Taiwan // Day 2: A day full of surprises
It’s me again, Aki!
It’s Day 2 in Taiwan, a day with so much unexpected fun in Taipei city. Let’s go with me on my day trip to Jiufen Old Street, and a full-on food battle at Raohe Night Market by night!
Places mentioned in the article:
青島豆漿店 - Traditional breakfast Restaurant near Dongmen Station Jiufen Old Street (九份老街) Jiufen Teahouse (九份茶坊) Raohe Night Market (饒河夜)
Day 2 – A day full of surprises.
Planning a trip is quite uneasy at the time climate change is taking place at every corner of the world.
Springtime in Taiwan is supposed not to have much rain and a strongly-recommended period for travelers to visit the country. I guess, I and other fellows at the time was not lucky enough or the rain is an extra element to make my trip in Taiwan more fun and adventurous.
I was expecting the rain to stop overnight as it was raining cats and dogs on the first day, but it did not. We, Vietnamese, tell a funny joke whenever things go south with our partying and hangouts that “The rain is no enemy to the merriment” – “Ăn chơi không sợ mưa rơi!”. Well, it seemed it was the best time for me to have that spirit in mind, I decided to go out and explore Taipei city despite the heavy rain pouring down for hours.
Keep in mind that the rain will be your unexpected travel companion when you come to Taiwan. 🙂
// Traditional Breakfast at 青島豆漿店
Nothing is better than warming up the day by filling your tummy with something warm and satisfying. With the strong influence of mainland Chinese cuisine, Taiwan would not disappoint you by any means with its traditional breakfast. Wondering why? It’s simply because breakfast is a big thing in the oriental culinary culture. You can have so little for dinner but you got to have a big meal for breakfast.
Taiwanese people are so creative in the way they create different dishes for breakfast. Options have no limit that it’s such a headache for me, and for Taiwanese people as well, I believe, to choose what I should have for breakfast.
Breakfast in Taiwan could be divided into two sections: traditional and western fusion. The traditional style has Fried bread and Oven Baked Cake(燒餅油條), Egg Pancakes (蛋餅), Steamed Bread with Eggs (燒餅夾蛋), Rice Balls (飯糰), and porridge (粥) with different side dishes. Meanwhile, the western style offers hamburgers, fried chicken, Taiwanese rice bun burgers, packed meals from the convenience stores.
※Here are a few places you may want to visit for a traditional breakfast in Taipei:
Fuhang Soy Milk – Fu Hang Dou Jiang (阜杭豆漿)
Signature dish: Fluffy thick-layered oven-baked egg cake Address: 100, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongzheng District, Section 1, Zhongxiao East Road, 108號2樓 Opening hours: Sunday ~ Saturday / 5:30AM - 12:30PM. Monday / closed
Signature dish: Pork Floss Egg Rolls Address: No. 102號, Section 2, Fuxing South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106 Opening hours: Everyday 24 hours
Signature Dish: burgers, sandwiches, and, pancakes Address: No. 17號, Taoyuan Street, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100 (There are other branches all over the city) Opening hours: Monday ~ Saturday / 6:00AM - 2:00PM. Sunday / Closed
Signature Dish: Clay-grilled leek dumpling and salty soy milk soup/xian dou jiang with you tiao Address: No. 139-3, Section 1, Hangzhou South Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100 Opening hours: Monday ~ Saturday / 5:30–11:30 AM. Sunday / Closed
As for me, because the last option, 青島豆漿店, was the closest by train, and their menu offers clay-grilled dumplings and salty soy milk soup/xian dou jiang, something that I haven’t ever seen in my own country, I could not hold back my curiosity to go for a big yummy breakfast there.
Fortunately enough, there was only a small crowd waiting in front of the restaurant when I arrived. Besides clay-grilled leek-stuffed dumplings and salty soy milk soup, they do serve other dishes as well, such as flat wheat bread, savory egg roll, youtiao, and pepper pork bun. Ordering might be a bit difficult at first as the staffs are quite busy going around the shop doing their own work. You may need to attract their attention for a few minutes and order real fast before other guests coming next.
The restaurant owners have done thoughtful touch for their foreign customers by providing the whole menu in Chinese, Japanese and English.
Despite the fact that the modern Taiwanese cuisines are generally perceived as “salty-sweet”, which has been formed by the mixture of the local indigenous flavors and waves of outside culinary culture, I personally feel that Taiwanese food has quite a mild flavor.
However, with the fine texture, handfuls of fresh and herbal ingredients included, such as leek, basil, garlic, and green onion, combined with various types of side sauce such as black vinegar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chilly sauce, Taiwanese cuisine turns out amazingly balanced in many ways.
Take a nibble of that leek dumpling with some soy sauce on top, it would be such an unacceptable act to leave any piece left on the plate. Freshly out of the clay oven, the dumpling has a crunchy thick-layered dough on the outside and baking hot hearty filling on the inside. Fresh leeks, green onion, glass noodle, minced pork from this heavenly treat may fuel you well enough for a good new day.
If the leek dumpling is a bit dry, here they got the homemade soy milk with a smooth foamy consistency for you to sweep everything down ;).
Soy milk is a familiar soft drink in South East Asia and East Asia. The drink is a delightful substitute for cow milk in Asia, considering the fact that there are many Asians suffering from lactose intolerance. The moment that I found out Taiwan has a dish named Salty soy milk soup – 鹹豆漿 (xian dou jiang), it totally blew up my mind. In Vietnam, we usually serve it cold with a bit of sugar, having it side by side with a ‘banh mi’ – Vietnamese sandwiches, steamed bun, sweet treats, or we just drink it hot on a cold day. If you have ever told a Vietnamese person about a soup made from soy milk and it’s salty, they will squint at you with confusion for a few seconds.
Back in Taiwan, it was a chilly morning when I visited 青島豆漿店. What a perfect time to have a warm bowl of soup, isn’t it? Xian dou jiang is simply fresh soy milk with a coagulant – the vinegar, added to induce curdling. It is served hot with various condiments and toppings, a few pieces of youtiao – lightly salty fried dough (savory cruller), green onion, minced pork, or translucent dried shrimp.
Observing the xian dou jiang server doing their job at the restaurant is no different from feasting your eyes on a food show. Everything moves fast with people going in and out constantly. For one bowl of salty soy milk soup, the server pours some sesame oil into the bottom of a deep bowl, sluices on the dou jiang from a nice height, sprinkles all the flavorful condiments one by one on top and then tops it with the amazing fatty laijiao (chilly oil).
A spoonful of xian dou jiang may look like baby food with all the toppings mixed up together, but it’s definitely one of the most comforting soups you may ever have for breakfast. Enjoy the bowl leisurely, as curdled soy milk can be extremely hot for the very first few minutes.
Filling my tummy with all the yummy food, I was ready to get going with my exploring journey in Taipei city!
// Shifen Old Town (十份老街)
The Dark Side of Flying Sky Lanterns – Goldthread. Nov 2, 2018
My original plan was to spend a day in Shifen Old Town and Jiufen Old Street, due to some specific reasons, it shifted onto a different path.
Acknowledged on the situation of the sky lantern plague and overrated sightseeing information of Shifen Old Town, without a second thought, I decided to only visit Jiufen Old Street for the day. Many may not be educated about the dark sides of the sky lantern business. These beautiful cultural representatives are imposing unexpected environmental hazards wherever they fall off. One lantern that you set off to the sky may grant your wishes, whereas it poses a nightmare on the local community from the surrounding areas.
The lanterns are highly likely to release residual dyes and heavy metals that endanger the habitats of both humans and animals. For the recent years, both indigenous people and foreign volunteers have been endeavoring sedulously to clean up all the plastic lanterns in the forest, on the highway, and, unthinkably, on houses’ rooftop.
Please be a thoughtful and responsible person, before being a tourist.
// Jiufen Old Street (九份老街)
Finished my breakfast, I walked back to Dongmen station to get on the MRT train going straight to Beimen station, then took the express bus No. 965 to Jiufen Old Street, which took only 1 hour and 15 minutes. It was enough time for me to take a short nap before walking up and down the staircases in the ancient town.
The rain followed me all the way to Jiufen. Cloudy sky, slippery ground tiles, and the gently sweet greetings from the specialty shops are my first impressions of Jiufen. Being an introvert, I did not let myself expect too much from a place in which so many people have stopped by and exaggerated the worth of the destination itself. Jiufen was not an exception. It’s still best to feel one place by your own observation and experiences.
In luck, the charms of Jiufen touched my heart memorably. Even though the townspeople commercialized the town by putting up shops by shops, Jiufen still managed to remain its quintessential traits.
The narrow alleys. The unlighted staircases. The tempting smells from cookeries.
The historic buildings. The people.
They all made Jiufen special differently.
My main motivation for coming to Jiufen is not only the sceneries but also the teahouses. I’m a tea-holic, it would be quite unreasonable for me not to sit down and enjoy a cup of Taiwanese tea.
Taiwan is famous for making some of the finest teas in the world, especially in the Oolong tea category. The name and features of local tea are not yet widely known. High Mountain Oolong Tea, Jin Xuan “Milk” Oolong Tea, Dong Ding Oolong Tea, Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea, etc. While High Mountain Oolong Tea has a fresh, floral, vegetal, and pastry notes, smooth and lasting aftertaste, Jin Xuan “Milk” Oolong Tea has a surprisingly sweet, buttery aroma, as well as a soothing milky character.
※Here are amazing spots that you could enjoy early-morning or afternoon tea in Jiufen:
Jiufen's iconic structures. The magnificent view of the town. Food and tea set available. Address: 224, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Ruifang District, 市下巷20號 Opening hour: Every day // 8:30 AM ~ 11:00PM
Interior space with antique tea-making bars. Tea rooms combined with tea gallery, workshop room, and tea shop. Tea savoring service (Table for group & Counter for individuals). The shop room is always warmer than the outside due to the constantly boiling kettle at the tea bar. Address: No. 142, Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224 Opening hour: Every day // 10:30 AM ~ 9:00 PM
Modern, minimalist interior design. Cozy, calm, and heartwarming atmosphere. Outdoor + Indoor seats available. Beautiful view over the mountains and the sea slope. Signature dish: Hakka Pounded Tea - a mixture of tea leaves with grains and herbs Address: No. 166號, Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224 Opening hours: Every day // 11:00 AM ~ 7:00 PM
// Jiufen Teahouse (九份茶坊)
As I had already had breakfast before reaching Jiufen, I had to leave A-mei Teahouse, which is famous for its breakfast and tea set, aside. Reading tons of reviews, checking their menu and walking past both places on my way a few times, it was a pretty hard decision to choose between Jiufen Teahouse and Siidcha. Both places offer such a pleasant atmosphere.
It was raining cold and I could not help having any more second thoughts about where to go. Seeing the hot steam of the teakettles at Jiufen Teahouse from the outside, I closed my umbrella and stepped inside their antique tea room.
The staff at the teahouse welcomed me with a warm greeting. As I was coming in by myself, I settled into the counter seat. Even though there were a few groups of people sitting inside the shop, the place was embracing itself with great resilience. Everyone was doing their best to respect and behold the peacefulness of the space and enjoying their tea to the fullest.
Sitting down at the counter, I got to see so many types of tea arranged on the tea bar, far more than I had expected. About 30 types of tea were exhibited and on sale at the teahouse, according to the tea server of the place.
The staff who provided the tea savoring service to me was a lovely lady. Knowing that I was coming all the way from Tokyo, she felt regretful that she could not learn Japanese better though she adores the language so much. As the tea was served, she talked excitedly her love for tea, from planting to production, then how to serve tea in the ways that best preserve the freshness and the taste of the tea.
The tea lady showed me how dried tea leaves look like in Taiwan, how they transform with hot water pouring in, and how the taste turns amazingly different by time.
I got to try the Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea, the High Mountain Oolong Tea and another kind that I could not memorize its name. They all tasted so light, florally or honey-ish with a lasting aftertaste, which was like a complete miracle.
Having some cups of Taiwanese tea really did broaden my horizon that I could not help taking two packs of Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea back home with me. The price was not so pleasant actually with the lowest was NT$600 / 20USD for 2 packs of 75 grams of Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea. Yet, I’m convinced that the price would be worth it if you only visit the place once in a while. We usually get bored with things we have/do constantly for a long period, do we? Nonetheless, despite the small amount per pack, one pack can be enough for you to have for at least 2 months.
After the tea session, I decided to walk around, taking a look at the gallery and other tea rooms in the basement of Jiufen Teahouse. Besides selling tea, the place was also exhibiting tea sets of different styles for sale. It was an overwhelming feeling to see that people could be so creative with designing tea sets, majestic style, elegant style to minimalist style, they all got it.
There are several tea tables for big groups in the basement of the teahouse as well. As Jiufen is an old town on a mountain, the lower floor of Jiufen Teahouse is not an underground basement. There are a few tables set up right next to windows viewing the beautiful sceneries of the Jiufen area. You don’t need to climb high at A-Mei teahouse or Siidcha to get such a nice view of this antique city, wouldn’t it be nice?
Spending a few hours at Jiufen Teahouse relaxing my soul and body with hearty cups of tea, I walked back to the narrow road of Jiufen Old Town to get some yummy local delicacies.
I’m more of a savory food when it comes to snacking after main meals, so I got myself a warm bowl of fishball soups, which was incredibly tender with different flavors and fillings; and a salty-sweet grilled Taiwanese sausage, which was so balanced, not too salty not too sweet. There are so many other dishes to try as well, but I needed to save my tummy from overload and, of course, for another food battle at night at Raohe Night Market as well. 😉
Even though most of the shops at Jiufen are specialty shops, which mainly sell things in packages, many of them offer indoor seats or to-go food packs. Taro balls and sweet potato balls dessert, choux creme, egg tarts, bubble milk tea, duck dishes, beef noodle soup and many many other foods for us to choose from. Have fun with your food adventure at Jiufen Old Street!
// Afternoon Rest
I actually got lost while finding the right bus to get to Jiufen Old Street in the morning, which took me extra 2.5 hours to finally arrive at Jiufen after breakfast. I was so exhausted after the bus 1062 dropped me off at Songshan station on the way back, I could not stand going anywhere but back to the hostel for a short rest before heading out again at night.
On the way back to the hostel, I got a little distracted by a small Taiwanese bakery, namely ‘吳師父 東北大餅’ near Raohe Night Market, which serves tons of savory-looking bread. I decided to get some and try it for breakfast the next morning. Of course, I got myself a cup of iced tea to get refreshed as well. Taking a short nap, I went back to Raohe Night Market for dinner.
It’s foodie time!!!
// Raohe Night Market (饒河夜市)
It was a calm night at Raohe Night Market. I guess, due to the rain and the weekday time, not many people were coming to the market for a fun night.
I got told by my friends, who just visited Taiwan and stopped by every single night market in Taipei city, that Raohe Night Market is the best and most worth visiting for food in Taipei. That night, coming home from the night market, I did give my friend credit for her recommendations. I enjoyed my time so much that I did not feel hungry at all the next morning 😂
If you have watched/read enough online reviews and local recommendations, you would definitely know this famous bun, The Black Pepper Pork Bun. I was lucky enough that there was only a short line at the stall, which is located right at the beginning of the market. I got my bun only 2 minutes after standing in the line.
NT$45, and you got a freshly-out-of-the-oven bun. Crunchy dough with fine texture, and peppery juicy meaty fillings in just one bite. Having this on a rainy night?! That’s literally heaven in your mouth. Seeing people standing next to each other under one roof, trying to take little bites of the red-hot pork bun, and chatting to each other, it was really a pleasing scene for someone who traveled solo like me.
Hundreds of stalls with an abundance of food to try, people coming to Raohe might not be decisive enough to choose which one to eat. The market offers the most staggering variety of grilled, fried, steamed, torched, skewered, and candied dishes. Though it was not a crowded night at all, people still had to compete against each other for spaces, wriggle through the narrow endless alley of food vendors while scanning for their next targets.
※Recommended dishes at Raohe Night Market:
- Black Pepper Pork Bun (must try!)
- Aiyu and Grass Jelly
- Stinky Tofu
- Deep-fried Mushrooms
- Pink Guava
- Chicken-Organs and Stewed Food Skewers
- Peanut Candy Iced Cream
After an hour or two inside Taipei’s best night market, it’s understandable to emerge exhausted, overstimulated, and achingly full. Yet, you can’t resist stopping the food hunt too soon. It’s a non-stop hunger game!
That’s it for Day 2. I hope you have had a good time with my sharing this time.
Please stay tuned for an update on the next few days of my trip to Taiwan.
Check out my other posts about this solo trip in Taiwan here:
Taiwan // A full-on 6-day solo itinerary in Taiwan - Day 1 Taiwan // A full-on 6-day solo itinerary in Taiwan - Day 3 Taiwan // A full-on 6-day solo itinerary in Taiwan - Day 4 - Stay tuned Taiwan // A full-on 6-day solo itinerary in Taiwan - Day 5 - Stay tuned Taiwan // What to expect: Language, Culture, and Eatery Taiwan // What to expect: Planning the trip and Reviews
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