Tuesday, 16 December 2014

10 Must-Eat Foods in Taiwan!

This travel post is written by Angie who blogs at Life'sTinyMiracles. She travelled to Taiwan with her husband and her petite traveller, Dana (6 years) in June 2012 and December 2013.

This holiday is suitable for families who enjoy getting to know the culture of a country through its cuisines and street-eats!

 All photos in this post are credited to Life's Tiny Miracles

It's the year end season again where we're flooded with holiday photos from friends in social media channels. Whenever school holidays come around, half of Singapore (or more) goes travelling. Taiwan is an extremely family friendly and affordable travel destination for families. I was sorting some photos from our past travels and realised we've yet had the time to blog all our Taiwan trip reports. However, to whet your appetite, we've compiled this '10 Must-Eat Foods in Taiwan' (in no particular order). Here goes:

  • Milk Hotpot at Flying Cow Farm 飛牛牧場火锅

    Hotpot Flying Cow

    We tasted this unique 'steamboat' at the restaurant in Flying Cow Farm. It uses milk broth and an assortment of the freshest vegetables, meat and seafood.  Being steamboat lovers, we found it extremely tasty and doubly nutritious!  Our daughter also loved the special milk pudding dessert which was served after the meal. It is shaped like a  a mini balloon, you have to prick it with a toothpick to magically unwrap the pudding into your bowl. Very novel. Try it!

      Address: No.166, Nanho Village, Tongxiao Town, Miaoli Country 35750, Taiwan
      Contact Number: +886 37 782999
      Website | Facebook

      • Sashimi at Addiction Aquatic Development 上引水產
       Sashimi Taipei Collage

      This is a modern fish market with a difference! It's very clean, chic and organized with large tanks for different live fish, shellfish and crabs for sale under one roof. Housed within are chic eateries serving the freshest sashimi imaginable. There's a stand-up sushi bar, a seafood bar, an outdoor charcoal grill, a big wholesale supermarket for take-home seafood and a home section with stylish home wares for entertaining. We felt as if we were in seafood paradise!  This place very popular with locals (and tourists) so it doesn't take reservations. When we were there, there were queues already forming outside the stand-up sushi bar even before it opened. We like it so much we requested for our driver to bring us back twice in a day. This place is like the Taiwanese version of the Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan, but at more affordable prices!

      Address: No. 18, Aly. 2, Lane 410, Mínzú East Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan‎
      Contact Number: +886 02 2508 1268
      Website | Facebook

        • Taro and Sweet Potato Balls at Jiufen 九份阿柑姨芋圓 

          Jiufen Yam Ball Collage

          Jiufen is a quaint, charming old town perched on the hilly terrains of north-eastern Taiwan which is worth a day trip. With cobbled streets lined by food vendors on both sides, you've stepped into street food heaven when you arrived in Jiufen.  One of the oldest establishment there is the Taro and Sweet Potato Balls by 阿柑姨 which is handmade from scratch.  Customers have the option of eating it hot or chilled. Dana likes its chewy QQ texture while for the adults, we fell in love with its million dollar view of Jiufen. 

          Address: 224, New Taipei City, Ruifang District, Shuqi Road, 5號, Taiwan
          Contact Number: +886 2 2497 6505

          • Taiwanese 'Black Hog' Pork Sausage at FengJia Night Market 台湾黑猪肉香肠

            Pork Sausage Collage 
            Grilled Taiwanese sausages are a common sight on at Taiwanese night markets. It's one of our favourite indulgences when we travel to Taiwan. If you want to try something more unique, order the famous 大腸包小腸 (literally translated as 'Big Sausage Wrap Small Sausage) at FengJia Night Market in Taichung.  The smaller Taiwanese sausage is wrapped in an outer layer of glutinous rice, then topped with lettuce and other condiments which you can pick on the spot. There are also a variety of sausage flavours to choose from - wasabi, original, spicy and black pepper. A word of caution though - one serving of this is enough to fill you up and be prepared to stand in line.

            Address:  407, Taichung City, Xitun District, 逢甲路20巷10弄5號 Taiwan
            Contact Number:  +886 926 621 255

            • Fuchow Pepper Biscuits at Raohe Night Market 福州世祖胡椒饼

            Fuchow Pepper Biscuits Collage
            We chanced upon this yummy traditional Fuchow street snack at Raohe Night Market in Taipei and the hubby gamely volunteered to queue for it. Juicy marinated peppery minced pork is stuffed into flour pockets then stuck to the deep bottomed earthern pots (heated to 300 degrees) and toasted for 20 minutes. What you get is a super yummy savory 'biscuit' - crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.  Worth the queue!

            Address:  249, Songshan District, Raohe Street, 249號
            Contact Number:  +886 095 8126 223
              • Gong Zheng Bao in Hualien City 公正街包子店

                GongZheng Bao Collage

                Hualien is our favourite city in the whole of Taiwan. It's idyllic, scenic and things are relatively cheaper than Taipei.  Most people use Hualien as a base for visiting Taroko National Park.  When in Hualien, you should try the Steamed Dumplings (蒸餃 Zheng Jiao / 水餃 Shui Jiao) and Steamed Meat Buns [小籠包 Xiao Long Bao] at the famous Gong Zheng Bao Zi 公正包子 shop. These handmade dumplings are juicy, delicious and cheap but you may have to wait for up to 30 minutes for a table.

                Address:  970,  Hualian City, Zhongshan Road, 199之2號‎ Taiwan,
                Contact Number:  +886 3 834 2933

                • Farmosa Chang Lu Rou Fan 鬍鬚張魯肉飯

                Lu Rou Fan 034 
                The braised meat rice 魯肉飯 is one of my personal favorite Taiwanese comfort food. Formosa Chang is a fast-food-like chain (with 17 outlets cross Taiwan) famous for serving up a tasty braised meat rice soaked in aromatic soy sauce which they claimed has been boiled for at least six hours to ensure the thick, rich flavor. We ordered other side dishes to go with the rice and even bought vacuum-sealed, ready-to-eat packs back to Singapore as 'treats' for our relatives and friends!

                Locations | Website

                  • The Original Din Tai Feng Xiao Long Baos 鼎泰豐小籠包

                  DTF XiaoLongBao036 
                  Din Tai Feng is world famous for its Xiao Long Bao and ranked one of the world's Top 10 restaurants by the New York Times in 1993. If you're a fan of their Xiao Long Baos, you have to visit one of its 8 outlets when you are in Taipei.  Be prepared for a waiting time of 15 to 30 mins during non-peak hours and longer on a busy day.  Do you know there's a technique to enjoy your Xiao Long Baos?

                  Guide to eating Xiao Long Bao

                  Step 1 – Put some soy sauce and vinegar in the ginger dish. You should first put the soy sauce BEFORE the vinegar, with a suggested ratio of 1 portion of soy sauce to 3 portions of vinegar. (The purpose of the vinegar is to ‘cleanse’ the saltiness of the soy sauce)
                  Step 2 – Take a piece of Xiao Long Bao and dip lightly in the sauce. Just dip, don’t submerge.
                  Step 3 – Place Xiao Long Bao in the spoon and poke a small hole to release the broth.
                  Step 4 – Pick up a few slices of ginger.
                  Step 5 – Enjoy Xiao Long Bao. Careful, it can be hot! 

                  Locations | Website

                  •  Peanut Ice-Cream Wrap at Jiufen - 花生捲冰淇淋 

                  Peanut Ice Cream Wrap035

                  This ice-cream crepe with peanut candy shavings and coriander looks like a burrito. One bite and we're hooked. It tastes sweet, crunchy and fragrant all at once: tart and creamy from the ice cream, sweet and crunchy from the peanut candy shavings and the coriander gives it an extra aromatic layer. The ice-cream flavours are very unique too: pineapple, taro and peanut.  What a delicious and innovative combination! The ones we tasted were from Jiufen but you can easily find the Peanut Ice-Cream Wraps at most night markets across Taiwan.  We tried to recreate this dessert back home in Singapore but it's just not the same without the peanut shavings.

                    • Mango Snow Ice 芒果雪花冰 at Smoothie House, Taipei

                    Mango Ice033 
                    Stalls selling iced-desserts are a dime a dozen in Taiwan. What's addictive about this Mango Snow Ice is the fluffy-like, cotton-soft snow which melts in your mouth. Added to that, chunks of sweet mangoes, a scoop of mango sorbet ice cream, and a drizzle of condensed milk make this an irresistible treat after a long day of touring or a balmy night wadding through the night market crowds. They also have varieties of Snow Ice served with Strawberries and Kiwis which are visually appealing and equally satisfying.

                    Locations | Website

                    If you've more recommendations of 'Must-Eats' in Taiwan to add to this list, do share with us in your comments! We'll love to hear from you.

                    We 'LIKE' Taiwan! This sign is located at the lobby of one of the Taipei hotels we put up at.

                      Monday, 1 December 2014

                      Kid-friendly Holiday in Taipei

                      This travel post is written by Delphine who blogs at Life in the Wee Hours. She travelled to Taipei with her husband and kid(s), Anya (5 years), Adam (2.5 years) & David (2 months) in March 2014.

                      Taipei is such a perfect holiday destination for little ones. It takes less than 5 hours to fly there and there are several airlines to choose from. There's so much to see and do in Taipei. The best time to visit Taipei is in the fall between September and November. We were there in spring, which can be rainy, but we got there just as the rainy season ended and had lovely cool weather!

                      Before heading to Taipei, you should drop by Taiwan Visitor Association at Chevron House (30 Raffles Place, #10-01) and collect brochures and maps for the places of interest you intend to visit. If you produce evidence that you have booked your plane tickets and accommodation, you get freebies! We were given vouchers that we eventually used to buy food and local produce at the night market.    

                      Singaporean kids are generally deprived of wide open spaces and agriculture so visiting a farm while in Taipei is a great idea. We went to Flying Cow Ranch and stayed there for one night, giving us just one full day to carry out all the activities there. We had referred to the Animal Experience Programme Timetable beforehand and were quite clear about what we wanted to do. It wasn't a rush for us at all, but if you prefer to take things easy, you may want to check in for 2 nights.

                      Flying Cow Ranch is a lovely place. The air is fresh, there's so much space, the food is good, the animals are well cared for, the programme is thoughtfully planned, and there are also other fun activities besides interacting with the animals.

                      There are several different eateries there and you can be assured that you will get to drink lots of fresh milk and eat lots of milk pudding. We had milk hot pot for dinner and I really enjoyed the steaming hot soup that was so comforting in the cool weather.

                      The kids loved interacting with and feeding the animals. Of course, they were initially a bit wary of the animals but eventually warmed up to them. There are free feeding sessions you can queue up for. The sessions are run very efficiently and the queues move quickly. You can also purchase grain and vegetables to feed the other animals. We fed calves, ducks, bunnies and goats, and even tried milking a cow. 

                      There are a few playgrounds in Flying Cow Ranch and the kids had a lot of fun there in between. You can also sign up for DIY workshops to bake biscuits or cakes, make ice-cream, or even paint pottery.

                      Another fun activity is visiting the small towns around the train stations along Pingxi Line. We stopped at Jingtong for a bit of a stroll and wrote some well-wishes on a piece of bamboo which we then hung up on the fence running alongside the railway track. We then took the train to Shifen. Handy tip: sit at the end of the train so the kids can see the landscape zooming by!

                      At Shifen, we released a sky lantern and the children were so excited to see the paper lantern floating up into the sky. There are hoardes of people at Shifen releasing sky lanterns at the same time and it's hard to take a nice photo without strangers appearing in the shot. A better option would be to do the sky lantern releasing at one of the less crowded train stations instead.

                      The small towns along the Pingxi Line are quaint and charming and certainly worth a visit. We got our driver to take us to Jingtong and then to pick us from Shifen but you can take a northbound train towards Ruifang Station from Taipei Main Station, then transfer to the Pingxi Line. 

                      If you have kids that are 5 and above, a visit to Baby Boss is a must. Baby Boss is the equivalent of KidZania and kids get to try out different occupations there. Adam was too young to participate but Anya had such an awesome time. 

                      She was a miner, a firefighter, a nurse, a gas pump attendant and she even worked at a space station control centre. The place is HUGE and the attention to detail is amazing. Kids will love the costumes, the equipment and the vehicles.

                      Some other fun and kid-friendly things to do in Taipei:

                      Hello Kitty fans must not miss a ride on the Maokong Gondola. You get to enjoy beautiful scenery along the way and there are adorable pictures of Hello Kitty and Friends all around the stations. We took the Wenshan-Neihu line to Taipei Zoo Station then walked about 350m to the Maokong Gondola Taipei Zoo Station. 

                      There is a special queue for the "Eyes of Maokong Gondola" crystal cabin (with a glass floor you can see right through!) and that queue moves more slowly. An ordinary cabin is good enough, especially if you're not sure whether your kids will be nervous in the crystal cabin. We had too many people for a crystal cabin but the kids enjoyed the gondola ride nonetheless.

                      Maokong Station is situated in the middle of tea plantations and there's food to be had near the station. If you walk further down away from the station, you can find cafes with a great view.

                      We visited Yangmingshan National Park to let the little ones run around a bit but they weren't particularly keen on the greenery and flowers and were infinitely more interested in watching a caterpillar crawl around on one of the terrapin's back.

                      We ate non-stop and the kids loved the food! We had supper at Ah Zong Mian Xian, breakfast at Yonghe Dou Jiang and a myriad of things in between. We stayed at Ximending and there's a ridiculous amount of street food available. We walked and ate, then walked and ate some more. There's so much to eat in Taipei and even the fussiest child will find something she likes. 

                      The night markets can be a wee bit crowded and overwhelming for kids, but we decided that we just had to check out one or two. The key is to keep the visit to the night market short and expect that you may have to pack some food back to hotel to enjoy! The kids liked the kiddy rides and Anya has fond memories of eating a fried Oreo.

                      It's incredibly easy to get around in Taipei. You can hire a car and driver or take a taxi or the train. The streets and train stations are stroller-friendly but I wouldn't recommend bringing a stroller to the night markets. Unlike in Singapore, the people in Taipei don't use the lifts at the stations unless they are pushing strollers, dragging luggage or wheelchair-bound. There are usually people happy to give up their seat to you if you are carrying a baby or accompanied by small children.

                      You can find clean and well-equipped parent rooms in the train stations where you can change diapers, breastfeed or refill hot water. The rooms are locked so you will need to press the intercom button located by the side of the room. If you need to buy diapers, don't go to a Watson's. Look for a pharmacy/ drugstore. These are usually located in some random small lane and not along the busier streets and you can always ask a local to direct you to one.  

                      Taipei is fun, accessible and affordable and there is really no reason not to bring your kids there. In fact, after Taipei, you will probably want to check out the rest of Taiwan with the little ones!
                      Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...