Tuesday, August 29, 2006

taipei bound . part I . shilin night market

I was supposed to write this entry as soon as I got back. As usual, I got lazy and then the flogger's dinner came along and so this got pushed back. No worries now though, cos I'm going to share the EXPERIENCE I had in Taiwan (finally!).

Got back around 2 weeks ago. Before I left, we were warned about typhoons and rallies but none of that happened while we were there. Thank God for that! During the planning stages of this trip, my 3 gal pals (Xin, Pei and Lan) and I sat down to discuss what we were going to be doing there and I think food pretty much dominated the conversations we had. We'd talk about "oh! I wanna buy shoes" and then it would eventually lead on to "oh! I want to eat that!!" and then we never got back to our initial topic.

So as it turned out, we did eat quite a bit but if you were actually present during our conversations, you'd understand why we thought it wasn't enough at the end. During my flight there, I actually took my handy notebook to write down a list of things that I HAD to try and I was determined to tick them off one by one until my last day in Taipei. To think I could actually derive satisfaction from 'ticking'.

As we were on a budget airline, we practically had to starve our way to Taipei, save for a couple of Famous Amos cookies onboard. We were so hungry that whilst on the bus to the hotel, we spotted some pushcart selling corndogs and immediately got excited. Imagine 4 girls looking out of the bus window and salivating at the same time! So after dropping our bags off at the hotel, we headed for Shilin Night Market for our "feast" but not before we detoured for some of those corndogs we were eyeing. That became my first "meal" in Taipei. I never imagined that I would be eating such a non-Taiwan thing, not to mention it being the first thing I ate. My thoughts were more along the lines of Oyster Mee Sua or Oyster Omelettes but what the heck! I was hungry!!

The bread was a bit thick but tasted so good with the tomato sauce covering it. Looks yum doesn't it?

Getting to Shilin Night Market officially marked the start of the "eating spree". It's a good thing that there were 4 of us so we could just order a couple of things and try a bit of everything. You could say it was stupid to be going to a night market on a Saturday but I was so excited when I saw the long queues. Going by the "long queue good food" concept, I was hoping that the crowd will be a good guide although I technically didn't need it cos one of my pals on the trip is Taiwanese...

I loved Shilin. I think it's probably the most famous Night Markets in Taipei. The good thing was that all the food was housed under one roof, save for one very famous Smelly Beancurd stall. Shilin is so huge that we had to return a second time on our last night but we were luckier the second time round cos my friend's aunty brought us around to all the best stalls in the market. It was a great experience for me cos most of these street snacks are not available in Singapore. Singapore doesn't even have the variety of street snacks that Taiwan has. I would say that because Taiwan food is uncommon in Singapore, a lot of people are unfamiliar with the flavours and are not able to get used to the food. I thought it was quite interesting to give all these a try anyways. Some of the memorable ones are mentioned below.

If you've tried the crispy chicken that's served at the popular Shihlin Street Snacks in Singapore or Malaysia, you would probably need to know that it doesn't even come close to the real thing in Taipei. Although the chilli powder they use tastes more or less the same, the meat is much juicier, tastier and bigger! Moreover, they don't chop the meat up so the batter never seperates from the meat. Biting it in its whole form somehow just made it taste better. This Hao Da stall is so popular that I only got to eat it on my second visit. On the first night, the queue actually stretched so far that we gave up.

In terms of food experiences, there were many "first times" during the trip. For starters, I have never tried the notoriously stinky Smelly Beancurd (臭豆腐). I managed to try the Smelly Beancurd accompanied with Cold Noodles at a famous stall in Shilin. Although it had a musky taste at the end, the beancurd was nicely fried and went well with the preserved vegetables. The Cold Noodles were also very tasty with its peanut sauce. Looks quite harmless but it was actually quite spicy. Pei loved this so much that everytime we talked about this stall, her face will let out this big smile.

Another first for me was to try bishop's nose. Yes, that is chicken backside. I have never tried it and never even once thought of it. That was until Xin kept raving about how good it tasted and it sure was. It was marinated in this teriyaki sauce and then barbequed 'til it was a little charred. I expected the texture to be like fat but it came out tasting like chicken thigh. Definitely one of the best things I ate on the trip. I regret sharing that skewer with the rest. Urgh!!

I also tried this famous snack called Coffin Cakes (棺材板). Queer name isn't it? This popular snack actually comes from Tainan. Basically, it's just thick toast with the insides all dug out. The bread is deep fried and then stuffed with creamy stuff like chicken or pork. It's then covered with the top of the bread that was cut out. Thus the name Coffin Cakes! I loved my bread fried and it was really yummy. Super glad that I didn't give this a miss.

I am amazed at the variety of desserts that the Taiwanese have come up with. They have lots of variety of ice desserts such as cotton ice, layered ice. Also tried a dessert called Ai Yu Bing (愛玉冰) which consists of lemon jelly and pearls. Good thing I went in the summer. They've also got all types of milk drinks, juices and so on. I just wished I had more time and more space to try everything!

So along with all the good stuff I've mentioned, also managed to try their Braised Meat Rice (魯肉飯) which Mum kept nagging at me to try before I left. It's her favourite so I guess I did her a great favour by buying those pre-packed spices to cook at home so she could eat her fill. A lot of Taiwanese food is starch-based especially their thickened soups which is sold all over the place. In fact, one of my biggest disappointments was a starchy dish; Oyster Omelette (蚵仔煎). It was very very starchy and there was this sauce that was poured all over that I couldn't really taste anything else. The sauce tasted kinda weird anyway so it was quite yucks. Apparently, this is just a gimmick. I wished they just stuck to the original though.

So that's it for my Shilin adventure. I had to break up the post cos it'd be too long a read to include everything. Anyways, I'll continue with Part II next time around.


  1. hey... miss taiwan correspondent... will you do a cover on hk when you get here at the end of the sep? let me know what you want to eat ok?

  2. you know something? i am pretty tired of the roast meat here.. its just too much for me... cant believe i am saying this... but its really sensory overload... i am actually yearning for something light... am actually looking out for jap and teochew places... the people here generally dun believe in the goodness of natural taste... geez just wish they wud go easy on the sauce and salt please!