Asian Cuisine

People of the Night 19 (基隆廟口夜市)

The Keelung Miaokou Tourist Night Market (基隆廟口夜市) is often introduced by Travel guides as a MUST visit on any travellers as the night market is well-known for its diversity of Taiwanese delicacies and being so close to the sea - it's fresh selection of seafood dishes. The night market is jam-packed with Taiwanese and foreigners walking shoulder-to-shoulder every night of the week and it truly is a purely Taiwanese experience that shouldn't be missed while visiting the country. In my first post of shots from the night market I focused on seafood dishes which the night market is the most famous for, the second post was all about the meat while this post has various desserts, juice and an uncommon sight in a night market - a vegetarian stall!

Miaokou Part 1 | Miaokou Part 2

1. Iced Desserts (QQ涼圓)

I love this shot, it was one of the first shots I took at the night market while visiting. I arrived at the night market a bit early because I planned on eating before the crowds arrived and getting the lay of the land to better understand what the night market was about. This vendor sat at the entrance of the night market with her cart full of icy Taiwanese desserts and she looked like she wasn't having the best day. One of my favourite shots from the Raohe nightmarket was also of a vendor selling these delicious little treats (although the setting is completely different) basically, these are little gelatinous balls that are served in a bag of shedded ice with a scoop of brown sugar sauce on top and the vendor will give you a toothpick to pick them out. They are a cheap dessert and are traditional Taiwanese snacks, so of course I recommend you try them! 

2. Candied strawberries/tomatoes (糖葫蘆)

Taiwanese people don't really have a “sweet tooth” like North Americans do - Whenever my mom sends candy from home and I share it with my friends, they always complain about how sweet it I and  I usually just roll my eyes as I think they're crazy. The tables always turn on me when it comes to these candied fruit kebabs though. They are just like candied apples back home, but you get strawberries or cherry tomatoes on a stick and they are soaked in the candy and the end result is almost disgustingly sweet - Way too much for my tastebuds at least. Even worse is when when you get the cherry tomato version and it is both too sweet and too sour at the same time. Despite my overactive tastebuds not appreciating these kebabs, Taiwanese kids love them and they're almost the perfect snack for children visiting the night market. 

3. Fresh Orange Juice (新鮮果汁) 

This vendor actually pissed me off a bit, she was advertising 100% orange juice, which initially had me excited as fresh orange juice is one of my favourite drinks. I stopped and bought a 100NT bottle and was planning on drinking it on the train back home. When I got on the train I opened up my juice and tasted a watered down orange juice with way too much sugar. Clearly this vendor was set up to sell to tourists and even though I've been here over ten years, I still fell for a tourist trap. I've had fresh 100% orange juice like this in other night markets so I was a bit surprised that someone would sell drinks like this at a night market, but Miaokou is a very touristy night market and it is often frequented by Chinese tourists, so I guess the vendor took the opportunity to make a quick buck.

4. Sweet Potato Pancakes (地瓜餅) 

Pancakes aren't a really a big thing in Taiwan as people here much prefer waffles covered in everything from ice cream and fruit to tuna and corn. It's not that common to find pancakes in a night market, but then again these aren't really the pancakes that you're thinking about. These pancakes are made from a sweet potato based paste and pan fried. They are sweet, but also a bit bland in flavour. I'm not particularly a big fan of sweet potatoes so I'm probably not the best judge as to whether these actually taste good or not, but for my palate they seem to be missing something. If it were up to me, I'd just add maple syrup, but that's just because I'm Canadian and that's how we roll.

5. Vegetarian Food (素食) 

Vegetarian food in the night market? Well, I suppose they have to cater to everybody! Taiwan's night markets aren't really the most friendly places for our hipster veggie-eating friends to find some food, but on occasion you can find a vegetarian-friendly stall or two in every night market. This particular vendor serves up several vegetarian noodle dishes as well as soup and Japanese-style curry rice. They're all probably pretty tasty if you're a vegetarian but I'm much more prone to eating the much tastier variety of night market snacks than trying this kind. 

That's it for the Keelung Miaokou night market. I'll go back to posting normal stuff for a while and then after a month or two I'll probably do another set from another night market. I hope you enjoyed the shots so far and if you're interested you can check out all of the other night market posts in the links below. 


Gallery

Papa's Secret Lover (阿爸の情人)

This post is for all of you who have come and gone, those of you still here and especially for those of you thinking of coming back!  

Today I want to talk about a restaurant near where I live that holds a special place in not only my heart, but all the great people who have come and gone over the years. 

If you're one of the lucky people who have spent a year or more here in Taiwan and have had the chance of visiting this place, I hope some of these shots I'm sharing will bring back some great memories and a bit of nostalgia about your life in Taiwan. 

For the rest of you, I'm about to introduce a legendary restaurant here in Zhongli - one that is held in extremely high esteem by both Taiwanese and foreigner alike!  

Papa’s Secret Lover (阿爸的情人) or "Ah Ba" is a Hakka-style restaurant in Zhongli (中壢) near the traditional market in the old part of town. The restaurant looks like it has been open for decades, it is actually hard to tell how long it has been open, but for as long as anyone can remember, Papa's has been a constant fixture of life here.  

Papa's can be busy at times, but if you are one of the many who have made Papa's part of your going-away celebrations before leaving Taiwan, you probably don't have to make reservations and they will gladly take care of the forty of fifty people you have showing up - even though there might not be seats for everyone. 

國父您好~ Sun Yet Sen must be hungry watching everyone eat. 

The décor of the restaurant is best described as a 'blast from the past' and whenever someone new walks into the restaurant they likely feel as if they just walked out of a time machine! 

Every thing you see on the walls has historical relevance and are probably all from the early to middle 1900s. There is no real order to the way things are displayed and a lot of the picture frames seem to be crooked or falling off the wall. 

There are portraits of both Sun Yat Sen (孫中山) and Chiang Kai Shek (蔣介石) on walls opposing each other and they seem to be staring each other down. Having these portraits there is quite telling of the history that the Taiwanese people have endured over the last 60 years. 

Apart from portraits of political figures, the walls are full of wedding photos - of who know one really knows - and old movie posters and advertisements. There are posters of long-forgotten celebrities from 1960s-1970s Taiwanese pop-culture. 

My favourite piece on the wall is the old painted cigarette advertisements with the modern-looking ladies in Qipao's - something straight out of Shanghai in the 1920s. 

Fresh Tea

Peanuts to start

The tables and stools always kind of feel like they're going to fall apart, but truthfully the only time I've ever seen a broken chair in that places is one of the newer plastic stools the boss bought.

The wooden tables and chairs have obviously been loyal soldiers to the owners of the restaurant and they are probably all older than I am! 

The music playing in the restaurant has been exactly the same for as long as I've been in Taiwan and without fail every time you visit, you will hear the same songs over and over again. I actually have no idea how they haven't worn out the CD or whatever it is they use to play it

The music is likely a compilation of Taiwanese-language oldies and despite not understanding any of the words, most foreigners who have been going to the restaurant can sing the lyrics by heart after they've had a few Taiwan beers. 

The atmosphere, although extremely cool in the restaurant isn't what keeps people coming back though. The food is the main reason why everyone returns time and time again.

To give an example of how awesome the food is, I've heard stories several times of people showing up to Papa's a few hours before a flight and getting some food to go in a dish for a friend back home who used to live in Taiwan. Even if the food is cold and transported across continents, it is still amazing. 

You're not likely to find Hakka cuisine as good as what you'll find at Papa's and the dishes are so consistent that they taste exactly the same today as they did when I first showed up ten years ago. They don't mess with perfection. 

Everyone has their favourite dish but as far as I'm concerned, after travelling all over Asia, I can easily say that I've never had fried tofu as awesome as what you get at Papa's and it is on the table in front of me each and every time I visit.

Other people may not agree, but the great thing about Papa's is that there aren't any dishes that aren't awesome, so when you go with friends people will always share their favourites. 

I've introduced quite a few Taiwanese friends to the restaurant and it is always a bit hilarious to see their reaction as I take them through the front door. Most of them want to turn away thinking that it is the entrance to someones home or that it is too old and dirty to actually be a restaurant. 

On anyone's first visit to the restaurant they usually sit there with wide eyes in awe of the whole experience – When the food comes out however, they immediately fall in love. The food is always described to me as 「古早味」which is best described as old-style home cooking with flavours that are not as common today as they used to be. 

Foreigners don't really appreciate the old-style flavours as much as Taiwanese people do, but what we can appreciate is that the food is amazing and the restaurant has been the site of a lot of great times and good memories over the years. 

If you haven't tried Papa’s Secret Lover yet, make sure to get yourself over here to Taoyuan to have some great food in one of the strangest restaurants you'll ever experience! 

If you're back home in North America looking at these photos, I hope they bring back some fond memories of your time in Taiwan! 

Cheers! (乾杯!)

Address: 中壢市中山路401號二樓  

2F #401 Zhongshan Rd. Zhongli City.  


- Food Shots from my iPhone - 

Kung-Pao Chicken (宮保雞丁)

Deep Fried Tofu (炸豆腐)

Ginger Intestines (薑絲大腸)

Spicy Oysters and Tofu (蔭豆辣蚵)

Papa's Stir Fry (阿爸炒)

Beef with Pickled Vegetables (酸菜牛肉)

Sweet and Sour Spareribs (糖醋排骨) 

Ginger Beef (薑絲牛肉) 

Stir Fried Clams (炒蛤仔)