Monday, July 27, 2015

revisited/night market: i strongly recommend RAOHE NIGHT MARKET

Raohe night market is one of the most popular and oldest night markets in Taipei. A short subway or taxi ride from Xinyi or DaAn districts, Raohe has two bright signs marking the front and back main entrances of the night market.

I had what I thought was some mediocre food the last time I visited Raohe with some out of town friends, so it's been a few years since I've had the urge to revisit. Thanks to some new friends from Singapore who chose it as our meeting spot, I fell in love with the popular flaky pepper buns, the grilled oyster mushrooms, mango shaved ice and found a vendor serving one of my favorite night market snacks, the ice cream "burrito" with peanut candy shavings and cilantro. 

The pepper buns at the entrance of the Raohe night market and can be spotted by a winding queue of people waiting and a team of quick fingered people wrapping minced pork and green onions in doughy balls to be cooked in tandoor like ovens. The result is a pepper bun that is too hot to hold, a crunchy crust on the bottom and peppery and sweet meatball inside the bun. It's worth coming to Raohe just for this. 

Here's a glance at some of the other stands I spotted at Raohe. What's your favorite thing to eat at this night market? 


Rubber duck cotton candy 

Get your Taiwanese sausage from this vendor.. The first one we got from another vendor was so bad- pretty much just fat inside a sausage casing and the first time I had to throw something away that I bought at the night market. Taiwanese sausage should be firm and slightly chewy, on the sweet side and not all fat!!! 

Yeaaa. Favorite! 

Monday, July 06, 2015

drinks/american: i strongly recommend WOOGO SMOOTHIES

No. 42, Lane 233, DunHua S. Road, Sec. 1
(02) 2778-0182 

MRT: ZhongXiao/Dunhua

website: WooGo's FB page 

hours: 11AM - 10PM

$ (Cash only)

Kid friendliness: yes

Visit reviewed: 6/9/2015

Taipei skipped over the smoothie phase straight into cold-pressed juices, juice cleanses and juice bars craze this past year (with the openings of Juice In, Juicy Diary, Juice 8, Boost Juice, Goodies Cleanse, Vegg Out), but smoothies still hold a special place in my heart. At each of my jobs post college, there was a Jamba Juice nearby to hit up with co-workers during our lunch break or after work. Sometimes when we didn't have enough time to eat, we drank our smoothies on the go. 

When I first moved back to Taipei, there was a smoothie shop at (then) Warner Village, but it eventually closed down. There were plenty of sugary boba tea shops or fresh fruit juice places, but somehow no smoothies. The five founders of WooGo noticed this gap too, and opened WooGo Juice in 2013 to serve California style smoothies,  icy smoothies blended from frozen fruit, yogurt or sorbet and ice of styrofoam cups. All the sorbets and yogurts are made in house, and prices are quite reasonable from NT$75-110 with M, L and XL sized cups available.

Located in an alley behind Ming Yao Department Store, I must have passed by the store dozens of times since one of my favorite bakeries is nearby. I'm glad I finally gave it a try. Now I (and you) have a place to go when I'm craving Jamba Juice. 

Both English and Chinese menus available, with over a dozen smoothies to choose from, in categories of classics, WTF and Tropical. Hot drinks and bagels and cream cheese are also available. There's a couple of small tables to chill inside as well as on outside on the patio.

Scanning the menu, the one that popped out to me was the Raspberry Mojito (NT$$95 for large) with cranberry juice, lemon juice, mulberry sorbet, raspberries and mint leaves. The mint and lemon definitely gave it a brightness and it was a good mix of sour and sweet and the perfect thickness and iciness. Loved it, who wouldn't want to drink mojito smoothies? 

The PBJ Sandwich sounds so strange to me, but lots of people on Instagram said it was their favorite. On my second visit, I tried the Strawberry Lemonade and the Pineapple Paradise, which were both great too, the lemonade being slightly more sour than the pineapple in a side by side tasting. 

The WooGo cup is a lot of fun with charts and facts to read on the go, and it's interesting they choose to make it completely in English with no Chinese. 

Are there enough people in Taipei who want to drink California Smoothies? I hope so. It seems healthier than boba milk teas and blended ice coffees, and cheaper than a Starbucks or shaved ice fix. I wonder if the juice bars have taken off more than smoothies because it seems more healthy and it's not as "icy", since some Taiwanese people avoid ice water and icy drinks. (I've never had more warm water until after I moved back to Taiwan. Now when I go back to LA, I can't drink restaurant water where the ice is filled up to the brim.) But smoothies... happy to have smoothies I can grab and go in Taipei. 


HOYII Taipei Main Station 台北車站店: 
No. 36, ZhongXiao W. Road, Sec. 1, B1 
(02) 2311-4733

No. 1 Nanjing W. Road

Monday, June 29, 2015

#exploretaipei: hungryintaipei's guide to YONG KANG STREET

(between XinYi Road, Sec. 2 and Jinhua St.)

The first time I ever heard of Yong Kang Street was during one of my first trips back to Taipei after being away for over 12 years. I was back for just one month and had no clue where anything was. After lunch at Zhu Ji, my aunt told us that we had to go to the mango shaved ice place on Yong Kang Street.  

"What's the name of the place?" we asked her.  

"Just tell the taxi driver that you want to go to the mango ice place on Yong Kang Street and they will know," she responded. 

And it was true. Even ten years later after my first (blurry) post ever for hungryintaipei about it, and even though that spot is no longer Ice Monster after several changes in owners and shop revisions, it's still crowded with people getting their shaved ice on.

But Yong Kang Street is more than its famous bookends of the original Din Tai Fung at the front and mango shaved ice near the touristy end. Yong Kang Street, or aka Yong Kang Jie, is full of Taiwanese restaurants, dumplings, noodles, street eats, boba milk tea and even cute dessert cafes and amazing sushi bars if you know where to wander off to find them. You could even put your name down at Din Tai Fung and explore and snack for half an hour to come back in time for your number to come up for xiao long bao. 

If you want to eat like a tourist, then you'll just go to Din Tai Fung and mango shaved ice. But if you want to eat like a local, then you'll have to dig a little deeper into this street of good eats.  CNN readers just voted Taipei as their number one food destination as having the best food. I totally believe that's true! If you only had one day to eat in Taipei, Yong Kang Street wouldn't be a bad place to spend it.


Whether you try it at Din Tai Fung, or its competing neighbor Kao Chi, get some dumplings in your belly! If you're willing to explore, further down on Yong Kang St are some hole in the wall dumpling places for a lot less.

DIN TAI FUNG 鼎泰豊the original DTF always has a line out front. Even though this location takes up four floors now in the building, it's one of the more cramped locations because it's too popular for the small building's size. Grab a number, ask for estimated wait times and take a quick stroll down Yong Kang St for your next stop.

KAO CHI is right around the corner from DTF and some say the xiao long baos are equally good and slightly cheaper. I've had good as well as mediocre visits there and I think DTF's xiao long bao skins are more delicate, but you could consider a visit if you are too impatient to wait in line. What Kao Chi's specialty is though are the sheng jian baos, with a thicker skin and steamed and pan fried at the same time so that they have crisped bottoms.


Oddly housed under a sign for Thanh Ky's Pho, the spring onion pancake vendor is worth waiting in line for. You can opt for plain (which I prefer), with egg, cheese, ham or the works (NT$25-50). English menu available to point at. Order one to share and eat while you keep exploring. Crispy, flaky on the outside, doughy on the inside, the cong you bing is hot and quite filling if you eat the whole thing.

Totally prepared with individually wrapped dough to press and flatten with a machine and throw onto the hot griddle. 


Only have time to hang out near Yong Kang Street, but craving some beef noodle soup? Most people will wander over to the famous Yong Kang Beef Noodle Soup

Or you could give this knife cut noodle shop a try, Yi Ping Shanxi Dao Xiao Mian, with a bowl of tomato based beef noodle broth, chunks of beef and slivers of knife cut noodles. CNN liked it enough to include it on their best beef noodle soups list after I took them there when my other fave knife cut noodle shop was closed (and we had already hit up Lin Dong Fang and W Hotel's beef noodle soups). There's also another knife cut noodle shop in the alley around the corner, but I always seem to pass by when it's already closed. Of course, if you have more time in Taipei, my personal favorite beef noodle soups are elsewhere, but this is a decent bowl for your walking tour of Yong Kang St.


Sit downstairs for the feeling of having your shaved ice in the original shack, or sit upstairs in an air conditioned room, which was added during a recent expansion when Smoothie House 思慕昔 took over the reins for this spot from Ice Monster/Yong Kang 15 a few years ago. One bowl is big enough to share and the menu has tourist friendly photos and English to browse, though if you choose to sit upstairs there is a minimum fee per person.


You can also get some fresh fruit or fruit juice... somehow the fruits are incomparably sweet in Taipei. Give wax apple or custard apple or watermelon juice a try if you've never had it. There's several shops along Yong Kang Street serving fresh squeezed juices to quench your thirst or pre-sliced fruits packed for easy eating on the go.

custard apples

Currently there are three popular boba drink shops along the short stretch of Yong Kang St. My personal fave is 50 Lan- I like to get fresh milk w/ mini bobas, no sugar, less ice, sometimes with extra pudding. There's also lots of ice teas, green tea, fruit teas, milk teas and fruit juices to choose from. You'll be asked how sweet and how icy you want your drink, and you can ask for an English menu if you don't spot one.



If you're up for trying something local, there's also a lot of shops specializing in dishes from other Taiwan cities, like Tainan or Yilan. I love the fried gaozha and lu rou fan from Lu Sang and sometimes will stop in to get just that as a snack on my Yong Kang St food crawl, but you could do a whole family style meal at these restaurants too. See what other dishes are family favorites on my past review here.

gao zha- deep fried chicken broth!!
TU HSIAO YUEH/ DU HSIAO YUEH / 度小月 or SLACK SEASON NOODLES is near the front of Yong Kang St, near DTF and Kao Chi. Famous for their Tainan dan tsai noodles. Good if you have a large group and want to try Taiwanese food in a modern setting. Check out this past review for some pictures. 



8% ICE has a two story shop and a lot of unique flavors like french peach with rosewater or hojicha with honey to try (though no samples given at this location! Boo!). If you can find it, I also love the macarons and desserts from Patisserie La Doceur or red velvet cupcakes from Les Bebes Cupcakes, which both have other outlets elsewhere in Taipei, but you could do just a dessert crawl if you have the stomach space (I'd do red bean paste xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung, mango shaved ice, ice cream from 8% ice, soufflé from C'est La Vie then macarons and cupcakes! haha!)

Of course, there's many more restaurants in the offshoots of Yong Kang St to try, but just the restaurants on Yong Kang Street will keep you busy for an extended lunch and afternoon of snacking.   Did I miss your favorite eats on Yong Kang Street? Share in the comments!

Note for travelers, you can also grab a local SIM card at one of these telecom shops Far EasTone or Chunghwa Telecom since you can't just get them at 7-11 anymore. I recently helped a journalist get one here (have your passport ready) before our walking tour of Yong Kang St. Yong Kang Street also conveniently has both a 7-11 and Watsons, perfect for picking up some bottles of water, makeup or toiletries. 

Right off of Dongmen MRT (Exit Number 5!)

hungryintaipei's guide to Yong Kang Street

No. 194, Section 2, Xinyi Road
(02) 2321-8928

5 Yongkang Street 
(02) 2341-9984

No. 1, Lane 6, Yongkang Street

10-6 Yongkang Street
(02) 2321-1562

No. 17, Lane 31, Section 2, Jinshan S. Road

15 Yongkang Street

9-1 Yongkang Street
(02) 3393-1325

12-5 Yongkang Street
(02) 2351-3323

8% ICE
6, Lane 13, Yongkang Street
(02) 2395-6583

No. 223, Jinhua Street
(02) 3322-2833


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