taiwan 2019: five — din tai fung, taipei’s 228 peace park, bao’an temple, and shilin night market

eat, find peace, pray, eat — a lovely sandwich ::::

Since starting our trip to Taiwan, I’ve posted about traveling in Taipei, Kaohsiung (Part 1 and Part 2), and Chiayi. We continue on with the journey heading from Chiayi back to Taipei for a few more days….

Day 10: Grub sat on the Taiwan High Speed Rail going north to Taipei viewing the green whiz by.

We headed back to Eat’s Ahma’s home for a simple dinner. Look at these tiny squid; they were each about the size of my thumb:

We had longans, green guava, and mango for dessert. Longan, long yan rou, also called dragon eye fruit (龙眼 or 龍眼), has a leathery skin with a succulent middle coating a hard brown seed. It taste of the tropics, of bubblegum, of sweet. Green guava, fan shiliu, (番石榴) is like pink guava but muted, less berry-like, a somewhat bland sweet-and-sour pear without the grit.


Day 11: Peach and I headed back to Da’an Park in the (hot, hot) morning to run again. These Indian Laurel trees (also called Chinese banyan) twisted and turned in the earth with wary-eyed egrets stepping softly between them.

After a hot run and a cool shower, it was time for lunch. A requisite meal in Taiwan is the inimitable Shanghai soup dumpling, xiao long bao, (小笼包). We ate these dumplings the second day of our trip, though not at the best place. Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), a restaurant well-known for the dumplings and their exquisitely thin and tender skins, first opened in Taiwan in 1972 on Xinyi Road. It has since opened branches in 14 countries. We ate at the Sogo – Zhongxiao Fuxing Branch. We showed up at 11:30AM and still waited almost an hour for a table.

Din Tai Fung’s success not only comes form the quality of the xiao long bao but the consistency of each (except maybe in pork-free Dubai — Eat attests that when substituting pork for chicken, the dumplings just aren’t the same). Each dumpling is carefully constructed: it must weight a total of 21 grams (16 grams for filling and 5 grams for dough) and closed with eighteen folds.

The best way to eat xiao long bao is dipped in soy sauce and vinegar with a few pieces of julienned fresh ginger. There is a burst of salty broth in your mouth with every bite. We ordered more than just the xiao long bao, of course: fried rice with shrimp, other dumplings, saucy noodles.

The dumplings makers roll each 5 gram piece of dough very thinly into a circle, then fill each with the 16 grams of filling. You can see the tiny kitchen scales on the workbench.

There sure are a lot of people hanging around here making dumplings. Because there are so many eaters, they practically fly out of the restaurant!

Eat and I figured the kids would melt in the heat again so they went home with Eeboh (“Great Auntie” in Taiwanese) and Atsoh (“great-grandparent” in Taiwanese, not specifying gender, as if each Atsoh couple is a unit rather than two people). We took the train from Sogo to the NTU Hospital stop on the Red Line to visit the 228 Peace Memorial Park (二二八和平公園) at 3 Ketagalan Boulevard, Zhongzheng District in Taipei). Compared to the memorial in Chiayi, the Taipei park is more frequented by visitors likely because of location in the country and larger size of the city.

Below is the 228 Massacre Monument. This relates to my previous posts (described briefly when arriving in Taiwan and when in Chiayi) on Taiwan’s government uprising in 1947, two years after the repatriation of Taiwan to the Republic of China and the start of the reign of White Terror (白色恐怖). When the uprising occurred on February 28, 1947, Taiwanese civilians stormed the KMT-controlled radio station in this park and aired anti-KMT sentiments and wrongdoings of the KMT. This act started national protests against government corruption. The Taiwanese takeover was very brief, as the White Terror period then started, the KMT regaining control. Incarceration, work camps, disappearance, or violent public death were imminent for people expressing any disregard for the KMT. Tens of thousands of Taiwanese people died: 10,000 to 30,000.

There was a museum building nearby (closed on Mondays unfortunately) with this wall of remembrance, messages fluttering in the not-often-enough breeze.

The path to the Peace Bell is speckled with a loose mosaic of stones touted to help with relfexology if walked over with bare feet. I decided not to partake of this activity as the stones in 95+ degree heat would be like walking on fire.

I could feel the heat radiating from the polished stones, even keeping my shoes on.

Eat and I took the red line to the Yuanshan station next to visit the Dalongdong Bao’an Temple (大龍峒保安宮). It is a UNESCO site and a Taiwanese folk religion temple. Known as one of Taipei’s three major temples, it was originally constructed as a wooden shrine in 1742 dedicated to the Taoist saint Baosheng Dadi (保生大帝), a god/emperor of traditional Chinese medicine. He attained the perfect Way and ascension at age 58.

Besides the principle deity of Baosheng Dadi, there are other patron deities worshipped at Bao’an: Shennong Dadi (Imperial God of Agriculture), Guansheng Dijun (Lord Guan Yu), Xuantian Shangdi (Emperor Mysterious of Dark Heaven; 玄天上帝), Zhusheng Niangniang (Queen Registar of Births), and Confucius are a few. We learned about some of them in my second post from Kaoshiung.

There are always food offerings at these temples. Raw meat and eggs in 90+ degree heat are fine for deities; they don’t get food poisoning.

The air was so thick with humidity, the scent of incense hung like a cloth.

Prayers with incense.

These are jiaobei (moon blocks; 筊杯 or 珓杯), wooden divination tools. When thrown in pairs, the position of how the jiaobei land will answer a question yes or no. We heard the clicking of these blocks in various temples on this trip, but on this day they were quiet here.

Incense smoke rising.

Here I am studying the details of the wall art, sweating like a pig in the heat and humidity.

Long windows at the front of the temple were covered with wooden shutters with painting of the deities. These are details of two of the shutters.


Then it was time to chill at home before the Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) with the kids! We took the Red Line from Da’an Park (大安森林公園站) to the Jiantan station (劍潭), this huge sphere leading the way to the market. It’s the Taipei Performing Arts Center (臺北表演藝術中心).

Finding food, not so hard.

We headed down to the B1 level food court (air conditioning, kind of) to Zhong Cheng Hao (忠诚号). It sits in a bustling indoor, close-quartered courtyard, many tables on a margin, diagonal from the open cook tops. There were people yelling orders, shuffling from one table to the next to serve stainless steel bowls of food and whisking other away when patrons were done. It moved like a carnival or an auction with its energy.

We ordered all sorts of bowls. First, oyster omelette (蚵仔煎) (Eat’s favorite):

Clams in garlic sauce but literally translated to ?Aberdeen gnats (they took the menus away before I could get a photo to confirm):

This stinky tofu (臭豆腐) was not as stinky as we’ve had. For the untrained nose, however, one might think there was something reeking under the table causing a stench (feet, death, a pit toilet). Do not let stinky tofu’s stench veer you away — it tastes good! There is the pungent (think in the same class as blue cheese) odor of the fermentation, raw garlic, a salty brown, soy sauce based sauce, chilis, pickled cabbage, and cilantro.

Peach is digging into the shrimp rolls with cucumbers.

Despite being full, we were compelled to get drinks afterwards. I chose a magenta pitaya (dragon fruit; 火龍果) and yogurt drink.

Yay! More food!

We visited this drink stand twice. See that lumpy thing hanging on the right side and the line of smaller ones on the counter? Those are winter melon (冬瓜) (the large one is a model) used in Chinese cooking to often round out meaty dishes since the white flesh soaks up other flavors well. They can be cooked with sugar to make winter melon tea. It has a grassy molasses flavor.

We visited the drink stand at the beginning of the night and the end of the night. This was my choice for end of the night: xian cao frozen milk — xi xian cao means “grass jelly.” Grass jelly is made from the stalks and leaves of the Platostoma palustre plant, but xi xian cao specifically is from the Siegebeckia plant (not sure if they are the same or different variety of grass jelly). I initially chose it because I thought it would have less caffeine or none. It had tea in it and I was up for HOURS that night. The kids all had bubble tea (boba nai-cha; 珍珠奶茶) and they fell asleep!

We ended the night with one last afterthought: chicken. The Hot Star Chicken (豪大大雞排) stand sold the largest and best fried chicken cutlets. Though we were full, it was hot outside still, and we were greasy, we ordered one. This one fed the five of us. The stand is in the background: see the 大大 on the sign above Eat’s head? That means “big big.”

We sipped our drinks and waddled to the train station for home. It was late but the kids had boundless energy, still. With all the walking we did, there was no time to gain weight though sticky with sweat, it was hard to tell if our pants actually fit or just damp and stuck. Cotton! I need cotton!

Next up: We will visit Pingxi to release a lantern into the sky, visit the coastal city of Jioufen, and continue to EAT!


One year ago: key lime pie (Grub’s eight birthday)

Two years ago: vegan mushroom bolognese sauce

Three years ago: vanilla cake with pandan frosting (Grub’s sixth birthday)

Four years ago: mango strawberry coconut balls

Five years ago: oatmeal brown sugar cookies

Six years ago: iced tea with plums and thyme recipe and watermelon-feta salad recipe

Seven years ago: vegan curried pumpkin soup

Eight years ago: persian-style iced tea with rosewater and watermelon granita


Our Japan trip in 2017:

One: Tokyo and Mount Fiji

Two: Mount Fuji, Sky-Girl’s 4th birthday, and Nabari/Iga

Three: Hiroshima and Kyoto

Four: Tokyo and home

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story of a kitchen