LONGSHAN TEMPLE STREET EATS
Guangzhou and Xichang Streets
Kid friendliness: Not as crowded as some of the other night markets. Lots to eat.
Visit reviewed: 12/27/2008
I rarely get out to this part of Taipei, so it was an adventure eating around Longshan Temple with my aunt and cousins. She led the way and we followed, so forgive me if the descriptions of where and what are a little bit meandering.
We ate a lot of classic Taiwanese street eats that you can find at most night markets- sausages, ba-wan, squid vermicelli, stinky tofu- but had to go to different streets and stores to get it- which might be more confusing if you aren't familiar with the area. It's not a localized one stop all under one roof like Shih Lin Night Market or one way long street like Rao He Night Market, but if you have time to explore, you can find some delicious and unique snacks like the peanut brittle ice cream wrap with cilantro.
If you are especially adventurous, you can go to Snake Alley, where you can drink snake's blood or see caged up snakes and other weird things. See what this Taipei Times writer had to say about the area.
If you are standing with 85 Degrees C Cafe behind you outside the MRT Station stop, you'll spot a little vendor across the street to the left grilling sausages. Taiwanese sausages are slightly sweet, sometimes served in a sticky rice bun, often served on a stick.
If you can spot this vendor, pick up a stick for NT$25.
After we picked up our sausages to go, we headed down the alley adjacent to 85 Degrees C and ended up a small shop that sold ba-wan and got it to-go. "Ba-wan" (NT$35) is a hockey puck sized snack with a thick glutunous rice skin and diced meat and bamboo inside. It's often topped with a sweet red or brown sauce that completes the taste, although the whole thing is kind of mysterious.
It's fried in a vat of oil, but it isn't crispy. It's also steamed, but most times you'll it fried and then the oil squeezed out.
Originally I thought this was squid rice noodle soup, but after asking a friend to translate, it turns out it was swordfish rice noodle soup (NT$30)! Or pronounced "chi yu mi fun tang." I thought it was decent, but not something that I'd seek out. They wanted to order some other stuff, but they were sold out.
There's an assortment of other things available, but it's hard to tell what if you don't read Chinese. The restaurant was also not very happy to see that we brought ba-wan from another store (although they don't sell it themselves), but still let us eat it there and asked us not to bring over other stuff again. I liked the ba-wan better than the rice noodle, and the ba-wan just above average.
After we ate, we ended up walking around the empty night market area where they sold clothes, dvds/cds, jewelry and other things. I picked up some stinky tofu (NT$40) to go and it was hot crispy and came with a side of pickled cabbage. I think there was a time when I was a kid that I didn't like stinky tofu, but I've come to be quite fond of it. I can only eat it fried though- I still can't eat the regular stinky tofu.
After we had walked through this section, we crossed the street and I took a picture of the signs so I would remember what intersection it was!
The shaved ice shop was pretty busy- with the right side serving shaved ice and the left side serving hot desserts, such as red bean soup.
Somehow I wasn't crazy about the shaved ice. Part of the reason I love shaved ice to eat the condensed sweetened milk on top of the ice and I guess it landed on top of the toppings instead of the ice and quickly became mush.
Speaking of mush, I had never seen this before, but apparently Oatmeal Shaved Ice (or "Mai Jiao Chua Bing" is another variety of popular shaved ice. I tried a bite, but I just couldn't get into it.
The sign says they've been around since 1920 and this area is one of the older areas of Taipei. I didn't know this until doing some reading online, but you can sort of feel the difference, as the other night markets just have different energy. Even outside the MRT station, you can spot various older locals hanging around and random city signs prohibiting a laundry list of things.
Some are kind of amusing, like "No private desks or chairs," but others like "No urinating" are just kind of gross. The nearby Snake Alley is a famous tourist spot, but has reportedly been "cleaned up"- although from my memory of going over 9 years ago, it's a bit scuzzy and creepy. I think I remember seeing a roasted bat on a stick among things like the poor snakes in cages, as well as hearing that the nearby seedy area was considered the Red Light District.
And last but definitely not least, we ate the peanut brittle shavings and ice cream wrap. I almost didn't get it since I was so full, but I'm glad I did. It was a million times better than the shaved ice and more unique as well.
Read the full review here.
So that's Longshan Temple street eats. Exploring the area is an adventure in itself. Anyone have any other recs for the area?