There are many “genres” of restaurants that are popular in Taiwan. Among them are Hot Pot places, noodle places such as NiuRouMian shops, rice places such as Pai Gu (pork shop rice) shops, and other Xiao Chi (small eats) shops. Another popular style is the porridge place, which usually opens later into the night and sometimes 24-hours.
The most famous of these porridge shops in Taipei are located on FuXing South Rd., where the later it gets, the busier the place gets packed with patrons of late night professionals (such as models, celebrities, and other “professionals”). The premises of these places are simple – the main attractions involve a huge variety of “small plate” dishes, some cold, and a big, hearty bowl of rice porridge with yam. The porridge themselves are plain white variety – different from the savory Cantonese style with lots of different ingredients. The only other ingredient being sweet yam. The main idea is to have the porridge with lots of different small cold plates and quick stir-fry items.
In the south bay, The Porridge and Healthy Porridge, both in Milpitas, are representatives of this style of Taiwanese restaurants. The Porridge has been around for a long time at its Lion Center location. It still offers one of the most authentic Taiwanese porridge dining experiences. A big number of items are on display on the steam-table, but most of these are cold plates. Some hot dishes will be re-heated when ordered and some are off the menu only.
We started off with Braised Lion’s Head (紅燒獅子頭; meatball). This is one of the best versions of Lion’s Head around. It is soft, supple, but not mushy or grainy. The perfect combination of tofu and grounded pork. The sauce is perfected red-roasted with touch of sweetness and not overly salty. (Grade: A)
Another hot item off the menu was stir-fried pork kidney (炒腰花). The kidney was prepared well and the stir-fry was done expertly. There was no noticeable smell associated with badly prepared kidney. The sauce was spicy and very flavorful. (Grade: B+ )
Sliced braised beef shank is a popular cold plate from the tray table. The beef is flavored with red-braised sauce with a sweet tone. It is not as tender as it could be but tasty none the less. (Grade: C+ )
Another cold plate is the sliced pig ears. This is the only place that I’ve tried this dish. If you like things crunchy and chewy, then give it a try. (Grade: B+ )
We were also given a complimentary order of Xiao Long Bao ( ). This was not very good. Most of the skin broke and the soup inside were not very good. The texture of the filling is also too coarse.
Overall, this place has survived for a long time for good reason. It offers a good example of a specific genre of Taiwanese style restaurant that is not as commonly found in the bay area.
The Porridge (小劉清粥)1706 N Milpitas Blvd
Milpitas, CA 95035