We had one goal today. The goal to having some traditional soy milk breakfast (豆漿油條). Our plan was to eat it at the famous and ever-so popular 阜杭豆漿 (Fu Hang Soy Milk). We knew were in for a long wait and could not get ourself to wake up at 6am to be the early birds. We took our chances and arrived at around 9:30am on a Sunday morning instead. There was, of course, a line but it moved very quickly. I was all prepared to just blog on my phone or listen to some podcasts while I waited but in no time we were at the beginning of the line.
We had an idea of what we wanted to order so I was semi-prepared. There were 3 areas – one for ordering soy milk, one for other food items and lastly the cashier. I quickly ordered my soy milk choices – 2 salty and 1 sweet (cold). Then the food item aunty was getting impatient and asked us to just order using the numbers. It was interesting to note that the entire menu was in Chinese, which luckily I could read but what for those who couldn’t – either bring a friend who could or figure out the number which you want ahead of time or else these efficient aunties will not be pleased.
In case you were wondering what we ordered and can’t read Chinese, here are the numbers for your reference:
- 1. 豆漿 Soy milk (hot/cold)
- 3. 鹹豆漿 Salty soy milk
- 12. 厚餅夾蛋 Thick bread with egg
- 41. 蛋餅 Thin egg crepe
- 45. 油條 Chinese donut
After ordering our bread items at the second counter, the auntie immediately said 150 NTD. I thought this was only for the bread, but somehow she calculated the total bill of my entire breakfast within a split second. I quickly handed over the cash after the initial shock. It was no wonder that they were able to get so many people through in one morning. They run a tight shift here. In no time, our entire order appeared in the tray in front of us and we were on our way around the food court to find some seats. To our surprise, our cold soy milk “drink” came in a bowl and I had realized I should’ve ordered it to-go instead to get it in a cup. No complaints though. At the end, it only took us less than 30 minutes from when we arrived to when we got our food, definitely much faster than we had expected!
First, I took a spoonful of the salty soy milk. It’s definitely unique, as I’ve never had soy milk drenched in a soy sauce-like broth before. The donuts inside of it definitely complimented the taste. There was also some cilantro in it, which I would’ve preferred to be left out. Next, I had a bite of the Chinese donut. It was the most delicious Chinese donut I’ve ever had. There was something about the way it was fried. It must have been the oil they used. It was truly amazing! I ripped pieces of it to dip into the salty soy milk but it was not enough. I wish I had ordered more! Then, I had a few spoonfuls of the cold sweet soy milk and it was the most delicious soy milk I’ve ever had. It was full of soy flavour and not too sweet. Again, it was something I wish I had ordered more of! Next, I tried the egg crepe and it was also very tasty. I loved the thin crepe. On the other hand, I was not as much of a fan of the thick sesame bread with egg. It was just too much bread for me. Overall, it was a very lovely experience and got us hooked on having soy milk for breakfast. We were already talking about having the same meal for breakfast the next day.
After this satisfying breakfast, Aaron had wanted to grab some coffee. It was interesting though as we realized most coffee shops don’t open until later on in the day here in Taipei. It’s not really a morning thing, which is very surprising for us North Americans, who often rely on coffee to wake up!
HuaShan 1914 Creative Park: Hipster Land in Taipei
Instead, we decided to walk to the nearby HuaShan 1914 Creative Park. First impressions: it was a very hip park with cool art displays, lots of green space and had a very chill vibe. It appears there was an event going on later on as a band was rehearsing on stage. On the other end of the field, there was an artist who was starting a sketch. As we walked around, we definitely felt good vibes from signs with positive messages.
Later we discovered there was an even larger grass field in the back and more stages set up with other indie artists rehearsing. It was definitely nostalgic as I used to listen to a lot of Taiwanese artists growing up. Some stalls were starting to set up but it appears the festivities did not start until later on in the day. It turns out we came across a festival called: “2018 a Simple Day”. Aaron finally got some coffee at one of the stalls called “More Cafe” selling syphon coffee. Another cute store opened called C’est Si Bon 小日子 and we tried their cold brew oolong here. To our surprise, it came in a bottle with no filter, so it was very interesting trying to drink the tea without getting a mouthful of tea leaves. It was good tea though!
After all that walking, it was time for lunch, so we took the metro over to 永康牛肉麵 (Yong Kang Beef Noodle) for some beef noodle (niu rou mian 牛肉麵) that Aaron’s been wanting since we arrived in Taipei. Once again, there was a line. It was mid-day by now and very hot, but luckily the line moved quickly. This was a pretty large restaurant with two floors. We were seated upstairs and given an ordering sheet, again all in Chinese. We ticked off two of the beef noodles (紅燒牛肉麵) and requested some side dishes (小菜) as well. The beef pieces were so soft and juicy, with some tendon pieces mixed in. The broth was spicy but not too much to distract from the taste. The noodles were perfectly cooked – not too firm and not too soggy. They were exactly the thickness that I like – not as thin as usual thin ramen noodles but not quite as thick as udon noodles. It was perfect. It looked so good that other foreigners from the next table asked us what we had ordered just to make sure they did not order the wrong thing. We were told that we can just pick up the side dishes we want from the front so Aaron went to get some seasoned cucumbers – my favourite. It was also served with some konjac-like jelly. It was nice and refreshing and provided a great contrast to the spicy and flavourful beef noodles.
More Soy Milk
After lunch, we came across a shop selling soy milk soft serve. Their black sesame soy milk soft serve seemed really popular so we had to get one to share. It was so creamy and tasted very natural. It wasn’t too sweet for me. We sat by the window and enjoyed the sunshine a little bit while finishing off our ice-cream.
We then took a walk around Daan Forest Park to soak up some more of the sun. It was here we saw a young lady with 7 men with cameras following her take her photos. We wondered what this was all about.
Siesta. But First, Massage.
We had planned to hike up Elephant Mountain today but we both felt under the weather and needed to take a little siesta. We decided to head back to Ximending and before we reached our hotel, we were stopped by foot spa staff asking us to get foot messages. Of course we could not say no to a massage. They were not busy at this time of day but we saw last night that they were super busy at the end of the night. We figured this will be a good time to beat the rush and get a foot and shoulder massage. It was nice to soak my foot in some hot water before they asked me to turn around so I could get a shoulder/upper back massage. I was really looking forward to this as I’ve been walking quite a bit during this trip and did not mind sitting down and relaxing. I now realized that this would not be a relaxing experience. It was an intense 40-minute deep tissue massage of my shoulder/back and later both my feet and legs. If you do not enjoy extreme deep pressure, then this may not be the massage for you. I still quite enjoyed it and it was well worth the 500 TWD (~$22 CAD).
Then it was siesta time.
Coffee and Toast
After our siesta, it was time for another night market! However, Aaron wanted to wake up with some coffee but again, it was difficult to find a coffee shop which was open. We came across No Worries Cafe Bar, a cute coffee shop. Here we also snacked the most lovely toast with butter and sugar. Maybe I was hungry but it was so good.!
At the train station, we also came across some green onion pancakes that looked and smelled too good to pass up. It was so flaky and reminded me of the delicious roti canai we got in Malaysia.
Shilin Night Market: The Largest Night Market in Taipei
After our coffee break, we headed over to the Shilin Night Market, supposedly the largest and most popular night market in Taipei. I figured since we saw the cozy Ningxia Night Market last night, we should experience Shilin tonight to compare. Before we even reached the night market, our noses were overwhelmed with the fragrant scent of black tea and had to stop in front of Itso Tea for some bubble tea. Here, we learnt that the receipts our trip had QR codes on them because they acted as lottery tickets. Here they had a box for patrons to donate their tickets for a charity. How nice! I wish I had all my other receipts with me to donate.
Finally we have reached Shilin Night Market and it was definitely much bigger and spacious than Ningxia. There were many stalls of food and non-food items. I was so excited to try all the food!
First we had the pepper bun (hu jiao bing 胡椒餅). I was not too excited about this since I thought it was just going to be a big hard bun with pepper on the outside. Boy was I wrong. It was stuffed with a generous amount of super flavourful, peppery meat. I was pleasantly surprised.
Next, we had the goopy flour-rice noodle (mian xian 麵線) which appeared to be all the rage here as there were always long lines for this. It was not bad. The soup was tasty (and reminded me of the fish stew soup was had the first day) but we decided it was not necessarily one of our top choices for food in Taipei.
Next, we walked by a Korean-style fried chicken and noodle food stall. I know, we were not in Korea, but it looked so good that we had to back track to line up for it. It was a very elaborate cooking process. First, he had to coat the fried chicken in the sauce. (We chose red sauce with the spicy gochujang. You can also get the brown sauce, which was non-spicy.) Then he added some other ingredients including rice cake. He boiled the noodles along with some cabbage and then added all this to the frying pan. He then transferred all the above to another small pan in which he topped it with cheese and used a torch to melt the cheese. Voila! The meal is served. After some mixing, we took the first bite and it was very delicious. I don’t regret getting it one bit.
We hadn’t had any oyster omelette (oh ah jian 蚵仔煎) yet at this point and luckily, we passed by a restaurant which was cooking up some of this in the store front. After staring at it for a while, the lady asked what we wanted and I pointed at it and said “THIS ONE!”. I did not know how to say it because this dish is typically pronounced using the Hokkien dialect. She asked us to step aside while the chef worked his magic. The lady efficiently packaged everything to go and we were on our way with our take-away oyster omelette. It wasn’t what I expected, to be honest. It was soaked in a lot of sweet sauce. I usually love raw oysters but I felt oyster tasted too much like ocean here, even though it was cooked. I was kind of disappointed as I was expecting more.
We were getting thirsty by now and Aaron tried some refreshing Taiwan Beer while I had some kumquat/calamansi tea. I really enjoyed this drink. We were on our way home when Aaron was intrigued by vendors making these small rice flour cakes using a very interesting hand-held wooden steamer. This little cakes called 狀元糕 (top scholar cake). There were black sesame, coconut and peanut flavours. We had ordered one peanut cake and waited patiently until she placed our one cake into a plastic bag. Suddenly we heard someone shouting something then the granny vendor (along with adjacent vendors) ran and disappeared in a matter of seconds. We were still confused until 1 minute later, we see a police walk down the street. My guess is that they did not have the proper licensing to sell here. Then we were forget to give up on our 狀元糕 dreams and decided to head home instead. Luckily she hasn’t collected our money yet. Wow, what a night!