Tasty Taiwan Treats

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If you’re thinking of heading to Taipei, happy-snappy touristing, back-pack hipstering, or even (darn you, lucky thing) living in Taiwan currently, here’s my run down of the best best best things to eat in a 20min walking radius of the National Taiwan University.

I’m not in Taiwan anymore, let alone in the wonderful Gong Guan area of Taipei, but you’re just going to have to forgive me: it’s been a long first week of classes here in Shanghai. All I want to do right now is turn back the clock two and a half weeks, and head down the road to get some ice-cold Chen San Ding Bubble Tea

It can be hard jumping from one country to another, especially on the tummy, and for this week, I’m struggling not only to find what I am used to eating in Taiwan here in the sprawling metropolis of Shanghai, but to force myself to branch out from my small selection of known foods.
I’m still feeling pret-ty wary of the strange looking food here….

CHEN SHAN DING
BUBBLE TEA

陳三鼎黑糖粉圓專賣店
台北市中正區羅斯福路三段316巷8弄口

Take the MRT to Gongguan Station, Green Line

What you want:
No. 1 青蛙撞奶 (Qīngwā zhuàng nǎi) 30NT

Chen Shan Ding ((陳三鼎) Bubble Tea, Taiwan

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If you come to Taipei and miss out on this, I can only say, shame on you. This take-away store front in Gongguan Market sell bubble tea to a hectic queue of dedicated fans from Tuesday to Sunday. And, when I say their bubble tea is the best, I mean their “black-sugar-soaked-bubble” tea is the single most delicious, intoxicatingly sweet, 30NT-a-pop drink in all of Taiwan. Period.  My order is usually a “一杯一號, 少冰” (Yībēi yī hào, shǎo bīng)  or a No.1 with less ice, and it hits the spot.
Every. Time.

STEWED PORK RICE
滷肉飯 (Lǔ ròu fàn)

with a side of Chinese spinach – and if you’re lucky a tea egg or a fluorescent slice of crunchy sweet pickle!

Your treat for… ~30NT rice +  ~40NT vegetable dish
Try a side bowl of 餛飩湯 (Húntún tāng), commonly known as Wonton Soup in the West .

If nothing else is on my mind come dinner time our here in Shanghai, it’s this yummy little dish.There’s nothing simpler or more satisfying for me than a little bowl of the ol’ Lou Rou Fan after a day in the heat in Taipei. It’s cheap, it’s filling, and it’s available at nearly any standard noodle-and-dumpling store – usually the cheapest on the menu in my experience! It’s definitely worth trying the variation in different stores if you have the time, as the softness of the mean, the ratio of fat to lean, the type of meat (fine mince or chunks), and cheeky add-ons are different wherever you go.

For moments of laziness, longing, tired-and-homesickness, I like to know where my wee local is…

My favourite, all-circumstances appropriate dish.

lou rou fan, 滷肉飯 taiwan.

TAIWANESE HAMBURGER
藍家割包
(Lán jiā guà bāo)

No. 3, Alley 8, Lane 316, Roosevelt Rd., Sec. 3
TEL:+886 22 368 2060

If you’re at the Gongguan Nightmarket already and it’s night-time, don’t leave just yet!

From facing the obvious Chen San Ding store front, turn 90º anti-clockwise to 藍家割包 (Lán jiā guà bāo), which sell a delicious on-the-go treat:  割包 (guà bāo), otherwise known as the ‘Taiwanese Hamburger.’ These hot, little puffy white bread bundles are filled with braised pork (Options: lean, fatty, or half-and-half) with optional parsley and peanut powder for a neat 50NT.  While they claim to have other stalls over Taipei, nothing beats the original at Gongguan.

Not that I’m biased or anything.

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Copywrite Christopher Chen

 

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 LITTLE PLUM
LAN ZHOU BEEF NOODLE

小李子蘭州牛肉拉麵館
(Xiǎo lǐzǐ lánzhōu niúròu lāmiàn guǎn)
No.57, Lane 118, Section 2, Hépíng East Road, Daan District, Taiwan
Tel: +886 2 2736 9505

Top of the range 牛肉湯麵: 120~160NT

If you’re walking out the back gate at the 和平東路 exit of the National Taiwan University (about 20mins walk from Gongguan Station), step into Lane 118 for a taste of the best little Beef Noodle Restaurants in the area. It’s modestly sized and simply run, with a plastic seated interior and efficient service – but the right wall is plastered with foodie awards, photos of famous clientèle, and even a letter of recommendation from President. Fancy.  

For me, it’s the perfect rendition of the traditional Taiwan Beef Noodle dish: the noodles are made on the spot, the soup is light but packed with flavour, the beef is incredibly soft, with lovely marbling and a hint of sweetness and of course, there’s some winter gourd cooked in with the noodles. Parfait! If spicy is your thing, you may have to make use of the chilli flake oil provided, but for me, it’s got it just right.

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Taiwan Best: Beef Noodle Soup

Taiwan Best: Beef Noodle Soup

Winter Gourd and all... sob! It's delicious!!

Winter Gourd and all… sob! It’s delicious!!

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SHI DA NIGHTMARKET

Take the Red/Green Line to Taipower Building Station (台電大樓站), exit 3.
Turn right, then make another quick right to Shi-Da Road (師大路).
The market is located along both Shi-Da road and in the alleys off both sides.

If you’re looking for some proper, girly (or a manly) nightmarket shopping while you’re in the area, hop just one stop on the metro to Taipower Building Station to hit the hot, packed alleys of Shi Da Nightmarket.

Although it’s cracked down on what used to be a sprawling, noisy hubbub of food stalls and vendors, there’s arguably a better (read: less smelly and elbow-jarring) shopping environment at the Shi Da University’s local night-time stroller.

CLOTHES
It’s the main street if you want to exercise some haggling for those cheap bargains, but if you’ve got the cash to splash for Korean boutiques, try the cutesy decor, air-conned stores that are hidden in doorways or behind tinkling glass doors further out of the bustle.

FOOD
The 浦城街雲和接 crossroads for on-the-go food options from barley and green mung bean sweet soup, deep fried delights from yam to squid and, a personal favourite, don’t miss the freshly made winter gourd tea. If you need to rest those feet – there’s a  studen
t haunt ice cream parlour Anor Crêpes that serves a biscuit-esque crêpe that can be packed with different flavours of ice cream scoops towards the 浦城街 entrance to the market

Crepe

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I sure miss my Taiwanese food, but I’m learning my preferences out here in Shanghai. The drinks are heavenly, the street food outside the Guanghua Chinese Language Building is a guilty treat, and the University cafeteria is student-budget cheap: my kind of places!

Can’t wait to show y’all my meals out here in Yanugpu district of Shanghai!
.Charlotte xx.

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Taiwan: Typhoon Day #3, Riverside Bike Slides

RIVERSIDE BIKE SLIDES

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It’s another wet and windy day here in Taipei, and after the last typhoon trip’s success (definite sarcasm here), we’re setting off again in our wonderful waterproofs on another weather-defiant trip! This time, we’re renting five of the city’s public Youbike‘s and heading down the riverside cycle path north from the bottom of Taipei. Youbikes are 10NT per 30mins for single rental users and free for the first 30mins, then 10NT per half hour thereafter for members. If you have a metro card and Taiwan mobile number, it’s super easy to sign up and avoid the queues for bikes so I recommend taking the extra five minutes to register!

It’s been raining hard these days, and the ground is mucky and slippy. The first family member to slide off their bike is… Dad! A full 180º backwheel slide propels him into the ground and two Chinese ladies watch, grappling with their basic English to ask “Are you OK?”, but no injuries sustained, Dad hops back on the bike and we trundle on down the path. When I say path though, really the cycle paths here are excellent, as a the youbikes themselves, with more markings than I’ve ever seen on a walkway, cyclists are treated like motorbikes with the seriousness of their road signage.

Next off the bike is yours truly! Pacing it downhill at speed with my brothers, I attempt to control my wacky downhill descent by gently squeezing the back break – only it’s not the back break at all: it’s the front break, and it is so sharp the entire bike pitches forward at 90º to the road as my body keeps flying in the my original direction. My legs pitch and wheel as I run through the steel frame of my bike, continuing a good five meters beyond it’s crashing frame, miraculously without any injury bar a bruise on my thigh, and the shock of adrenaline that accompanies my attempt at flight. As I now know, not only should you check your bell and basket on Taiwanese Youbikes, but your breaks; for Brits out there, they’re configured the American way – back break on the right, front on the left.
It may be a life saving distinction!

Lastly, but certainly not least Mum takes a tumble on the muddy wharf where the typhoon has swept up mud, sand and even fish. Covered all down one side in mud, we decide it’s better for us all to call it a day for the Youbikes. Turning off the bike trail at DaDao Cheng, we venture onto the busy night time road to leave our bikes back to ShuangLian station and head for some food!

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The MRT takes us home from a long days cycling and sliding.

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Taiwan: Typhoon Day #2, Losing Elephant Mt. Trail

LOSING ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN TRAIL
(Xiang Shan Trail)

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Despite the typhoon rain raging outside our front door, in true Black Family style, we’re embracing nature and heading out to find one of Taipei’s mountain trails: Elephant Mountain Trail. We’ve been warned, berated, and ridiculed, and yet when we set out the door there is a bewildered sense of surprise when we are almost immediately soaked to the skin… Fancy that!

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We rush to OK! Mart to buy 39NT plastic rain-proof onsies and gingerly pull them jerkily up over sticky skin; the coats immediately fill with steam off our sopping clothes, it feels like a small, localised sauna, we look ridiculous and the wetness is both inside and out. Excellent. Thoroughly wetted, we squelch towards the bus stop to catch a No. 1 to Wuxing Elementary School stop – many strange looks as we sniff onto the bus and swipe our metro cards. After being chilled nearly to the bone in the fierce No. 1 bus air-con, we decide to stay on just one more stop to avoid the rain. Good idea?

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As we step of the bus, we wander around and generally, upwards, looking for obviously signs of paths – and we find some concrete paths by allotments! Onwards and upwards. It’s very slippy, the path is swamped with leaves and debris, and more interestingly, there seems to be a small downwards stream flowing over our shoes. Nevertheless, we continue some twenty minutes upwards, wandering past small temples, traversing steep concrete steps, and skippity hopping past angry guard dogs wondering why Taipei’s dogs all seem to be either incredibly angry or ridiculously small. And then…

We hit a dead end.
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We’re wet, puffing, and hot – and quite frankly, while I’m sad to have reached the peak of Elephant mountain after our rainy day troubles, my thighs are happy to turn around and go downhill. Dad and one brother are determined to find the real trail; my youngest brother and I are determined to catch a ride home, and as we head down towards the main road we catch a glimpse of this sign….

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And the embarressing news is, there are lots more of these lining the walkway from the Wuxing Elementary School stop.

Ah well! The good news is I managed to get these amazing shots of the residential areas of Taipei; they’re so completely alien to the two-storey, detached-houses-with-garden set-up of Ireland.

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Despite our difficulties, the rain and the warnings it’s a fun day out in the rain!

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Taiwan: NanShan Second Chance Cinema, 湳山戲院

湳山戲院
(Nǎn shān xìyuàn)

台北市通化街24巷1號
No. 1, Lane 24, Tōnghuà Street, Daan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106

All Day Ticket, Any Showing 140NT

Show Times

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It’s been pretty rainy here in Taipei for the past couple of days as Typhoon Trami heads our way, but here in the capital there’s tonnes to do – even if it’s bucketing down water outside.

Yesterday the family and I went to Nanshan Second Chance Cinema, a cinema which shows films that are out of main cinemas but not on DVD yet. Not only that, but the tickets are only £3/140NT for a full day of films. You can see any of the eight films being screened, bring in your own food and drink, and there’s even a disgruntled woman at the door who gives you a stamp to go out, dine and return again! Pretty neat.

Nanshan’s a bit grotty outside, and the seats aren’t as plush as a normal cinema, but the screen definition and sound in the theatres is good; the larger theatres are the upstairs ones, and as long as you don’t mind perhaps more rustling than usual, it’s a fab rainy day retreat. The cinema itself sells the usual popcorn and sweet treats, the nearby restaurants are cheap (of course, there’s a 7 Eleven on TongAn Jie) and don’t be shy about take a steaming pot of noodles into the theatre!

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star trek

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We went for the one showing, and saw Star Trek: Into the Darkness, as we’ve all been indoctrinated as Treky fans in our house. I recommend to plan ahead if you want to make a day of it – the later showings and blockbusters are more popular, so be prepared to queue. Top tip: watch the film prior to your blockbuster in the big screen upstairs!

Air-con’s fairly chilly, so bring your cardi, your food and of course, your own loo roll (it is Taiwan, after all).

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Taiwan: Typhoon Trami

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Wahoo!

It’s the week of the 19th in Taipei, and there’s a Typhoon/Tropical Storm headed this way. By today, the 21st the epicentre is hovering over the capital giving an exciting torrential downpour to the streets and flats. It’s muggy, and the streets seem to steam with the intense humidity, and the bullets of water drum relentlessly on the corrugated sheets of awnings and roofs. Traffic turns to a frantic window-sweeping confusion of taxis and buses, and pastel sheeted motorcyclists in their head-to-toe raincoats swerve between blurry car lights; pedestrians play umbrella battles on the sidewalk; foreigners are unfortunately heighted for umbrella-spoke attackage.

Schools, hospitals, services are closed. Mudslides, minor floods and accidents. Living in sub-topical climate is no joke. We dash out between streets to get lunch and eat it in the safety of our flat, under the constant drone of rain. Rain like this doesn’t occur in UK.

On a positive note, yesterday nights run was wet but pleasant, with the temperature dropping from 30 degrees to a cool 26.

I’m quite enjoying this typhoon malarkey!

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Beijing, TUESC: Forbidden City

Forbidden City

It’s a predictably hot day when Emma, Ellie and I chose to visit one of Beijing’s most coveted set of historical buildings: The Forbidden City.

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Rivulets of sweat run happily down my back, my umbrella is up, Chinese-style, and my back-pack of water feels a lot heavier than a litre of water duly should, but nothing can overshadow the sheer scale of the endless courtyards, alleys and royal buildings in the elaborate 15th century complex of beautiful, painted-wood roofing. As we file in under a huge portrait of President Mao, we’re battling with the people towards a small dark tunnel: the entrance to the city itself. It’s hard to believe, given the addition of thousands of tourists, whistles, tour-group speakers and jiggling flags, that this entire area was once a secluded, palace of secrecy and royalty.

Instead of talking the main bee-line up the middle of the complex, we soon veer off to shaded side roads, back alleys of the servants and noticeably less crowded; from these bubbles of quiet. we observing the vast cobbled courtyard space into which the bottleneck of tourists tumble ant-like, and sweating, admiring their hundreds in a space once reserved for ceremonial events and special dignitaries.

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The contents of the exhibitions here are definitely undermined by the misty glass-cum-plastic that divides the sticky fingers and foreheads from what is possibly antique furniture – though it’s hard to tell in the dim rooms, a stark contrast from the blinding sun outside.

Having visited the National Palace Museum in Taipei, which houses many of the original artefacts from the Forbidden City, evacuated after a long trek across the country of China over to the small Formosan Island by Chiang Kai Chek and his followers following the Civil War in China, it is not hard to see that the two heritage sites offer very different experiences. In my opinion, The Forbidden City demonstrates the sheer vastness of the architecture and demonstrates the immense power of space and place in politics and society, whereas for the contents and details of the internal wealth, art and culture, it is best to look to the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

However the souvenir shops and exhibitions in the Forbidden City offer excellent air-conned relief from the scorching morning sun.

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Chinese Chat

As a last anecdote of the day, a man in his late fifties, thin as a bean pole and wearing heavily clothes as sun-bleached as his skin is tanned, calls out to me with a flash of white teeth and astoundingly well-accented English.

It’s hard to displace the shock of the apparent incongruity of his appearance and his Oxford-style English within the wall of the Forbidden City, and his alarming tendency to peer very closely into my face when speaking knocks me straight out of my historical reverie. But while his enthusiasm to converse with us definitely straddles the border with frightening, it’s an excellent example of the curiosity of being a tourist in China; the people may stare without prejudice, and converse with mild prejudice (rightly assuming the majority of us cannot speak Mandarin), but they for the most part, are purely curious: being foreign in China is certainly an oddity in a way that is no longer common in England.

Considering the vast scale of the country, its tendency to umbrella its many ethnic diversities as a community of one country (in contrast to the emphasised individualism of the West) and it’s relative youth in terms of international tourism and wide-spread immigration it is hardly surprising that two English girls, and one half Northern Irish, half Taiwanese Mandarin-speaking girl (to be precise) can cause a small amount of fuss.

Interestingly, once most people discover I can speak Mandarin, they are suitably unnerved and back off.

It’s the real foreigners that they want photos with.

😉

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Taiwan: Dazzling Cafe Mint Excursion

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This week I lucked out on an invitation to a ‘Drinks and Desserts’ leaving do at Taipei’s branch of the Dazzling Group‘s Dazzling Café Mint – and it’s not one to be turned down! This mildly terrifying corporate group originated in Taipei City, the brain-child of Janet Yang – already a local fashionista designing collections and collaborating with fellow Taipei designers – who in 2011 launched Dazzling Café Pink, selling a speciality of honey toast. With it’s elaborate white decor from plush carpets, decadent upholstery to trimly dressed waiters providing a fairly overwhelmingly executed back-drop to some stunning desserts it’s no wonder the Dazzling brand has since opened five different high-class branches across the city.

It’s an excursion not to be missed. Lines for seats stretch around the block at peak times, so unless you’ve got a friend that can cheekily seat you up the list, it’s best to call not only beforehand, but on the 16th of each month – the only day when reservations are even taken. The drinks and desserts are pretty pricey for Taipei standards, but you’re paying for the whole experience – so treat yourself! My choice of the obvious Dazzling Classic Toast comes in at a neat 200NT with a sweet pressed kiwi drink of 70NT – totalling around £5 for you Brits out there. Pretty unbelievable by foreigners’ standards.

Dazzling Café Mint
No.3, Lane 248, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Rd.
Daan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Resv. 02-8773-9229

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Taiwan: Museum of Traditional Puppetry

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If you’ve ever been to Taiwan, you may have been somewhat baffled, and definitely creeped out, by Taiwanese-dialect speaking, ancient Chinese costume puppets 布袋戲 (bùdài xì) that feature on TV.  If not, you’re in for a treat! My mum’s fgeneration used to run home from school to catch fuzzily broadcasted serialisations, but nowadays they’ve become fairly hi-tech.

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If you’re a Chinese-speaker, or even luckier, speak Taiwanese/Minan Hua/Fujian Dialect you might enjoy this documentary based on a 布袋戲 (bùdài xì) Festival in Taiwan.

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Although these puppet shows were originally part of festivals and shows enacting theatre based on history and ancient tales, these TV serialisations were a boom for the industry in the early 1970s. As part of the Culture Weekend, the group heads down to the Lin Liu Puppet Theatre Museum in Taipei, a cosy, renovated traditional puppet workshop with sharp, winding stairs up several floors of exhibits. With puppets to play with, shows to watch and a passable English tour to the museum itself, this tiny museum is definitely worth seeking out if you’ve a morning to spend!

林柳新紀念偶戲博物館
No. 79, Xiníng North Rd, Datong District,
Taipei City, Taiwan 103

Phone: +886 2 2556 8909
80NT/50NT  Adults/Children
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