Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dan Shui 淡水, Taiwan (including food)

little piggies in Dan Shui

Danshui peanutty snack

It's only been 2 months, but we're finally getting to post about our trip to Taipei. ;)

After a couple of sunny days wandering the department-store-filled streets of Taipei, we decided to venture northwestward to the little town of Danshui (淡水). It was quite easy to get to, as it was one of the stops on the Taipei metro system. We were promised some seaside-y, waterfront-y goodness and so off we went in the morning.

Of course, life such as it is, we were met with rain.

Not quite the waterfront outing we were expecting.

Normally, coming from Vancouver, a little rain never bothers us, but the rain seem to be falling in big droplets. We had to get an "emergency" raincoat made out of yellow plastic. It was a big yellow poncho!

Nevertheless, we still found some residents fishing near the water.

I tried to use my mind to will that pole away from the fishermen and out of the frame, but for some reason that didn't work.

With this turn in the weather, we decided against walking all the way to Fisherman's Wharf. After an interesting visit to Hongmao Castle (Fort San Domingo), it was straight to Old Street (淡水老街) and food!

Like how that truck managed to squeeze into the scooter parking spot?

Grumpy Lady's "Fried Wonton Roll"

Our first DanShui snack. I don't know what this food item is called, so I'm christening it "Fried Wonton Roll." It appears that the stall-owner has a bit of fame, as, according to her press clippings, she had been visited by a Taiwanese TV show. Anyway, there was a line-up when we arrived.

As you can see, these rolls were being filled, rolled and fried while we wait. Because of the set-up -- the money and change laid out on the counter (see photo above), we thought that customers paid and made change themselves.

So, JS proceeded to do just that and was admonished accordingly. She clicked her tongue and made a shooing sound, never looking up from filling her wonton rolls. Teehee. Hence, we re-christen this "Grumpy Lady's Fried Wonton Roll."

And just in case you think us mean, I would like to mention that all elderly women in Taiwan seemed very grumpy and aggressive. They were the hawkers in most storefronts and they didn't think anything of reprimanding you for passing by and not buying anything! In fact, JS and I were quite scared of them during our stay!

Here's how it works: she gives you a stick (wooden skewer), you use the stick to get 3 rolls, then you have your choice of which sauce(s) to brush onto your prize.

Fried dough with meat filling: how bad could it be?

After this first taste, we were ready for more.

Fried Quail Eggs

I was very intrigued upon discovering fried quail eggs! However, these were just so-so. I didn't care too much for the sauce -- I didn't realize the eggs would be smothered with it. Also, the eggs seemed to have been sitting there for a while.

Lobster with Big Eyes

These were just shellfish crackers or some such thing, but I especially liked the drawing of the lobster and the name: Lobster with Big Eyes! I giggle everytime I read it. Lobster with Big Eyes! Teehee.

that's me in my yellow plastic poncho, taking the picture


I don't exactly know what this item is. I'm assuming it's some sort of sweet pastry with red bean filling... I don't know what the stretchy white part is; perhaps some sort of glutinous rice product? In any case, this was a plastic rendition of this snack. We never did see this around while we were at Danshui.

A-Ge (阿給)

A-Ge is a Danshui specialty so we had to get one.

As we could only see the exterior -- a bean curd purse with some sort of fish paste on top, we didn't know what to expect.

Turns out, it was a bean curd purse stuffed with mung bean noodles, topped with fish paste, and served in broth. Our a-ge was served all cut up (for easy consumption).

Not bad.
Later on, we saw this sign that very nicely illustrated the a-ge's structure.

Iron Eggs (鐵蛋)

We kept passing by these huge booths selling these strange black spheres the size of large marbles. This was one of the less "fancy" booths; others had people with headsets and microphones! All of them seemed to be employing very hard-sell tactics. And, as I'm very scared of hawking, we didn't want to get too close to the booths. We could only guess what they were.

It was later on that my friend AL explained to us that these were eggs. Yes, eggs! These are stewed eggs that have been dried. An egg becoming that small! Intriguing. I don't know what they would taste like.

Fish Crisps (魚酥)

If we're not mistaken, I think this is the company/family that's recognized to make the best fish crisps in Danshui.

This is their storefront. The store beside them was a similar store, but this was where the people were lining up. That pile of fish sticks near the person in yellow are what the crisps look like before being dried.

We bought a small bag of the fish crisps and they were indeed very good!

Clay Animals

Chinese zodiac animals

What's with those piggies at the top of the page, and all these other animals, you ask? Well, as you can see, they're very cute.

Here's the story. For some reason -- perhaps that we had been walking all day for the past 2 days; just a thought -- I was extremely tired the day we went to Danshui. I mean, I can normally plod on as if nothing's the matter when tired, but I was just so exhausted. So, in the mid- to late afternoon, a little bit after buying some fish crisps, JS and I decided to actually stop walking for a while. Did I say that I was so very, very tired?

While we were sitting down and eating said fish crisps, we decided that we should go back and get more to bring home to Vancouver.

So, we get up and start walking towards the fish crisp place. I tell you, it felt like our little rest did not help me one bit. On the way, I saw this display of cute little clay animals. They were too cute! I lingered a bit and, quick as a cat, the sales person pounced on me and started enumerating the virtues of her wares.

Usually, I have pretty strong willpower against buying such "souvenirs", but maybe my defenses were not where they usually were, with the exhaustion and all. So, "OK," we decide, we'll get one of these. It was a matter of deciding what to buy.

The beauty was, besides those piggies and monkeys and such, they had clay Chinese zodiac animals. You choose which animals you want, she glues them onto a stone from the Danshui area (so she claims), and off you go!

I think I may have actually spent quite a while in that shop. In the end, I chose nine zodiac animals to represent our household: 2 big ones for our parents, 4 medium ones for us siblings and sibling-in-law, and 3 small ones for the children. The zodiac animals were stuck onto the stone, packed really well in a box, and went into my hands.

OMG, they were so cute!

I credit these cute little clay animals for bringing the spring back into my step. I felt much revived after my little cute-clay-animal interlude.

Peanutty Snacks

I don't know how to describe these snack items. I guess they are similar to granola bars? But, different.

I've included the packaging for those of you who read Chinese.

That above seems to have peanuts (of course), pumpkin seeds (I think), pistachios, and sesame seeds, among other things.

These light-colored ones had peanuts and pistachios, enrobed in some sort of sesame "brittle" (like those sesame snaps).

These ones seem to be similar to the light-colored ones, but they're enrobed in a darker colored "brittle", then covered with coconut flakes.

These "enrobed" ones were chewier while the first one was crisp. The light-colored ones are my favorite.

If anybody can help us with the descriptions for these, that would be greatly appreciated.

Please scroll down to the 4th comment on this post for a translation provided by ~an*. Thanks, ~an*!!!

And there you have it! Dan Shui in one post.


Taiwan trip 2009
Taiwanese Bakery Goods (including ChiaTe Bakery)
Dan Shui 淡水, Taiwan (including food)
Taipei Quick Eats: Mos Burger, Hong Ya Breakfast, Ay Chung Flour-Rice Noodle
Taipei Convenience Store Foods
Shilin Night Market 士林夜市 (Taipei, Taiwan)
Breakfast Buffet at the Shangri-La (Taipei, Taiwan)
Taiwan Beef Noodle Soup, 4 versions (Taipei, Taiwan)
Yehliu 野柳 Geopark; Dried Seafood (Taiwan)

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  1. This was great and I loved that I took a little trip to Dan Shui through your post! Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Wow, so much of that food looks amazing but I don't like hawkers either so I'd be trying to avoid them too much

  3. I remember the fish crisps. Think I bought it from the same store :p

  4. Re: Iron eggs - I've heard about it in some of the Taiwan shows, it has an intense flavour.

    The coins in the front aren't for you to reach, it's for THEIR easy reach. That's why she's grumpy.

    Oh yes they are hard sell. That's the "norm".

    Translations for the sesame snaps/granola bars - they're quite common in Asia. I've seen them in China, Vietnam etc.

    I'm going to translate the Chinese for the flavour only - the big font.

    1st: Original Peanut [flavour] (literal translation = Ancient-style peanut)

    2nd: Pistachio, Peanut and Sesame snaps (literal: Jade, Peanut and Sesame sticks/snaps)

    3rd: Herbal medicine, peanuts and coconut snaps(literal: Herbal medicine, peanuts and coconuts sticks/snaps)

    The other ones on the sides claims of their "exclusive generation technique" (right) or just advertising as "perfect for tea snacks with friends"(left).

    I can see an ingredients list on the bottom but can't read it properly - it's a bit small for me.

    I remember seeing it made fresh one time in China - the peanut snap one is made with a thick fresh ginger juice flavoured syrup mixed/spread/poured into tray of roasted sesame and roasted roughly chopped peanuts. I remember they tasted awesome and they sold like hotcakes. Yum.

  5. Oooh, I love street food pics. I've never seen the stuffed dumpling noodle thing before. Dried egg? How do you eat or cook it? How fascinating!

  6. THe pigs are so cute!!! The ah ge dish is really interesting.

  7. Great travel post!! Street food is almost always pretty tasty, isn't it? Best part is, they are cheap enough that you don't feel bad about chucking the bad ones... Keep'em coming! :-)

  8. OMG, great post! You make me miss Taiwan so much. I haven't been in 7 or 8 years. *stomach grumbling in sadness*

  9. I love those little clay animals so much!

  10. Thanks for sharing all the amazing street food you ate! I kinda don't blame grumpy lady, heh heh :) Was this your stopover from Manila?

  11. Great photos. I was only there on a stop-over so I did not get to experience the local flavor. Enjoyed this post.

  12. Joelen:
    Welcome! =)

    Haha, JS and I were joking that we had gone soft; need to toughen up to survive in that dog-eat-dog/hawker-eat-hawker world.

    They were definitely better than the ones next door; but I'm not sure if they're the "best". That label only came from our Taipei Metro guide (which served as our tourbook for the trip!).

    Oooh, thanks so much for the translation! Wow, it would've been cool to be able to witness them making those "peanutty snacks."

    Wandering Chopsticks:
    Actually, I don't know! (Re iron eggs) I don't know if one eats it as a snack or if they're out in dishes. My friend didn't mention anything!

    I couldn't resist their cuteness. =)

    Thanks! =) Hopefully we will get to travel stuff in a timely manner... maybe in another 2 months? ;)

    Go this summer! Go! But yeah, very good food.

    Sweet Bird:
    They did revive me, those animals. =)

    Unfortunately, we didn't stop in Manila at all. Our destination was Taipei, for a wedding.

    Lori Lynn:
    Glad you liked it!

  13. Don't suppose there's a website for the clay animals? I just started looking for them after seeing some a friend had, but I live in the middle of the U.S. - no where near Taiwan.

  14. snekse:
    Hmm, not that I know of. The place where we got our clay animals gave us a card with an email address; perhaps they can help you? art8989Q [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] tw

    Or, you could trying looking for them in Chinatown or Asian markets, perhaps.

    Sorry we can't be more helpful!

  15. Great photos! Thanks for the blog. I seem to have missed out the peanut snacks in Danshui on my trip to Taiwan last month. Although, I did managed to get some photos of sunset in Danshui.

  16. Shel:
    Thanks for visiting! Well, we probably missed a lot of different items too, just because we were afraid to go close to any booths/stalls. Those hawkers are so hard-core!


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