Thursday, October 18, 2012

Taipei Eats - Ximending area (西門町, Picture heavy!)

On a lovely afternoon a few weeks ago hubby and I decided to pay Ximending a visit, though not because it is dubbed the Shibuya and Harajuku of Taipei :P We were there to look for 2 very specific places, one is an ice cream shop and the other another dessert shop specializing in almond tofu. But of course the stroll around Ximending was nice too ^.^

The view outside of MRT Ximen Station (西門站), Exit 4. It was a gorgeous sunny but cooler day, just perfect to be wandering around in.

The Taipei city police station front (left) and back (right). Fancy!

Zhongshan Hall (left) faces away from the main street, so its front is next to the back of the Taipei city police station (middle), with a mini Japanese National Diet Building lookalike at far right.  

Upon googling, we learned these buildings are remnants of Japanese colonial era and they were built by Japanese architects.

The ice cream shop we were looking for, Snow King Ice Cream (雪王冰淇淋冠王), is on the small street that runs between the Taipei city police station and the mini Japanese Diet Building lookalike (I *think* it's a museum, but I can be dead wrong...). Just walk down that street as if you're going around the police station, cross the first small intersection by the flag poles and it's right there on the left side of the street. You'd think it's an odd location, but considering there's a great wide park right in front of Zhongshan Hall, I think it's actually strategic. You can get ice cream and chill with it in the park, watching children play with their pets and teenagers showing off with their skateboards.

So why must we find this Snow King Ice Cream shop? Because it's known for having 73 different flavors, ranging from classic vanilla and chocolate, to standard fruity like strawberry, to absolutely wacky like bitter melon, hot pepper, curry, tofu, sesame oil chicken, and pig's feet O.o Yeah. Absolutely no sampling allowed, because they'd be spending all their time giving out samples to curious visitors. Prices are per scoop and range from NT$60 (~ US$2) for sesame or mint (薄荷) flavors, to NT$100 (~ US$3.50) for honey or lotus seed flavors, to NT$140 (~ US$4.75) for Brandy (白蘭地) or Golden Gate Sorghum (Jinmen Gaoliang, 金門高粱, a popular sorghum brand in Taiwan). Pretty pricey, yes, but novelty ice creams like these are meant to be shared, and the bigger the group, the more everyone's curiosity will be thoroughly indulged. 

Hubby and I first got a scoop of sugar cane (far left), which tasted more like bland cream and nothing like sugar cane, and preserved plum (middle), which was yummy with chewy bits of the actual preserved plums, although to be more authentic it would have to be a tad more tart and salty. Later we came back a second time for a third scoop of coconut (right), which hubby really loved but I felt was too rich.

After relaxing with ice cream at the park, we headed off to the shopping area, which was indeed reminiscent of Shibuya in the density, the flashing neons, as well as the crowds of hip young people. 

There was even a mini craft market with tents and displays in front of the Red House Theater (center and right), another prominent historical building from the Japanese era.

There was a man showcasing sand art, and I was snapping away at the amazing colorful bottle until another observer kindly alerted me to the tiny "No Cameras" sign that was not exactly conspicuous (but I was also oblivious). Woopsidoo. Yet another obnoxious tourist faux pas. Taiwan - 2, me - 0.

Of course we had to try yet another tea chain, ComeBuy, which focused more on the tea and less on the flavoring. Hubby got a White Peach Oolong Tea (left), which was fragrant but slightly bitter, and I got a Sweet Rose and Basil Seeds Tea (right), which was delicious!

And we tried mochi balls, actually more like tapioca balls (粉圓), from a street cart ^.^

Ximending lit up at night.

Went back to MRT Ximen Station Exit 4 for some dinner before heading back. 

Of course we picked a random place :P

Hubby had wonton noodles (yes, again), and I ordered a sliced pork with pickled vegetables noodle soup.

This is the other target destination for the night - Yu's Almond Tofu (于記杏仁豆腐) where almost everything is almond related.

Their specialty is this almond milk shaved ice, wherein almond milk is frozen into ice then shaved into this silky smooth dessert. You are allowed to pick 4 toppings among 16 or so choices, but I only picked 3 because I didn't know what they all were. Actually they should be called fillings instead because they're buried underneath the mountain of almond milk shaved ice ^.^ I got grass jelly (at right), ...

...and canned fruits and mini mochi balls xD Man oh man the almond milk tofu shaved ice was delicious!!!

The second time we returned to Ximending was on Taiwan's National Day and I had a holiday from school. We had another college reunion with A., her fiance S., and her bestfriend R. This time, we were also joined by P., A.'s college roommate and another alum from our university ^.^ We had dimsum for lunch, which was very decent but I wasn't impressed enough to take a picture of the restaurant itself.

Strangely enough, I've read that the Hongkong style food scene is somewhat disappointing in Taipei. Considering Taiwan is so close to Hongkong, at least way closer than the US(!), the elusiveness of the Cantonese style egg noodles comes as a total surprise, and sometimes a frustration, to me.

A perfect ad for Apple, no?

At least their egg tart was delectable, one of the better ones I've tried because the custard in the middle has a lighter, jelly-custard like texture instead of being the heavier, creamy and eggy, which I don't really enjoy.

Reunion photo with S., A., hubby, me, R., and P. ^.^


Tr4vel Geek said...

Hey nice post. It looks like u had fun :) I particularly love the ice cream part.

D. said...

Hi Tr4vel Geek,

Thank you for reading and commenting! I did have fun, and the almond milk shaved ice was the best ever! You should try it when you have a chance to visit Taipei :)


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