Showing posts with label naruwan_market. Show all posts
Showing posts with label naruwan_market. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Best Deer Penis Wine in Taipei


Deer Penis Wine (鹿鞭酒)
Huanhe Road north of Guangzhou Street, right side (past all the old appliances and the cool old temple, just past and across the street from Old Lin's Mutton Emporium, just walk to the end of Guangzhou to where the aboriginal market is, don't cross Huanhe, turn right and keep going).

Continue on from there and you'll find another guy with deer meat and, I think, wines, as well as snake and turtle.

First of all, I got new totally hipsteriffic glasses. So the first thing I did was put on my hipster earrings and take a selfie, because I'm totally not concerned about looking cool. At all. Really. I mean it.

Also, our honeymoon (a monthlong backpacking trip around Central America), submitted ages ago, was just featured on Offbeat Home. Go check it out!

Now that that important announcement is out of the way, we also decided (well, I decided and Brendan gamely went along) to finally try some things we hadn't tried in 7 years in Taipei. One of these is Chinese medicinal wine, which is usually made as an herbal tincture with deer parts.

Wanhua, especially the area outside of the Guangzhou Street/Huaxi Street Night Market (also called Snake Alley), has a lot of this sort of traditional stuff - you just have to leave the night market to find it, or head to a different, less touristy part of the market (Wuzhou Street is a branch off of this market that has consistently good food...and a lot of brothels). This is the sort of area where an obasan will sit minding her shop packed floor to rafters with giant colorful dildos, right next to her granddaughter sitting in that shop doing her homework, and maybe there'll be a small poodle, too.

So if you're going to find interesting traditional medicinal wines, Wanhua is the place.

The most common are deer antler (also available at Wellcome and 7-11 - this one is dead easy to find), deer blood (not safe if not made correctly) and deer penis (much harder to track down - PUN INTENDED).


Mmmm, delicious tincture of deer penis.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but from what I've read, deer blood wine is, I believe, supposed to help with circulation and as a good iron supplement, and is good for bones. Deer antler is good for muscles and joints, and deer penis is good for, well, virility (but can be also good for joints, aches and other weak areas). From what I've read, although it's usually drunk by men as a natural Viagra, it can be drunk by women.

So, here goes.


It was surprisingly good. Like a slightly savory Jagermeister (for the herbal flavor - I know Jager doesn't actually have any deer in it). Think of it as the Jagermeister from an alternate universe in which all the urban legends are true. I'm not even joking.

The deer blood and penis, which might be gray market if not entirely illegal, is not labeled. You have to ask for it. 50 kuai for a glass as big as the one you see me drinking above. So if you want to try deer penis wine, you've just gotta know where to get it. And now you do!

Brendan and our friend Joseph tried some too, but I ended up drinking most of it. The owner wasn't too bothered about serving women his Viagra wine - he said nothing but his smile and body language said "Chhhhh...foreigners. Whatever."


You can also get venison kebab and various foods cooked in medicine, like snails and shrimp - and the chicken sausage (雞肉卷) is quite good. For every serving (two sticks) of venison you order, you get a free small glass of medicinal wine that is just herbs - no penis, no blood, no antler. We drank that too.


This stuff doesn't have any penis in it. Boo.


Afterwards, I felt pretty good. Brendan and Joseph were all like 'eh' I guess the stuff really does work just as well, if not better, on women!


The best part was the dude at the end of the stall with his own bottle of deer blood wine, getting completely toasted. I am not sure how one could get toasted on medicinal wine (I felt great but too much of the stuff can't be good for you), but he was managing that.

Happy deer penis drinking!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Taipei Love: Guiyang Street

The weather yesterday was beautiful - one nice day out of 11 days (for me) off - so before some friends came over, we went to the Longshan Temple area to wander and take some photos on and around Guiyang Street.

Guiyang Street is one of my favorite overlooked streets in old Taipei - it's not as fancy or lengthy as Dihua Street nor as renovated and promoted as Bopiliao, but also usually not as crowded. It really only gets going once a year for 青山王's birthday festival  and otherwise a quiet, lovely place to take a quick stroll, see some old architecture, eat a few snacks, visit two historic temples and have a cup of coffee. The shophouses here aren't as "wealthy" as Dihua's, but that almost makes them more charming in their slightly decrepit way. My not-so-secret: deep down I was hoping I would have the chance to live in this area, and rent a renovated apartment in an old shophouse. That didn't happen - I ended up on the other side of the spectrum completely - but it really would be my Taipei dream come true.

Crab for sale!
First we wandered up Guangzhou Street, which is the non-touristy branch of the popular Huaxi Night Market (this part is often called Guangzhou St. Night market). At one end is Longshan Temple. Midway through you reach Huaxi Street, and if you keep going you'll hit Naruwan Indigenous People's Market and Xuehai Academy (also mentioned in the previous link). You'll also pass Mangka Gate  - worthy of a quick bite of history and also shown in a scene in the Taiwanese movie Monga. We had some food, did some people watching and walked north a bit.

I prefer the Guangzhou Street part of this market to Huaxi - the dingy, mostly-for-the-tourists sex shops (although the area does contain brothels) and mediocre food in the covered market keep me away, but Guangzhou Street is packed with good food, people to watch and interesting stuff to buy.

For Chinese New Year, the entire street was open during the day as it would be at night on other days -  rather like the area around Anping Fort outside Tainan. In fact the entire neighborhood was one big outdoor market that has been running for most of the week.

Shredded savory pancakes on Guangzhou Street
 Then, if you take Xiyuan Road north, up the left side of Longshan Temple (if coming from the MRT station), you'll pass lots of stores selling idols. Some are Buddhist, some are Dao/folk religion, some are for home shrines, other supplies are for actual temples. There's usually a bit of decent people-watching - and dog-watching - to do up this way as well.

I particularly like this one

One thing I really love about this neighborhood isn't just the old shophouses - it's the mid-century architecture of note (some of the stuff from that era is godawful - some is charming, though, and some give Taipei a special "look" that I really haven't seen in other Asian cities.

Other than living in a well-renovated shophouse, which is next to impossible (if not actually impossible) to pull off, though, living options in this colorful neighborhood tend to be run-down and cramped, and probably very much roach-infested (because the whole city is, and this area is a lot older and in many ways not well maintained). For example, I wouldn't want to live here and hang my clothes out to dry directly over a busy street, to pick up all sorts of grime and exhaust fumes:

 But then you make it up to Guiyang Street and more charming buildings come into view. I love this one and hope it can be more fully restored - the outside looks fine, but it seems to be unused, and possibly uninhabitable. I'd love to see that change - I've never seen any sign of life on the upper story, although there is some use made of the first floor.

Turn left and you reach Qingshan Temple - it is said that it was built here when settlers from Fujian carried Qingshan's idol up what is now Guiyang Street (it's that old, yo) and the idol suddenly grew heavy and immovable on that site. The carriers knew this was a sign that the Lord of Green Mountain wanted his temple placed there, so there they built it (interestingly, this story of idols becoming too heavy to move when they don't wish to be moved is not limited to China and Taiwan - Amitav Ghosh mentions similar stories in North Africa, the Middle East and India in his book, In An Antique Land, which I highly recommend).

I tell the story of Qingshan in the link to his birthday festival above.

Of course, these days kids just check their cell phones outside.

One thing I really love about this neighborhood is that it's not all shiny and perfect - that you get lovely little details such as these roof decorations on temples, right next to apartment buildings, many of which are older and downright ugly. There's a strangely pleasing contrast in that.

 Much of the ceiling work in this temple was put in without nails, by the way. Some master craftsmanship, that.

Some more photos of Qingshan Temple:

We didn't visit Qingshui Temple on this walk, because I actually sprained my ankle slightly at Qingshan, and we had to get back to Da'an to greet guests who were coming over (and who showed up five minutes early - a first for people I invite over). It's at the other end of this section of Guiyang Street and well worth a visit (photos in the link above, with some background and photos of Guiyang Street during festivals).

Guiyang Street is quite charming
Other than shophouse architecture and old temples, Guiyang Street is also home to an old incense shop, at least one Pu'er tea shop and a jade store. Many of the shops on this street are also historic, some dating back at least a century.

This is basically my dream apartment - maybe with nicer windows with wooden Chinese screens. It's hard to find something like this, though, to rent in Taipei.

Next door is a coffeeshop, kind of decrepit and ancient with an old cat (who may or may not still be alive) - tables for that shop and the street stand shown are positioned to take advantage of the pleasant street atmosphere. The coffee's dark and bitter, but the neighborhood makes up for it.

Walking back towards Longshan Temple MRT via Kangding Street, you pass a lot of this:

I feel like this is 50 years' worth of hardware, machinery and junk buildup. I have to wonder how long it would take to create something this dense and chaotic. It's almost like a modern art installation exploring neglect, hoarding, decrepitude, industrialism and chaos in the modern world.

Walking back this way you pass Bopiliao and, around New Year, a whole market full of stuff to eat and buy - something worth doing if you're in Taipei over Chinese New Year and want to get out and be around people.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Best Coffee in Taipei

Everyone who reads this blog even remotely regularly knows about my semi-fanatical obsession with two foodstuffs: 1.) sea urchins and 2.) coffee. With coffee, I'm sort of like this.

I've written extensively about coffee before, but haven't really come out with a post that clarifies where good coffee - the best coffee - can be found in Taipei. This is that post.

You can get coffee anywhere in Taipei, from 7-11 to one of the myriad Starbucks, Dante Coffees or Ikari chains, as well as in department stores and other smaller chains (such as Artco and Is) and independent operators. It can be as cheap as a 40NT 7-11 latte (which is not your worst choice, I have to say) or as expensive as a 500NT cup of Kopi Luwak or overpriced but still substandard coffee at a lot of chi-chi cafes (Bastille, I'm looking at you).

Unfortunately, most options, as in the USA, are mediocre at best, and Charbucks is Charbucks everywhere, with their over-roasted jet fuel.

The key to a good coffee is a light hand with the roaster (even medium dark roast is fine, but many dark roasts - not all mind you - are just bitter and charred), even grinding and scrupulous preparation, although I'm the first to admit that I use a regular old coffee machine at home. The best coffee comes from a siphon brew, but it is possible to get good espresso and non-siphon coffee.

I'm not interested in listing out the millions of places in Taipei where you can get a brain-smack of caffeine - I'm talking about genuinely good coffee that one can savor, that wafts down the street with its strong scent and turns heads when you carry it away in a to-go cup. Yes, you can find it in Taipei.

Get your cup of awesome beans (the kind that hipsters and yuppies would say have a "great flavor profile") at:

Xinsheng S. Road Section 3 Lane 76 #1 (the entrance is on Xinsheng Road, not the lane)
I've praised this place to the moon and back, as you can read in the link above.

2.) The Best Roasted Coffee (TBRC)
Taipei, Shilin District - Jingshan Road #18: near the Wenhua University bus stop heading up Yangmingshan, and not far from the top of Tianmu Old Trail
This place is fantastic - you can buy a pound of coffee for NT500, and their home blend (a medium-to-dark roast) is only NT100 per cup, which is a steal. It's really tasty and goes down smoothly, so you don't need to drink it with milk (which is good, because the owner really will lecture you if you ask for milk or sugar). You can also buy cheesecake, cookies and other light fare here - the cheesecake is tangy and homemade without being too sweet.

Jinhua Street #247 - closest bus stop on a major route is Xinsheng/Jinhua along Da'an Park, also walkable from Yongkang Street

This place offers coffee that packs a flavorful punch - they take it very seriously, allowing you to smell the grounds several times to highlight different smells and potential flavors, and then serve it to you both in a standard coffee cup, which brings out darker, earthier flavors as well as in a small stemmed cordial glass, which brings out more syrupy, flowery liqueur-like flavors in the coffee. Not cheap, but totally worth it.

They also have branches in Taizhong and Tainan.

Guangzhou and Huanhe Rd. intersection near Longshan Temple
Try the "Ma Gao" coffee (馬告) at the booth selling Taiwanese local coffee here for NT90: the cup is small but it packs a strong punch of flavor, and best of all it's grown in Taiwan an (according to the vendor) is grown on aborigine-run farms, so you're doing good for the local economy and you get to try a Taiwanese local product not often found in stores.

#405 Sec. 1 Neihu Road Taipei (02)2799-4966
#123 Songde Road Taipei (02)2726-6085
#336 Jinhu Road Taipei (02) 2634-8803
#7 Lane 243 Jinhua Street Taipei (02) 2322-3830
B1 #14 Nanjing West Road Taipei (02) 2522-1681
This place is my new favorite find that you absolutely have to try. They're your best source of Kopi Luwak, if you've ever wanted to try it, and they'll brew it to perfection for you (I haven't tried it yet, but I will). I had a cup of coffee from Nicaraguan beans (can't remember which type) at their Songde Road location and I was blown away by the depth and spirit of the earthy, slightly smoky, addictive flavor. They siphon brew their good beans (lattes and other coffee types are also available) and there's a large choice of global beans, with a lot coming from Central America.

They also keep Jameson on hand, at least at Songde Road, which means they know how to make good coffee with whiskey.

Call ahead if you want a cup of Kopi Luwak - they'll make sure they have the most, ahem, fragrant beans for you to try.

Seriously - I love my Drop Coffee but this place is really just amazing, too. It's probably going to tie for 1st place in my list of favorite coffee shops, along with Drop.

6.) Black Bean Coffee
Zhongshan Road in Shilin, just south of the Zhongzheng Road intersection past Skylark and some other businesses
This place makes a good brew, if a little on the dark roasted side for my taste. A cup costs an average of NT150 - I strongly recommend the earthy but soft Monsoon Malabar coffee from India. They also sell handmade cookies.

I'm not sure if this place still exists - I haven't been there in years - but will check back soon to see if they're still around.

7.) Shake House (listed second in the post, after Red House)
Wenzhou Street / Lane 86 corner, across from Bastille, Gongguan
I usually praise this place for its homey, studenty feel and good selection of Belgian beers, but haven't mentioned how good their coffee is. They do not-too-bitter lattes, Americano and espresso, they make ice coffee in batches in a giant machine similar to a siphon, and their specialized beans are packed with flavor (try the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe or the Guatemala Huehuetenango). They can alcohol-ify any coffee order (just ask for it on request - I usually get a latte with a shot of alcohol added - I am fine with alcohol added to espresso drinks but would never add it to a good brew of quality medium-roast beans.

You can also buy the amazing Monsoon Malabar coffee here to brew at home.

#3 Lane 93 Shi-da Road, Taipei
I normally don't go for espresso, opting instead for larger servings of more expensive siphon coffee, but My Sweetie Pie makes a not-too-bitter espresso that I can really get behind. It's still darker and more bitter than I normally prefer, but it cuts through the sweetness of their delicious cakes so well that I can forgive the extra roasting time!

9.) Fong Da
#42 Chengdu Road (near Ximending)
This place is wildly popular with both coffee enthusiasts and people who love old Taipei institutions. They still use vintage equipment and have a 1950s vibe going, and lots of different beans to choose from. I have to say that I find their brews a bit overpowering (not like the deeply but not jarringly flavored siphon brews I normally go for), but hey, that doesn't mean it's not good stuff! The brew at Fong Da acts like jet fuel to the brain and still gets my vote!

10.) Update: Rufous Coffee
Fuxing S. Road Sec 2 #333 / 復興南路2段333號

I was tipped off about this place by another expat, and realized it's basically just down the road from where I work. Fuxing S. Road south of Heping and north of Xinhai boasts three coffeeshops and a tea shop. The first is Tiamore, which has good (but not the best) coffee, is a bit down-at-heel and boasts a bevy of semi-friendly cats - or at least they did, it seems the owners don't keep cats there anymore since my last visit. The final one is called Mono, and I haven't actually gotten coffee there yet, but they serve it in glasses, not cups, and there's a shy but sweet cat there. Their mint and pomelo tea is great and they do a good brownie with ice cream.

Update: read below re: Rufous's siphon brews, but really what you want to be getting at this place is an espresso drink. For a very mildly flavored coffee, try the honey and cinnamon latte. For a luxurious experience, try the Irish coffee (with real sweet foamed milk, not whipped cream, to cut the bitterness of the whiskey-flavored coffee below). For a hot or stressful (or hot and stressful) day, get the iced dark chocolate banana latte. Their cold brewed iced coffee is also fabulous.

Only just today I continued on to Rufous at this person's recommendation, and the coffee was pretty excellent (I had a syphon-brewed coffee from Panama). The atmosphere is completely different from Tiamore, where I go for a friendly, very 台neighborhood feel - Rufous is smaller, more upmarket, more expensive. No cats, but the coffee is better. I did find the Panama to be lacking some of the depth of the coffees I've tried at Shake House (see above) and Drop (also above) - especially both shops' Sumatra coffee, and the Kona at Drop, as well as the Nicaraguan coffee at Coffee Family Roaster. The Panama coffee - ordered because I don't see beans from Panama on menus very often - was roasted a bit darker than I like it, as well.  However, it was quite good, and I intend to go back and try not only the house blend but also ask them to make me a light roast coffee, and see what they can come up with.

11.) Gold Diamond Coffee (金鑽咖啡)
Zhonghe, Xinbei City, Liansheng Road #41

About a 15 minute walk from MRT Jing'an (walk up Jinping Road and turn at Liansheng) and near the 262, 275 and various other bus routes, this place is a good bet if you're stuck in the wilds of Zhonghe. A good place to rest after a hike to Yuantong Temple or if you are otherwise in the area.

This tiny coffeeshop nestled among a huge slightly higher end apartment complex (but not inside it) on a quiet side street was a surprise find for me: I happen to know a family who lives in the complex - I play with their kids in English once a week (I'd be hard-pressed to call it a class as it's very non-traditional) and have gotten coffee here. The lattes are strong and flavorful, with lots of bold character, but the thing to get here is light roast drip coffee. I was blown away by what the guy made for me, and they have many choices of bean.

12.) Cafe Booday
Nanjing W. Road Lane 25 #18, 2nd floor above the shop (very close to MRT Zhongshan)

While the food at Booday didn't blow me away - the desserts were good, though - the one cup of Monsoon Malabar I had there was pretty delish. They have a selection of high-end coffees including this favorite of mine for approximately NT140 per cup. On the high end but not impossible, and your best choice among all the cafes in this area for a good cup of something comforting, caffeinated and well-made.

13.) Other places I haven't tried yet

There are a ton of places I haven't had the good fortune to drink coffee at, but are probably on par with the places listed above. There's an especially large number of cafes in the lanes around Yongkang Street, and some of my favorite places to drink beer also make pretty good coffee (not included here because I wanted to highlight the best of the best, but that doesn't mean they're not also good).

If you have a favorite stop for high-quality coffee - the kind you savor, not gulp - leave it in the comments!

You can also buy great beans to brew your own coffee at home at most of the places above, as well as at:

- 里仁: organic food store in Gongguan (go to Roosevelt Rd. Sec. 3 Lane 283, and it's just down the lane from So Free pizza) - you can buy organic coffee beans from southern Taiwan here - very flavorful!

If you want to brew South Indian or Thai/Vietnamese-style coffee (that is, coffee with chicory, and add condensed milk for Thai or Vietnamese or just tons of sugar and milk to make it Indian) go to Trinity Superstores and pick up a bag of "Bru". It's not "good" coffee in the yuppie sense but it is the real thing.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Bunun (I think...please correct me if I'm wrong) dance in Kaohsiung's Central Park MRT Station

While we were in Kaohsiung a few weeks ago, we happened upon this aboriginal dance show taking place in the Central Park MRT Station. We'd stopped in the aboriginal goods stores opened - so we were told - partially thanks to the efforts of Chen Chu - to buy Taiwanese coffee and other small items as the show was about to start. This was not the first time we've seen aboriginal dancing - sometimes in the context of actual festivals where the dancing has some sort of cultural meaning, and sometimes...not.

If you've spent any amount of time in Taiwan at all, you've surely encountered these dance shows - you can see them every weekend evening at the Naruwan Indigenous People's Market at the intersection of Huanhe and Guangzhou Roads not far from Longshan Temple (and practically across the street from the historic Xuehai Academy, the first "university" in Taiwan - now a family shrine - also mentioned in the post linked to above). On certain days they're held in Kaohsiung's Central Park station, and there are other venues in which to see them, as well. Both Taipei City Hall and Kaohsiung Central Park MRT Stations have aboriginal stores, but only Kaohsiung's also has dances.

It's rare to have the knowledge and chance to attend many of the more authentic festivals (Pasta'ai is the easiest to get to, and even that takes some work if you want to go to Wufeng, not Nanzhuang), and you're about as likely to encounter the everyday use of traditional dress as you are to come across a Taiwanese woman walking down the street in a full qipao ("qipao-inspired" doesn't count, nor does a tiny dog in a qipao costume - a labrador in a qipao might count)...but seeing these dance shows is dead easy if you are so inclined.

Amis Tribe dance in Taipei's Naruwan Market

I'm not sure what to make of them, honestly. It is absolutely true that many (most? all?) of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan incorporate dancing into festivals and rituals, to the point where non-aboriginal Taiwanese can often imitate the basic moves of common dances.

Dancing at Pasta'ai 2010 in Wufeng

They certainly help spread at least basic knowledge of these tribal cultures, little-known outside Taiwan. They help bring to the public eye more recognition that there is more to Taiwanese culture than that which came from China (or Japan) - more so than museums that, while important (and however excellent), are simply not as active, interactive or in the public eye.

And yet, I can't help but also watch them and feel like one adjective that could be used to describe these dances is "exploitative". Maybe. I'm not sure about that, but the thought has stayed with me long enough to spur me to blog about it. These dances, taken out of context and set down in a subway station or food court - do they really accomplish more than a fleeting thought of "yeah, aboriginal stuff is pretty cool" in the minds of the audience? Does it convey any lasting knowledge or encourage more in-depth learning about aboriginal affairs?

I guess I just don't know what to think, and yes, I realize sometimes it's OK not to have a strong opinion, and to instead muse on possible points of view.

On one hand, many people would never be exposed to this important cultural element of Taiwan if it weren't for such dance shows. That goes for locals, many (not all!) of whom wouldn't actively seek out such facets of their own national history, as well as foreigners, especially those who don't stay long enough to gain such exposure otherwise (click on the "seven hellish months" link). These dances are also generally related in some way to aboriginal stores and eateries - I love millet wine so I find myself in the stores a lot - which I am sure helps boost exposure, and therefore revenue. For what it's worth, the performers seem to enjoy themselves, and the shows do attract a reasonably sized audience, and the shows seem to be organized by the dancers themselves and not by some outside force being all "show us your quaint Native Dances!" (If that were the case I'd be disgusted).

There's also the fact that live performances, to a far greater extent than in contemporary America, are more ingrained in the public psyche. Back home you'd be hard-pressed to find a local band or singing group playing under the town square gazebo anymore, and sadly, the tradition of holiday caroling has almost died out (I'm a fan of the old-school tradition, which involves lots of wassail or a suitably alcoholic substitute, and is much more "rowdy kids demanding treats" than "family oriented").

And yet here, there's super-loud karaoke - seriously, who here hasn't started a hike up a mountain only to come across a temple and associated public complex in which someone was atonally screaming their favorite classic songs? You know you have. Don't even pretend. There are seemingly-randomly staged budaixi puppet shows (I regularly come across them in Jingmei Night Market, put on for no discernible reason).

Budaixi - Taiwanes puppetry - puppet (without body) sporting an unusual number of heads

There are free-to-the-public showings of Taiwanese opera (gezaixi) outside temples as well as in the square around Yongle Market on Dihua Street...just because the people want opera.

Taiwanese opera - gexaixi - free to the public outside Bao'an Temple

Troupes of kids practice Michael Jackson moves to Jamiroquai hits - yeah, I don't know either - or communally engage in urban dance moves - in the esplanades of sports centers and underground malls in Taipei. Finally, what is a temple fair if not a series of live performances, from lion dancers to dragon dancers to bajiajiang?

Ba jia jiang outside of Qingshan Gong during a temple fair on Guiyang St., Taipei

Practically everywhere you turn there's a live show of some sort - some of them transcendent and others amateur-but-charming.

I can see how aboriginal dance shows would fit into that sort of culture.

The second part of the show in MRT Central Park

On the other hand, taking these dances out of context, putting the dancers in costumes they otherwise never wear, that likely haven't been worn commonly since their grandparents' generation, and sticking it in a subway station does make me wonder. Is it Culture Lite? Is it selling out something that would otherwise be authentic?

I don't have the answers, but I have to admit that I've been gnawing on the questions.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Naruwan Indigenous People's Market

Wondering where you can get some hornet liquor?

Curious about the taste of deer meat or wild boar? Ever wanted to try snails or "virility soup", rice in a bamboo stick, cold millet wine, white pine plum jelly?

Ever wanted to see how coffee grown in Taiwan tastes?

Then go around lunchtime to Naruwan Indigenous People's Market (or dinnertime on Fridays and Saturdays, if you want live aboriginal music) and go wild.

I have to admit, we were expecting something homier - "just ten stalls" made me think of a tiny covered market or a few stalls along the street, not an entire building given over to those stalls with a huge sign on the front, and a sign near Longshan Temple MRT pointing to it.

It didn't look good at first - we walked inside and were greeted by a tacky plaster statue of a cartoon aborigine.

The place quickly redeemed itself, though, through its delicious food. We sampled millet wine (they wouldn't let us sample the hornet wine, as it was $900 NT a bottle and they didn't have an open sampling bottle) and tried some snacks from Hualien, then went over to another stand for deer and wild boar. We did get the bamboo rice, despite the fact that it's a recent addition to the aboriginal diet (rice was not an aboriginal staple before being influenced by the Chinese) and finished it off with Heliwan Mountain Coffee from Taidong.

The pig was delicious and garlicky, cooked with just the right amount of spice. The fatty parts weren't rubbery or gooey - I normally don't like fatty pig but this was quite good, it had an almost buttery flavor.

The deer reminded me of Sichuan cooking - hot and savory. The meat itself was exceedingly tender, and apparently is domestically raised (we didn't realize there were still deer in Taiwan - we go to the countryside often and only once do I think I might have seen a deer in the distance.)

The coffee was delicious, though a little strong and a overpowering. I did need a little sugar to get it down - I measure good coffee by whether or not I need to add sugar. To be fair, I needed to add a lot less than to Starbucks drip coffee.

Throughout the meal, a local aboriginal family (most of the people hanging around - not really being purposeful, just eating and hanging around - looked like they came from aboriginal communities) was sitting near us and one woman was either very enthusiastic or had imbibed a little too much millet wine.

"You have to order the soup!" she said (in Chinese). "Is that your boyfriend?"
"No, this one is. Isn't he handsome?"
"YES! He should order the soup. Then, when you go home, WOOOOOOOOOO YAAAA!"

Very Energetic Woman...very, very energetic.


We're heading back soon - I want to go to the handicrafts stall to buy gifts for people back home - behind the cell phone charms of bobblehead aborigines, they had some genuine handmade leatherwork and other interesting things. And, of course, we have to try the custard apple ice cream at another stall as well as hearing the live music.

On the same trip we visited Xuehai Academy, though we couldn't enter. Xuehai is one of the oldest buildings in Taipei and was once the most prestigious academic academy in Taiwan. It's beautiful, though it is crumbling a bit at the edges and covered with an ugly protective plastic roof. It is now the Gao family temple, so not accessible to the public. We're thinking we need to make friends with some Gao family members and get let in one day.

Xuehai Academy

Also nearby you can stop at the Mangka Gate over Guangzhou Street Lane 223, which is not impressive at all...but inside there are several tiny hole-in-the-wall Taiwanese restaurants that look as though they're positively delicious. We're planning to go back and try some. You can also see Kenny. KENNY!

Mangka Gate


To get to Naruwan Indigenous People's Market, go to Longshan Temple MRT station and walk to the Guangzhou Street intersection (Longshan Temple will be on the right). Turn left and walk down the stone-paved street to the end. The market is at the intersection of Guangzhou and Huanhe Roads. Xuehai Academy is across the street. Mangka Gate is on Guangzhou Street over Lane 223 on the righthand side.