The infamous Markham “Night It Up!” festival with long stinky tofu lines is THIS WEEKEND (July 12 to 14, 2013)!!! I wish stinky tofu was available everywhere :P
Unfortunately for Conan, he got sick for a day and had to spend it at the hotel while I ventured out to taste Taiwan.
Fortunately for me, I wasn’t alone and spent time with some hardcore foodies. And let me tell you, they were foodies. They ate and ate and ate, and then ate some more! I could not keep up – it was insane city! Although I had the day to myself, I was quite uninspired to take pictures of everything I ate because I was worried about Conan and it just wasn’t the same without him :(
BUT I DID TAKE PICTURES AT SHILIN NIGHT MARKET!!!
The Shinlin night market is probably the most famous night market in Taipei. I was talking to a friend, Barry, and I was complaining about how disappointed I was (long story) and he told me that I had to go to the Shilin night market, and so there I was.
This place was different than the other night markets I had gone to so far. This place had GAMES! It was the Asian version of the midway. I’m serious! They had water shooting games, dart games etc and you could won prizes of all sorts! I didn’t partake in any of them because I wasn’t feeling it and because I hate winning stuffed animal prizes! ;) I really didn’t have room in my luggage to carry those things back to Hong Kong! And of course, this place was packed with food vendors…PACKED.
You would never see something like this in North America – it’d be too “unhygienic”, it wouldn’t meet “codes” and all that jazz; but again, you’d never eat such great street food in North America either.
They had this one fried chicken place that sold fried boneless chicken, so you could hold it in a bag and eat a chicken while walking and enjoying other sights. It was crazy! I had a bite…it was good! I’d dare say, better than Popeye’s…and I love Popeye’s! And like I said, there were lots of food vendors and some of them would have their special ingredients lined up to be cooked. In the picture below you can see they had things like shrimp, crab and even pigs liver out for all to gander at before ordering and eating.
A trip to Taiwan is not complete without having some bonafide pearl milk bubble tea. So my friend Michael’s uncle got one for each of us. YUM! Except it wasn’t the best. Apparently there was a place that had better bubble tea near our hotel. Too bad :( For those who are not familiar with the bubble tea, the traditional bubble tea is similar to the Hong Kong milk tea, which is just black tea with milk and of course, tapioca. There are different kinds and flavours, but we were in it for the pearl milk bubble tea.
The other picture is just a random picture of one of the dishes we ate that night. Just some fried rice noodles. Umm…they weren’t that great actually, but it was the last picture I took before I started to kinda chow down on dinner (I was really full!).
Ok these were also pretty cool – but I wasn’t a big fan of them. It’s a whole potato, in a continuous slice that was fried and then seasoned – so a really big potato chip! I think it was more of a novelty than something you thought tasted amazing! It was cool, but difficult to eat.
I suppose that this night market would’ve been pretty good on a normal day, but by this time I had eaten so much food in Taiwan, that I simply just didn’t want to eat anymore! Which meant I didn’t really enjoy my time there as much as I probably would’ve. This is also coupled by the fact that they only had squatting toilets there, so I was trying really hard not to eat or drink too much :P
Taiwan is famous for many things and what I hear most about Taiwan when my friends and family go there is its street food and night market. Many go there just to eat and I definitely saw why that was!
Our first stop in Taiwan was in this small, sleepy mountain town called 九份 (Jioufen). Now it’s a huge toursity place, but still charming!
So while I was chowing down on some stinky tofu that Conan didn’t seem to enjoy, he bought himself some fried shrimp balls on a stick for $50NT – which IMO was a bit pricy since I got my tofu for $30NT! :P Regardless, he thought they were pretty good, “crunchy on the outside and shrimpy on the inside.” I thought they were pretty tasty too! Reminded me of takoyaki @ Guu.
Taiwan is also known for their variety of produce. One of my all time favourite fruits is Guava!!! SOOO GOOD! We bought a bag of pre-cut Guava with salt. Although I don’t think Guava needs salt, apparently the Taiwanese love eating Guava this way and it’s quite common to put the salt on. I think it mutes the taste of the Guava a bit!
Tofu was basically everywhere. Just a picture of the different kinds of tofu they were selling!
There’s another fruit they had there. I’ve had it in Canada as well, but I don’t remember what it was called. It’s red (as you can see) and it’s crunchy and extremely juicy! It was sooo good and refreshing to have! It sorta has a texture similar to star fruit…it’s not like anything you’d get in North America.
Then that night we went to a night market in Taiwan and everyone was excited to try these “famous noodles” – Ah Chung (which is just a very informal nickname of, I’m assuming, the owner). There’s a nice success story behind this “Ah Chung’s noodle” place. It’s not uncommon to see food carts along streets in Asia, and “Ah Chung” started as a lowly street cart vendor. They gained fame and popularity through their street noodle. The noodles are, apparently, quite unique. They are thin noodles, kind of like Angel hair pasta but flat, in thick soup base made from a variety of things, but most prominently, pieces of pig intestine. You can see some pieces in the picture. On top of that, like a North American hot dog, you can add your own condiments to it – chilli sauce, soy sauce, fried onions, green onions, minced garlic, vinegar etc. Anyway, it became so famous and popular, they moved it to it’s current store front location. It’s still old school-eat-on-street place, long line-ups and quick service.
Since everyone was talking about the noodles and the line was long, Conan and I decided to go try it. I mean why not? We tried it. I wasn’t a big fan of it. Actually I didn’t think it was that good at all. Conan felt the same. We actually didn’t even finish our small bowl! Although the taste experience was a bit disappointing, I do have to commend the Taiwanese for being so conservative! This is at the end of the day, a street vendor, a fast food joint, but EVERYONE used washable bowls, chopsticks and spoons. You get your bowl of noodles with a spoon and chopsticks, you eat, then you put your dirty dishes in a bin and someone washes them. No waste. It was a fresh change to the way things are done here in North America!
After our very unsatisfactory run-in with Ah B, Conan and I wandered around the night market frantically searching for something that we wanted to eat. There were LOTS, but nothing really appealed to us. Then out of desperation and lure of cuteness, I wandered into Mister Donut.
Mister Donut was originally an American chain and Dunkin’s top competitor – until Dunkin’s bought up the Mister Donut chains and changed all the names to Dunkin’ – save a very few that still exist in the US. Years later, some other company bought the rights and started to franchise across Japan and Asia – where we ended up. So of course, we tried it!
I picked the double green tea donut. AND LET ME TELL YOU – IT WAS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!! It wasn’t nasty like the donuts you get in North America. Not nasty as in super sugary on top of sugar fried sugar. This was not too sweet and you could actually taste the green tea!!! It was very satisfying!!!!!! YUMMM!!!
Perhaps for some a donut would be enough for dinner, but it wasn’t for Conan and I! And I was DETERMINED to have some authentic Taiwanese beef noodle! Luckily for us, I secured the directions to a street not far from where we were that were lined with these sketchy looking noodle places that served only beef noodle. Needless to say, we got there quick and picked a random noodle joint that appeared to be popular.
Why did I go out of my way to have Taiwanese beef noodle? Or more specifically, why do I love Taiwanese beef noodle? Several reasons(!):
- The Noodle: it’s thick and chewy, think fresh. Sometimes the noodles are thinner, but thick is good!
- The Soup Base: it’s not just beef soup base, it’s more than that! I think my favourite part of it is the sweet star anise that comes out ever so slightly amongst the dark thick soy and beef flavours – *drools just thinking about it
- The Beef: Shank, it’s like fall off the bone, melt in your mouth meat. Except there aren’t any bones. If there were bones, I probably wouldn’t like this dish as much as I do. Anyone who knows me knows I hate eating meat off of bones – too much work.
Now you all know why and you can’t ever pass up the chance to have the beef noodle where it’s so famously named after!
Conan and I sat down at this table. This place looked and felt ghetto. It was a cold night and this place was steaming. There were gigantic open bowls of chilli oil sauce and other unidentifiable orange stuff (not sure what it was). Little plastic stools under fold-up tables. Our bowl of noodles came and we inhaled it.
It was AMAZING!!!! Soo good that the memory of it’s awesomeness makes me hungry despite the fact I’m sooo full right now =9
BUT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE! Conan and I went back to the night market and had ourselves Taiwan’s famous SHAVED ICE!!!!!!!!
Some might say “Dude, isn’t this just an ice cone in a bowl?” HELLS NO IT AIN’T!!!!!! IT’S SOOOO MUCH MORE SUPERIOR!!!!
It’s iced coconut milk, shaved finely and topped with unbelievably awesome fruits and sauces. One of my favourite toppings – condensed milk. MMMMMMMMM!!! Also a very well-known fact among my family members, I love STRAWBERRIES and MANGOES – so this was the perfect dessert – shaved ice with strawberries, mango and condensed milk!!!! HEAVEN!!! We also inhaled this quickly. So.G-D.Delicous.
Taiwan has good food.
Next time – When Conan gets sick and I brave Taipei on my own! Well, almost alone…:P