Tourists visiting Alishan (the most famous mountain resort and natural preserve in Taiwan) on guided tours will usually overnight in Chiayi city – 嘉义. Because Alishan itself is located at the mountains of Chiayi County so basically it is the nearest city for food and lodging. Although it has the status of a city, it actually looked more like a town with very few things to do.
When it comes to food, Turkey Rice 火鸡饭 is no doubt the most famous in Chiayi and perhaps in Taiwan as well. After our Alishan tour while on our way to the hotel we lost count on the number of Turkey Rice restaurants we saw in Chiayi – it was everywhere!
Even if the restaurant is not specializing in Turkey Rice, this dish would most likely be still available for order. Despite its popularity and availability, it was 林聰明沙鍋魚頭 – Lin Cong Ming’s impressive Fish Head Casserole that really struck us. So much that it is one of the most memorable food we had in Taiwan. By the way, the term ‘聪明’ means smart or clever, quite a unique name for a food shop eh?
The hotel we stayed in was smart to come out with a local map specially for tourists that highlights the good food around Chiayi. Lin’s Fish Head Casserole is a local specialty so it was also listed as one of the eateries to try.
Being totally clueless, we asked the hotel’s doorman for his opinion. He told us that if we were interested in trying something special, we should really head to Lin Cong Ming at Zhongzheng Road. So Fish Head Casserole it was! With a detailed map in hand, finding the shop was easy but man it was a long walk.
A normal serving of the Fish Head Casserole cost TWD$80 and comes with chunks of fish meat and some vegetables like cabbage, golden needle mushroom, black fungus and bean curd. Honestly, the dish looked very unappetizing and we were quite disappointed when it arrived on our table. But once we tasted the broth, we changed our mind immediately.
It didn’t matter it had an unappealing look because the broth was deliciously flavorful, which was boiled for eight hours using huge pig bones, dried shrimps, chili, scallion, three layered pork meat etc and then seasoned with their secret barbecue sauce.
The addition of their award winning deep fried fish meat made the broth even tastier. Lin gets a daily supply of live Chub fish (鲢鱼) from a reservoir and each weighs about 5kg so you can imagine the size of the fish head. Captive bred fish usually suffers from a muddy smell when cooked but we didn’t detect any of that.
And here’s Chiayi’s famous Turkey Rice @ TWD$20. It is usually served with sliced turkey breast slightly drizzled with a secret meat sauce invented by the boss himself. As for the portion, it is very small similar to the Braised Pork Rice.
Although not the most famous Turkey Rice in Chiayi, it was good enough for us. Just for your information the Turkey Rice sellers in Chiayi take pride in only using local bred turkeys, which are known for their succulent flesh.
A huge pot used to prepare the broth simmering all the ingredients from early morning till noon. As you can see the broth’s color is quite clear because the 沙茶酱 (Barbecue Sauce) has not been added yet.
Huge chunks of fish head and flesh deep fried into a crisp golden brown are displayed outside the restaurant as a sign of its freshness, nothing to hide.
For Taiwanese staying outside Chiayi but still want a taste of Lin Cong Ming’s delicious Fish Head Casserole, it can be delivered for a small fee of TWD$30. Too bad it does not deliver to Malaysia lol.
林聪明沙锅鱼头 Lin Cong Ming Fish Head Casserole
嘉义市中正路361号 (No 361, Chiayi City Zhongzheng Road)
Business hours: 4pm to 10pm