet Potato Fries with Plum Powder ($3.50), King Oyster Mushroom ($3.90), and Broccoli ($3.50).
Beverage options were rather scarce, and clearly meant to play a supporting role to the glorious fried food menu. The Orange Green Tea and the Pink Grapefruit Tea will offer relief for overladen tastebuds, while the Osmanthus Oolong Tea provides a lighter, classic tea option.
At the end of the day, Monga didn’t quite transport me to Taipei – c’mon, it’s fried chicken, not magic. However, as I made my way home in fried-food bliss, I couldn’t help but recall my visits to Taipei.
Especially The Taiker, with its crunchy-juicy-seaweed-y bite, which brought me back to the time I stood at the Ximending Monga outlet, biting into the freshly fried chicken as the winter winds blew.
Now, I can recapture the feeling whenever I want. I should be so lucky.
Jem, #B1-K10, 50 Jurong Gateway Road, S (608549)
Opening hours: 11am – 9.30pm
FB and IG: mongasingapore