Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Eat Shop Blog: Taipei chapter 1

Unlike the rest of Taiwan, Taipei is one of the more developed areas in the country. Nevertheless, it remains home to some of the most popular gastronomical delights in the nation. So while others plan their travel itinerary around sightseeing spots, I (proudly) planned my around food spots. :)

The MUST-EAT spots:

1. Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wang (永和豆浆大王)
102 Fuxing South Road, Section 2

Located within walking distance from Da An Station, this place serves up great breakfast fare at really economical prices. The sweet soybean milk here is thicker than what we have in Singapore, and you can request that they add less sugar to yours. There's also the salty version which we don't get in Singapore, topped with pork floss, chunks of fried dough fritters, small dried shrimp and some other yummy stuff I couldn't really decipher.

The fried dough fritters wrapped in flat bread is also one of the highlights here. The flat bread wasn't oily, so it managed to mask the oily smell of the fried fritter. Dip it into the soybean milk for an extra oomph. It was so delightful, my family decided to have a second helping of this.

Do also give the Xiao Long Baos and glutinous rice roll a try if you're really hungry.

2. Du Xiao Yue Dan Zai Noodles (度小月担仔面)
Within walking distance from Zhong Xiao Fu Xing Station

Apparently, this brand name has been around since 1895 (or as honed by the signboard). Thankfully, it lived up to its street name as one of the best go-to eateries for Dan Zai noodles. The noodles are freshly cooked at a small counter just beside the door, so you could witness the entire process of your noodles being cooked. The noodles were really springy, and the saltiness of the sauce was just right. I don't eat meat, but I enjoyed the noodles alone. Must-must-must eat.

My parents ordered the braised meat rice and a braised duck egg to share, since we were a little apprehensive about braised duck eggs - we seldom get fresh duck eggs in Singapore. Surprisingly, the egg tasted similar to our normal braised chicken egg. My parents and siblings loved the braised meat rice, which was covered in a generous portion of braised mince pork. For those who wish to try the rice without the meat, you could simply dig your spoon into the bowl and scoop out the bottom-most rice with the sauce (and without the meat). Simply delicious.

For the vegetarians and pescetarians, the menu has a good variety of vegetable dishes.

Stir-fried bamboo shoot with black fungus - refreshing

Braised water tofu - melts in your mouth

Broiled wild veg - crunchy and refreshing

steamed egg custard - not a must-eat, but vegetarians will approve of it
Oh, and the meat lovers will appreciate this so much more than I will - Du Xiao Yue serves up a mean version of their braised pork trotters.

Braised pork trotters with peanuts - drool on

3. Rao He Night Market

There's too much to eat at this night market. While I did pay other other bigger night markets like Shilin and Shida a visit, Raohe has got to be my favourite. Apart from the neat and clean organization of the entire place, the food sold here seem to belong solely to this quaint little street.

Raohe Night Market is marked by distinctive, brightly-lit signboards. This Hu Jiao biscuit is stationed just at the the other end of the market, and is easily identifiable by its... long queue. The baked pastry is about the size of your palm, and comes with a crispy sesame topped pastry crust and a savoury pork filling. The two we bought were polished off in a couple of minutes - it was that good. As to why it's called Hu Jiao Bing (or loosely translated to 'pepper biscuit'), I have no idea. Someone enlighten me?

Mini meat dumplings
If you're looking for bite-sized goodies, my parents gave this the thumbs-up. The skin of the meat dumplings are browned to a slight crisp, and they smell just heavenly. We took a second helping back to the hotel for supper. :P

For the weight-conscious, look for this stall that makes mini dorayaki. This guy was so good at it, he could pour enough batter to form perfect round circles of equal size and distance from each other. You can choose from a variety of fillings, including red bean paste, custard pudding, tiramisu, vanilla cream, hazelnut and honey.

And just to emphasize bite-size, here's what you get:

Clockwise from right: red bean paste, custard pudding, tiramisu

Another great find at Rao He were the Japanese pancakes, both sweet and savoury.

Japanese Okos
 The okonomiyaki found at Rao He came in the form of an inch-thick pancake filled with all types of goodness - chopped cabbage, seafood, cheese, ham bits... Small eaters would find finishing one whole okos a chore.

Gary, anyone?
While I didn't buy the Spongebob cartoon character-shaped pancakes, those who are adventurous can give it a try. It is, however, too small to contain any filling, the stall lady said. We did buy the pancakes with chocolate cheese filling and egg filling. Yes, a whole chicken egg cracked into the pancake as the filling. The result?

This reminds me fondly of MacDonalds' breakfast McMuffins without the meat; the egg remains soft and fluffy, with a hint of black pepper. Awesomeness.

Chocolate and cheese pancake
You can't get this in Singapore - pancake with chocolate and cheese filling. The chocolate is sweetened just very slightly, and the cheese is warm and soft. The moment the chocolate-cheese filling oozed out of the pancake, it's pure ecstasy.

Of course, what is Taiwanese street food escapade without deep-fried smelly beancurd?

My family had two servings of this because it was simply TOO GOOD. My dad reckoned that it was better than the smelly beancurd at Shilin. For those risk-adverse people, COME ON. Life is too short to miss out on good food. Good smelly beancurd will never TASTE smelly. What really makes or breaks the deal is the spicy garlic sauce dripped into the center of every piece of beancurd. If you'd just make the leap of faith, I promise an experience without regrets.

You can also read: Eat Shop Blog: Taipei chapter 2

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