Category Archives: Taiwan

Taiwan Street Foods (Taipei) III

One of the places we went to in Taipei was Dan Shui, where they have a very interesting speciality called Ah Gei. We have no idea what this translates to, but it is like a dumpling with glass noodles inside. It is served with a soupy sauce. Not one of the things that we’ll rush back for a second try, but it was tasty and interesting.

 

There’s also another speciality called Dan Shui fish balls, which are actually fish balls with a meat filling within. This was also not another of those jump-for-joy moments, but definitely a must try if you’re in Dan Shui.

 

We also had a whole barbecued squid at one of the stalls along the main street, which was excellent. The tentacles were so crispy, and the squid was marinated with a good amount of spice.

 

 

Another street snack which we loved was the spring onion pancake. This we had from one of the street stalls (probably illegal) in Xi Men Ding. There are many choices of fillings you can have in your pancake. We went for the classic, and the egg, and on our last day we tried the curry filling. All of them were very good. The stall owner will fry your pancake on the spot, so you are guaranteed a piping hot, crispy pancake. It was almost like the roti-prata we find in Singapore that we love, so it was no wonder we kept going back for more of the pancake from this stall.

 

 

Another exciting find in Xi Men Ding was this stall selling fried assorted mushrooms. Now this was definitely an illegal stall. The owners of these illegal stalls operate on pushcarts, and when the police comes they flee and hide in the little side lanes around the night market. We have seen the police come on many occasions, but have never actually seen any stall get caught, even though it would be impossible not to outrun a pushcart. We figured hence that there is a silent agreement between the police and the illegal stalls, and indeed, we even saw the police patronize one of those stalls!

But anyway, this mushroom lady took our order and our money. While waiting for her to fry the mushrooms, the police arrived. Talk about good timing! Without a word, this mushroom lady fled the scene, pushcart and all, with the mushrooms still in the fryer and our money in her pocket! Naturally we followed her, and she eventually stopped in little lane, and very apologetically gave us our mushrooms, which were fried perfectly in that short time it took for her to flee. It was the most interesting episode indeed.

Cup noodles are amazing in Taiwan. When K went to Taiwan for the past 2 times, he was absolutely hooked on their cup noodles. It was his source of motivation while training in the jungles with the army. Whenever he went back to his bunk he and his mates would pig out on countless of those Taiwanese cup noodles. The most incredible thing about Taiwanese cup noodles is that they contain a packet of real meat in them. They come in flavours such as red spicy barbecued pork, spicy beef, etc. Every one of these comes with an accompanying packet of actual meat! The flavours are also very intense and satisfying. I can totally imagine a group of hungry army boys craving for these while they’re out roughing it out in some remote jungle.

Our hotel was more than aware of Singaporeans’ love for their Taiwanese cup noodles, and was quick to direct us to the nearest Carrefour where we could buy them by the cartons. Indeed, they see many guests who ship those cup noodles back by the cartons. In fact, while we were there, we saw many cartons of cup noodles sitting around at the reception, waiting to be delivered to the airport to be checked in, and flown home. We too jumped on the opportunity to buy some home, though not in such large quantities as our fellow very kiasu Singaporeans. These we brought over to London, and served us very well last winter, which was the coldest winter UK has seen in decades.

All in all, our trip in Taiwan has been all about food, food, and more food. We had a great time walking around the night markets and trying all sorts of street food and drink. We didn’t get a chance to fully explore though, and we only stayed in Taipei for our entire Taiwan leg. We will definitely be returning, to maybe go to other parts of Taiwan, and K definitely wants to make a trip to the famous Snake Alley to try some disgusting snake delicacy there. Watch this space!

Taiwan Street Foods (Taipei) II

All around the night markets you’ll find (sometimes illegal) stalls selling a variety of cold stewed meats.

Not surprisingly, these are also a favourite of K’s. He went on an ordering spree at one of these stalls, and had a mixture of meats and vegetables, including chicken feet, wings, livers, hearts, and some green beans, all mixed with some garlic and chilli. He loved it, and this was one of the things we brought back to our hotel room for supper one night.

We went to Taiwan in summer, so it was swelteringly hot. One day we walked past this obviously popular ice cream stall called Ice Monster and we went in. The first thing which caught our eye was this huge mango dessert which almost everyone was having. We had to have it. It was a huge bed of shaved ice, with a very generous amount of fresh mango and mango puree over the bed of shaved ice, all topped with a huge scoop of mango ice cream. It was simply mango heaven. Having this glorious bowl of shaved ice and ice cream on such a hot day was a real treat.

 

 

Another thing that you can have to refresh yourself in Taiwan on a hot summer’s day is this Lime and jelly drink. It is usually mixed in a large caldron and scooped to order. The tanginess of the lime is invigorating and the jelly is just something that brings us back to our childhoods, so we really enjoy this.

 

 

However, the best choice of beverage in Taiwan is the bubble tea. There are countless stalls selling bubble tea, but K insisted on us trying the one at the centre of Xi Men Ding very near where we stayed. This was the best bubble tea in his opinion. Indeed, while we tried bubble tea in many locations all around Taiwan, the one at this particular stall in Xi Men Ding was the best of them all. It was milky without being too overpowering, and it wasn’t too sweet so that the taste of the tea was lost. The pearls in the drink were also one of the best we’ve had, and they were chewy and not too sticky. I love the classic milk bubble tea, and K loves the yam milk tea.

On the opposite end of the refreshing spectrum, we had ma la huo guo (Spicy hot pot). It may seem odd to have spicy hot pot on a hot summer’s day, but the restaurant was air conditioned, so it was alright. The pot contained 2 different kinds of soup bases, a spicy soup base and a non-spicy soup base.

The spicy one was not too numbing, unlike the one we had in London, and allowed us to taste the meats properly. There was a wide selection of food we could choose to add in our hot pot, and we went for the usual meat balls, beef, prawns etc. However, the best part of the whole experience was the array of dipping sauces we could use to add flavour to our food. We loved the garlic and spring onion dip we concocted, and we almost ended up eating it by itself!

Taiwan Street Foods (Taipei) I

Taiwan is a land of many different kinds of night markets, and in them you find the most amazing variety of street foods. The different types of street food stalls vary, and you can definitely track the eating trends of the young in Taiwan by observing the snaking queues at the various stalls. The atmosphere in the night markets is something you have to experience to understand. We remember walking into a street with many pet stalls, and spent quite a long time oohing and ahhing at the cute little puppies for sale.

Anyway, back to the food. Here we will list some of the street foods in Taiwan that we tried. Most of them are found in almost every night market, but since K has been to Taiwan twice before, some of the street food we had were from stalls which he felt were the best. I’m not complaining, because this was the most exciting junk food excursion I’ve had in a while.

 

At Shilin Night Market, you’ll find a huge area dedicated to selling Taiwanese street food. Just at the entrance is a stall with a light blue signboard. At anytime of the day you go there will be a very long queue, so it’s impossible to miss.

What they serve is proudly written all over the blue board: Extra, Extra Large Chicken Chop.

We chose to have chili powder on our chicken chop (yes, we are huge fans of spice), as recommended by K of course, and it was indeed a very large piece of chicken. It would be quite alarming to imagine the size of the chicken where this chicken chop came from, but I don’t like to have mental images of my food source so I can enjoy my food properly. Anyway, the chicken chop was so big that it couldn’t be properly contained in the paper bag it was served in. The meat was amazingly tender and flavourful, and the chilli powder gave it a very nice spicy kick to it. (Note: do not inhale the chilli powder, accidental or otherwise, as it will give you a very unpleasant coughing fit.)

Right next to this stall is another stall selling Taiwanese sausages. Taiwanese sausages are a favourite of K’s, and these were so large they almost looked like the super long German bratwurst you get in Berlin Christmas markets.

There is a special snack called “Small sausage wrapped in big sausage”, which is descriptive enough for you to guess what it is. The big sausage isn’t quite a sausage, but more of rice shaped like sausage, that plays the role of the bun for the sausage to go into. It definitely sounded more novel than it looked, but nevertheless, it was a very interesting snack to have when you’re in Shilin.

 

 

If you take a walk into the food section of Shilin you’ll find a stall selling this interesting sounding thing called “Small biscuit wrapped in big biscuit”. There seems to be a trend going on with wrapping things in themselves.

Anyway, this was exactly as it says, which is a biscuit wrapped in another biscuit, that is almost tortilla-like. The result is a very dry and large biscuit. This we did not like, though K’s mom insisted we had to try it when we went to Taiwan. It was too dry and tasteless – definitely not worth spending your calories on.

Further on, you will find a multitude of stalls selling Taiwanese oyster omelette. We love the Singaporean version of this dish, so we were very excited to try the Taiwanese version. However, we much prefer the Singaporean version, which is crispier. The Taiwanese version is quite soggy and we didn’t like the ketchup-y sauce that was poured over it.

 

 

At the same market, there’s a stall selling all sorts of barbecue meats and vegetables.

K loves foods like these, so he went on an ordering spree at this stall. He had the chicken livers and hearts and chicken skins, squid, and this interesting sounding thing called “tian bu la”, which literally means “sweet not spicy”, and is supposedly named to sound like “tempura”. Well, tempura it definitely isn’t since it’s not fried and there’s no batter involved. However, it is indeed sweet and very delicious. K insists that there’s a better version that is fried, and we managed to find it at a stall in Xi Men Ding. The fried version was indeed very good, but I prefer the grilled version. Needless to say, K prefers the fried version. The other sticks of barbecued meats we had were also very good. We loved the sauce that was spread generously over the meats while they were grilled.

There is a popular snack that is very common in the region that you either hate or you love. It is “smelly beancurd”. It doesn’t sound appetising at all, and it is indeed smelly, as advertised.

You can smell it a mile away, and K compares the smell to that of unwashed dirty socks. However, it is actually very delicious. I’ve had it in HK before, so I was curious to try the Taiwanese version. I found the Taiwanese version much smellier than the HK version, and it is served with a generous amount of sauce that is almost like a soup. The HK version is served fried and crispy, and I tend to prefer that over the Taiwan version.

Ah Zhong mian xian

While we were in Taiwan we stayed at the Rainbow Hotel, which was at Xi Men Ding. Just around the corner was this wonderful stall selling vermicelli noodles, Ah Zhong Mian Xian. K had been to Taiwan twice already, and he was very excited to go to Ah Zhong Mian Xian to have their vermicelli noodles again. After checking in, we went hurriedly around the block to this shop.

There is no seating room at Ah Zhong Mian Xian, and there is only one thing on the menu. If you choose to have your noodles at the shop, your noodles will be served in a plastic or ceramic bowl, and since there is no sitting room, you stand around and slurp your noodles while trying not to scald yourself, or spill any on your shopping. It’s quite an amazing sight watching everyone stand around with their faces buried in their bowls. It also makes for very good advertisement for Ah Zhong Mian Xian, though they probably don’t need it – they’re famous enough.

This vermicelli is the smooth silky kind, which mixes together with the soup so each individual strand of vermicelli is almost indistinguishable from the soup. K loves this kind of vermicelli, and I’ve to admit, so do I now. When it’s served it’s scaldingly hot, and we love mixing some vinegar and garlic chili sauce into the noodles to give it an even greater fiery kick. There are little chewy bits of pig stomach in the bowl as well, which I personally don’t like, but K loves. We can’t emphasize how wonderful the vermicelli at Ah Zhong Mian Xian is; all we can say is that we had it at least once a day when we were in Taiwan, sometimes twice. I remember taking away a large bowl and heading back to our hotel room late one night to have it for supper, together with some other street food we bought that evening – ah, the memories.

Food: 7.5/10