Thursday, June 20, 2013

Taipei - February's rain & my street food discovery

Taiwan is one of a few countries in Asia where I've been only once. I wish to come back there but not in February! My first trip to Taiwan was in that month, a few days after Lunar New Year. And it was raining all the times during my stay. From the day I arrived, the rain accompanied me until my very last day.
After the train from the airport to Taipei, how long I had to wait at the entrance of the metro station, without umbrella or raincoat, I was standing there nearly half an hour, tried to figure out what I should do as the rain seemed never stop! Then I had no choice to carry my luggage along the street in the rain to look for my hotel. There was a very kind lady who asked me to join under her umbrella while across a boulevard. I was not lucky with the weather but leave it, the rain aside, my time in Taipei was full of many surprises and very nice discoveries.

                A fruit stall in Ximending - a trendy shopping area in downtown of Taipei, esp. for the youth

               The rain follows every my step - from the breakfast, not far from Taipei 101 tower...

    my walk late at night in downtown Ximending. 

Every morning I passed by this passage, as it's the way from my hotel to the metro station, but only in the last day I found a best Chinese big bun stall here. It was a very good bun filled with veggies, so fresh, so soft, so flavourful. Before my trip to Taipei, I did some online research and planned everything: where to go, what to do, what to eat...but then due to the wet weather, everything turned upside down: some night markets I planned to visit were closed, I had to stay longer in the mall, to hide from the rain and it damaged my wallet when I couldn't keep only window shopping. I spent 400 USD for the jacket that later I rarely wear, another few hundreds for some home decor items.

          Shilin night market, only 2 stations away from my hotel, so I almost came here every night.

           Giant bitter melon, I guess they do some tea or juice (?) from this fruit, I didn't try...

            but I tried this aiyu jelly, a cool drink with shaved ice, jelly, lemonade - super fresh! 

           The famous oyster omelet at Shilin night market - one of those must-try food here...

             Little sausage inside big sausage - the white one was sticky rice sausage...

In Shilin market I first found the "little sausage inside big sausage", the big sausage made of sticky rice and the little one - of pork, so the big rice sausage is stuffed in a pork sausage, exactly same as the hot dog. I tried it. Very tasty, very oily but it's worth to try in this night market and it reminds me a rice burger - a new food creation by a young Vietnamese in Hanoi.

              Hard to imagine how big this sausage as no comparison, it's very big, bigger than the corn... 

              The caramel corn covered with sesame, look at the device how they roast the corn, amazing! 

One of my friends suggested me to do some food business in Vietnam, we'll select only one, the best one and open a small store to sell banh my Huynh Hoa in Saigon or Xoi Yen in Hanoi, as they make a million USD annually (not Vietnamese Dong!), and my friend thought about the famous bread with roasted pork in Macau, but me, I thought about this coffin bread - a very unique street food from Taipei. I tried and I loved it. They call coffin because the bread size, very thick, after toasted, they skilfully opened a window as you see in the photo, like a coffin, and put the filling inside! The choice for filling was so wide: from beef, pork, tuna, crab, squid, shrimp, seafood chowder and veggies.

           Coffin bread - deep-fried thick sandwich filled with some tuna, chicken, veggies...very tasty!  

               Like in Hong Kong, stinky tofu is popular here, but I couldn't finish my plate...

            Traditional sweet, should be very popular, people keep queuing for it... 

               I also got some, very sweet, crispy, the vendor add sesame or some flavourful powder...

I don't know how to call this sweet, but judging the crowd in front of the stall, it should be a favourite sweet. I did ask some Taiwanese friend, back to Saigon, they were hesitating to give me a correct name, so until now I still don't know what I ate! It doesn't look good but tastes good!

By chance I found this unique eatery selling a super favourite rice noodles with oyster and intestine in Ximending, it surprised me when a very bright restaurant doesn't have any furnitures, only the counter-kitchen right in front, at the entrance. People was queuing, a long queue, to get a bowl of very hot noodles, standing, eating, right on the spot, this was an area for pedestrian, so no vehicle at all. The dish was so tasty, the soup was thick, sticky, the rice noodles so thin (I rather call vermicelli). Next day, I came back here for my second bowl! Highly recommended!

           After half an hour in queue, everyone got a bowl of noodles, standing, eating and satisfied

            Here's my bowl! Looks thick but tastes very good! Do try it when you are in Ximending.  

But not everything was good, the golden stick looked like a sausage in the photo was purely a piece of deep fried dough, I got one, after first bite, all thrown to the trash bin! Sorry but better not try it!
I also heard about the pineapple cake that we must buy as gift from Taipei. I've been to a nice bakery store in Ximending and got two boxes, back to the hotel, I tried one. I was a bit disappointed, it was not good as I expected. The pineapple jam inside was so little, not very flavourful, mostly the buttery pastry part from the outside. I hope what I got was not the right one.  

The street food in Taipei is so popular, everywhere, every corner, every alley...I hardly found this small alley as from the guide I really want to try a super famous dish in of the best street foods from Taiwan.

and here the simple stall, only one woman to cook and to serve, she was so focused, not smile, not much talk...and look at the digital numbering system, get your number and wait until your turn! When I came here, probably during the prime time, the queue was so long, so I decided to come back another day...and another day never came, I couldn't find it next day! Too bad! Just wonder what's the secret to attract the people to queue here: the curiosity? the trend? or the real good food?

               very colourful stew stall with different items: chicken heart, intestine, tofu, taro cake...

             pig's ear (?), the black one and many other things - very mysterious to me and joyful to look at.

          The street vendor at night in Ximending, I like her food container, wonder how she carried it...

Now selecting the photos for this post, I only realised these motorbikes specialised for the police's use, all in white with two red and blue lamps at the rear. It seems Vietnamese police has a better bike but do they provide a better service?

A week in Taipei, stuck in the rain...I didn't have a chance to get out from the city, I missed many things in my plan but in return I discovered Taipei in different ways, not only night markets, eating out but the people's lifestyle, the real life in small alleys behind the skyscrapers. I wish to come back here one day to go up to the top-floor in this Taipei 101 to observe the city, up there, from the sky.

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