Jiu Fen: One of the few commercialised streets just an hour away from Taipei City, this place will never be lacking in every tour itinerary in Taipei. Promising famous eateries, that offers local dishes, and small souvenir shops with handicrafts, Jiu Fen is truly a tourist attraction.
Address: Ruijin Hwy, Ruifang District, New Taipei City
How to get there: THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) → Taipei MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing Station → Keelung Bus (bound for Jinguashi) to Jiufen (Jioufen)
Taro Balls (Original): One windy and chilly morning, five tourists pulled their coats tighter around their bodies and wandered into a dessert shop. Outside stood a man kneading and moulding dough, preparing hot bowls of taro balls. Each spoonful of hot sweet soup warmed the insides of the body and banished all forms of chills. Ok, enough of the creative writing. You get the drift. Chewy, soft and tasty taro balls, this is a dessert that delights. In addition, this is something that would bring you much comfort against the blistering winds of Taipei. Despite of the other renditions that you might encounter on the other streets of Taipei, this is the original one. Miss it at Jiu Fen and you will never be able to find anything similar, in terms of soup or balls.
Address: Ping River (Pingsi) Township, New Taipei City
How to get there: THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) → Take a train to Ruifang or Houdong Railway Station → transfer to the TRA Ping River (Pingsi) Branch Line and get off at Shifen.
So what comes after nine? In Keelung Taiwan, Jui Fen and Shi Fen go hand in hand together as a package. But each of them have their own beauty and attraction. This is where most tourist would gather to release sky lanterns into the heavens along with their wishes. A railway track located right in the middle of the street, tourists have to look out for trains and stay clear from the tracks at certain intervals. Besides sky lanterns, you can be sure to find delectable local street food as well. Indulge yourself and set off some fireworks, available from the shops, at the bridge. Relieve the childhood that we never had.
In Shifen, you can find an entire row of shops that provide sky lantern service and sell mini sky lanterns as souvenirs. However, this is where you should follow the crowd. The first shop nearest to the carpark has evidently the best business. Fast and efficient service, the shop can very well cater to at least 4-5 lanterns at one time. Prices of the sky lanterns and souvenirs are also slightly cheaper than the other shops. When you’re done with writing the wishes on the sky lantern, hand your camera over to one of the crew. They have been so seasoned and experienced in this field that they order you in different poses and angles as they snap away. They are definitely not shy with any DSLR as well.
Address: Raohe St. and Sec. 4, Bade Rd and Fuyuan St
How to get there: MRT Houshanpi Station (~10 min on foot)
Fried Cuttlefish: Another delicacy that carried a distinct taste and texture and could not be found anywhere else in Taipei. I was initially skeptical of trying the snack. But once you start, you literally cannot stop. Springy and tasty, the cute little bite-sized cuttlefish leaves you wanting for more. And in my case, craving for it despite being 84726495 miles away.
Raohe Night Market might not be Shi Lin but it is also a gem in the night street industry. Long queues and crowded seats can be seen in most stalls, even on weekdays. I was kept busy tantalizing my taste buds and filling my tummy the entire night. And here is why.
Sausage: Never leave Taiwan without trying a single Taiwan Sausage. These will keep you contented and comforted in cold and chilly nights. Japanese Okonomiyaki: One might not notice the yellow tent or bright signs, but will definitely not miss the long winding queue at this stall. Professionals work the grill, with their steel ware clanging away in harmony. The dish is definitely worth the wait. Crunchy cabbage slices cooked in perfection with a tasty batter. Not forgetting the special sauce that ties all the ingredients in the pancake together.
Minced Meat Rice and Herbal Rib Soup: This is one stall that you will never miss. Situated right smack in the middle of Raohe Night Market, this stall has awesome business from dusk to the wee hours in the morning. Famous for their Minced Meat Rice, Herbal Rib Soup and Mutton Soup, the stall was started by three brothers. Once again, the weather is in favour for such dishes. All you need is a bowl of hot and flavourful Herbal Rib Soup that is also full of oomph to dispel the chills from your very bones.
Grilled Mushroom: In most night markets, grilled mushroom is a common sight. Grilled to perfection, the mushroom is kept perky, tender and yet not overcooked, giving you a great biting texture. Certain stalls like this will provide you several spices and seasoning powders that you can choose from to give your mushroom cubes the extra zest. I definitely recommend the original flavour and the lime flavour. Delicious.
Chicken Roll: Be warned. This is no normal street snack nor does it mean it is simply made of chicken meat rolled into the stick. What’s so special about this chicken roll is the layer of chicken skin on the outside. At first bite, the crispy chicken skin breaks and squirts deliciously hot juices. Be warned once more to eat carefully. Several of us got scalded on our first try. Once you have recovered from the awesome-ness on the outside, you would be starstruck by the tender and well-seasoned chicken on the inside. What more can I say? This is one hell of a chicken roll.
So one day when we were out at Ximen Ding, just steps away from our hotel, looking for brunch. We came upon a small eatery crowded and bustling with business. No one is going to wax lyrical about the interior, the design or even the smell of the place, but this eatery, that sells local cuisine such as Minced Meat Rice, Cuttlefish Soup, Oyster Omelette and their very own Carrot Cake, definitely does not lack in patrons.
Minced Meat Soup: Also known as Cuttlefish Soup, this is a commonly seen dish in most night markets. My favourite of this soup can be found along the streets of Keelung Night Market. This soup is starchy, thick and flavourful. Yet, the tinge of vinegar keeps your palette captivated and has you licking the bottom of the bowl. Minced Meat Rice: Last but not least, the legendary minced meat rice of Taiwan. Despite not having equal popularity as dishes such as Mee Sua or Oyster Omelette, this dish is definitely gaining ranks among the tourists. Well marinated minced meat served in tasty braise sauce, pair it along with a fried egg on your bowl and you’re good to go.