Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Night Market Eats in Keelung, Taiwan

There are a few super cool things about stopping in one place for a while. Firstly, you get to know it well; you know where the best desserts are at and how to get from point A to point B quickly, you become familiar with the quirky customs and rules that seemed baffling on day one and you get to inhabit that fun middle ground between travelling and living somewhere. Secondly, if you befriend enough vegan travellers online / in real life some of them are bound to be passing through and you can hang out. This happened most recently with Jhenn (of mac & cheese supper club fame) here in Taipei and prior to that with Cici in Bangkok. Thirdly, if you're lucky and put in a little effort on social media you get to meet the vegans that live in your chosen town or city. If the place you decide to spend some time is Taipei you'll quickly realise that everyone is ridiculously friendly and will invite you to birthday dinners, insist on ordering lunch for you from their favourite place and if you're really lucky they'll take you on an epic night market tour.


Saturday night saw me meeting up with fellow travel blogger and Instagrammer Stephie of The Caffeinated Vegan and her partner James for an evening of walking, talking and eating our way around Keelung's bustling night market. Because Taipei is fast becoming a must visit destination for all kinds of travellers but especially foodies and vegans, Jhenn, aka The Vegan Ronin, and Sam from Indefinite Adventures came along for an evening of adventure-eating too.
Keelung is situated right on the coast and it takes about 35 minutes to get there by train from Taipei Main Station. Because this is Asia and everything is awesome that'll only set you back about 40TWD / 80p / $1.20.

Our first stop was this all vegan stall where Stephie dived in and ordered a whole bunch of stuff for us to try. I was super happy about this because I would have had no idea where to begin, in fact this is one of those places that unless you're in the know or better at spotting the correct symbols from the middle of a slow moving but intense crowd you might not even notice that this was a vegan spot at all. We somehow managed to grab enough seats for everyone together so that we could share (and photograph) everything.


We ordered so much food that I won't show you all of it but here are some of our faves. This tofu roll thing was an excellent start, I don't really know what was inside but the piece I had was delish'.


This herby soup with seitan wasn't a big favourite with anyone else on my side of the table but I loved its delicate flavours despite the fact that I burnt my tongue so badly with my first spoonful that I had to dodge through the crowds to the nearest 7/eleven to get a cold drink immediately!


I only nibbled a little piece of tofu from the edge of this epic mock meat and tofu platter because it was covered in chilli sauce but yuuuum, it was so tasty! Everyone devoured this fast so I'd say it was a group fave' for sure.


On the way home on the train we were chatting about our favourite eats and more than one person named this curry as their favourite dish so here it is. I didn't try it but I trust that it'd be a solid order.


I would imagine that ordering any of these dishes is going to be a challenge if you're language skills are as bad as mine so if something looks appealing take a screenshot and show the people working what you'd like to try! I've totally done this in restaurants after spying something that looked so good on a blog or on Instagram but upon sitting down realising that I have no way of deciphering the menu! I felt like it might seem rude at first but as long as you're polite enough to have learnt to say hello and thank you it seems that most people find this ordering technique endearing / amusing! 

The second stop on our grand night market tour took us to this wonderful sweet potato hash brown stand. These definitely sit at the greasier end of the hash brown spectrum but they're freaking delicious because of it! I devoured mine as soon as it had cooled enough for me to take a bite due to the aforementioned tongue burning soup. 



I kinda wished that I'd gone back for seconds because greasy fried potatoes are totally my thing but then we were faced with our next dining option, bao burgers or Gua Bao. What?! I love bao and I love burgers and putting these two things together is something I'd heard of but never tried. I was super happy to get down with some vegetarian pork belly and obviously I got the combo which comes with a hash brown. WINNING! 


I can't show you a picture because the ones I took are too awful to look at let alone to put out there in the world but trust me here, it was amazing. The mock meat is all saucy and there's a layer of crunchy, sugary, herby goodness in there too - peanuts and coriander I think - plus the bonus hash brown which came with a little ketchup sachet - I'm pretty sure that it was my favourite food that night.

Water aside I don't drink a whole lot of fun drinks, I enjoy a matcha latte and I'm finally getting into other teas but fizzy drinks make my stomach feel strange these days, coffee makes my head / body feel odd and I straight up hate 99.9% of milkshakes (I'm a-ok with the chocolate one from The Wynn in Las Vegas but THAT IS IT). I'd assumed that bubble tea would fall firmly into the hate pile but James let me try his tropical passionfruit bubble tea with coconut jelly and tapioca pearls and it was love at first sip. I (okay, I enlisted his help!) ordered one immediately and have been grabbing one whenever I spot a CoCo ever since. James ordered his without sugar so I do too, it has a couple of scoops of passionfruit pulp in there so my tastebuds don't think it needs anything extra.


Dessert was our next stop but I was essentially drinking a dessert already so I didn't get too into this traditional Taiwanese feast. Douhua (please correct me if I'm getting the name wrong!) is a sweet tofu based pudding which is topped with all sorts of stuff, this one has peanuts, shaved ice, beans and tapioca pearls. If I'm totally honest I wasn't a huge fan. I think that it was just a bit too out there for me, it definitely wasn't bad, I happily ate more than a few mouthfuls, but it wasn't really doing anything for me y'know? I think that you have to try it if you're visiting Taiwan though, Jhenn loved it! I much preferred the delicious peanut topped mochi which was super fresh and perfect.


After we'd finished eating dessert everyone was pretty full and it was getting kinda late but both me and Sam had one more question - is there more vegan food? The answer was yes so we made just one more stop to grab some super moorish fried sweet potato balls. These reminded me of something that I tried at the vegetarian festival in Thailand but these were a whole lot tastier. Everyone agreed that if they'd been sugar coated or greasy they would've been too much at the end of an evening of eating but as they were they were just right.


I had the best time exploring Keelung night market with my new vegan buddies, it was such a fun evening and I loved getting acquainted with a Taiwanese night market after spending so much time exploring them in Thailand during the vegetarian festival. Stephie and James are most excellent hosts and they happen to run a vegan Air B&B in Taipei so if you're looking for somewhere to crash in the city hit them up!

10 comments:

  1. Looks amazing, ahhhh!! So jealous! Such a great idea to show a picture of the food you want. :) Even though I speak Chinese (or spoke at the time - I've forgotten most now!) I had trouble ordering in Taiwan. Sometimes the proprietors would let me go round the restaurant, looking at what other people were eating, and then point at what I wanted! :D

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  2. I want greasy fried potatoes too!

    I had never thought about taking a picture/screenshot of a dish online and then showing it at the restaurant. Good tip.

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  3. Daaaaang, girl, that looks like a great spread! I'm super jealous of that bao burger, it looks yummy, and it's fun to say! Count me in for any sort of greasy potato action.

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  4. I'm in love with all the greasy sweet potatoness in this post! A hash brown stand! A bao burger with hash browns! Potato balls!!

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  5. The most important questions always is 'is there more vegan food', and it looks like you had a good go at a lot of it! Everything sounds so yummy.
    I love bubble tea. There are heaps of bubble tea places around here.

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  6. It's always awesome to make vegan (travel) friends! ;) Definitely will check out your friends sites. The food looks yummy!

    Christina
    www.cityloveee.com

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  7. You're eating so well in Taipei! I'd be all over those bao burgers like a rash. And how cool you got to enjoy all that good food with bonus travelling vegans!

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  8. What an epic eating adventure! I love bao so would be so into that. What fun you've had meeting up with other vegans and sampling all the deliciousness!

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