At Roosevelt Rd and Nan Hai Rd
date visited: 12/22/2006
To mark the beginning of winter, I guess it's a tradition to eat tang yuan or boiled round rice glutinous balls. Why? Maybe to keep your stomachs full and warm for the cold? I'm not exactly sure.. but it's tradition. If you didn't eat any last friday, then you can hurry to Nan Men Market and buy a pack to take home and boil yourself.
There are quite a few vendors that sell it, but supposedly this one is the most famous. And on this special tang yuan eating holiday, Dong Zhi, there was line and up to a 20-40 minute wait as the lady hand made each ball while customers (im)patiently waited. I've seen this phenomenon at other stores and it's amazing how antsy people will get over their mochi balls!
After they are cooked, they almost look like mini snowballs bathing in water. Biting into a ball, you get the chewiness of the rice ball and the sweet oozing taste of the sesame or peanut or red bean paste. They make salty ones too, but I definitely prefer the sweet fillings.
I ended up here while running errands and a local friend of mine thought it would be a good place to stop by. It''s definitely a sight to see... with lots of local foods available to purchase to take home- chinese style jerky, tang yuan or sesame or peanut filled rice balls, man toh or chinese steamed bread and buns, sausages, dried fruits, candy and even a huge array of cooked dishes like shrimp, fish, vegetables and meat.
Many of the stalls sell similar food to the others, so you just take a quick circle around before deciding on which vendor you like best.
I was intrigued by the vendor roasting their pork jerky over a hot grill and ended up buying NT$50 worth cut up into finger-licking good slices.
Taiwanese jerky is different from American jerky in that it's usually sold by weight and look like red plastic slices rather than sticks wrapped in plastic. They come in all sorts of flavors, such as black pepper, but I prefer the sweeter flavors. You can ask for a sample before you decide- generally, the vendor will cut a tiny piece for you to try.
My friend also highly recommended the vegetarian buns from this man-toh stall- they sold six buns in a bag for NT$70, as well as an array of different colored man-tohs and buns, including cha sau buns (bbq pork) and green onion bread. They also sold nien gao or rice cakes and rice cake noodles. There was even a cinnabun looking roll that the vendor said was coffee flavored.
Totally worth browsing if you have the time and the stomach for it, since you're likely to find some good deals, but most of the stuff is out in the open rather than pre-packaged or in a fridge which some people may not be used to. If you don't speak Chinese, I think the point and nod method will work here since there aren't really any English signs anywhere. The only thing is that I wished that the sesame rice balls were sold ready-to-eat, but this isn't the place for that. Ah well, I can always head over to Jiu Ru for a bowl.