Famous Mee Sua @ Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodle, Ximending, Taipei

On our fourth day in Taiwan, we checked out of our hostel in Fengjia, Taichung and hopped onto a two-hour bus headed to the northern capital of Taipei. A bustling city of 2mil people, this modern metropolis is a quirky mix of old Japanese colonial lanes mixed with ultra-modern buildings, like the iconic Taipei 101. The city seemed slow to wake, as the streets were still relatively empty when we got to our accommodation at Ximen around 9-ish. Time to hunt for breakfast!

Several colourful floats were on display on the street, including an anime-esque Mazu (the Taoist Goddess of the sea) on clouds, complete with cute cartoon sea creatures.

Our hotel was conveniently located next to the shopping district, which comes to life at night and carries on until the wee hours of the morning. The scene during the day is more subdued, but there are still some shops and restaurants open to explore. 

One of the most famous stalls in Ximen is Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodles, which dishes out ‘meesua’ or thin rice noodles in a soupy broth. The small kiosk was crowded with visitors! There were no tables; only a couple of chairs – so most patrons stood around and had their meal.

Service was fast, orderly and efficient. Staff ladled scoops of hot noodle broth from a giant vat into small paper bowls before topping them off with sauce and condiments.

Meesua is made from rice flour, with a soft, silky texture that slips down the throat. The broth, which is thick, goopy and starchy, has a smoked fish + meat flavour, as the base is made from bonito flakes. While some places put oysters in the meesua, Ay-Chung’s version is full of chewy pieces of pork intestine.

AY-CHUNG FLOUR RICE NOODLES 

No. 8-1, Emei St., Wanhua District, Taipei 108
Business hours:  (Mon – Thurs) 10 am – 10:30 pm; (Fri- Sun) 10am – 11pm

 

Taiwan : First Impressions / FengJia Night Market

Growing up, I listened to Taiwanese music from Energy/F4/Jay Chou/ F.I.R and watched Dao Ming Si on Meteor Garden like everyone else – but I’ve never thought of setting foot in Taiwan. Partly, it’s the language barrier, since I speak elementary Chinese and it’d be difficult to get around. So when my cousin suggested that we go for a fam trip there (and that he’d be planning the itinerary!), I thought it’d be a good idea to see what the island nation had to offer.

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We departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport on a four hour Cathay Pacific flight to HK, where we’d then switch to Taipei. Seats were cosy and spacious, with lots of inflight entertainment. Alternated between watching Dr Strange and falling asleep. Also a nice brunch of egg omelette, beef sausage and tomatoes, fruit, bread and yoghurt.

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Rushing to make the connecting flight at HKIA. The place is huge, we literally ran past dozens of boarding gates.

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1.5 hours later, our plane touched down in Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei. The airport had impressive, uniform designs that were simple yet elegant. Since it was end-winter, weather was cold, hovering just below the 20s.

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Coming from Malaysia where we get alot of different races, it was a little weird coz everywhere I turned were Asian faces, be they Chinese/Taiwanese/South Koreans/Japanese/Malaysian-Chinese or Singaporeans.

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Had to wait for our coach to Taichung (which would take another two hours) so I popped into a convenience store for some snacks. I like how their 7-11s and minimarts have a section for hot food, featuring various snacks on skewers (fish cakes, fish balls, meat balls, sausages) as well as the mandatory herbal eggs.

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Our bus ride to Taichung, a bustling city in the middle of Taiwan, was uneventful. Upon arrival, we hopped into a cab and made our way to our hostel, located right smack in the middle of Taichung’s biggest night market – Feng Jia Night Market. ‘Busy’ is an understatement. The place was packed with people looking for supper – and boy oh boy, were they spoilt for choice. Steamed and fried dumplings, stinky tofu, grilled meats, boba tea, fried ‘popcorn’ chicken.. the market was a snack lover’s wet dream. It’s actually quite similar to the Malaysian pasar malam. 

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Large, colourful banners advertising each stall’s specialty hung overhead, fluttering slightly in the wind. The smells of food wafted into the cold winter air. We had to keep an eye on each other in the group so we wouldn’t get lost, as the interconnected streets were quite confusing. There weren’t too many street signs in English and the Taiwanese aren’t good at speaking it either, so if you don’t know Chinese you’re screwed lol.

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Apparently Taiwan gets a significant number of Malaysian-Chinese tourists. We were tickled to find a Teh Tarik (Malaysian pulled tea) stall all the way here.

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Assortment of grilled and braised meats. Taiwanese cuisine is often grilled, braised or fried.

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Freshly grilled scallops.

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Food stalls weren’t the only thing on sale. There were also lots of shops selling phone and camera accessories at overinflated prices – as is common with tourist spots.

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One of the storefronts had two large vats with fishballs swimming in them, and the smell was super appetising so we stopped there for dinner. 🙂

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Glutinous rice dumpling, which was quite similar to the bakchang we have in Malaysia. Its usually steamed with goodies inside; salted egg yolk, mushrooms and pork/chicken.

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Mention Taiwanese food and chances are ‘Oyster Mee Sua’ would pop up. Meesua is a thin, silky noodle and the version here is cooked in a starchy broth with juicy oysters, then drizzled over with vinegar. A warm bowl of this just warms you up in cold weather! Also had a platter of braised pork intestines – chewy, salty goodness. Yes, I’m aware of the cholesterol levels, but one has to live to eat.

More of Taiwan to come soon!

Taiwan !

Hey, guys! I’ve actually been so busy with work/travel that I forgot to tell you.. I’m going to Taiwan! 😀 It’s gonna be a week-long fam trip to the capital city, Taipei, as well as Taichung. This is going to be my first time there, and we’re getting around without a guide, so I hope everything goes smoothly. But you know what that means right?

More. Blog. Fodder. 

In the meantime, I’ve scheduled some posts on what’s been happening these last couple of weeks, so stay tuned to this space and wait for my Taiwan adventures. 😛

Sunset over Taipei
Image: Ludovic Lubeigt