“Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.”- Mark Kurlansky
As promised, I present you *round two* of Taiwanese food adventures with Kyle. This time, we tackled Taichung’s food capital: Fengjia night market. 逢甲夜市
Like I mentioned in my first post, Fengjia (or Feng Chia) is the biggest night market in Taiwan and is conveniently located a quick 10 minute scooter ride from my apartment. The 1 kilometer-wide shopping district is famous for its abundance of trendy clothing, cell phone accessories and, of course, street food, all at unbeatable prices.
It is my firm (albeit heavily biased) belief that no trip to Taiwan is complete without an all-out Fengjia ransack. Fortunately, Yuki and her brother Allison are the most seasoned Fengjia foodies in all of Taichung, and were happy to act as Kyle & my tour guides. To avoid the crowds we got a head start at 5:30 on a Wednesday night, and wound up staying until almost 10:00. Yup, it’s THAT good.
You know what comes next. Here’s Kyle’s review of each snack on Yuki and Allison’s carefully curated menu, ranked from worst to best.
16. Stinky Tofu 臭豆腐 (price: $0; we got a free sample)
Perhaps Taiwan’s most notorious dish, stinky tofu is fermented tofu that is fried or boiled. It is, indeed, of the utmost stank. While I don’t particularly mind it, Kyle barely forced it down. Fengjia 1, Kyle 0.
15. Pig’s Blood Cake 豬血糕 (40 NT/ $1.33 USD)
SCORE: 5, then 2
Pig’s blood cake is rice mixed with coagulated pig’s blood, steamed, dipped in soy sauce, and then coated with peanut dust. It’s a favorite among locals, including Allison! We decided not to tell Kyle what it was until after he’d taken a bite… resulting in the change in score, as reflected. I’ve gotta say, I’ve taken a nibble on several occasions and it’s really not as bad as it sounds. The trick is to not think too hard about what you’re eating.
14. Shaved Ice 剉冰 (50 NT/ $1.67 USD)
DISCLAIMER: I find many of Kyle’s scores to be atrocious, including this one. While shaved ice isn’t my favorite, it’s a classic Taiwanese dessert that is widely enjoyed, despite consisting of flavors unfamiliar to most Western palates. The body of the dish is exactly what it sounds like: a pile of shaved ice. Where things get interesting are the toppings, which include red beans, grass jelly, taro, sweet potato, condensed milk, tapioca balls, or “boba,” and others. Most of the toppings have a chewy texture, which is what turned Kyle off. The name for this texture is “QQ” in Taiwan, and is also what most people love about shaved ice.
13. Peanut Mochi 花生麻糬 (3 flavors for 100 NT/ $3.33 USD)
Ah, mochi. We have the Japanese to thank for this sticky, rice-based, delectable dessert. We bought three different types of mochi at Fengjia but Kyle tried the Hakka-style peanut mochi, originating from the Hakka minority ethnic group in Taiwan. The simple sweet consists of plain mochi rolled in peanut dust. While Kyle wasn’t into it (what with it being QQ and all), I would like the record to show that I am a diehard fan. It’s a 10/10 from me. Don’t @ me, Kyle.
12. Lemon Pepper Curry Shrimp 懶人蝦 (13 shrimp for 100 NT/ $3.33 USD)
These lil’ shrimps are unique because they’re eaten whole. First you bite the head off and spit it out, then you chomp the rest off the skewer and there you have it– no peeling necessary. The Chinese name is literally “lazy shrimp.” If only everything were so simple…
11. Black Soy Milk Tea 紅茶豆漿 (35 NT/ $1.17 USD)
Tea + soy milk. A tried and true classic.
10. Ji Pai 雞排 (75 NT/ $2.50 USD)
Ji pai, or Taiwanese fried chicken, is a night market classic and an unintimidating entry point into Taiwanese street food. We went to one of the most hyped up ji pai stands in Fengjia, which is saying something. It was a hit!
9. Candied Tomato 糖葫蘆 (90 NT/ $3.00 USD)
Think a candied apple, but SURPRISE it’s not an apple it’s a tomato. Also it’s wrapped in edible rice paper. *mind blown*
8. Cheese Fries 起司薯條 (55 NT/ $1.83 USD)
7. Papaya Milk, 1/2 Sugar 木瓜牛奶 半糖 (60 NT/ $2.00 USD)
This is the only item on this list that I have not personally tasted (lactose intolerant=不好), but Kyle promised it’s good. It’s similar to its cousins apple milk and strawberry milk, which are also popular in Taiwan and can be found pretty much anywhere. Pro tip: at tea shops and drink stands in Taiwan, you can specify how much ice and sugar you would like in your beverage. Talk about a ~personalized experience~.
6. Scallion Pancake with Basil and Egg 蔥油餅加蛋 (35 NT/ $1.17 USD)
These scallion pancakes, or zhua bing, are easily one of my favorite Taiwanese foods. They’re almost identical to their Indian counterpart, roti prata. While they can be eaten at any time, they’re a popular breakfast food when filled with eggs or meat. Flaky, oily, and irresistible.
5. Takoyaki 章魚燒 (6 for 40 NT/ $1.33 USD)
Takoyaki is a Japanese snack made of batter filled with octopus, pressed into perfect spheres, and covered with bonito flakes. Bonito flakes are also known as “dancing fish flakes,” because the steam rising from the hot balls makes the super lightweight flakes flutter about like they’re dancing. Science, man.
4. Honey Wasabi Squid 蜂蜜芥末炸花枝 (100 NT/ $3.33 USD)
Unfortunately my absolute favorite squid stand was closed the evening of Kyle’s visit, so we had to swap it’s famous honey mustard squid for this inferior stand’s cheap honey wasabi knockoff. Just kidding, it was still really good. But it just might’ve cost us the difference between a 9 and a 10…
3. Candied Strawberry 糖葫蘆 (Purchased with candied tomatoes for 90 NT/ $3.00 USD)
The exact same as their tomato counterparts, just strawberries– so therefore, better.
2. 1973 Chicken 繼光香香雞 (medium for 80 NT/ $2.67 USD)
J & G 1973 Chicken is a famous Taiwanese fried chicken chain, so of course Kyle loved it. He did admitted that his preference probably stemmed in part from the taste being familiar, as fried chicken isn’t exactly novel. At least he’s honest.
1. Duck Bao 烤鴨夾餅 (50 NT/ $1.67 USD)
It’s no surprise to me that this was Kyle’s favorite Fengjia delicacy. The majority of our Fulbright group has been obsessed with this duck sandwich since week one. The shredded meat, pickled veggies, and spicy sauce all wrapped in a steaming pillowy bun– my mouth is watering while typing this. I’ve eaten it at least 10 times, and never gotten sick of it. Maybe Kyle and I can agree on some food after all…
And that’s a wrap! Which of these snacks are you dying to try? Are you surprised by any of Kyle’s scores?
I’ll be logging off for the next few weeks as winter break is (finally) upon us. Cheers to ringing in the Lunar New Year– and 24 — with a trip to Singapore, Thailand, and what promises to be an epic birthday celebration in Hong Kong. See you all in the Year of the Pig!
PS. Peep the slideshow for some other non food-related highlights from Kyle and Kenny’s visit :)))