Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Nanjichang Night Market (南機場夜市)

Nanjichang Night Market can be found to the immediate east of Zhonghua Road in that hazy area between Zhongzheng and Wanhua. It's just south of Tibet (Xizang) Road and just west of Dingzhou road. MRT Guting, Taipower and possibly Xiaonanmen will take you there, as will Bus 304, or just do it the easy way and take a taxi.

On Sunday, we went looking for a Vietnamese place I like on Heping West Road that has either closed or disappeared, couldn't find it and ended up at Nanjichang. A student had told me about this night market - a little jewel hidden in the blue-collar not-really-historic-just-kinda-grody butt end of Wanhua, or Zhongzheng, or wherever. The name means, literally, "South of the Airport" (though "South of the Station" is also an OK translation) but it is not south of any airport. This area was apparently settled around the time Wanhua Train Station was built, and railway employees moved in. At the time a "機場" was not necessarily an airport, so my student says.

The place truly is a little gem - it's not as expansive as Raohe, not as convenient as Jingmei (which begins literally across a small street from the MRT exit 2) and not as historically-located as Ningxia, but it's local, it's authentic and it has delicious food.

We started out at "Jia Chou Tan" (or however it's pronounced) - Taiwanese 'jia' (to eat) plus 'chou' (stinky) plus the sound element for list with a water(?) radical. In Taiwanese it turns into "Tasty Place" or something. We sat at old-school wooden tables and had deliciously stinky and savory mala chou doufu (麻辣臭豆腐)and sweet potato leaves (地瓜葉) in a flavorful meat sauce. Our friend got sesame noodles (麻醬麵)- well-made thin noodles with a sesame-oil sauce and whole sesame seeds, which made the whole thing a lot more light and easily digestible than the usual crushed sesame paste noodles. Absolutely great. Across the street, we got mba wan (肉圓)from a little stand that was constantly crowded.

Jia Chou Tan (?) Nanjichang Night Market, Zhonghua Road Section 2 Lane 311 #15 (台北市南機場夜市中華路二段311巷15號)

Then we headed to a tian bu la (甜部啦?) stand that had an unceasing line for deliciously fresh fish mash goodies. These were so well-made that I could practically taste the hands of the wrinkled old obasan who squished them together from a giant plastic bucket of fishy goo.

I stopped at a candy vendor to buy some black sugar cashew candy (黑糖) which was quite good and we got shaved ice at the place with the longest line. Brendan and I loved the mango milk ice (芒果牛奶冰)but our friend was less enamored with his sour plum (酸梅)traditional-style ice.

The only unsavory part was when we saw a sign hanging from some grated apartment windows in one of the night market lanes, above the vendors. An approximate translation from the Chinese was: Those miscreants who caused Huang (Name) to be shamed and to die at home - his ghost will return and those people will be avenged upon for justice. Or something like that. Huh. We didn't ask any of the locals, because while we're sure they all knew what the deal was, we figured nobody would really want to tell the curious white people about the goings-on in their neighborhood.

All in all, the food was excellent and the local atmosphere - very salt-of-the-earth - made it worth the trek. Plus, we were not only the only foreigners there but we suspected that we may be the only foreigners who've happened by it in a loooooong time, from the way kids were staring at us.


J said...

A couple things for the record:
The closest MRT station, judging from google maps, appears to be Longshan Temple, followed by Xiaonanmen. http://maps.google.com/maps?q=25.029228,121.505785&sll=25.091075,121.559834&sspn=0.161734,0.256119&ie=UTF8&ll=25.032378,121.506515&spn=0.013571,0.055404&z=15
The restaurant is 口甲 (that is, jia as in armor with a mouth radical to the left) 臭彈.
The suanmei part of that ice was fine... it was the yuyuan and especially the peanuts that were bad =P

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

We've walked to Longshan Temple from that area, though, and it's really quite far.

I can write the first character of "jia tsui tia", which my student says is Taiwanese for "Eat Boast", or I guess a better translation is "Eating Boastfully". That is, I can write it by hand but I can't find the correct input on my Mac to type it (I see you couldn't either!) :)

J said...

Guting wasn't exactly around the corner either, though.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

Exactly - and Longshan Temple really isn't that much closer despite what the map may say (we've walked it). I think the only answer is that there is no really close MRT.

Anyway the name of the place isn't "jia tsui tia", it's "jia tsou dia" - my own bad Romanization. Both students I've asked think it's a cute but odd name.

They also say that area is chock-full of Burmese restaurants, but I've never found them.

Jason30316 said...

it was the name of a military airstrip used by the Japanese during their occupation of Taiwan

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

Very useful, thanks!

Although I'm not sure "occupation of Taiwan" is a good thing to call it. Those are some loaded terms there - often the KMT, in a bid to legitimize the idea that Taiwan has always been Chinese and must therefore be Chinese (as in, a part of China) as soon as politically possible, refers to the "Japanese Colonial Period" (the true term, as Japan was legitimately a colonial administrator of Taiwan) as "the Japanese Occupation". Occupation impies illegality, or done by military force. But it wasn't - Taiwan became a Japanese colony by treaty (after a war, sure, but it was still a treaty, not a military occupation, that made it happen).

I have no interest in furthering China's claim of Taiwan through linguistic obfuscation, but I do thank you for the information!