Taiwan: Eat Your Fill

A terrific place to see, taste and feel the local culture and food, the night markets of Taiwan should definitely be on every travelers’ list when visiting the beautiful Formosa. Besides the famous Shilin Market, there are also night markets in the various cities. From Taipei to Tainan, each night market represent a unique part of the Taiwanese culture.

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A visit to the famous Shilin Market is a must for every tourist to Taiwan!

What’s a Night Market?

In Taiwan, night markets are street markets, where street stalls are set up during evening in a designated area. These street stalls sells a wide array of local street snacks such as the ever-popular fried chicken cutlet (炸鸡扒), braised pork belly rice (卤肉饭), smelly beancurd (臭豆腐), boiled dough snacks ( 關東煮), tea eggs (茶叶蛋), as well as street clothes, accessories, souvenirs, and specialty drinks known as “Bubble tea” (泡泡茶) – due to the chewy pearl-like jellies added to the drinks.

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The street stalls of night market. Food stalls usually open in the evening at around 6pm and the streets will get really busy and crowded by 8pm.
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This is the street market version of braised pork belly rice (with pickles and tofu). It’s fattening but nice!
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Besides fried chicken cutlets, the night markets are also famous for all sorts of fried snacks. From fried hot dogs to fried mushrooms and asparagus, everything and anything can be fried. These piping hot street snacks are especially welcoming during winter.
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While you can fried almost everything and anything, you can boil them too. A healthier alternative to deep fried snacks will be the local 關東煮 – a local version of the Japanese oden where ingredients are cooked in a delicious hot broth. From dough items to vegetables, you can take your pick at the stall.
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Stinky beancurd or smelly tofu (臭豆腐) is a famous street snack of Taiwan. A must-try!

With over a hundred night markets currently in Taiwan, it is impossible to visit all of them during a short stay. Therefore during this short trip we decided to first visit the two famous markets in Central and Northern Taiwan – Fengjia and Shilin Market.

Fengjia Night Market

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Located in Taichung, the Fengjia Night market (逢甲夜市) is one of the biggest and most popular night marketing in Central Taiwan. Located right next to the Fengjia University, it is not surprising to see university students loitering around when the night sets in. If you are a foodie, go with an empty stomach and you won’t be disappointed.

Shilin Night Market

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Located in the capital Taipei, it will be impossible to miss this famous night market if you are in town. Easily accessible via the local city train service, Shilin market is well-known for its authentic Taiwanese street snacks, juices and specialty drinks. Some items that I’ve tried and loved include: fried chicken cutlet (炸鸡扒), white bitter gourd juice with honey (苦瓜蜜糖) , papaya milk (木瓜牛奶) and fried milk curd (炸牛奶) – which taste like BBQ marshmallow!

As for tourists looking for clothing, shoes, accessories and souvenirs, you can also find them at Shilin. Explore the inner lanes of the night market and you will find local designer boutiques which sells trendy street wear, sportswear stores and Taiwanese souvenir stalls.

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Want to visit a night market but happen to be at some other parts of Taiwan? Fret not – if nothing else, there is always at least one night market in each city or town. Here are some famous night markets that you can consider:

Northern Taiwan: Raohe Night Market, Shilin Night Market, Linjiang Night Market, Keelung Night Market.

Central Taiwan: Fengjia Night Market, Tunghai Night Market, Fengyuan Night Market.

Southern Taiwan: Liouhe Night Market, Rueifong Night Market, Kaisyuan and Jinzuan Night Markets (newly opened in 2013).

Eastern Taiwan: Nanbin Night Market, Luodong Night Market, Dongmen Night Market.

Do you know?

Night market has a long history that dates back to the Tang Dynasty in A.D. 836. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), night markets played a central role in the Chinese nightlife. These markets were found in corners of large cities and some are even opened for 24 hours. During the Song period, night markets are also known to have included restaurants and brothels due its close proximity to red light districts.

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ps, It was great visiting the two night markets and I finally got to taste authentic Taiwanese street snacks! Because of the huge variety of street food, my mouth was practically munching on something every 5 minutes! As you walk on the streets during the cool winter evening, having warm food in your hands just feels so good!

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Phuket: Let’s Cook Thai

Not sure if you feel the same, but I find attending cooking classes while overseas a very enriching experience.

As food and culture often go hand in hand together, I always feel that I learn more about a place’s culture and history through food. Knowing the origins of a dish or ingredient often makes me realized how important food is to our life, supporting not only our well-being and survival, but also our culture and traditions.

During this trip, my travel mates and I had arranged for a cooking class at Pum’s Kitchen – where we learned how to make various famous local dishes such as Phad Thai, Thai Green curry and Cashew nut chicken etc.

Pum Thai Restaurant & Cooking School

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Pum’s Cooking School
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Bright-orange coloured signboard – you won’t miss it.

Located near the giant shopping complex Jungceylon on Rat-U-Thit Rd, Patong, Pum’s Cooking School can be easily spotted from across the street. Operating as a bar and restaurant at the same time, the teaching kitchen and classroom is situated at the back of the building with a view of a small garden.

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Open-kitchen concept for the restaurant.
Kitchen view.
Kitchen view.
 The types of cooking classes available. Some even have excursions to local markets!
The types of cooking classes available. Some even have excursions to local markets!
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The ‘classroom’. Behind it is the teaching kitchen.

The class is small, with only 6 students including us. Thus, it feels more like a discussion than a class. The owner, Pum, was the one who conducted our class.

We started off by selecting three dishes that we wish to learn from a recipe book. After indicating our interest, the class began with a short theory class on the ingredients used in Thai cooking and the history of Thai cuisine.

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You can also buy the various cookbooks if you are keen to learn more.
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Don’t know where to find authentic sauces and condiments for Thai cuisine? Get them here!

After an interesting and informative theory class, we quickly proceed to the kitchen for the practical part of the lesson. It’s cooking time!

Making the green curry paste... they even made us sing a song while doing it!
Making the green curry paste… they even made us sing while doing it!
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Action in the kitchen…
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Ta-dah! My work of art: Phad Thai (Phuket style)

During our class, we told that the different regions of Thailand produces a different version of Phad Thai. In Bangkok, being the richest city, the Phad Thai is usually generous with expensive ingredients like as seafood, meat, tofu, mixed vegetables etc.

In the poorer regions of Thailand, the Phad Thai dish is less lavish, often with just egg, noodles, vegetables and occasionally meat. The Phad Thai dish we were taught here was simple and really easy to replicate 🙂

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Besides Phad Thai, we also learned how to make the Thai green curry, cashew nut chicken etc.

After cooking, we get to taste our own dishes and share with the rest of the class. It was fun and we enjoyed trying out what others had made. We were also allowed to keep the recipe booklet so that we can continue to make what we had learned here 🙂

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Last but not least, a class photo for remembrance!

Pum Thai Restaurant & Cooking School is located at :

32 Rat Uthit 200 Pi 2 Alley, Kathu, Patong, Phuket, Phuket 83150, Thailand. Tel: +66 76 346 269.

Germany: Swabian Food of Stuttgart

The Educational & Cultural Exchange Programme is sponsored by Stuttgart Singapore Pte Ltd to promote culture exchange and relationship between Stuttgart and Singapore.

In Japan, we have sushi; in America, we can’t miss the burgers; in Italy, it’s almost a sin not eating pasta and when you are in Hong Kong, how can you leave without trying dim sum? – Don’t you agree that culture is best represented by its food? So how about Germany?

Yes, the bratwurst is probably one of the most iconic food of the German culture. However, in Baden-Württemberg, where the Swabian culture has greatly influenced the taste buds here, there are some other interesting dishes to try as well!

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The first local dish we had when we arrived at the open air museum in Black Forest. Just beans, beef and a piece of chewy, corn-tasting carbohydrate pudding (Sorry, I can’t remember its name!)
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This is similar to what we had earlier, but with mashed potato and fresh carrots and beef.
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Called Maultaschen, these ravioli-looking dumplings is a traditional German dish that originated in the region of Swabia.

These dumplings contain an outer-layer of pasta dough which encloses a filling consisting of minced meat, smoked meat, spinach, bread crumbs and onions and flavoured with various herbs and spices.

Now, there is an interesting tale that goes along with this dish. Legend says that they were first prepared by monks who wanted to evade the meat prohibition during Lent and thought that God couldn’t see the meat when it was inside the pasta. Very cheeky, to think it was the monks who came up with it!

They also have a nickname called “Herrgottsbscheißerle”, which means Little God cheaters, how apt.

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A Swabian bread pudding called Ofenschlupfer (sweet bread pudding).

A sweet Swabian treat with a long tradition, it is best served with warm vanilla sauce. We had this dessert almost everyday!

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A bowl of spätzle.

Often served as a side in many of the local dishes, the spätzle is a type of egg noodle found in the cuisines of southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Alsace and South Tyrol.

In Europe spätzle are largely considered a “Swabian speciality” and are generally associated with the German state of Baden-Württemberg.

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The combination of lens, sausages and spätzle is a very common dish in Stuttgart and the Baden-Württemberg region.
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Although it’s not a local specialty, but the pasta we had were all really good. Handmade pasta with beef and marinara sauce.
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Another yummy pasta! The combination of salmon and asparagus is really delicious.
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Pasta and Pizza: Huge portions with loads of ingredients. Well worth it.

Ok, by now you should know that I am a pasta fan. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with pasta in Europe right? Here’s the last pasta picture.

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Lasagne! I love quality of the homemade pasta here.
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One of the best chicken salad ever. Served at a bier garden.
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Here comes the wine! Riesling at 0.25l and little more.

Originating in German soil, Riesling is Germany’s leading grape variety, known for its characteristic “transparency” in flavour and presentation of terroir and its balance between fruit and mineral flavours. Having a glass of wine in this cool weather is just awesome.

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Pfitzauf: One last dessert for the road.

A kind of souffle prepared in special moulds and commonly served with apple sauce or vanilla sauce, the Pfitzauf is a local specialty dessert. The one we had is accompanied with a sweet apple sauce, although I heard there is a savory version of it that is served with bacon or cheese.

Oh, another food worth mentioning will definitely be the pretzel. We had them as snacks while on the road and it was the first food I ate upon arrival.

Known as Brezel in German, it is a type of baked goods with a unique knot-like shape. There are soft and hard varieties, savory or sweet flavors. Said to have been invented by an Italian monk in 610 A.D. to reward children for reciting their prayers, the pretzel has made its way into history books and the European culture since then.

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Trying out new food in new places can be taunting at times, even if you are a foodie. I often get nervous tasting the foreign and unknown too. But after a few days, you will be able to get used to it and might even miss it when you get home. The German-Swabian food culture is truly intriguing and I feel that I had learned a lot about the cuisine.