Sunday, December 24, 2006

markets/chinese: i recommend NAN MEN MARKET

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!

the line awaits

she can't make them fast enough!

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.

from another vendor- 10 in a pack- this one has peanut paste inside

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.


Ron Wu said...

Ha, this is my favorite market to shop for cooked food or cooking ingredients. Interestingly, this is still the only traditional market that has the most complete selection of Shanghainese cooking ingredients. Some are rare to find items. I remember when I was little, my mother used to take me there to shop when we were expecting guess coming over for dinner.
That was a long time ago ;)

Anonymous said...

I like tang yuan with peanut fillings. Now that you mentioned, I will add that to my to-eat list when I go back to Singapore. Yay!

Ron Wu said...

and don't forget to try the tang yuan with jiou niong

Chubbypanda said...

My favorite are the ones filled with sesame paste. I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to buy them freshly made but not cooked. Here it's either frozen in the store or cooked and served in a restaurant.

- Chubbypanda

joanh said...

ron wu: that's so cool to know.. i'm glad it's still around while so much of Taipei is changing/getting revamped.

simcooks: you can buy them at ranch 99 right? not as good, but better than nothing.

chubbypanda: my favorite is sesame then peanut. freshly made one tastes less gummy and the flavor of the pastes have more depth/richness.. have you ever had ones that had been in the freezer too long? ugh... i have...

Sunny said...

I can't wait to visit the traditional market. When I was little, my mother used to buy and cook the same dishes by fish, vegetables, and eggs. Since I am a new mother and Chinese New Year coming soon, it's really a good time for me to learn more about food. Before that, come joan, let's visit Di-Hua Street first.